Congratulations, you’re engaged! You’ve found the love of your life, you’ve set a date, and you’ve started debating the merits of fresh flowers versus silk flowers. Now it’s time to get started on all the legalities of getting married – the nitty gritty details you won’t find on a Pinterest board or in a Nicholas Sparks novel.
First things first – apply for your marriage license within 60 days of your marriage ceremony. If your ceremony is not performed within 60 days of getting your marriage license, you’ll have to apply for another one. For your marriage license, you’ll need:
WHERE & WHEN TO APPLY FOR YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE
Register of Deeds
720 East Fourth Street
Charlotte, NC 28205
Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN APPLYING FOR YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE
Total time spent in office: 15 minutes
I’d recommend parking on East Fourth Street, about two blocks north of the building, just passed the intersection of East Fourth Street and South Davidson Street – these metered spots usually have an opening, and since you’ll (hopefully) only be inside the building about 15 minutes, will only cost $1 to park. From there, head south and look for the huge white signs that say “Victim Assistance" (you'll see what I mean). Once you see those, it’ll be the first building on your left. In the building, take a right and open the fairly non-descript door that has a small sign that says “Marriages.”
My now-husband and I were able to walk right up to the counter, no line. (We went on a Thursday during lunchtime.) When you turn in your form, you’ll be asked to hold up your right hands and swear that all the information you’ve given is true to the best of your knowledge. You’ll be asked if you would like to pre-purchase your marriage certificates for $10 each. There’s no benefit or detriment either way. You don’t get a discount and you don’t get them mailed to you – you still have to go pick them up and get them signed from the same office. (More on certificates later.) It’s simply paying now or paying later.
Once all is said and done, you’ll be given a small packet that includes a pink, pre-addressed return envelope; instructions on how to change your name after marriage; and two marriage licenses – one for the Register of Deeds Office and one for the Vital Records Office.
WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE
Directly following your ceremony (if you’re having a cocktail hour, that’s a great time to do this) you will need signatures on both marriage license forms – all in black ink. No exceptions.
Your officiant will need to sign his or her name as well as print: name, personal address, title, date of marriage, county of marriage.
You will need two witnesses, and each witness will need to sign his or her name as well as print: name and address. Make sure all information is written in the correct boxes (21A through 23C) – ours had a mistake on both copies so a clerk at the Register of Deeds Office had to white it out so we could find another guest who attended the wedding to take the place of one of our original witnesses. All this guest had to do was fill out the form (she didn’t have to come with us to the office or anything) – but it was still a moment of panic.
Within 14 days of your ceremony, you’ll need to either put your marriage licenses in the mail in the pink, pre-addressed return envelope you were given at the time you applied; or you can take them back to the same office (Register of Deeds) in person. For reference, it took the Register of Deeds eight days to process our marriage license.
Woohoo, you’re officially in North Carolina's database as a married couple!
WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE
After your marriage license is processed by the Register of Deeds, you can purchase a certified copy of your marriage certificate (or pick it/them up if you pre-paid).
I bought three copies: one for the Social Security Office, one for the DMV, and one for the U.S. Department of State for updating my passport – because that’s what the clerk at the Register of Deeds told me I needed. Do not do what I did. Turns out, I only needed one certified copy.
Both the Social Security Office and the DMV simply looked at the marriage certificate, they did not keep it. I mailed in my certified marriage certificate for my passport; but I could have used the same single copy to take to the Social Security Office, then to the DMV, then mailed it in the U.S. Department of State. Save yourself the $20.
Speaking of ... wondering how to change your last name now that you're married? Follow my personal name-change journey to save yourself some headache!
Hope this helps!