Getting Your Marriage License: What Do We Do Once We Have It?

The marriage license only grants a bride and groom permission to marry; it does not prove that a wedding actually took place. In most states, after the ceremony, the officiant, the newlyweds, and any witnesses required should sign the license, and the officiant should mail it to the appropriate government office -- which means you must have the license on hand at the wedding ceremony. (With all the details to think about, you might want to assign your best man or maid of honor the task of bringing the license.) Some states, such as Virginia, require the officiant to sign other forms to be sent in as well, but whatever the documents required by your state, the officiant usually has from four to ten days to send them off. A few weeks later, you will receive a copy of your marriage certificate -- official proof that you are indeed married -- from the county clerk (or other office) by mail. However, not all states send out marriage certificates automatically. In some, including California, the new couple must request an official copy in writing. This is another thing you will want to check with the county clerk in that important first phone call to the office.

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