If you're planning to get legally married, the most important step to research is how to get a marriage license. This can be trickier if you're getting married out-of-state, out-of-country, are a same-sex couple, or don't get the process started early enough.
No matter if you're rocking a Vegas drive-thru wedding, a destination Scottish elopement, or a surprise wedding in your own front yard, make sure you know your location's rules before embarking on your magical wedding roller coaster.
Here are the basic steps to obtaining the golden ticket to your legal marriage. Note that we aren't lawyers, so this is just a primer before you get your legal ducks in a row.
Decide where you'll be getting married
License rules vary by state and country, so bone up on the requirements wherever you're planning to get married. Find your local office after that. Look under “marriage” in your phone book's city pages or Google for your local office.
Marriage license waiting periods
Find out if there is a waiting period and for how long marriage licenses are valid.
Documents for your marriage license
Most states require birth certificates, proof of citizenship and/or residence, a driver's license or other photo ID, maybe blood test results (only a few states still require this), and parental consent if you're underage. If you are divorced or widowed, you should bring along a copy of the death certificate or divorce paperwork.
Marriage license fees
There will most likely be a fee. You'll probably need to pay it with a money order, cashier's check, or even cash only. Some areas will give a discount if you can show that you had premarital education or counseling.
Marriage license timeframe
Most marriage licenses are valid for between 10 days and six months, which means that's how long you have to get married once you obtain it. Otherwise you'll be applying (and paying the fee) again.
Residency for marriage licenses
If you are having a destination wedding or getting married out of state, check into the requirements there. In most places, you don't have to be a resident, but you might have to get there a few days early.
Same-sex marriage licenses
Here is a list of countries and U.S. states that DO allow same-sex marriage (as of June 2015) so that you can be prepared if you're getting married away from your home state/country.
The marriage license at the wedding
Make sure someone is in charge of bringing it. After that, assign someone to return the marriage license to the county clerk's office or do it yourself. About a week later, you can purchase copies of the certified marriage certificate from the clerk's office.
Find out your specific location marriage license requirements here.
Got a question? Ask or share your own marriage license tips in the comments!