This post was most recently updated on September 5th, 2020
You need a marriage license to get married, and you get a marriage certificate after you get married. That’s the significant difference between a marriage certificate and a marriage license.
A very close friend of mine (Jackson) was about to get married. He was so happy that he was getting married to his girlfriend and he was dead nervous too.
I had never seen him so nervous in my entire life.
He wanted to have a perfect marriage, and he had already promised his girlfriend (soon-to-be-wife) that the wedding would go absolutely as planned.
They were in a working long-distance relationship for three years, and both of them were finally getting married. I was happy for them too.
When I reached his home, he handed me over the scheduled plan for the marriage. I was reading it, and I realized “applying for the marriage license” wasn’t mentioned anywhere in the sheet.
I asked him, “Hey, bud! Haven’t you applied for a marriage license yet”?
Jackson: Marriage certificate is something we get after the marriage, isn’t it?”
Jackson: What? Aren’t those two the same things?
I was speechless and shocked that he didn’t know the difference between a marriage license and a marriage certificate.
I told him to call his girlfriend and ask her if she knows how a marriage license is different from a marriage certificate.
Trust me. She didn’t know too.
Both of them thought they are the same things. As a marriage license and marriage certificate have similar names, people often get confused. They are two totally different and yet equally important things.
What is a Marriage License?
A marriage license is a document that authorizes you to get married.
Lawfully speaking, without a marriage license, you cannot get married. But it varies from country to country.
In some countries, you mightn’t need to apply for a license to get married, but there will be other things to follow.
In most of the Asian countries, mutual understanding and contract between two families work as a marriage license.
But, in most of the Western and European countries, you have to apply for a marriage license to get married properly.
Where do I apply for a marriage license?
Usually, you can get this from a government office which may be the office of the county clerk, recorder or registrar depending on where you live.
Will they charge a fee?
They will, and it depends upon the law for how much to charge.
What is the expiration date of a marriage license?
Typically, your marriage license will expire 30 days after the issue. If you didn’t get married within that period, then you have to apply again for the license.
How often will I need my marriage license?
Once you got married, you won’t need your marriage license again, until you remarry.
Likewise, if either of you were married before, you’d need to show proof of your divorce or annulment to remarry again lawfully.
What is a Marriage Certificate?
A marriage certificate is a document or a statement provided by the government after you get married.
When two people undertake marriage ceremony, they are religiously or traditionally wedded husband and wife. Now, you might think, why do we need a certificate if we already are husband and wife?
The marriage certificate is an official document which shows you are lawfully wedded, husband and wife. It shows that your marriage is legal and genuine.
You and your partner’s name will be kept in the official records for the future reference.
When can I get my marriage certificate?
A marriage certificate is provided only upon request.
You have to go and ask for it to the concerned government officials personally with your partner.
In some places, they also need a witness who was there on your marriage ceremony, to authorize your certificate.
Will they charge a fee?
Yes, they will. However, it depends upon the law about how much to charge.
What if I lost my marriage certificate?
Well, first thing don’t try to lose it. If accidentally you dropped it, then you can apply for another one.
In most of these cases, both the couples have to go to get the certificate.
Simply put, marriage license comes before you get married, and a marriage certificate comes after you get married.
You need a marriage license to get married, and you need a marriage certificate as proof that you are legally married. Both of these statements are evenly important.