When Should You Sign Your Marriage License?

Plus answers to a few other common marriage license-related questions.


Your ceremony and reception are certainly important, but without a signed marriage license, your union isn't technically complete. That's why it's so important to ensure this document is signed at the appropriate time, with the right witnesses. To help you be certain your nuptials are valid in the eyes of the law, we're tackling some of the most common questions related to the signing of a marriage license.

When should you sign your marriage license?

Most couples sign their marriage license right after the wedding ceremony ends, but it's not the end of the world if you forget in all the hubbub of celebrating. In most states, you have 30-60 days to file a certificate from the time you pick up. Most couples will pick up the paperwork a week or two before the wedding, sign the document after the ceremony, and have their officiant mail it the following week.

What else should be coordinated for the signing of a marriage license?

The marriage license needs to be signed with your officiant and witnesses present, as they'll be signing too. Many couples opt to have siblings or very close friends act as witnesses, often selecting people they know will support their marriage throughout their lives.

What's the story with destination wedding marriage licenses?

For the majority of destination weddings, the couple isn't looking for their marriage to be recognized where they're getting married, so their destination ceremony often isn't the legally binding one. Instead couples often choose to have a civil ceremony at home in order to obtain their local marriage license, then tie the knot with a religious or spiritual ceremony in their destination of choice. A legally binding marriage certificate obtained out of the country can be costly and time consuming to acquire, and the union will still need to be certified at home, so adding a foreign marriage certificate to the mix generally makes the process more complicated than necessary.

How are Ketubah signings handled?

In the Jewish tradition, a Ketubah would be signed right before the ceremony (sometimes during), with the Rabbi and two Jewish witnesses present to sign. While this is not a legally binding document, it's a symbolic agreement between the couple and is often used within their religious community to confirm their marriage.

What do we do if we forget to sign our marriage license at our wedding?

You usually have a few weeks to turn in the paperwork, so you'll have time to sort out gathering your officiant and witnesses back together before mailing in the document. However, it's a good idea to avoid this by making a clear schedule of events with your officiant in which you sign the license immediately following the ceremony and let him/her organize the mailing. Most states require the documents to be filed by the officiant, so be sure to get confirmation from them.

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