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Getting a marriage license in New York

Marriage license 101

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Paperwork isn’t the most exciting part of planning a wedding — but it is probably the most important. Without a marriage license, you have just thrown a very fun, pricey party that celebrates your love with no legal ramifications. And if that’s the case, what’s the point of fighting for marriage equality?

So here is everything you need to know in order to obtain this ever-so-precious piece of paper.

The key element is timing. The license is only good for 60 days, beginning the day after it is issued. So if you’re planning to have a long engagement to luxuriate in everyone’s good wishes, don’t get it too soon. But keep in mind that there’s also a 24-hour waiting period once you do have the license, so don’t think you can swing by the courthouse on your way to the ceremony to pick it up, either.

You also have to fill out an application with the City Clerk. New York City couples can fill it out online. Applications expire 21 days after being filed, so make sure that you and your honey complete the process by taking your confirmation number and papers (a passport and a birth certificate are your best bets) to the office in person. But if you’d rather fill out the paperwork by hand, you will have to do it in the office — the City Clerk won’t accept paperwork that hasn’t been filled out on the premises. And both brides or grooms must stand in front of the town or city clerk together and sign the document while he or she watches. If you or your partner do not show up in person, you are not going to leave with a license. No exceptions.

Yet, contrary to what movies may lead you to believe, there’s no blood test required in New York State any longer — so other than some last-minute alterations to your wedding outfit, no needles for you!

New York City residents also get to save $5 on their license! In the rest of the state, marriage licenses cost $40, but couples in New York City get it for just $35. At last, something that’s actually cheaper in NYC than it is elsewhere! Go buy yourself a foot long sub!

Just don’t expect to pay in cash — like airlines, the clerk’s office will only accept debit or credit cards now.

Make sure to bring government issued identification papers when you do go to pick up your license, such as a passport or drivers license, in addition to your birth certificate. If you’ve been married previously, you will also have to acknowledge that union and provide proof of your divorce. But watch out if you’re technically still in a registered domestic partnership in another state: You will have to legally terminate that partnership and provide proof of its dissolution.

If you and your fiance are domestic partners or in a civil union, you won’t have to take any action; your marriage will automatically supersede both.

You also have a chance to legally adopt your partner’s last name while applying for the license, if you have decided to go that route. The application requires you to state your surname preference — if you decide to keep your own names and later change your mind and want to go through the City Clerk’s office, you will have to remarry. So think hard before putting pen to paper!

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