Getting Married? A FindLaw Legal Checklist

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on May 10, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Jack and Jill sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G, first comes love, then comes marriage...No wait, scratch that. 

Before you get to the "marriage" part of your relationship, you should take some time to make sure you have the legal aspect of getting hitched sorted out. We've got a FindLaw marriage checklist for you. After all, marriage is not only a union of souls, but a legal union. So, here's a simple list of questions you might want to address before the big day:

Marriage Checklist No. 1: Do you have a license to get married? If you want to get married, you need to get a license first. The requirements to obtain a marriage license vary from state to state. Applying for a license can be as simple as filling out a few forms, though some states also require a blood test. Be sure to check your state's laws. Getting a license isn't instantaneous, so make sure to plan out your days accordingly to avoid a last minute scramble.

Marriage Checklist No. 2: Do you have the legal capacity to get married? Both parties must have the legal capacity to enter into marriage. This generally means that neither the man nor the woman can be presently married at the time, must be of a certain age (which varies between states), and have the mental ability to understand what they are doing. Examples of lack of mental capacity include: drunkenness (so lay off the vodka until after the wedding) or mental illnesses.

Marriage Checklist No. 3: Who do you need at the actual ceremony? What do you need to say or do? States have different rules on who can officiate the wedding, religious ceremonies, and civil ceremonies. Whoever officiates will usually need to send in the marriage certificate after the ceremony is over. Sometimes witnesses are required. Most states don't require you to actually say "I do," but somewhere on the certificate the officiator should indicate that the couple has agreed to be married.

Marriage Checklist No. 4: Hi honey, how about we get a pre-nup? Let's face it, getting a pre-nup sounds more pragmatic than romantic. But, if getting a pre-nuptial agreement is something that you are considering, you should figure out what is required to make a valid agreement.

Marriage Checklist No. 5: Wait, now that we're married, does that mean everything that's yours is mine? Contrary to popular misconception, just because you're married does not necessarily mean that everything that your spouse owns is yours. Figuring out what is marital property or community property and what is separate property is essential to figuring out the financial aspect of getting married.

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