• Reverend Sharone-Elizabeth James

The 5 W’s of the Wedding License

Sponsored by: The Divine Chapel of Love

You’ve chosen you venue, ordered your dress, got your bridesmaids planning your perfect bachelorette celebration, all the fun details are falling into place. All of these fun details might be the building blocks of your dream wedding, but none of them have anything to do with whether or not you’re officially married. In fact, you don’t need a wedding at all. The only detail that allows you to be legally married in the eyes of the United States government is your marriage license.

A marriage license is the document that makes your marriage legal and recognized by the state. It ensures various rights including tax incentives, hospital visitation, inheritance, shared property, etc. Although you may decide to keep a decorative copy for you home, we advise you get a few copies of the official license for changing your name and other legal matters. You can pick those copies up at your local county clerk's office once the deed is done.

That said, it is very important to note that specific requirements for marriage licenses differ from state to state, sometimes even county to county, so be sure to check with the county clerk's office located in the county you will get married in, months in advance.

But as an early wedding present, we have prepared a little cheat sheet for what you should have in mind before you make that call.

What should you bring to the clerk’s office?

Both applicants must apply in person, and bring a driver's license, passport or your state ID.

If either of you were previously married, you’ll need the date that marriage ended by divorce, annulment or death, a certificate or court document.

In the State of Florida, if the premarital course is not attended by both applicants, the license will not be valid until 3 days after issuance. Exceptions to the waiting period are non-Florida residents and persons asserting hardships which are determined by the County Judge. For state residents, a County Court Judge may waive the delayed effective date for a good cause . Further, a license cannot be issued unless the parties file a statement with the Clerk’s Office that they have read the handbook and file an affidavit as to the parties’ social security numbers.

What does a license cost?

In Sarasota and Manatee and Hillsborough Counties, the cost for a marriage license is $93.50 unless the couples attend an approved premarital course. Completing a premarital class on the Sarasota county list will give the couple a $32.50 discount on the license fee, which reduces the total cost to $61.00. In Pinellas County, the fee for obtaining a Marriage License is $86.00. When both applicants complete a Premarital Preparation Course and present the Certificate to the Clerk, the fee is reduced to $61.00.

Who can apply for a marriage license?

Anyone over the age of 18. A minor who is between 16-17 years of age with both parents’ or legal guardians’ consent.

When do I need to apply for my marriage license?

Florida residents give yourself enough time, the Florida marriage licenses are valid for 60 days from the effective date. The marriage ceremony must be performed between effective date and expiration date on the license.

Out of State Residents are able to apply and have their ceremony performed the same day. Florida State Residents may have the 3-day waiting period waived if the present a Certificate of Completion of Premarital Preparation Course from a qualified registered course provider.

Who may perform marriage ceremonies?

All regularly ordained ministers of the Gospel, elders in communion with a church or other ordained clergy. All judicial officers, including retired judicial officers, Clerks of the Circuit Courts and public notaries of this state. Deputy Clerks are authorized to marry and do perform ceremonies during business hours at the courthouses.

It’s not uncommon for couples to ask a long time friend or family member to perform a wedding ceremony. This brings the wedding ceremony to a very personal and intimate level. This person must be ordained in order for the marriage to be recognized as legal. You can out more at https://getordained.org/state-marriage-laws/florida.

No matter who you decide is to perform the ceremony, you will receive a certified copy of your marriage certificate 7-14 business days after the document is filed with the State.

Where do you get it?

Some websites do allow for online application, check below:

Sarasota County Clerk of the Circuit Court Locations: 941.861.7400


Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court Locations: 941.749.1800


Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court Locations: 813.276.8100


Pinellas County Clerk of the Circuit Court Locations:

Clearwater, FL: 727. 464.4876 St. Petersburg, FL: 727.464.4876 https://www.mypinellasclerk.org/aspInclude2/ASPInclude.asp?pageName=marriage.htm

Because you have a relatively narrow window and planning a wedding requires some organization.

Make a list and collect all the necessary documents early and put them in a file so they are ready when you are!

Reverend Sharone-Elizabeth is an ordained minister located in Sarasota and offers wedding ceremonies at The Divine Chapel of Love and off site ceremony locations. For more information on the Divine Chapel of Love and their many services offered, please visit them at www.divinechapeloflove.com

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