In the world of fiction or Hollywood movies, eloping to Las Vegas to get married or getting married on the spur of the moment, while on vacation is always portrayed as the ‘ultimate' romantic gesture or provides some moments of comic relief! You get tacky theme chapels, cheap rings, witnesses-on-demand and funny, cackling old geezers as the officiating minister! What the books or movies will never tell you about Vegas weddings are the essential facts about ensuring that the marriage ceremony is valid and legitimate and the documentation required to ensure the same; a marriage license and a marriage certificate are the two most important documents which help in making your Vegas wedding legal and valid. To get married in Las Vegas or anywhere else, you need a marriage and license and the marriage certificate is the document issued after the ceremony, confirming that the wedding has been solemnized as per applicable laws in force.
While it is a given that you cannot marry without a license, thus the possibility of not getting a license is remote; you can (and most people do!) miss out on securing the marriage certificate. Listed below are some extremely helpful guidelines on how you can get a marriage certificate in Las Vegas.
Definition - A marriage certificate, in the simplest of terms, is a document which provides legal proof of a marriage being solemnized or performed. The marriage certificate needs to be filed with the County Recorder's office, for Las Vegas it's the Clark County office, where the marriage certificate should be recorded.
Content - A marriage certificate provides details of the following:
- Venue where the marriage ceremony was performed;
- The official who presided and conducted the ceremony; and
- Date of ceremony.
The official who presides over the ceremony prepares the actual certificate and hands it over to the newly-married couple. But, unless the official records the marriage with the concerned county office, the certificate will not be considered as valid and adequate proof of marriage. The official must submit the marriage certificate to the county office for recording, within 10 days of the marriage ceremony. The county then records the marriage and the county will endorse it as valid proof. This certified copy of the marriage certificate can then be issued by the county on application from the interested parties.
Types of marriage certificates - Clark County issues two types of certificates, each of which can be used as valid documentation for different purposes as below:
- Abstract certificate - This certificate contains the names of the bride and groom; date of marriage, the date the marriage was recorded in the recorder's office and the certificate reference number. This document is accepted as valid proof for purposes of applying or changing, Social Security details, or at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for change or replacement of driver's license, etc.
- Marriage certificate - This is a copy of the marriage certificate which is recorded with the county office. It will contain the following information:
- Names of the bride and groom
- Date of marriage
- Date marriage is recorded with the county recorder
- Reference number of the certificate
- Signatures of the witnesses to the marriage ceremony
- Name of the presiding official (minister or designated civil authority)
- Details of the venue, including full postal address, where the ceremony was conducted
This document can be used as valid proof for immigration or adoption purposes.
Process for obtaining a marriage certificate - You would have already received an uncertified copy of the marriage certificate at the time of the ceremony but, as mentioned above, the certificate is considered valid only if it is recorded/registered with the county office. To receive a certified copy of the marriage certificate, you can write or call the concerned county office and request for copies of the marriage certificate.
Follow the prescribed procedure to collect you marriage certificate in person, or make arrangements to have it mailed to your address by certified post. Alternatively, there are private document ‘search and retrieval' agencies who will take care of all the formalities of contacting the county office and getting the required documents delivered to you, for a prescribed fee.
Ideally, it is better to ensure that your marriage is recorded with the county as soon as it is solemnized and take ‘certified' copies of the marriage certificate with you, when you leave Las Vegas. Enjoy the thrills associated with a "spur of the moment" wedding, but also remember to complete the legal formalities as described above and leave Las Vegas with wonderful memories and you marriage certificate in hand!