Q: Do you have to file the marriage license, or can we return it ourselves?
A: You can return it yourself if you need to or want to. Some courthouses will print out your marriage certificate right away when you return the marriage license and some won’t. Sometimes, like for military personnel, you need to show your commanding office the actual minister signed license before it goes back to the courthouse.
The marriage license is what we need to hand the minister in order for him/her to have the legal authority to officiate the wedding. When he/she officiates and signs the marriage license, called solemnizing, that makes the marriage official. Every minister will and should – by practice and protocol – return the license to the courthouse on behalf of the couple.
When the license is returned to the courthouse, the bride and groom will receive a certified copy that is sometimes called a certified marriage license or a certificate of marriage. Either way, this certified copy goes to the couple as legal proof that marriage ceremony has been solemnized and recorded in the official state record.
Mississippi issues a certified copy with the marriage license for the minister to sign, and uses a separate record form for the minister.
Alabama and Florida require the return of the marriage license to the courthouse where it was purchased to be logged and recorded in state record before they will issue the certified copy. Some courthouses will do that right at the time you return the marriage license and some will mail it to you at the address they got from you when you purchased the marriage license.