The Difference Between A Marriage License and Marriage Certificate
Whether you’re planning to get married or something has come up and you need to provide certified vital records like your marriage certificate, you’ve likely run across both “marriage license” and “marriage certificate”. While both of these documents have similar names and are often confused, each are two separate, but equally important, vital records.
What is a Marriage License?
A marriage license is a document issued by the county clerk or similar officiating individual in your county. The license permits two individuals to marry based on their eligibility for legal marriage in the county.
To apply for a marriage certificate, you’ll have to provide your identifying documents including original certified vital records like birth certificate, photo ID, and typically proof of residence. The process for applying for a marriage license online or in person varies quite a bit depending on your state, whether you’re applying in your area of residence, and where you intend to get married. For example, some states only issue marriage licenses valid for up to 30 days. Others issue them for up to 1 year. You’ll have to check local requirements and restrictions when applying for your marriage license.
Once you’re married, you will never need your marriage license again, unless you intend to remarry.
What is a Marriage Certificate?
A marriage license is a certified vital record proving that you were married at a specific time and in a specific location. The person who conducts the marriage signs this document, verifying that he or she married you in accordance with local law, with witnesses, and with a marriage license. Your magistrate or priest is then responsible for registering your marriage with the local county clerk office, typically at the city or town hall.
How long does it take to get a copy of your marriage certificate? – You will receive your certified marriage certificate within 2-4 weeks of your marriage.
A certified marriage certificate is much more important after the wedding because you need it to update your identity in case of a name change at the wedding, to claim legal married status for tax and Medicaid benefits, and as proof of relationship. For this reason, most people are recommended to order 1-5 copies of their marriage certificate for immediate use with an additional 2 to retain for records and proof of identity.
How to Get a Copy of Your Marriage Certificate?
While you will rarely need a copy of your marriage license, it is very common to need a copy of your marriage certificate. However, once you’ve changed your name (if applicable) and updated your social security and government status, you likely won’t need one for several years. This leads many to misplace or lose their marriage certificate. However, you can get replacement marriage certificates online or by returning to the vital records office in the state you were married.
Wondering how you can obtain marriage certificates online? VitalRecordsOnline is an easy way to do so. You will have to provide:
- Full names of each spouse at the time of marriage
- Month, day, and year the marriage took place
- Place of marriage (City, country, state or area)
- Purpose the marriage certificate is needed for
- Relationship to the married couple (with proof of relationship)
- Phone number
- Photo ID
In most cases, you will be able to receive a certified copy of the marriage certificate within as little as 48 hours of your application, depending on the speed required.
Who Can Get a Copy of a Marriage Certificate? – It’s important to note that marriage certificates are not typically public records. You will have to be a relative, one of the married couple, or have a proven need and a government or legal identification to access a marriage certificate.
While marriage certificates and marriage licenses are both vital, they each serve completely different purposes. The marriage license shows that you are eligible to be married legally. The marriage certificate functions as a record-keeping document, proving that you have registered your marriage into vital records marriage indexes.