From the soft sands of Tybee Island to the hustle and bustle of downtown Atlanta, Georgia is the perfect backdrop for any type of wedding. While finding affordable florists and beautiful venues is easy with Zola’s handy wedding vendor list, there are some other elements of wedding planning that aren’t as fun or creative. That’s right: we’re talking about marriage licenses.
Getting a marriage license won’t be the most exciting part of planning your special day, but it’s important if you’re looking to make your union legally binding. Although the process of obtaining a marriage license can be complicated, Zola is here to help. That’s why we’ve crafted this simple guide on getting a Georgia marriage license. If you’re ready to seal the deal with the love of your life, read on for everything you need to know about this crucial wedding document.
All Georgia couples are required to fill out a marriage license application prior to their ceremony. This task can be done at your local probate county court.
Unlike some states, Georgia does not enforce a waiting period for couples seeking a marriage license. This means that you can walk into the courthouse on the day of your wedding and request a license then and there. The average wait time for a marriage license is only around 10 to 30 minutes, although busier counties may take a bit longer.
Certain counties in Georgia also allow couples to begin their application process online, although this may lead to longer wait times than an in-person appointment. Aside from the processing times, Georgia couples will not be subject to any waiting period between applying for a marriage license and performing a legal wedding ceremony.
The application for a marriage license is fairly similar in every state, but it’s important to familiarize yourself with any requirements specific to your state. For Georgia couples, the following documents will be requested alongside your license application:
Along with these documents, couples should also bring cash to pay the licensing fee. The marriage license fee in Georgia is considered particularly low for the United States, with prices ranging from $56 to $76, depending on the county. This fee can be reduced to a total of $16 to $36 by completing a six-hour premarital education course.
Once they have their marriage license, Georgia couples will need a qualified officiant to perform the marriage ceremony and sign this document. In the state of Georgia, officiants may be any of the following:
Beyond the standard marriage application process, there are a few other facts and figures that every Georgia couple should know about. Below are some of the basics regarding marriage licenses in the state of Georgia:
The Expiration Date – Couples in Georgia have quite a bit of leeway when it comes to ordering their marriage certificate. This document remains valid for up to six months after its issue date. This is a much longer timeframe than the typical 90 day grace period adopted by many other US states.
The Ceremony Location – Residents of Georgia can get their marriage license in any of the state’s 159 counties. Individuals coming from out of state can also obtain a Georgia marriage license, but it must be provided by the county where the ceremony will take place. The latter is great news for anyone planning their dream destination wedding in the heart of Georgia—and Zola makes it easy for users to book venues in this stunning state with our wedding vendor database.
Blood Testing – Many people don’t realize that some states require both parties to undergo a blood test in order to obtain their marriage license. This antiquated practice is used to rule out infectious diseases that may be unbeknownst to the other party. Fortunately, Georgia is one of many states that removed this practice from their marriage license protocol.
Void Marriages – Certain factors can result in a void marriage license or union—also known as a civil annulment. These circumstances include:
The marriage license has expired (six months past the issued date)
Marriage laws vary from state-to-state, and these differences aren’t limited to licensing procedures. To help couples understand the complex world of marriage, here are some of the most important laws that Georgia couples should be familiar with:
Marriage by Proxy – Marriage by proxy refers to the process of a wedding ceremony where one or both spouses are not present. In these situations, a stand-in will act on the individual’s behalf during the wedding ceremony. Marriage by proxy is not permitted in the state of Georgia under any circumstances.
Witnesses – If the officiant has not filled out a legal witness form, then Georgia couples are required to have two additional witnesses for their wedding. Ceremonies where the officiant does comply as a witness will only require one.
Age Limits – The legal age of marriage in the state of Georgia is 18 years old. Georgia does offer a legal exception for emancipated minors 17 years of age. However, he or she must complete a premarital education course and his or her spouse cannot be more than four years his or her senior. Minors aged 16 to 17 who are not emancipated may obtain a marriage license with parental consent.
Common-Law Marriage – Common-law marriage refers to a relationship where two people live together and present themselves as spouses, without signing any legal documents or performing a wedding ceremony. Due to updated laws, the state of Georgia does not recognize any common-law marriages that were formed after January 1, 1997.
All this talk of laws and paperwork can get a little complicated—we understand. We also know that engaged couples typically have a lot on their plate, and some people may have additional questions regarding the marriage process. That’s why we’ve created a list of frequently asked questions to help give you a quick crash course on Georgia marriages:
Since every state has different waiting periods, we usually recommend all couples obtain their marriage license about a month before the ceremony. Georgia couples, on the other hand, can complete this step even further in advance.
Any date within the six month time frame will be acceptable for ordering a Georgia marriage license, but it’s also important that you don’t get it too early. Here’s why: the longer you hang onto your marriage license, the greater the likelihood of the document being damaged or lost. At the end of the day, your marriage license is a piece of paper—and paper is far from invincible.
Due to the absence of a waiting period, Georgia couples can also request their marriage license as late as the day of their wedding. Of course, this can pose its own set of risks. Some courts may have delays or difficulty processing your request for a variety of reasons. This is why Georgia couples should consider obtaining their marriage license sometime around one to three months prior to the wedding—the perfect sweet spot for convenience and safety.
Domestic partnerships and common-law marriages are two relationships with a number of similarities. While domestic partners do not present themselves as spouses, they can often reap some of the same legal benefits as married or common-law married couples. These benefits include:
Ending a domestic partnership can also lead to legal issues, similar to a divorce. Shared furniture, property, and assets may be split up evenly by a court of law. Of course, the legality surrounding traditional divorce will always be more complicated than the end of a domestic partnership.
So, we know that Georgia does not recognize common-law marriages, but what about domestic partnerships? The answer is a bit more complicated than you might think.
On a statewide level, domestic partnerships are not recognized under Georgia law. However, counties and cities are authorized to grant legal benefits to domestic partnerships as they see fit. The following areas of Georgia do offer some legal benefits to residents in domestic partnerships:
In these named areas, a registration for domestic partnerships is available. The requirements for this registration include:
Once these documents are submitted and your registration is processed, you and your significant other will receive a certificate of domestic partnership. This certificate can be shown to your place of employment in order to receive joint benefits.
Certified copies of your marriage certificate can be purchased for $10 from the county probate court where it was originally issued. Certified copies are important to obtain for a number of post-wedding tasks, including:
In general, it’s smart to have a few copies of this document on hand. The period after your wedding will be marked by big changes to your personal information, and these certified copies will make the entire process much easier.
After securing your marriage license, the hard part is officially over. From there, you can prepare to sign your marriage license on the big day and celebrate the official union between you and your new spouse.
Keep It Safe – It’s important to keep your marriage license in a safe and secure place prior to the wedding day. Filing this document away will reduce the chance of your license being damaged or misplaced. The last thing you want is to discover that your marriage license needs replacing an hour before the ceremony.
Sign It – Couples and their officiant can sign this document before, during, or shortly after the ceremony.
Deliver It – An officiant will typically return the license to the county probate court on your behalf. This must be done otherwise the marriage won’t be recognized in the eyes of the law.
Certify It – After you’ve completed the ceremony, signed your license, and returned it to the county office from which it was issued, you’ll receive another document known as a marriage certificate. This is proof that the ceremony was performed and the couple has gone through with their marriage. Unlike a marriage license, couples are not required to file this document with the county after the wedding.
Georgia’s gorgeous architecture, natural landscapes, and diverse cities are some of the biggest draws for local and out-of-state couples alike. Georgia weddings also offer a variety of wedding venues, affordable vendors, and plenty of space for throwing an all-out bash. Of course, it’s important for couples to figure out what they want from their big day.
Beyond the paperwork, let’s take a look at everything else couples should consider when planning their dream Georgia wedding:
Venues – From the green pastures of Gainesville’s Mcdowell Acres, to the chic industrial vibes of Atlanta’s Westside Warehouse—you really can’t go wrong with Georgia wedding venues. For an all-inclusive experience, couples can find hotels, galleries, and breweries in Georgia’s metro areas. On the other hand, couples who want a more hands-on experience can bring their DIY decor to a rural barn, lakeside home, or southern ranch.
Weather – Summer is peak wedding season, but locals know that Georgia summers are nothing to mess with. Georgia couples planning an outdoor celebration may want to consider choosing a date during the cooler months, opting for an evening reception, or selecting a venue with outdoor and indoor spaces.
Southern Traditions – Add a little Southern charm to your special day by incorporating some of Georgia’s oldest wedding traditions into the celebration, such as:
The groom climbing onto the roof and releasing a white bird into the air.
The bride and groom sharing a glass of wine with a wedding ring inside.
Vendors – If you’re living in a busy area of Georgia—such as Atlanta, Augusta, or Savannah—it’s important to book your wedding vendors as soon as possible. For couples planning a celebration during peak wedding season, we recommend beginning your vendor search as early as 12 months before the big day.
Changing Your Name – Although not required, some spouses opt for changing their surname after the wedding ceremony. For this process, you’re going to need a certified copy of your signed marriage license. This can be taken to the social security office where you will pay a fee and request a new card. From there, you’ll also need to visit the DMV, the bank, and your place of employment to ensure that all your personal information is up to date with your new last name.
We get it—all this talk of laws, paperwork, and marriage licenses can be confusing. On top of everything else that goes into planning a wedding, making sure that you’ve done everything correctly can be downright overwhelming at times.
Here at Zola, we’re here to change that. We believe that wedding planning doesn’t have to be stressful, and our helpful online tools are designed to make this possible. With our online guest lists and free wedding websites, it’s never been easier to keep all your nuptial necessities in one organized, accessible place.
Zola users can also get Expert Wedding Advice directly on our website. From obtaining a marriage license to picking out your ideal wedding theme, we’ve got you covered every step of the way.
Ditch the stress and start planning your big day the modern way, at Zola.