If either of you live in New Jersey and will be getting married in New Jersey, go to the Local Registrar in the municipality where you live. You can use the license in any county in New Jersey.
If neither of you live in New Jersey but will be getting married there, you will need to go to the Registrar in the municipality where the marriage ceremony will be performed. The license will only be valid in that municipality.
You will need to have a witness with you who is over 18 years of age. In addition, there is a set of required documents, and a fee, to obtain the license.
You must apply for the license at least 72 hours before your wedding date. The license is good for 6 months from the issue date.
Once you set your wedding date and have a venue confirmed, go ahead and hire your wedding officiant. Flowers are beautiful, food is yummy, music gets you swaying. But if you don’t have an officiant to write and conduct your ceremony, or sign your marriage license, you’re, well, not married. (Ok, in PA, you could self-unite, but you could still use someone to write and conduct your ceremony.)
It’s best to start considering who you want to hire as a wedding officiant 6 – 12 months before your wedding date.
Popular officiants get busy, especially during the Spring and Fall wedding seasons, so you will want to book them early. Plus, you will likely want to meet a few officiants, to see who you feel most comfortable with and who will honor your ideas and traditions.
If it’s 3 months before your wedding date and you don’t have an officiant yet, now’s the time. If it’s 2 months before, you may have to do a lot of phone calling to find someone. If it’s one month before, yikes. I did get a call once to replace an officiant who was unable to officiate – on the morning of the wedding! I happened to be available, the couple had a draft of a ceremony, and we pulled it together. But, this is not my recommended timeline.
You want your officiant to get to know you, to prepare a lovely ceremony, and to conduct the ceremony professionally.
In the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, it is legal for couples to unite themselves in marriage, in front of witnesses, without an officiant needing to sign the marriage license. Blasphemous? Exactly the opposite. Self-uniting marriages have been an accepted means of getting married for Quakers in Pennsylvania since 1682. Quakers believe that marriage should be between the couple and God, without needing an intermediary. So, what is the difference between a self-uniting marriage license and a regular marriage license?
When you go to the marriage bureau to get a license, tell them that you want a Self-Uniting license. These licenses sometimes cost a little more than the type that requires an officiant.
A Self-Uniting License requires both members of the couple plus two witnesses to sign the license on the day of your wedding.
Some couples self-unite by creating and conducting their own ceremonies. Other couples ask a friend or relative to create and conduct the ceremony as the couple self-unites. (A caution: Not all friends or family members are good at conducting ceremonies.)
If you do want to self-unite, consider asking Celebrant Robin to create your ceremony or guide you through the writing. Then, you can use that ceremony as you unite each other wherever and whenever you choose.
Now that you are married, you might want to change your last name to your spouse’s, or both of you might want to change your last names.
You are not required to change your name after marriage; it’s a personal preference. Whatever last name you choose to use, recognize that changing your name is a process; everyone will need some time to get used to your new last name. Including you!
If you do want to change your name, be consistent. You don’t want to cause confusion or difficulties when you file your taxes, apply for a mortgage, open a bank account, or manage your credit.
You can manage the name change process yourself, or use a name change service/kit.
Regardless of your approach, you will need to:
Obtain several copies of your marriage certificate from the marriage bureau where your license was filed.
What is a marriage certificate?
The official document from the County that demonstrates that the marriage is on record.
Is the marriage certificate different from my marriage license?
Yes. Step 1: You obtained a marriage license to get married. Step 2: Your Officiant signed and filed the license with the county, making the marriage legal. Step 3: Now you need proof that you were married legally, and that’s the marriage certificate (sometimes called the “certified copy of your marriage record”). An official marriage certificate has a raised seal on it.
Change your name with the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Go to the SSA first, before you change your name anywhere else.
When you change your name at the Social Security office, they enter the name change in their database. Many other places where you will change your name will check the SSA database.
Do it yourself: The following guides walk you through the name change process:
Use a Name Change Service/Kit: (Note: I don’t endorse any of these in particular, and the names of these kits make me cringe. They each cost money and you still have to complete a bunch of forms. But, if they make it easier on you, go for it.)
Did you forget to hire a wedding officiant? You’re not alone. Many wedding checklists omit “Hire an Officiant”, even though in most states, an officiant is legally required to sign your marriage license.
A wedding officiant is responsible for creating and conducting a ceremony that speaks uniquely of you, and/or that follows your religious traditions. Getting married is a solemn decision, and you want a ceremony that acknowledges and honors that decision, right?
Especially for couples who have been together for a long time, own a house, or want an intimate wedding, getting married at home is an appealing option.
You and your guests feel comfortable in your home. You might have the ceremony inside in your favorite room and the reception outside where guests have more space to roam. Be aware, though, that at-home weddings are not always less expensive.
An at-home wedding gives you a chance to have many of the frills of a wedding in a bigger venue, on a smaller scale.
Here are some items to consider if you want to get married at your home:
Do I need an officiant if I’m getting married at home?
Of course! To make the marriage legal, you need an officiant. More than that, having a ceremony that is professionally created for you will make your wedding day special. (In Pennsylvania, it is possible for couples to self-unite, which is an option for at-home weddings, too.)
One couple asked their friend, a Celebrant, to conduct the wedding. This friend had introduced the brides to each other 20+ years ago.
Another couple worked with their rabbi to conduct the wedding at home, enabling them to bring their connection to their synagogue into their home.
Is our home ready for a wedding?
When you look around your house, do you have enough space to hold the number of guests you want to invite? Do the rooms need a new coat of paint? Do the carpets need to be cleaned?
One couple decided to renovate their guest bathroom in time for the wedding. A risky venture, and one that added expense to the wedding. However, they enjoyed the design process and their guests welcomed the updated facilities.
How many guests do we want to invite?
Some couples invite only their immediate family and a few friends when they marry at home. For couples who have been together for a long time, or LGBT couples who were not legally allowed to be married prior to 2015, inviting a much larger guest list might be in order.
One couple invited over 100 guests to their at-home wedding. The ceremony and reception were held outdoors, with a tent on the deck in case of rain. Their guests had been in their home many times and the wedding added to their happy memories of the home.
Another couple squeezed their 36 guests into their den. Cozy and intimate, if a bit cramped.
The BBC series As Time Goes By featured an hilarious scene (37 minutes in) where the couple tried to determine how many wedding guests they could fit, standing up, in their small living room.
Should we have the wedding catered?
If you can afford to, yes, have someone cater your wedding. Even if you and your spouse are chefs, you will want your wedding day to be about sharing your love with each other and your guests rather than ensuring that the food is cooked through.
Should we have a wedding cake?
Absolutely! Your caterer might do wedding cakes. Or, if you’ve always wanted to have a cake that captures your relationship, now’s the time.
What should we do about our beloved dog/cat/ferret during the wedding?
In most cases, it is best to have your pets kept safe in a room or an off-site location during the wedding. No matter how well trained a pet is, having many people in their home may make them skittish. If your pet has always been part of every celebration you’ve had, consider including the pet in the ceremony, then moving the pet somewhere else during the reception.
One couple with two dogs chose to keep them upstairs during the wedding and talked about how important the dogs were to the couple during the ceremony.
Another couple hired a pet minder to allow the dog to be at the ceremony, but not the responsibility of the marrying couple.
Should we have a photographer or videographer at our at-home wedding?
Definitely. No matter how many of your guests say they’ll take photos and share them, it’s likely that you won’t get the photos you want this way.
One couple chose not to have a professional photographer, relying instead on their nephews to take photos and film the wedding. The film came out well, the photos not so much. Many of the friends and relatives who attended were not in the pictures.
How can we ensure that our older relatives from farther away can attend our wedding?
Consider renting a small bus to bring your relatives to your home.
One couple hired a bus that picked their relatives up at two locations, brought them to the wedding, then took them home. The cost was less then having the relatives stay in a hotel and ensured that everyone arrived on time and made it home safely.
An at-home wedding is the most intimate way of incorporating your friends and family into your life as a married couple. Throughout your years together, your guests will remember being at your home and will continue to feel the special bond you created. When your home becomes your “wedding venue”, you deepen your connection to each other and to your home.