You’ve Proposed. Now What?
Congratulations, you’ve officially popped the question to your significant other. It’s a time for celebration, but eventually, you’ll need to ask a series of other questions: What paperwork will you need to legitimize your union? What goes into completing those documents? Who will you choose to officiate your ceremony and officially verify it?
You have to consider multiple factors when making these decisions with your fiancé to ensure your wedding day goes off without a hitch.
Acquiring the Proper Marriage Documents
There are two primary pieces of paperwork that any couple needs to solidify their partnership: a license and a certificate.
Both require minimal effort to acquire, and they’re straight-forward to fill out. But some key differences highlight their respective importance:
- Marriage License: A license is the first document you need to collect and complete prior to your marriage. Officiants, notaries included, cannot conduct a legal ceremony without one. You can go to your local county clerk or a specialized notary public, depending on the state, to obtain the document, for which you will likely pay a small fee. It varies from place to place, but most of the time, you’ll need to bring your birth certificate, proof of residence/citizenship, a government-issued identification card and a payment method for the fee. If you’ve been separated from a prior spouse, you need to provide proof of dissolution, annulment or death. After the Supreme Court ruling of Obergefell vs. Hodges in 2015, all same-sex couples can legally obtain a license without being discriminated against. Once you and the officiant have completely filled out the marriage license, the officiant will then submit it to the county for validation and verification, where it will then be processed into public records.
- Marriage Certificate: This document is fairly self-explanatory, as it’s meant to officially certify your marriage. It represents a legally binding contract between two parties, as it’s proof to the government that your partnership is legitimate and on the record. It’s also often an important document for future financial and social transactions — such as changing your name, joining under one health plan, and applying for a house loan. That said, you should always keep at least two notarized copies for your files. This form, acquired after the completion of the license, is usually finished after the ceremony. Like the license, both you and the officiant will sign it, and the latter will submit it to the county within about two weeks of the wedding date.
On top of those necessary items, there are a couple of other kinds of documentation that you might find appropriate:
- Change of Name: While not required, it’s often tradition that the bride takes the surname of the groom once they’re officially married. It also makes certain aspects of a marriage easier, as a discrepancy in listed names can cause legal headaches, like on wills and deeds. As mentioned before, a wedding certificate is often needed to complete this process.
- Prenuptial Agreement: It’s definitely not romantic, but this contract is often instituted by some parties for individual peace of mind. Nobody expects a divorce when committing to a marriage, but finances can get messy if it happens to go down that path. A prenuptial agreement is a private contract that establishes certain fiscal responsibilities, like shared debt and alimony, after exiting a marital relationship. You can draw up an agreement yourselves, or you can seek out legal assistance for the sake of fairness or to help clarify language. While not legally necessary, notarizing a prenup will help validate the claims to both parties.
Completing these documents can be time-consuming, but having a proper knowledge of them will make the entire process easier.
Finding an Appropriate Officiant
With that in mind, you’ll also need to select an officiant to perform the ceremony and submit the paperwork correctly.
While marriages are often performed by the clergy of a couple’s religious denomination — priest, minister, rabbi, etc. — a judge or a court clerk, a few states legally permit notary publics to solemnize a matrimony. Those states are Florida, Maine, Nevada and South Carolina.
With the legalization of same-sex marriage, other states have explored the possibility of opening up this avenue, like Minnesota and Indiana.
If you’re not religious, notaries are an excellent alternative. Most are widely accessible and affordable — for example, Florida notaries cost a maximum of $30, excluding costs for mobile notaries.
You’ll need to take the time to meet with them and discuss the different statutes that each state enacts. Some notaries must follow a set of guidelines to perform a valid wedding, as anything done incorrectly can make your marriage null and void.
Ultimately, most notaries are versatile when it comes to the ceremony, which can’t often be said for some entities. You can plan it out exactly how you’d like it — it can be long and elaborate or short and to the point.
On another note, notaries that perform wedding ceremonies operate under a different set of circumstances when compared to their usual obligations. Notaries usually cannot provide services for people to whom they’re related, but those conditions are waived when discussing marriage. If one of your relatives is a notary, that gives an easy, in-house option to work with.
Trust Superior Notary for All Notary Tasks
If you want to enlist help with completing your marriage documents or finding an officiant, a mobile notary could be just what you’re seeking. Notaries not only help with establishing important legal agreements and other similar institutions, but notarizing signatures adds legitimacy and protection.
Superior Notary Services pioneered the concept of mobile services in this field, and we’ve been helping clients throughout the country for nearly 20 years. With more than 34,000 affiliates located in major U.S. cities, our agents will make plans to meet you practically anywhere at your convenience, which helps reduce some of the stress that is bound to come with planning a wedding.