What’s The Difference Between A Marriage License and Marriage Certificate?

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The Difference Between A Marriage License and Marriage Certificate

It is important to understand the difference between a marriage license and marriage certificate. Especially if you are getting married or need to provide certified vital records like your marriage certificate. These two documents have similar names and people often confuse them. But, a marriage license and a marriage certificate are two different but equally important vital records.

What Is a Marriage License?

Are marriage licenses public records? If you have been wondering about that, then you will be happy to know they are. A marriage license is a document kept as a public record and issued by the county clerk or similar. This allows two individuals to marry based on their eligibility for legal marriage in the county.

You will have to provide your identifying documents to apply for a marriage license. You can use an original certified vital record like a birth certificate, photo ID, and proof of residence. Keep in mind that you can apply for a marriage license online or in person. That depends on the state, your area of residence and where you plan to get married. For example, some states only issue marriage licenses valid for up to 30 days. On the other hand, other states issue them for up to 1 year. Therefore, you will have to check the local requirements and restrictions when you apply for your marriage license.

Once you are married, you will never need your marriage license again. Unless you intend to remarry, that is.

What Is a Marriage Certificate?

A marriage certificate is a certified vital record that proves the specific time and location of your wedding. The person who conducts the marriage signs this document. That verifies that he or she married you by 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 Wedding Certificate?

You will receive your certified wedding certificate within 2-4 weeks of your marriage.

A certified marriage certificate is more important after the wedding. You need it to update your identity in case of a name change at the wedding. Also, to claim legal married status for tax and Medicaid benefits, and as proof of the relationship. For this reason, people should order 1-5 copies of their marriage certificate for immediate use. It is a good idea to get an added two to keep for records and proof of identity.

How to Get a Copy of Your Marriage Certificate?

You will rarely need a copy of your marriage license. But, it is quite common to need a copy of your marriage certificate. Once you have changed your name (if applicable) and updated your social security and government status, you won’t need one for several years. This sometimes leads people to misplace or lose their marriage certificate. You can get replacement marriage certificates online or by returning to the vital records office in the state you performed your wedding.

Wondering how you can get 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 a person needs the marriage certificate for
  • Relationship to the married couple (with proof of relationship)
  • Phone number
  • Photo ID

In most cases, you can receive a certified copy of the marriage certificate within 48 hours of your application. It does depend on the speed required, though.

Learn the differences

It is important to note that marriage certificates are not typically public records. You will have to be one of the married couple or a relative to access a marriage certificate. You can also do that if you have a proven need and a government or legal identification.

Marriage licenses and certificates are both vital. Yet, they each serve completely different purposes. The marriage license shows that you are eligible for a legal marriage. The marriage certificate functions as a record-keeping document. Therefore, it proves that you have registered your marriage into vital records marriage indexes.

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