Marriage records definition

Last updated March 6th, 2023

Marriage records are a type of vital record that certify that a couple has been married. The process for recording marriages has differed over time, and there are a number of different types of record available.

Currently, marriage records can be found in the relevant US state’s division of Vital Records. It is also possible to find records that show a couple’s intent to marry.

In the past, these records were usually stored with the clerk of the town or county where the bride resided.

Marriage records are available to anyone that requests them as they are public records. Some companies offer the possibility of ordering a marriage record online and the respective government agency will process and send it.

Different Types of Marriage Records

There are different types of marriage records used in the US. Below you will find a short explanation of the main ones.

Marriage license

A marriage license gives a couple permission to marry. The document is issued by a church or state.

Marriage certificate

A marriage certificate is issued to a couple after their wedding as proof they are legally married. In the US this document is the official marriage record.

Marriage return

The officiant performing a marriage ceremony must complete the marriage license with the details of the event and then return it to the local registrar. This is known as the marriage return.

Marriage register

In some cases marriage returns are recorded in a separate register or book, known as a marriage register.