Monday, August 31, 2015

The Marriage License ... A Couple's Responsibility

Even though my e-mail attachments to inquiries fully explain how we work and make many helpful suggestions, sometimes over the course of every year, someone will not read these critical items for accomplishment. One item which is sometimes skipped over, and wrongfully ASSUMED, is that the minister will obtain a marriage license for the couple. As most will recognize, this is not a logical assumption. The marriage license must be purchased by the couple and presented to the minister or officiant at the ceremony.

The Rules and Fees are different in each state

Virginia is our prime area for performing weddings, although we do travel into adjacent states.
We are still asked to come to parts of West Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. Most North Carolina requests are simply too far for travel. Also there will be extra costs for the minister's lodging. There are Interfaith Ministers in many major metro areas of that state. However, each state and the District of Columbia have an easily accessed Clerk of the Court with a Marriage Bureau. I mention these areas specifically, for I am registered and approved for performing legal weddings in these states and in DC, as well as many other locations.

Allow me to speak about Virginia in general, then call a local Clerk for the details

In every county in Virginia is a Clerk of the Court. In the Clerk's Office is a Marriage Bureau, or similar name. Each office can be accessed by phone or on-line website. Information is fully spelled out on these websites, but if anything is not absolutely clear, pick up that phone and call and take notes. If needed, the couple can visit the Clerk's Office for clarification.

Most licenses are about $30-$35, but can be higher. The license is good for a period of sixty (60) days, which means that you do not want to make a purchase until you have a solid date for the actual ceremony. You do not want the license to expire before a legal wedding can be performed. If it does, you will have to purchase another license. My suggestion is to purchase the license from 7-14 days before the ceremony.

In Virginia the license is provided to the minister or officiant by the couple, on or just before the wedding date. The minister will retain the license, complete and sign it (no witnesses are required), and mail it directly to the Clerk within days of the wedding. The couple is given information by the Clerk's Office at the time of purchase regarding cost for original copies (only a few dollars per copy) and where to send a request for copies. The couple needs to keep this information for any future need for copies of the marriage license.

In Virginia a couple can purchase the marriage license at any Clerk's office and use it immediately at any location within the state. A license is only good in the state where it is obtained.  There are waiting periods and other restrictions in other states, but once you have the license in Virginia, you are not restricted for immediate pursuit of being wed. The state of Maryland has some restrictions such as a waiting period of 48 hours from purchase until hosting a ceremony, and the license in Maryland is only good within the county where the license was purchased.  This makes Virginia less problematic for late purchases, but a couple's planning should not be allowed to wait until the last week day before a ceremony. Don't be surprised when a government office is closed for a holiday. If you do wait, problems can arise, and a legal wedding may be delayed. Just sharing.

A Final Note of Importance ... I do not marry couples inside courthouses

A couple may think that ministers will marry them in a courthouse or the Clerk's Office. I do not perform weddings in courthouses. On the marriage license form is a block which I must mark as a "religious" ceremony, and religious ceremonies are not performed in courthouses. I do perform "non-religious" ceremonies, but that is not the same as a "civil" ceremony performed inside a courthouse setting.  Many Clerk's offices do not have arrangements for marrying a couple in their facility, while others may be able to schedule a couple for an Officer of the Court to perform a short civil ceremony.  Use your time wisely to get the details needed for planning.

Sincerely ... Reverend Elisheva

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