Marriage certificate definition

Last updated March 6th, 2023

A marriage certificate in an official document that states that two people are married. A marriage certificate is issued by a government official after civil registration of the marriage. In the United States the marriage certificate is the official record that two people have undertaken a marriage ceremony.

Marriage certificate vs. Marriage license The marriage certificate is different from the marriage license. The marriage license is the approval document you get from the county clerk before you get married, whereas the marriage certificate is a public record that proves a couple is legally married.

A marriage certificate may be required for different purposes. It may be required as evidence that a person has changed their name. It will be needed during divorce proceeding, or with issues of legitimacy of a child.

Where to get a certified copy of a marriage certificate? To get a certified copy of your marriage certificate, you should contact the vital records office in the state where the marriage took place. They will provide you with the instructions on how to request a copy and information about any fees.

Other types of marriage certificates

Consular marriage certificate

In the past, a certificate of witness to marriage was issued by a consular official overseas. The official would perform a marriage ceremony and provide the couple with a certificate of witness, or consular marriage certificate.

The couple would then have to contract marriage according to D.C. laws. However, in November 1989 this U.S. Code was repealed, and U.S. consulates no longer issue these types of certificates.

Confidential marriage certificate

Marriage certificates not available to the public, are known as confidential marriage certificates. County clerks in the state of California are authorized to issue the license under Section 501 of the California Family Code.

Read more: Marriage in another state