After you and your soon-to-be spouse file for a marriage license and complete your marriage ceremony, your actual marriage certificate is filed with the appropriate government office within your jurisdiction.
Like many vital records, marriage certificates are crucial legal documents for necessary for various transactions, and whenever necessary, you can order additional copies.
Info on a Marriage Certificate
State laws vary, but generally a marriage record includes:
- Personal information about the individuals who got married, such as:
- Blood types.
- A handful of states require blood tests before applying for the initial marriage license.
- Marriage location.
- Ceremony officiant (i.e. who performed the ceremony).
- Witnesses to the ceremony.
Additionally, many marriage certificates include a space for the signatures of each of the married individuals, the ceremony officiant, and a specific number of witnesses.
Using Marriage Records
Aside from proving you're legally married, perhaps the most common use for a marriage certificate is proof of identity and proof of your new name (if you change it).
Typically, the most common times you'll need to legally prove your identity and name are when dealing with the Social Security Administration (SSA) and your state's driver license and motor vehicle agency.
For example, if you change your name once you're married, you must apply for a corrected Social Security card with the SSA. Among numerous other documents, the SSA will require a copy of your marriage certificate to complete this process.
Likewise, most DMV offices require a copy of your marriage record whenever you change your name on your:
- Driver's license
- Identification card
- Vehicle title
- Car registration.
Furthermore, some states require a copy of your certificate if you're completing any DMV transaction for something that was once under your old name—even if you've already legally changed your name with the DMV. For example, when it's time to renew your current driver's license and that license already has your new name on it, the DMV might still require a copy of your marriage license to show the paperwork trail leading up to your new name.
Also be prepared to show a copy of your marriage record to a health insurance or life insurance provider (including an employer who needs it in order to cover you or your spouse under the company's insurance plans).
Check out our article on name changes with the DMV for tips on how to make your visit quick and easy.
Ordering Your Marriage Certificate
Getting a copy of your marriage record depends on the process your state has in place. Some states will mail you a certified copy within a few weeks of filing your license; others require you to visit your county administrator and order the number of copies you think you will need.
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for your state's ordering procedures and relevant contact information.
Order Marriage Records Online
If you'd rather order your marriage certificate from the comfort of your own home, there are third-party companies around to help you; however, you must make sure that not only is that company allowed to access your record, but also that it's allowed to provide a certified copy (most government agencies require certified records).