Getting Married in Texas

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In response to numerous inquiries from couples wishing to get married, here’s a basic informational guide. It’s legal for everyone now, so let’s get those wedding bells ringing!

retro_manKnow these fun facts!

You can get hitched anywhere you like (in Texas). A marriage license issued in any Texas county is valid for a wedding ceremony held in any other Texas county. For instance, one can get a license in Houston and have their wedding in Dallas, Mobeetie, Luckenbach, or the garden spot of your dreams. Importantly, the completed license must be returned by mail or in person to the County clerk’s office where it was originally issued. The clerk’s office then registers the wedding and returns the official registered certificate to you, suitable for framing! When you first get the license the clerk will give you a handy-dandy envelope to mail it back (proper postage required).

Three days/ninety days rule. First, Texas law stipulates the ceremony cannot be performed within three days from the day and time the license was issued. So, you can’t get a license and have your wedding the same day. Yes, it’s easier to buy a gun, but after all, this is Texas. You’ve gotta wait, so plan ahead. Secondly, the ceremony must take place within ninety days from the day and time the license was issued. Wait any longer, and you must apply for another license. So…plan ahead to hold your ceremony with the 87-day window of opportunity after the license is issued.

Fees, etc. $30 – $75 cash or check, so don’t leave home without it! Fees vary from Texas county to county, so call ahead to your county clerk’s office. Blood tests or medical examinations are not required in Texas. The license fee will be waived if a couple takes an 8-hour premarital preparation course that covers important marital skills and issues such as conflict management and communication. Which is never a bad idea.

Prove you are who you say you are. In Texas, you will need to bring one valid form of ID such as a drivers license, a certified copy of your birth certificate, a U. S. passport, or a military ID card. You’ll also need to provide your Social Security number.

Residency. Neither one of you have to be a resident of Texas. One of you must be a U.S. citizen. Non-citizens must show valid U.S. documentation of non-citizen residency.

Name change. Getting a marriage license with your new name on it does not mean your name has automatically or officially changed. If you wish to change your last name, you must first go – in person – to your local friendly Social Security office. If you wish to have your name changed on your driver’s license, first clear your calendar to spend an entire weekday to stand in line at your local Department of Public Safety driver’s license office. Bring a thick novel and comfortable shoes. When you eventually reach the desk, the DPS clerk will require original documentation of your new Social Security-approved name, your marriage certificate, and quite possibly a blood and tissue sample. Yes, it is hard work to change your name, and for decades to come, you’ll still receive mail with your old name on it anyway as a fun-filled reminder of your past life.

Recently divorced? If divorced within thirty days, Texas requires that you show a certified copy of your divorce decree stating the 30- day waiting period is waived.

Who can officiate? Persons authorized to perform weddings in Texas include licensed or ordained Christian ministers, priests, Jewish rabbis, officers authorized by religious organizations, justices of the supreme court, judges of the court of criminal appeals, justices of the courts of appeals, judges of the district, county, and probate courts, judges of the county courts at law, judges of the courts of domestic relations, judges of the juvenile courts, retired justices or judges, justices of the peace, retired justices of the peace, and judges or magistrates of a federal court of Texas. Many officiants can be found online; that’s what they do for a living. Every officiant or minister is performing a professional service, and you should expect to pay an honorarium or fee. The amount varies, so shop around. Remember, you get what you pay for: experienced officiants can charge several hundred dollars to start, with additional fees for any pre-marriage counseling and ceremony planning, plus travel and lodging expenses for out-of-town weddings.

Witnesses are not required. Some Texas counties include space for witness signatures, and some do not (Every county has it’s own unique style and size of license. Some are rather fancy-schmancy, and some resemble a boring government form). Either way, witnesses are optional. If you’re the old-fashioned type and want folks to witness your wedding, they can sign the license near the officiant/minister signature.

retro-checklist

Here’s your checklist…

  • – Determine the date of your ceremony. Do not do this until you have secured the services of an officiant/minister and reserved a location. Never assume a minister or a place – even a public space – will be available until you make firm arrangements.
  • – At least three days prior to the ceremony – and no longer than 90 days before the ceremony – march down to the nearest county clerk’s office. There will be a desk marked “marriage licenses,” usually with a very nice white-haired lady waiting to assist you.
  • – BOTH persons getting married must be present, and you must both have valid IDs.
  • – Be prepared to pay a fee, in cash or by check. Many Texas counties do not take plastic, because that would be way too 21st Century. Fees vary from county to county, usually in the range of $31 – $75. Call ahead and ask.
  • – The clerk will process the license and hand it to you in a return envelope. Hang onto that thing for dear life. Don’t leave it in your car, or anywhere a child, dog, cat, or weird relative can find it. If you lose it, you’ll have to reapply and pay all over again.
  • – On the appointed day, hold your wedding ceremony and have fun. Don’t feel obligated to invite people you can’t stand. Unless they’re wealthy and will provide awesome wedding gifts. Anyway, prior to the ceremony, before everyone begins drinking heavily, hand off your license to the officiant/minister. Pay your minister or officiant – and others providing services – in cash. He or she will take it from there, filling in the blanks certifying that he or she actually performed the wedding, and then he or she will mail it back to the county clerk for you. Because by this point, you and your spouse have more important things to attend to, like your reception and honeymoon. However, if you really want to mail or personally return the completed license yourself, that’s fine. Just don’t lose it amidst the mountain of other stuff you must keep track of before, during, and after the ceremony. Remember, the completed license must be returned to the county where it was issued.
  • – Once the county receives the completed license certifying the wedding has taken place, they will record the wedding in a huge ancient dusty book (or a computer). The county clerk will sign it, and sometimes – depending on the county – will stamp a shiny gold seal on it, and then mail it back to you. This process can take up to a few weeks, depending on how many weddings the county must process, and how many snack breaks the county workers must take. Sometimes, the license originally issued to you is what you’ll receive back as a certificate. In other counties the original license is kept on file, and the certificate you receive looks a bit different. Either way, it’s the official document you can frame or keep in a nice tasteful album on your coffee table, when you’re not using it to prove to other government entities and suspicious grandparents that you’re really married.
  • – Now, you’re an officially married couple. Yippee!

Still have questions? Contact our office.

Interested in a wedding at the Amarillo Unitarian Universalist Fellowship? Look here.