So you got married and now you've got to prove it. You've got to have some record to show that you are really married. You'll need that proof for all sorts of things -- taxes, employment records, health and life insurance policies, home ownership, banking and other financial accounts, Social Security cards. You may have to prove your marriage several years later when you apply for a mortgage, so it's important to know how to get proof of your marriage. This will be a certificate issued by some state or county record agency.
Save Your Certificate
Keep the original of your marriage certificate in a safe deposit box, home lockbox or other secure place where it can't be lost, stolen or destroyed. The marriage certificate is issued after the wedding license has been signed by the person who performed the marriage and two witnesses and filed with the appropriate agency. Some states issue separate certificates, others use a license signed on the back. Order a number of certified copies of your original license or certificate so you can provide one to each of the many agencies or organizations that will need proof.
Make several photocopies of your license and store them in separate places. Photocopies won't always be acceptable as proof of marriage, but a photocopy backup will at least tell you where to go to get a duplicate. That's especially true if you move to another state or area after your marriage so you may have to send a letter to request a certified duplicate.
Know Where To Look
Know where to go to get a certified copy of your marriage license. Every state or region has its own vital statistics records. Some states, like California, have them in a central statewide vital statistics bureau. In other states, records are kept in a county clerk's office or similar agency. Use an Internet reference such as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to find out where to write for records in the place where you got married. The CDC site lists states and provides references to documents sources by state.
Check Immigration Rules
Check the federal immigration service if the marriage is between an American citizen and a non-citizen. There are many special rules about such marriages, even though you'll still at some point have to get a wedding license or similar proof. This can be especially complicated if the wedding took place outside the United States; you'll have to contact the country involved to get a proof of marriage.
- Centers for Disease Control: Where to Write for Vital Records
- California Department of Public Health: Obtaining Certified Copies of Marriage & Divorce Records
- University of Colorado- Boulder; Office of International Education: Questions & Answers about Marriage to a U.S. Citizen
- Legal Zoom: Marriage - Change Your Maiden Name