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Getting married? Here’s what to do legally!

You’re getting married and want to know what to do next. The most important part is making sure it’s legal. Laws vary a bit by state, but this guide should tell you most of what you need to know. If you have a comment or question please post it below and I’ll respond asap.

Some states require 10 days to pass between the day you get your marriage license and your wedding. They want to make sure you’re sure and are actually looking out for you. In a rush? Good thing you’re in the wild west!

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No 10-day wait in Arizona! You can get your marriage license and then get hitched the same day, but the courthouse wedding process is a total pain. If meeting me in Scottsdale sounds better than dragging your witnesses downtown, contact me to schedule a time. Love is the best, so I’d be honored to help!

Legal marriage requirements can be simply broken down into my 3-step process:

  1. You’ll need to go to the courthouse with your fiance, and I highly recommend scheduling an appointment. It will save you an hour or more. Be sure to bring two forms of ID, like your driver’s license and a credit card.
  2. Pay around $120 for your Maricopa County marriage license and certified copy of your marriage certificate. All Arizona counties accept each other’s marriage licenses, so you can get a license in Pinal County and get married in Maricopa County without any issues.
  3. Then Contact me to get your Arizona marriage license signed and filed!

The 3-step process above is just the nuts and bolts of getting married, but there’s more to it.

What makes a marriage legally binding?

Title 25 details the Arizona marriage law and in a nutshell says that you must have a marriage license, there must be a marriage ceremony that’s solemnized by a minister, priest, rabbi, imam, judge, or justice of the peace and must be done before the one-year expiration of your marriage license.

If your marriage license was issued on July 1, 2019 you have until July 1, 2020 to get married. If you don’t get married within 365 days of your license being issued, you’ll have to apply for a new marriage license.

You can be as young as 16 years old and get married in Arizona with your parent’s consent, but I would never sign a marriage license for someone under 18 and 18 is still way too young to get married, in my humble opinion. I didn’t even know who I was until I was 30 years old and I’m still figuring it out!

Is a wedding ceremony required?

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first officiant,
matt nathanson,
matt t nathanson,
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A wedding ceremony is required, but there’s less to it than you probably think. Fortunately, it’s pretty simple. According to Cornell Law School The basic elements of a marriage are: (1) the parties’ legal ability to marry each other, (2) mutual consent of the parties, and (3) a marriage contract as required by law.

Mutual consent means that you have the mental capacity to agree to the commitment and that you agree to be partners for life. That is usually done by saying, “I do.”

I can simply ask, “Groom, do you take Bride to be your wife and partner for life?” You don’t need personally prepared vows, or even have to repeat after me. Get your marriage license, say “I do” in front of your two witnesses, and then have me sign and file it!

The legal significance of marriage vows

While Arizona requires you and your fiance to agree to get married in front of a minister, priest, rabbi, judge, justice of the peace, and your two witnesses (18 or older), marriage vows are mostly meant to honor cultural and religious tradition.

Judeo-Christian vows are more like covenants and a contract between two people. You agree to perform certain obligations in sickness and in health, in poverty and in wealth, etc. Vows really don’t have legal weight, otherwise anyone who said, “till death do us part” would not be allowed to get a divorce.

During formal wedding ceremonies my couples exchange vows in front of their guests. If we’re simply signing your license at my dining room table, you can repeat short civil vows after me or simply say, “I do.”

What is a common law marriage and which states recognize it?

Cornell Law School says that a common-law marriage is, “A legally recognized marriage that can arise in some jurisdictions without a license or ceremony. Many states recognize a common-law marriage when two people capable of getting married live together as spouses and hold themselves out as such for a specified amount of time.”

The most common myth about common-law marriage is that if two people live together for a certain length of time (usually 7 years) they’re common-law married. That is FALSE!

The only states that recognize common-law marriages are:

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • District of Columbia
  • Georgia (if created before 1/1/97)
  • Idaho (if created before 1/1/96)
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Montana
  • New Hampshire (for inheritance purposes only)
  • Ohio (if created before 10/10/91)
  • Oklahoma (if created before 11/1/98 yes, after 11/1/98 still undecided)
  • Pennsylvania (if created before 1/1/05)
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Utah

If you happen to live in one of the states listed above and “hold yourself out to be married” (by telling your community that you’re married, calling each other husband or wife, using the same last name, filing joint income tax returns, etc.), you qualify for a common law marriage.

Please know that each state has its own set of specific guidelines and you should do your homework before assuming you have a common-law marriage (see Legal Information and Resources by State).

How do I know if I have a legal marriage?

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matt t nathanson,
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how to know if my marriage is valid,
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Did you sign a marriage license with two witnesses and a minister, rabbi, justice of the peace, or judge? Did your marriage license get filed after you all signed it? If you can answer ‘yes’ to both questions, then I’d ask, “Did you pay the extra fee to receive a copy of your marriage certificate?”

Couples often forget to pay the extra fee to receive a copy of their marriage certificate once their license has been recorded, but you can simply call the Maricopa County recorder’s office at (602) 37-CLERK to find out if your marriage is valid, and to order a copy of your marriage certificate.

If you plan to change your name after getting married you’ll need a copy of your marriage certificate to either take down to your local social security office, or scan/upload to name change services, like HitchSwitch or MissNowMrs.

We forgot to get a marriage license, but had a ceremony. What can we do?

Every now and then a couple will show up to their wedding without a license. Their frightful expressions once they realize their mistake makes me smile, because it’s really not that big of a deal.

If you forgot to get a marriage license don’t sweat it. Your wedding ceremony instantly becomes a commitment ceremony, and we can meet up with your two witnesses after you get your license.

I’ll have to sign the current date, though. Marriage licenses cannot be predated. Meaning, if you got married on April 10th, but didn’t actually get your marriage license until April 20th, after coming home from sipping drinks on the beach during your honeymoon, then April 20th is the earliest possible date that you can “officially” be married. BUT, you’ll have two anniversaries to celebrate in one year! I hope your hubby has a good memory!

Is my marriage legal if we forgot to send in the license and it was never recorded?

1st officiant,
first officiant,
matt nathanson,
matt t nathanson,
when is my marriage legal,
getting married here's what to do,
how to know if your marriage is legal,
what makes a marriage legally binding,
how do I know if I have a legal marriage,
legal significance of marriage vows,
how to know if my marriage is valid,
getting married an overview,
what is commonlaw marriage,
legal marriage requirements,
wedding minister, 
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family vows, 
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According to the Legal Beagle, ” If you obtained a marriage license, went through the ceremony and then forgot to register the license with the county clerk, you are probably still married – but it depends on state law.”

It’s important to remember that in the eyes of the law marriage is a legal contract, so I suggest doing your homework to find evidence of legal precedent because laws vary by state.

I called the Maricopa County recorder’s office and asked this very question. The lady who answered said that if a marriage license went missing after a ceremony the couple should go in to speak to them and the marriage’s validity would be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Your signed marriage license should be turned in within 30 days after your ceremony, but is accepted until it expires 365 days after issue.

I hope this article helped answer lots of your questions. If you have a comment or question I didn’t answer please post it below and I’ll answer asap!

Click for services and fees.

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Getting Married: An Overview

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