Getting Married, The Process
Although it takes a lot to organize a whole wedding, from a legal point of view the act of getting married is rather simple.
First off, the wedding ceremony does not get you married, the marriage license and the signatures from 2 witnesses and an registered officiant do. There are couple of positive implications: you can get legally married without the expense and head-aches of organizing a big shindig. You can also have the ceremony whenever circumstances are best, while getting legally married before or after this date... which can have benefits in terms of tax filings, sharing health benefits, etc.
For example, if you have 3-4 kids between the two of you, getting legally married right away, can save you $2-300/month until the ceremony day. If that is one year away, the savings can pay for your ceremony...
To get married,
Go to your county service center (call ahead) for specific requirements they have
Apply for the marriage license - you will get it in the mail in 3-5 days along with a certificate
Find an officiant and two witnesses 18 or older and get them to sign it
The officiant will mail the signed certificate and the government will record it
And will mail it back to you in 2-3 weeks. Done.
Each state (and sometimes even county) has its own requirements: some are happy with a photo ID and the fee, some want more documents, some want both of you when applying for the license and some are satisfied that just one of you shows up. We have pages for the states we serve – do realize that laws change often – so check with your local county office before you do anything.
If you need your certificate right away (for whatever immigration, military, insurance reasons), tell your officiant that you want to take this document to the county in person, where you will ask for it to be processed over the counter, while you wait. If you do, make sure you go to the main county licensing center, not a satellite one... for example, go downtown Minneapolis for Hennepin, not to Edina or elsewhere - call them and ask them if you are not sure which is the county seat / main office.Notice that there is no legal requirement or specification as to what kind of vows you should use or what kind of wedding ceremony you should have, so anything that makes you happy goes. Further, given that the vows and ceremony do not have legal value, they do not have to happen on the same day your license is signed by the officiant and witnesses. This information is helpful if your legal ability to get married is unexpectedly delayed (unending divorce..) but you already invited your friends to your ceremony: have your ceremony now and sign the papers later. Conversely, you can sign the papers first and delay the ceremony until you're ready. Last, if your relatives get along like the Capulets and the Montagues for whatever religious, racial or financial reason, you can have two ceremonies, and not let them see each other.
Once you obtain the license, we can help with the the vows and ceremony. In fact, you can get a head start with the demo version of the VowMaster, our online, interactive Wedding Script Builder.
So there! Now you know everything! :) You may now kiss the bride... George
Processing & Problems
In Minnesota each county has a different format for their marriage certificate. All counties require 2 witnesses and the officiant to sign, however only Hennepin county has a place for the bride and groom to sign. Thus, with the exception of Hennepin county certificates, the bride and groom do not have a place to sign the certificate.
Once the officiant and the witnesses sign the certificate, you are legally married, on the date written on the certificate. At that point we mail the certificate to the county. They record it and stamp it and send it back to you directly, using the mailing address you gave them. If you moved since you applied for your license, make sure you have mail forwarding... or contact the county.
This process can take as much as one month if there is a big holiday around your wedding date (the post office and the government have days off and processing times are longer)
Once mailed, we do not have access to check its status, nor will the county tell us if we were to call. That is private information that only the bride and groom can request.
If it has been more than one month since your wedding date and you have not received your certificate, the bride and groom only may contact the county and ask about it. If they tell you that the county has never received it, the bride or groom needs to request a duplicate.
Once you have this, let us know, and we will meet you and sign it again. You are still married on the original date, you are just catching up with lost paperwork.