Why Your Marriage Isn’t “Official” Until The Signed Marriage License Is Filed…

Every year during Wedding Season, I hear from someone who either married abroad or forgot to file their license or even lost their signed Marriage License. 

A lot of planning goes into your Marriage. From the cake to the caterers to the dress and more–your Wedding is a Life Event. Weddings are traditionally, meant to happen once hence the term, Life Event.

Marriage is a process. First, you find the love of your life. Second, you plan and prepare for your wedding. Often, the last item on your list is to purchase a Marriage License. The reason for this is that Licenses expire. 

Upon the purchase of your license, you will need to find an accredited Officiant to perform your wedding ceremony and most importantly, sign your and file the license unless you choose to file it yourself.

If your license requires witnesses, advise them to write within the lines and never mark through or scribble out anything on the document. If I or anyone on my Texas Twins Events Team are Officiating your ceremony, we always “go over” this detail.

Witnessing a Marriage License is an honor for friends or family of the couple. Please write only inside the lines of the document.

Over the years, I’ve had a few unexpected “incidents” occur during the signing of the license that no one (including me) could expect. People can be unpredictable as anyone in the Events industry can attest to. 

Events can be chaotic which is why we always try to get the License signed immediately following the ceremony. The “Rule” of signing the Marriage License is that it is signed immediately following the ceremony.

On numerous occasions, I will often take the signed document straight to my vehicle and store it in a briefcase for safe keeping. 

Losing a Marriage License on your Wedding Day is never a good idea. If I arrive for your ceremony and no one knows where the License is– you will need to find it. Please have someone responsible bring your License to the wedding. 

If a Wedding License cannot be located on Wedding Day, a short ceremony is REQUIRED prior to signing the document after it has been located if it’s not found on the actual Wedding Day.

Under no circumstances can I or anyone on my staff “simply sign the License. Why? Because sinpkynsigning a License without a ceremony constitutes Marriage Fraud.

Last year while signing, a witness continued writing after a scream took my attention to the dance floor where a guest had passed out. 

The problem? In the moment it took for me to turn away and direct Cindy to help the guest on the dance floor, the witness “corrected” her old address by drawing a line through it and adding her new address under the address line. This “correction” prevented the license from being filed, accepted and/or recorded in Santa Barbara County. 

Getting a call from the Clerk’s Office regarding a “mark out” on a Marriage License is every Officiants worst nightmare.

To solve the issue, I flew back to California and filed an Amended Petition at the Santa Barbara courthouse. If you are Officiating a wedding and a problem with the Marriage License occurs, it’s YOUR responsibility to correct the situation. 

Understand that whether you are “familiar” with the process of signing and filing a License or not, your signature carries a lot of responsibility on your part. 

In Texas, Failure To File A Wedding License within 30 Days is a Crime. If you are Officiating a Wedding and don’t know what you are doing- DON’T! The worst thing that you can do for your friends or family members is to screw up their marriage by making a mistake on their license or worse, forgetting to file it in a timely manner.

At another wedding several years ago, the brother of the bride smashed cake in her face while I was signing her license and with the pen in my hand on the license, the bride bumped into me causing my scripted signature to go out of the line. 

Luckily, the clerks office didn’t make a big issue of going off the line a few centimeters but, I was more than a little concerned walking the license into the Parker County Courthouse.

Finding a quiet area to sign a license after a wedding is important to not only me but also your witnesses. We are signing a legal document and although I’m sure your guests wish to celebrate- I always take my time to sign, add my address, the county and the time before instructing witnesses if they are required. 

It’s very unusual to have a guest pass out or a groom to be tossed up and effectively stuck in the patio lights or a brother trying to be funny and ruining the wedding cake  but— it’s happened. 

Having a Bride (yes, it’s usually the Bride) run screaming “my wedding has been ruined,” because her brother smashed cake in her face and knocked me over while signing the Marriage License or have a witness make a correction on her address is more “than a little stressful.”

I cannot control your guests or unexpected events from occurring. If your wedding includes an Open Bar, I prefer to get the License taken care of prior to wedding photos or anything else. The reason for this is that if your License requires a witness, I want them to be sober.  

Repairing a marriage certificate is a legal process and if I’m in another state at a Destination Wedding Officiating your wedding, it can be an expensive one. 

To amend a petition, I must travel to the clerks office the license was purchased at and file an Amended Marriage License. I cannot stress this enough– never mark through anything on a Marriage License. It will save us both a lot of trouble. 

I bring my own pen to Weddings because having a pen run out of ink while signing a License isn’t a good idea. 

Never let a witness sign your license without an Officiant present. The reasons for this should be obvious but, I will explain. If your friends or family members sign where my signature should be, the license isn’t valid. 

I’ve signed well over 800 Marriage Licenses in different states and counties and am therefore well aware that they all are different in one form or another. Having a witness sign your license is an honor but, without supervision, it can assuredly, be a disaster. 

Today, I’m going to go over the importance of running back to the courthouse with your signed license if you choose to file it yourself along with other important aspects of the legal process of a Marriage.

Marriage is a legal and binding relationship. Ask anyone going through a divorce how easy it was to get married and how difficult it was to get a divorce and you have a far better idea of why I always caution someone having second thoughts about marrying to wait if they don’t feel fully committed about the wedding.

I encourage most clients to take a Premarital Class. Why? Because the happy moments I’ve shared with you at your wedding are important to me. My desire for every couple I’ve to stay happily married might seem odd but, I care and want every couple to withstand the test of time. 

I’m always sad to hear that a couple I’ve married have separated but, it’s happened. Traditionally, everyone is happy at a Wedding unless there’s a chili stirring relative who has had “one too many.” I remember the joy of sharing your Life Event and feel overwhelming sadness when hearing of a divorce. 

A few weeks ago, I learned that one of my Pawning Planners Clients had separated. Lisa and Terry were so happy at their Wedding and devastated when her grandfather died a year later. I grieved with them. Hearing they had separated, I again was broken hearted.

A few of my clients choose to have a Prenuptial Agreement especially if it’s a 2nd or 3rd wedding. Why? Experience. A divorce and subsequent division of your assets is enlightening to say the least. 

Many Prenuptial Agreements also benefit both parties by having a payout clause should the Marriage not survive. Don’t take it personally if your fiancé suggests a Premarital Agreement. 

Instead, try understanding that if one party is significantly more financially secure than the other, this Agreement is to protect their assets in the event of a divorce.

Should a divorce occur, you may want to consider a Rule 11 Agreement and skip the attorneys to save you both a lot of money and stress. It’s an option few attorneys suggest because let’s face it, lawyers only get paid when they are working and no attorney is in a hurry to “settle” a divorce. 

I’m being honest and not intending to offend any of my connections who happen to be attorneys. 

Tens of thousands of dollars are spent on divorce attorneys and child custody battles. If you loved each other enough to marry, consider loving each other enough to settle on a Rule 11 Agreement. 

Texas is the ONLY state that offers a discount on Marriage Licenses if the couple have taken a Pre Marital Course with Two Together In Texas. This course also waives the three day waiting period in Texas.Years ago, when my schedule wasn’t so booked, I taught these classes but I rarely have time now which is why I suggest going through the site to take the online course instead. 

I’m adding the link for your convenience— Two Together In Texas Online Course. After completing the 8 hour handbook, you can download your certificate and take it with you to the Clerks office for a $60 discount of the license and waiver.

Filing a Marriage License is a regular occurrence for me since I conduct well over 100 wedding ceremonies every year. I often give Clients the option of filing it themselves if they need it back quickly. 

The reason for this is that when I file it, the clerk mails it back to the couple which can take 2-3 weeks depending on whether its wedding season or not. What this means is that your license will be recorded and mailed back in the order that it was received. 

If 40-50 people are married on the same weekend as you- be prepared to wait a few weeks to receive your license back. 

If you need your license quickly, you can file it in person and after recording it, the clerk will hand it back to you. You will need to file your Marriage License at your earliest convenience if you chose to file it yourself.

The problem that has occurred when a client chose to file their marriage license rather than have me file it for them is that it becomes lost or they forget to file it which is a very big problem. 

Marriage Licenses have a shelf life. If you cannot commit to filing your signed license in a timely manner because you are going on a honeymoon or moving or for another reason- it is in your best interest to hand the license to me or someone on my staff Officiating.

I file Marriage Licenses on Monday, Wednesday and Friday every week in person. If your license is outside Tarrant or Dallas County, I sent it priority mail and certify the package so I can not only track it but, also confirm it was received at the Clerks Office.

I’m adding my blog pertaining to Marriage Fraud for your review– Marriage Fraud- What Is It & What You Should Know. Many readers are surprised to learn that having a “friend” Officiate your wedding can be a great way to save money but, if they’ve made a mistake on your License the savings weren’t worth it. 

If a “friend” is Officiating your Wedding– it is your “friends” responsibility to handle the paperwork. I’m going to strongly suggest that anyone assuming that going online without fully understanding their role and responsibility of signing a Legal Instrument spend time understanding the entire aspect of Officiating a Wedding. There’s a lot more to it than just showing up. 

Due to Immigration Laws constantly changing– Marriage Laws may change as well. Be aware that if you plan to marry and your partner isn’t a US Citizen, you will be under scrutiny. Running off to get married will not supersede legal requirements that couples must meet. 

Public Speaking isn’t for the faint hearted but, failing to follow Protocol and understand the role of a wedding Officiant when your “friend” is Officiating may have more surprises than the laughs you initially expected. 

Friends are not familiar with the process of Officiating, or signing and filing a Marriage License. These “friends” have lost Licenses too. 

How do I know? Frantic couples calling me after learning they aren’t legally married. Friends shouldn’t let friends Officiate their wedding. When you consider the amount of money you’ve invested in your Life Event, are mistakes or friendships worth it? 

I have Emergency Fees for a very solid reason. Couples and families “flipping out” that their friend or other Officiant failed to show up or worse, they thought they were married by someone else and later found out that they weren’t because their “friend” never filed the Marriage License. 

Would you let your friend do you taxes? Balance your checking account? Diagnose your medical problem? No. You wouldn’t. 

If your license has expired, I will not sign a Marriage License that is no longer valid. Continued emails that begin with “my license has expired before I could find an Officiant” are all answered in the same manner. “I’m terribly sorry to hear that but, you will need to visit the clerks office and purchase a new license. Contact me after completing the process.”

You are not required to be a Texas resident to marry in Texas or any other state. You can go to any county clerks office and request a Marriage License. I do NOT provide Marriage Licenses. The county clerk does.

A few years ago, I met a couple at the Fort Worth Water Gardens who wanted to be married. The problem? They didn’t have a Marriage License and expected that I would have one. I do not provide Marriage Licenses. The County Clerk provides Marriage Licenses for a fee with a set of Requirenents necessary in order to obtain a License. 

If you have questions regarding your Marriage, it’s best to ask questions prior to the ceremony rather than assume. A wedding without a Marriage License isn’t a wedding. It’s instead considered a Committment Ceremony. 

If you cannot afford to purchase a Marriage License, you should probably reconsider marrying or taking the Two Together In Texas Class which isn’t free either but, for $29 you can save $60 of the cost of a Marriage License which in the long run, saves you $30-31 in Tarrant County and other Texas Vital Records offices. 

Please don’t ask anyone on my staff to sign a Marriage License without a wedding ceremony. There MUST be a wedding ceremony in order to sign a Marriage License. It’s the law. Simply signing a Marriage License without having the ceremony isn’t an option.

Traditionally, Marriage Ceremonies require both parties present and although Texas does allow Proxy Marriage. Proxy Marriage is no longer valid in Texas Prisons and now only available to Military Persons. 

Due to the fraudulent abuse of Proxy Marriage, many states no longer allow it. Texas is one of the very states that continue to honor Proxy Marriage but no longer allow Proxy Marriage of an Inmate. The Rules and Laws associated with Texas Inmate Marriages changed a few years ago. 

Texas does not allow “Confidential Marriage” either. Your Marriage will be public and unless you live in California or another state, sealing your license is not an option.

If your Marriage License has been signed and never filed, you are not married. Filing of the Marriage License is what completes the legal process of marrying. The clerk must receive and record the Marriage License in order for the marriage to be binding.

For those contacting me that thought they were legally married and later realized that the person they entrusted to perform their ceremony failed to follow guidelines– you can remarry and redo your ceremony but, your previous marriage date will be changed. Why? Because you will need to get a new Marriage License and have a new ceremony.

Mistakes or other issues from a wedding ceremony outside the USA are far more common than anyone realizes. I’m contacted on a regular basis by Couples who “thought they were legally married.” 

If you are marrying outside of the US, ask questions and even consider consulting an attorney. If you don’t, it can be a very real and very expensive problem.

A few months ago, I read an email from a Bride who had spent tens of thousands of dollars to marry in Jamaica with her friends and family. 

Her beautiful ceremony with photos and all was an expensive endeavor but, when she contacted her husbands insurance company to add herself, she was surprised to learn that her exotic wedding wasn’t legal. 

The paperwork of weddings is essential to the legal process of actually being married. To solve the problem without either family knowing that the couple weren’t actually married in Jamaica, I performed a small and intimate ceremony with their new Texas Marriage License and effectively, fixed the issue by marrying them.

A Marriage without a ceremony and License are referred to as commitment ceremonies but, they are not legal.

Since I’m frequently contacted regarding Common Law Marriage which is legal in Texas, there is a process if you want your union recognized. 

Texas County Clerks have an Affidavit for Common Law Marriage. Couples choosing to skip the Marriage Ceremony and License but, you must both be present and you must both sign and file the instrument. 

What this means is that saying you are Common Law Married and proving it without filing an Affidavit can be a very difficult process. I’m adding the link to the Affidavit for your review– Texas Common Law Marriage Affidavit.

I strongly advise anyone believing that by claiming you are Common Law Married to educate themselves to the hurdles of proving it especially in Probate Court! 

If you do NOT want your Common Law Marriage recognized in a Texas Court Of Law… Carefully Review The Following Instructions:  

1. Do not file any common law marriage documents with a Texas court. You and your partner should avoid filing certain documents with a Texas court, and you should avoid asking a Texas court to recognize a common law marriage. Doing so will result in the state recognizing a common law marriage. The important documents you should avoid filing and the proceedings you should avoid are:

2. A Declaration of Marriage. This is a document that formalizes a common law marriage.[4] It may also be referred to as a Declaration of Informal Marriage.[5] This document asks you to fill out, sign, and date a declaration stating that you meet all of the requirements of an informal marriage.

3. A Recognition of Common Law Marriage. This is a type of proceeding before a judge whereby you ask the court to recognize a common law marriage for a specific purpose, such as when you are filing for divorce.[6] When you go to the court hearing, you will most likely have to fill out a declaration of marriage form and file it with the court.

4. Agreements signed as a married couple. You should also avoid filing any documents with a court that have been signed by you and your significant other as a married couple.[7] Examples include leases, life insurance policies, and tax returns.[8]

In order to protect yourself and possibly if losing joint assets, it’s essential to file an Affidavit of Common Law Marriage.

For Texas Prison Wedding Clients, a CLM (Common Law Marriage) status at a TDCJ Prison Unit must be filed prior to incarceration. If your fiancée has listed themselves as CLM and the name is not yours on the status, you will need the Prisoner to change the status prior to requesting an I60 Request For Marriage. 

TDCJ Prison status of CLM cannot be changed after incarceration. The reason for this is that you (obviously) are NOT living with a Prisoner and therefore, cannot be considered CLM.

In Texas, you cannot be married to two people at the same time. The questions on a Marriage Application address this. Please answer these questions honestly. Failure to do so is a very real problem.

If you have further questions regarding Absentee Affidavits, Marriage Licenses, Proxy Marriage or Confidential Marriage outside Texas, please feel free to email me at wendy@texastwinsevents.com for more information.