The marriage license gives me the legal authority to officiate your marriage. In legal terms that is called “solemnizing” the marriage. As I understand it, the marriage is legal from the point of that ceremony, although there may be more legally technical stuff on that, which was never covered in seminary. My point is, once I officiate your wedding ceremony it is legally a marriage. Here are some things to know about the handling of the marriage license from this point…
- The marriage license is required by law to be returned to the courthouse where it was purchased. That means that if you call later and say you made a mistake and shouldn’t have gotten married, I can not tear the marriage license up and pretend that the wedding never happened. If you buy a license and do not get married, the courthouse will mail you a letter asking for the license.
- When the marriage license is signed and thereby solemnized by myself (or any minister for that matter) and returned to the courthouse, they log that into their computers and issue you a “Certificate of Marriage.” It is this certificate that is your legal proof of marriage for any purposes needed like name change, insurance, drivers license, etc.. Most courthouses will mail that you, but some will print it out immediately if you return to them in person.
- If you need to keep the marriage license to return yourself, I will gladly sign it for you after the ceremony. I know military needs to keep the signed license to show a CO and some times employees need to show their HR. Some courthouses in Alabama and Florida will immediately print out the Certificate of Marriage for you if you return the license in person, but you need to ask when you get the license.
- If I keep the marriage license to return it, I will tell you that if you have not received your “Certificate of Marriage” within 2 weeks, to call the courthouse. Sometimes they get behind during busy wedding months. Calling in 2 weeks also gives you a head start getting a lost license replaced.
- If you are getting married in Mississippi you will receive the certificate with the marriage license and I will need to sign that and leave that with you. As I understand it, Mississippi residents need additional certificates for social security changes and will need to order additional certificates from the courthouse at an $11 charge, but ask about that when you go get the license.
- If the marriage license gets lost in the mail, which it has on 3 occasions when I personally mailed it back and on 1 occasion when a couple kept the license from their beach wedding and mailed to the courthouse upon returning home, do not panic. The courthouse will reissue the license. (4 lost marriage licenses out of 1500+ is pretty good odds, though all 4 involved the same courthouse.) The courthouse will mail you a reissued marriage license with instructions for bride and groom to re-sign, then to mail to me to re-sign, then I will return it the courthouse. If it is with one of our two local area courthouses I will personally return it and pay the $15 re-issuance fee for you, the the courthouse will mail you the Certificate of Marriage with the original wedding date.