Many couples leave getting their marriage license to the last minute and end up rushing through it, missing the significance of the moment.
The day you go to get your marriage license is a major historical event in your relationship. It is a very "This is it!" moment and it begins to subtly yet powerfully shift your relationship to a new level. It is, of course, an especially poignant experience for same-sex couples who are able to obtain a marriage license in their state.
It is a rite of passage that every engaged couple must experience together -- no one can marry legally without going together to obtain a valid wedding license from the state in which they will wed. Yet some busy couples dread it. For some there is an emotional hesitation and procrastination -- it is a big deal getting married! Some couples just don't like to have to take off from work, possibly wait on long lines, and deal with the bureaucracy of marriage bureaus or clerks offices. It can be stressful but you can also turn the experience into a blessing.
That "little piece of paper" you get when you fill out the forms is in essence the foundation of your future. It tells the world you have made the commitment. It joins you in the eyes of the law and allows you the entitlements the state in which you are married. Sadly, we are lagging way behind in the number of states where marriage is legal for same-same sex couples and on Federal entitlements, but still, the marriage license is a significant step in any relationship.
After all the wedding planning and stress, having your license in hand brings a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. Look for ways to enjoy, savor and enhance the experience.
Make the research fun. Each state has a different protocol for attaining a license so your first step is to research the legalities of your state and county. In the United States, both partners must show up, usually at a city or county clerk's office, with proper identification, a small filing and processing fee, as well as proof of the dissolution of any former marriages or the death of former spouses (most states no longer require blood tests). After answering the clerk's questions, you are given a license or affidavit that your clergy person will sign on your wedding day and send back to the clerk's office to make your marriage "official."
Be prepared. Make sure you have all the paper work and identification needed and the correct processing fees in the correct form so that you are not turned away or delayed for any reason. (For example, the clerk may not take cash, checks or credit cards so see if you need a money order). Every city and state has its own protocol for the legality of a license. In New York, for example, you can have it in hand for 60 days before using it and must have it for at least 24 hours, whereas in Las Vegas, NV, you can get the license the same day as the wedding.
Take care of yourselves. Get a good night's sleep the night before. Exercise or stretch that morning; eat before going or bring a snack so you don't get worn-out and cranky if the line is long. Wear comfortable shoes.
Keep your spirits high. Try to embrace the marriage bureau office and be pleasant to the people who are helping you. Getting cranky with the person who will be issuing your marriage license or complaining about the experience is not a great energy to bring into your marriage. It's just a few hours in your life so make it fun.
Document the experience. Take pictures of you both holding the license (cliché, but why not?) and also see if you can get a photo with a smiling county clerk. It would be a fun thing to show the kids some day! (But be careful about posting on social media since others may be able to read personal information on the form).
Celebrate. Plan to spend time afterwards to celebrate this important milestone. You might want to pack a picnic lunch and go to a park afterwards, or go out to a favorite restaurant. Perhaps you'd like to buy a frame and temporarily frame your license and proudly gaze at it while sharing a glass of wine at home. Maybe you'll keep it on the bedside as you make love that night for your first time as an almost-married couple!
Don't rush through it. Don't wait until the last minute to get your license. Leave time to enjoy it and to savor it. Once that license is signed on the day you wed, life will change forever more. If you are marrying in a destination wedding and will only be in town briefly, make sure you leave ample time to get your license in accordance with the rules of that state.
May you appreciate and remember the power of the day you got your license to marry!