Same-sex couples now follow the same marriage regulations as different-sex couples.
While the laws around marrying are the same for the entire state, the details of what you’ll need to apply for a marriage license vary by county (mostly the cost, the kind of identification, etc.).
THE STEPS, SIMPLIFIED
Prelude: Deciding whether or not to marry.
- Apply for a marriage license.
- Wait 72 hours.
- Find an officiant. (With a note about fees.)
- Get married!
- Request a certified copy of your marriage certificate.
- Consider name changing.
PRELUDE: DECIDING WHETHER OR NOT TO MARRY
Marriage is a legal status that impacts other legal rights and responsibilities. Marriage provides many protections for families. It also impacts tax status, child adoption issues, and others areas of life. Consider consulting a lawyer or other sources of legal guidance before entering into a marriage to explore how it will impact your lives.
STEP 1: APPLY FOR A MARRIAGE LICENSE
- Where to Apply: Apply for a marriage license at whatever county municipal building is most convenient for you.
- What you’ll need: BOTH MEMBERS OF THE COUPLE WILL NEED TO APPLY IN PERSON. Usually you’ll need identification in the form of a photo ID and sometimes also something else like a Social Security card. You’ll also have to pay the fee for the license, and some counties require that to be in cash.
- See list of county offices below for details, or simply google “county name PA marriage license.”
- Where to Use Marriage license: A marriage license can be applied for at any PA county office and then used anywhere in PA (it can not be used for a ceremony in another state, nor can a license from another state be officiated in PA).
- “Self-Uniting License”: Pennsylvania has a standard marriage license that must be officiated by someone, as well as a “self-uniting license.” If you get a self-uniting license, you and two witnesses will sign the license after you have married your partner. This might be a helpful option if you are not having a ceremony with other guests. Otherwise, people tend to choose to have a standard license so that a professional can create and facilitate/officiate a ceremony for your friends and families.
STEP 2: WAIT 72 HOURS
- 72 Hour Waiting Period: Once obtained, the license can not be used for 72 hours, and must be used within 60 days. In other words, don’t have your ceremony less than 72 hours after obtaining the license!
- Waiver of waiting period: In special circumstances, the office that issues licenses can waive the waiting period so that the marriage can happen immediately.
STEP 3: FIND AN OFFICIANT
Unless you get a self-uniting license, you’ll need to have an officiant for your marriage. The officiant is someone designated by the state as having the legal authority to sign your marriage license, indicating that you have married one another.
Here are some things to consider as you look for an officiant:
- Does the officiant have the proper legal authority?
- Will the officiant create a custom ceremony?
- Is the officiant professional?
- Get a letter of agreement indicating the cost, date, time, and location for the officiation of your marriage – this way there is something in writing about your agreement.
- Does the officiant have a back-up plan of s/he, at the last minute, can not attend to your ceremony?
Bob Pileggi, working with the officiant team at Journeys of the Heart, has got all of these covered! Custom ceremonies is what we do. Bob has officiated more than 250 weddings. Send an Inquiry Here.
A note about fees
The fees charged by an officiant reflect their time to meet you, get to know you, write a ceremony with you in mind, be present for the ceremony and/or rehearsal, as well as process the paperwork after the ceremony. The more custom and professional the ceremony, it’s likely that the fees may be higher. Only you can decide what this once-in-a-lifetime moment is worth to you – as well as the trust and friendly connection you have with your officiant.
Tipping the officiant is also completely your choice. As with any service, if you are really happy with how it went and you want to thank the officiant, go for it!
STEP 4: GET MARRIED
- Once you have your license and have waited 72 hours, you can legally marry.
- “Getting married” can be as simple as exchanging a few words that express your commitment to be with one another for life in the relationship of marriage. You do this in the witness of an officiant.
- It can also be more ceremonial, and a professional officiant will walk you through the steps to create a ceremony.
- Rings: Some people also exchange rings as a symbol of their commitment, but it is not required.
- Documentation: Give the officiant the license and any other paperwork from the county office intended for the officiant (often a return envelope and instructions for the officiant come with the license). It is the officiant’s legal responsibility to complete the information on the license, sign it, and to return a portion of the document to the county office it came from. Another portion will come to you. The officiant also keeps a portion for his/her records.
STEP 5: REQUEST A CERTIFIED COPY OF YOUR MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE
- The portion of the marriage license the officiant returns to you on the day of your ceremony is not considered legal documentation of your marriage.
- You are legally married as of the date you marry, however, you must obtain a “Marriage Certificate” from the county office that issued you the license.
- Once the county receives documentation of your marriage from the officiant – and processes it – you can get marriage certificate from the county. It usually requires another fee and you can often simply call or email to request the marriage certificate.
- You will usually need this official marriage certificate in order to change names, etc.
STEP 6: CONSIDER NAME CHANGING
These days, there are a number of options available in terms of last name.
- No change: neither of you have to change your name. Though some do choose to have the same last name so that your relationship becomes more public or obvious, or so that your family (with children) all has the same last name.
- One takes the other’s last name: one of you can change to the other’s last name. When doing this, some folks might make their pre-married last name their middle name so that there continues to be continuity. (For example, Pat Gene Smith marries Sam Smiles, and changes name to Pat Smith Smiles.)
- You hyphenate: you can use both of your last names, hyphenated.
- New family name: you can create a new last name that both of you then change to. When doing this, some folks might make their pre-married last name their middle name so that there continues to be continuity.
It’s important to change the name on your Social Security Card – consider making that your top priority. You can then use the new card to change your name in other areas, such as:
- Social Security Card
- Internal Revenue Service File
- U.S. Passport
- U.S. Postal Service
- Driver License and Identification Cards
- Vehicle Title and Registration
- Voter Registration
- Secondary Sources and Agencies
For more information and a way to change your name in several places all at once, see this page on TheKnot.com.
CHECK MARRIAGE LICENSE APPLICATION DETAILS AT COUNTY OFFICE WEBSITES
Or visit one of these:
(Scroll down the list until you see Marriage License Requirements)