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Differences Between a Marriage License and a Marriage Certificate

Marriage License vs Marriage Certificate

Are you thinking about getting married? One of the most common questions before doing so is  concerning the differences between a marriage license and a marriage certificate. Both documents can easily be exchanged one for the other. Marriage documents are simple and straightforward. In fact, you would be surprised at just how little paperwork needs to be processed to get married. You will surely be tempted to get married quickly.  So before you tie the knot and get lost in the paperwork confusion prior the ceremony, read on and understand the differences between a marriage license and a marriage certificate.

Marriage License

A marriage license is a document you need to secure before getting married. This document does not mean you are already married the moment you finish completing it. It is like an application to get married. A marriage license can be obtained from your county clerk or from a specialized notary public. Take note that not all notaries public can provide you with this document. The latter is the better way to secure the license because you are spared the long lines typical in local government offices. Is it possible for a marriage license to be denied to a couple incapable of marrying each other? It is a possibility. If one of the two people who wish to marry has been married in the past, the license will be denied.

The marriage license will be filled out and signed by you (the soon-to-be husband and wife) and the notary public (for authentication). The document will be completed by the officiating minister of your wedding. The completed marriage license will then be submitted by the officiating minister to the county for it to be validated, verified, and processed into the public records. Why is the license entered into public records? This is basically to prevent people from marrying again and again without legal consequences. Technically, when the minister signs the license during the wedding ceremony, you are officially married, and that seals the commitment for you. So when does the marriage certificate come in? How is it different from the marriage license?

Marriage Certificate

The marriage certificate is an official declaration on paper that you are indeed married. It’s  pre-requisite document is the marriage license. When the officiating minister submits the signed marriage license to the county, there is a considerable waiting time for the marriage certificate to be ready for receipt (in some instances this can stretch up to eight weeks). You have to remember, though, that a marriage certificate is provided only upon request. The certificate represents the legality of your marriage, the one proof that you belong to a social entity that calls for your commitment and faithfulness. It is important to have two copies of your marriage certificate as this is an important document. Marriage certificates are often required in various financial and social transactions. So keeping an extra copy is necessary.


  1. A marriage license initially allows you to get married. It is the representation of the rights of two people to tie the knot. But in itself it is not complete. The document does not in any way prove that you are husband and wife.

  2. The marriage certificate, on the other hand, is a complete representation of your marriage. It is a legalized paper duly accepted and sanctioned by the government as a proof that a marriage took place and that you and your wife (or husband) are together.

  3. A marriage certificate is an important legal document because it is already a binding contract between two parties.

  4. The relationship between the two documents runs in a linear progression. The differences include their uses and functions and the fact the other must be provided for first before the other can be produced.

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  1. Good article , thanks and we would like extra! Added to FeedBurner as effectively

  2. What if the marriage certificate is not noterized? are you not married then?

    • You are married but no record you need stamp and need to be notarized and you should have you record in the courthouse
      You wedding should be in the courthouse record.if not nobody know you married.

  3. What if you got the marriage license from the county clerk and considered that the ceremony, but never got a certificate, you aren’t legally married correct?

  4. What if you got the marriage license from the county clerk and considered that the ceremony, but never got a certificate, you aren’t legally married correct??

  5. What if you married without a marriage license but after wedding we have a marriage certificate is it legal and we are husband and wife

  6. To get your name changed after marriage do you need marriage license or certificate?

  7. Does it mean we would process marriage certificate only after the wedding?

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