New procedure for getting married in Alabama

Published 4:51 pm Wednesday, September 4, 2019

By J.R. TIDWELL / Editor

The state of Alabama has changed its procedure on how parties wishing to get married go about doing so.

Now instead of marriage licenses, couples will procure a form, fill out some basic information and get it notarized for both parties.

The form is then to be brought to a probate judge, a fee paid and once the judge decides everything is in order, he records the union and the couple is married.

Chilton County Probate Judge Jason Calhoun describes the old process thusly: “The way it used to be, you would have the people getting married and applying for the marriage license to come to the probate office. They would fill out a marriage certificate application. Once that was completed, they would be ready to have the ceremony to solemnize the wedding. Once the wedding was complete and signed off, they would have to have that application certificate brought back to the courthouse.”

With the new law, weddings are completely optional and no longer required as part of the marriage process.

“The difference now is all you have to do is complete the new marriage certificate affidavit, sign it and get it notarized by both parties desiring to get married, and then you’re married,” Calhoun said. “There is no ceremony that is required anymore. That’s one of the things that has changed, and that’s a major step in the process.”

The form to be filled out may be found online at alabamapublichealth.gov/vitalrecords/marriage-certificates.html.

When the form is delivered to the probate judge for recording, there will be a $78 fee assessed.

“The fee will be the same as it has always been here in Chilton County,” Calhoun said. “That amount will not change. That is probably the only thing that has remained the same for the entire process.”

Calhoun stressed that once both parties sign and have the marriage application notarized, they have 30 days from the date of the last signature to have the document brought before the probate judge for recording.

“If not, we can reject the application,” he said. “It becomes void, and they would have to do another one.”

Calhoun said marriage applications are also available at the courthouse, but filling out the document online is the preferred method.

“The best thing for you to do is go on the public health website, which we have linked on our website, and it is actually prefilled,” he said. “The state would prefer people fill it out on the computer. They spent a lot of time making it easy for people to type and print it out. That keeps it nice and neat and easy to read. If we feel like penmanship is illegible on an application, we can deny the application. This is a very important document.”

Calhoun said you do not have to be a resident of Alabama to submit a marriage application here. The two parties do not have to sign on the same day, and they do not even have to be in the same state.

So long as everything is done correctly, the application can be submitted to any probate judge in the state.

While each spouse’s gender is asked for on the form, “male” “female” or “other” can be filled in for either party whether it is the same of different.

Calhoun said he is not sure whether the new method will be “better or worse” than the old way, but he does believe getting married will now be easier and more affordable.

While wedding ceremonies are no longer required, couples wishing to hold one are still free to do so.

“They can do that at their discretion,” Calhoun said. “But one thing they will have to remember, for those who still want to have a ceremony, whenever they sign that affidavit, the date the second signature is signed is their marriage date (officially).”

Couples will still be free to celebrate their anniversary on the date of a wedding if they so choose, it will simply be different on legal documents.