How to get married

Planning a wedding is both exciting and labor-intensive. From flowers to cake, there are many aspects of a wedding ceremony that require careful planning and organization. However, planning a wedding is different, though intricately linked, to getting married. There are no laws governing how you plan your wedding, but there are laws that must be adhered to in order for a wedding to result in a legally binding marriage.

Getting married requires a license, but the specifics for obtaining the license will vary from state to state in the continental US. Typically, in all 50 states, The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, applicants must be at least 18 years of age to be married without parental consent. There are few exceptions, but according to US law, no person under 14 can be legally wed with or without parental consent.

Though most states do not require a medical examination or blood test any longer, some states still do. These include Vermont, Pennsylvania, California, Oklahoma, Mississippi, and New Mexico. A waiting period between applying and receiving a license applies in about half the states and ranges from 24 hours to 5 days. A marriage license is valid for a certain period of time as well, so it makes sense to wait until the wedding plans are well under way and a date has been set before applying for a license.

Once a license is obtained, but before the expiration, an individual legally entitled to perform a wedding ceremony must state that they have performed the ceremony, legally wedding the two names on the license and then sign it. The license is then mailed back to the courthouse or other public office where it was obtained and it is placed on file and the marriage is legal.

If you plan to get married out of state or even out of country, say on a cruise ship, you need to obtain a license in the state or country where the ceremony will take place. Typically, cruise ships have wedding planners to help people wanting an at-sea wedding. If you are planning to get married out of country, it is best to consult a wedding planner or at least do your research regarding the laws of that country and whether the marriage will be recognized upon your return home.