April 02, 2019

Getting Married? What To Know Before Tying the Knot


Congratulations! You just got engaged and now you’re ready to spend the rest of your life with your partner. Planning a wedding can be overwhelming, but here are some simple things we recommend to ease the process.

Marriage Requirements:

You must meet certain requirements before getting married. These vary slightly from state-to-state, but generally include:

  • Being at least the age of consent (usually, 18 though sometimes you may marry younger with your parents’ consent).
  • Not being too closely related to your intended spouse.
  • Having sufficient mental capacity. That is, you must understand what you are doing and what consequences your actions may have.
  • Being sober at the time of the marriage.
  • Not currently married.
  • Must have obtained a marriage license.

Marital Prohibitions:

All states prohibit a person from marrying a relative, that includes: siblings, half-siblings, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, aunts, uncles, nieces, or nephews. Some states have additional prohibitions.

What’s the difference between a marriage “license” and a “certificate”?

A marriage license is a piece of paper that authorizes you to get married, while a marriage certificate is a document that proves you are married. In Wisconsin, the license is valid for 30 days but there is a mandatory six-day waiting period from the time you file to when the license can be issued.

Typically, couples obtain a marriage license, hold the wedding ceremony, and then have the person who performed the ceremony file a marriage certificate in the appropriate county office within a few days. This may be the office of the county clerk, recorder or registrar, depending on where you live. The marriage certificate is mailed within a few weeks after the ceremony to the couple.

In Wisconsin, the person who officiated the ceremony and two witnesses must sign the marriage certificate.

Where can we get a marriage license?

Usually, you may apply for a marriage license at any county clerk’s office in the state where you want to be married. In some circumstances, you must apply in the county or town where you intend to be married, be sure to check the state law. Marriage licenses fo require a small fee.

How to obtain copies of a marriage certificate.

If you find yourself needing a certified copy of your marriage certificate, you’ll need to contact the vital records office in the state where you were married. Fees will apply for each copy you request.

Who can perform the ceremony?

Non-religious ceremonies, called civil ceremonies, must be performed by a judge, justice of the peace, or court clerk who has the legal authority to perform marriages. Religious ceremonies must be conducted by a clergy member (priest, minister, or rabbi). Native American weddings, however,  may be performed by a tribal chief or by another official, as designated by the tribe.

Are there requirements about what the ceremony must include?

As long as the spouses acknowledge their intention to marry each other, no special words are required. Keeping that in mind, you can design whatever type of ceremony you desire.

Get more information by speaking with a GCW attorney.

At GCW, we can provide advice and legal opinions about marriage, but we don’t typically get involved in the logistics of a wedding. We do offer information about pre-nuptial agreements and can create one for you and your spouse if you’re interested. Connect with one of the four GCW Lawyers locations to learn more about pre-nuptial agreements, and congratulations on your recent engagement!

Nationally Recognized Personal Injury Lawyers