What to Do If You Made a Mistake on Your Marriage License

There are steps you can take to amend the document ahead of your big day.

Man signing a marriage license

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The moment your officiant pronounces you newlyweds is probably one of the most exciting parts of your wedding ceremony. However, you and your partner aren’t officially married until you sign your marriage license, which is a document that allows you to legally tie the knot. Without this important form, the government won’t recognize your marriage, so you won't be apply to receive a marriage certificate (a different document that proves you have been legally married) and you won’t be able to prove that you have entered into an authorized union. “It helps couples enjoy the legal benefits of being married, like being able to file taxes jointly or be covered by each other’s health insurance,” Joanna Miller of Married by Miller explains. 

That’s why it’s so important that all of the information on your marriage license is accurate. If you accidentally make a mistake—whether it’s a misspelled name or a grammatical error—it doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed. Luckily, you can make a correction to the legal form. Ahead, every step involved in amending a mistake on your marriage license.

Meet the Expert

Joanna Miller is the founder of Married by Miller, a company based in Washington D.C. that offers wedding officiant services to couples.

How to Sign Your Marriage License

It’s important to note that the process of obtaining and signing your marriage license varies depending on the state and county where you tie the knot, so touch base with your officiant to understand the necessary protocols. Generally, you and your partner will pay a visit to the county clerk’s office before getting married to acquire your marriage license. This step needs to take place prior to your nuptials because you’ll need the paperwork in order to conduct a marriage ceremony. While you’re there, you’ll provide proof of identification, fill out a marriage license application, and submit a fee; this is typically between $35 to $150 but it will depend on your state.

On your big day, either during or after your ceremony, you, your partner, your officiant, and two witnesses will sign and date the marriage license. After filling out the document, your officiant will return the signed form to the county clerk in the district where they performed the ceremony. If it isn’t possible to submit the document in person and your officiant must mail the envelope instead, Miller strongly advises insuring the parcel.

Once the clerk processes your license, you’ll receive a marriage certificate in the mail; this generally happens about two to four weeks after your officiant drops off the paperwork. In some states, you’ll pick up the certified copy in person. Your marriage certificate is different from your marriage license because it’s a document that proves you’re legally married. While the official certificate will stay on file with the county, you’ll need to send copies of the form if you’re changing your surname to update your social security number, passport, bank account, credit cards, and more. You can always request additional certified copies for a small fee from the county in which you were married.

How to Amend a Mistake on Your Marriage License

If you notice that your marriage certificate is incorrect, you don’t need to resort to panic mode. Here, we share every step you need to take to revise the document and legitimize your marriage.

Understand What Errors You Can Correct

Getting caught up in the excitement of tying the knot might make it difficult to concentrate on the fine print in front of you, which could lead to errors. Or, maybe your county clerk was responsible for the blunder. Regardless of why the mistake happened, some of the most common marriage license errors are forgetting to fill out every required line, misspelling words, using incorrect grammar, or supplying the wrong information regarding your name, address, date of birth, social security number, date of marriage, or place of marriage. Even though you made the error on your marriage license, if you don't spot the problem before the wedding, what you'll likely need to alter is your marriage certificate; if you do catch the mistake before your wedding day, contact your county clerk as soon as possible to see what can be done. “Not all errors can be updated, though, and the rules around this vary on a state-by-state basis, particularly when it comes to changing your name,” Miller notes. 

If you’ve misspelled or entered the wrong first, middle, or last name, double check with the county clerk’s office or website to learn about the appropriate procedure to amend the mistake. New York City, for instance, doesn’t allow you to make any name changes. Meanwhile, marriage certificates issued in the state of California list the bride and groom’s names before they said “I do,” so the information you provided might actually be correct.

Contact the County Clerk

Once you’ve spotted an error on your marriage license or certificate, you’ll need to contact the county clerk or head to their website to figure out the right course of action to take. For the most part, you’ll make an appointment in person or mail the necessary documents to the county clerk’s address. Some places—such as Fairfax County, Virginia—require a civil court order to reverse the mistake, while others—like Massachusetts—ask that you speak with a registry representative over the phone before filing an amendment in person.

In some regions, you’ll actually be able to make the amendment on the day you sign your marriage license. In New York City, for example, you’ll watch the clerk type your license on a monitor, so you can tell them right then and there if you've noticed an error. At the end, the clerk will ask you to review the license for any inaccuracies before leaving, which also presents an opportunity to edit the form. 

Since making a mistake invalidates the document, you won’t be considered legally married until you edit the slip, so it’s important to start this process as soon as possible. Not to mention, you might be penalized if you miss the deadline. For instance, New Hampshire requires you to pay a fee if you surpass the two-week window since receiving your marriage certificate.

Provide a Sworn Statement

Next, you’ll provide a sworn statement, which is a written statement testifying that your request to amend the certificate is real and accurate. To be considered legal, you must print this testament, sign it, and date it. While this step is required in most states, it isn’t necessary in all, so search your county clerk’s website to see if this is something you’ll need to complete.

Submit the Necessary Paperwork

Although the mandatory documents vary by state and county, in general, you’ll update your marriage certificate by completing an affidavit—a sworn statement—and providing a copy of the original certificate and a form of identification. Check with the county clerk about any supporting documents. For example, California calls for two signed affidavits, and New York City requests that you fill out an amendment application in addition. As mentioned above, you’ll generally mail these documents or give them to the county clerk in person.

Pay a Fee

In most states and counties, you’ll need to pay a fee for updating your marriage certificate. The amount of money is different depending on the location, but it’s generally around $10 to $30. For instance, the correction costs $25 in Philadelphia and $17 in San Francisco. When you submit your documents to the county clerk, you’ll pay by check or money order. If you’re paying by check, ask your county clerk which name to list as the recipient.

Receive Your Revised Certificate

After filing an amendment, you’ll eventually receive the original marriage certificate and the amended one. “In most cases, this process won’t update the first document,” Miller explains. “You’ll now need to present both versions any time someone requests your marriage license.” Remember to share your updated certificate with your bank, the IRS, social security agencies, and anyone else who needs proof that your marriage is legal. 

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