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  • Writer's pictureRev. Candace Woods

How to get legally married in Colorado

As you’re planning your wedding, spending time on details like catering choices and floral arrangements, don’t forget to spend time making a plan for how and when you’re going to take care of the legal part of the process! We’ve made the process of getting legally married in Colorado pretty simple, but sometimes it still takes some thought and planning to make things go as easy as possible.


A bride prepares to sign her marriage license

Photos in this blog by Penny Ozinga Photography

 

The first step is to figure out WHERE you’re going to get your license. You can obtain a marriage license from any county clerk and recorder’s office and use it in any county in Colorado. So, if you live in Colorado Springs, but are getting married in Denver, you can go to your closest El Paso County clerk’s office and apply for and get your license. If you’re coming in from out of state for a destination wedding or elopement, you’ll need to do a bit more planning about the where! If you’re flying into Denver, but eloping at Sapphire Point, you can make plans to get your license at any county clerk’s office between Denver and Dillon (and there are a number to choose from!).

 

The next step is to think about the WHEN. If you’re a Colorado local, make sure you obtain your license no more than 35 days before your wedding, as the license expires after that timeframe. If you live outside of Colorado, make sure you will have enough time to get your license before your wedding. If you’re getting married on a Sunday, but flying in on Friday, you might be crunched for time!!! Only a couple of counties have offices that are open on Saturday mornings. So be sure that you think through your travel itinerary to make sure you will be able to obtain your license in time for your ceremony. Some counties offer the ability to apply online for your license and then set an appointment for the actual in-person part of the process, so utilize that as an aid for easing wedding anxiety!


In terms of WHAT you’ll need to plan for, make sure you’ve got your IDs, both partners (or a signed affidavit showing why one party can’t be present), $30, and if there’s been a previous divorce, you’ll need to have the date and county where the divorce was finalized.

 

When you’ve made a plan for the where, when, and what, it’s time to think about HOW and WHO related to filling out the bottom portion of your license on your wedding day. Let’s start with the who. Here in Colorado, there are a couple of different ways to solemnize your marriage (basically, make it official). You can have an ordained clergy person from a religious tradition (like a rabbi, priest, or reverend like me!) or a legal magistrate (like a judge) solemnize your wedding and fill out the certificate portion. Because Colorado used to be the wild wild west where those types of folks weren’t always around, the State also allows what’s called self-solemnization, where basically the couple “officiates” their own wedding and makes it legit.

 

Two brides look on as a minister signs the marriage license.

If you are having a friend or family member officiate your wedding, it’s important to know that they CANNOT sign your certificate unless they have been ordained and have an official title. County clerks will get real mad at you if they put their title down as “officiant” because that’s not a religious title. The best course of action in this case is to simply have that person run your ceremony and then you as the couple legally self-solemnize. For this, no one signs the officiating party lines and you leave them blank and you as the couple just sign your names on the lines that say party one and party two. Make sure the person who signs as party one is the first person listed on the license! Don’t forget to have a pen handy (a smart officiant always has a couple at the ready)!


Now, let’s talk about witnesses! You are not required to have witnesses sign your license. But yes, here in Colorado you CAN have your dog or cat or parrot sign as your witness! (Just a note, Arapahoe County HATES this trend, so get your license from somewhere else if you’re planning on it!) I’ve seen this go the best when you have an inkless pad like this and have practiced the motion of holding a paw down and lifting it straight up with your pet for a few weeks before the wedding. Otherwise you can get a serious ink blob on the license, which isn’t the cute look you’re going for!

 

If you are having humans sign as your witnesses, you can have up to two. My recommendation to couples who are having bigger weddings is to have those two people identified before the wedding and letting them know when and where you’re going to sign the license so you’re not having your planner or officiant scramble to find them during cocktail hour!

 

The final piece of the license puzzle is returning the license! It is technically the responsibility of the solemnizing party to make sure the license is returned to the county clerk from whom it was obtained within 63 days of the wedding. As a professional officiant, this is a part of my services, making sure this important document doesn’t get lost! However, when working with couples eloping from out of state, I often recommend that if they have the ability to return the certificate on a weekday, that they do so, so that they can immediately obtain certified copies and take those home with them. That helps speed up the name change or insurance and work processes that you’ll need to go through when you get home!


Now that you’ve got these details thought through, you’re on your way to making sure your wedding day isn’t filled with Googling to make sure you’re not doing anything illegal on your marriage certificate! What questions do you still have about the process? And if you’d like a professional with over 100 weddings under her belt to help you navigate planning the ceremony of your dreams, don’t hesitate to reach out!

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