(Serving the Amicalola Falls area in the North Georgia Mountains)
You must have a valid marriage license if you are going to be legally married in the eyes of the state in which you are having the wedding. If either the bride or groom lives in Georgia, which is where I reside, you may get your license from any county, but usually either the county in which you currently reside, or the county in which you are going to be living.
It is an easy process and can be obtained from the probate court of the county the same day that you apply for it. Georgia no longer requires a blood test so that shortens the time, but you do need to bring any necessary documents, such as a divorce decree if you have been married before. No witnesses to the marriage are required in Georgia.
You should call the county probate clerk’s office where you are going to be getting the license to find out what you need to bring with you. One couple I married, who were from out of state, did not have the proper documents when they applied for the license. We had the ceremony anyway, and they had to go to a Justice of the Peace when they got back home to have it legalized.
Out of State Requirements
If you live outside of the state, you will need to get the license in the probate court of the Georgia county in which you are going to be married. In the above example, the couple did not have time to go back to their home state to get the required information that the clerk’s office needed.
Here are the rules for Dawson County, Georgia.
1. The applicants must both appear in person to complete the application for a marriage license.
2.Applicants must be 18 years of age or older.
3.A picture identification card is required for both applicants.
4.A divorce decree or death certificate from the former spouse is required from any applicant that has had a prior marriage.
5. At least one applicant has to be a resident of Georgia in order to apply for a marriage license in a county other than the county where the ceremony is to take place. If both applicants are nonresidents of Georgia, then the application must be made in the county where the marriage ceremony will take place.
6. The fee for a marriage license is $36 for a couple with a certificate of pre-marriage counseling or $76 for couples without one in Lumpkin County. In Dawson County, it is $16 and $56 respectively for the above.
7. Fees are payable by cash, check, cashier's check or money order.
8. Certified copies are an additional $10 per copy.
9.After the ceremony, the license is to be returned to the issuing probate court, which will then record the license in the marriage docket. Certified copies of the license many then be issued by the court.
Premarital education shall include at least six hours of instruction involving marital issues, which may include but not be limited to conflict management, communication skills, financial responsibilities, child and parenting responsibilities, and extended family roles. The premarital education shall be completed within 12 months prior to the application for a marriage license and the couple shall undergo the premarital education together.
After the Ceremony
The officiant who is performing the ceremony has the responsibility of getting the signed marriage license back to the county. However, in some cases, the couple was going to the clerk’s office the day after the ceremony anyway so I let them take it with them to save time.
The couple must get a certified copy of the recorded license for the marriage to be official. That is, it must be recorded at the county courthouse before a certified copy can be issued.
If the bride is changing her name, she must have a certified copy of the marriage license to do so. Getting married does have certain legal obligations for both parties so it should not be done without prior thought and understanding.
However, changing a woman’s name to her husband’s is only a matter of custom, and is not legally necessary. She may choose to keep her maiden name or choose any other name as far as that is concerned. The same is true if she later divorces too.
I always give a copy of the signed marriage license to the couple if at all possible, along with their personalized ceremony. Marriages in a forest in the boondocks don’t allow for this but I do it as often as possible, just as a precaution. It wouldn’t hurt for the couple to do that themselves if there is only one copy of it.
Some counties still do have duplicate copies of the marriage license for me to sign and give to the couple, but most of them are going to only one. If there is a copy machine at the wedding site, I do make one, just in case.