Get Prepared

WHN TIP – Cost-Savers: Is your wedding becoming a budget-buster? Cut your costs with these money-saving tips from other brides:

Marriage License

Usually, you may apply for a marriage license at any county clerk’s office in the state where you want to be married. NOTE: You and your partner must apply together and in person.

  • You’ll probably have to pay a small fee for your license.
  • You may also have to wait a few days before it is issued and some states require a longer waiting period.
  • In some circumstances, you must apply in the county or town where you intend to be married, this depends on state law.

WHN TIP – Expiration Date: In some states, marriage licenses have expiration dates, meaning you have to use it before a certain date. Don’t apply for yours too early.

You will each probably need to bring most of the following:

  • photo ID
  • certified copies of your birth certificates
  • parental consent, if underage
  • death certificate, if widowed
  • divorce decree, if divorced
  • blood-test results, if required

Marriage Certificate

A marriage certificate is a document that proves you are married. Most states require that the marriage certificate is signed after the ceremony by:

  • both spouses
  • the person who officiated the ceremony
  • one or two witnesses

After the ceremony, your officiant will send your signed license to the marriage license bureau (or to the county clerk, recorder or registrar, depending on where you live).

You should receive a certified copy for your own files within a few weeks, depending on your state.

WHN TIP – What Honeymoon? With all of the excitement surrounding the planning of your marriage, don’t forget to prepare for your honeymoon. Download our Travel Packing Checklist, then fill it out and save to your desktop.

Want more help with your travel plans? Check our Travel section!

WHN TIP – Wait Until After! If traveling on your honeymoon, your passport name must be the same as the name on your travel documents and tickets. Consider using your maiden name on your honeymoon and wait to change your name until you return home. If you do change your name beforehand, bring along documented proof of your former name (old driver’s license) and your new name (marriage certificate).


Selecting an official to conduct your ceremony is up to you and your partner.

  1. If you would like the marriage to be legal, be sure to select someone who is authorized by the state and county where you want to get married.
  2. Religious ceremonies must be conducted by a clergy member (i.e. priest, minister or rabbi).
  3. For non-religious or civil ceremonies, the ceremony must be performed by someone who has the legal authority to perform marriages (a judge, justice of the peace or court clerk, etc.).
  4. Native American weddings may be performed by a tribal chief or by another official as designated by the tribe.


The information provided here is not meant to be a substitute for professional legal advice. These tips are from lawyers, insurance agents and people who have shared real-life advice; always check with a lawyer or appropriate professional you trust before making any legal decisions.

Thank You …

A special thank you to the industry professionals, lawyers, insurance agents, newlyweds, long-married couples and families who gave us their time, insight and real-life advice.