Marriage Requirements in General

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What Are the Requirements for Getting Married?

If you are ready to tie the knot, there are few steps to take before the big day. In most states, to get legally married, you must:

  1. Be at least 18, or obtain a guardian’s permission
  2. Not already be married
  3. If previously married, know the date of your divorce (if recently divorced, you may need proof of divorce or annulment)
  4. Get a marriage license (not applicable in common law marriage states)
  5. Have sufficient mental capacity to understand what you are doing
  6. Not be closely related to your spouse

You do not need to be citizens of the United States or residents of the state where you marry.

The Marriage License

With the exception of a few states that still recognize common law marriages, a marriage license is required to get married. You can apply for a license at the clerk/recorder’s office for your county. Fees vary by state and county.

Some states required a one to five-day "cooling off" period. Once the license is issued, it remains valid for a period, usually 90 days.

Blood Testing and Immunization Records

While most states no longer require a blood test, it is still required in Connecticut, Indiana, Montana, and the District of Columbia. Immunization records may also be required in certain states.

Solemnization Ceremony

The marriage license merely allows you to legally get married. To actually get married, most states require that there be a ceremony with one or two witnesses, presided over by a "solemnization authority." A solemnization authority is someone with state-recognized authority to marry. These are priests, ministers, judges, justices, or magistrates.

Larger cities may offer to perform marriage ceremonies by appointment at city hall.

The Marriage Certificate

Following the marriage ceremony, the solemnization authority must sign the marriage license within 30-90 days, depending on the state. The signed license is sent back to the county clerk, who will generate the marriage certificate. In some states, the certificate is given to the couple after the ceremony.

Seeking Legal Help

If you have any concerns about the marriage process, or if complications arise, you should contact a family lawyer. An experienced lawyer can help with issues such as prenuptial agreements and estate planning.

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Last Modified: 09-30-2014 12:32 PM PDT

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