You’ve said your vows, exchanged rings and sealed it with a kiss. As you turn to face the crowd, your wedding ceremony officiant announces you as newlyweds. You step down from the altar and walk down the aisle. This is the first thing you do as spouses.

However, if you and your officiant don’t file the full and correct paperwork, never mind everything! The marriage isn’t truly official at all

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “How do I make sure that happens?” Luckily for you, we’ve broken it down so that this legal process can be a piece of cake. (No wedding pun intended!)

1) FIRST AND FOREMOST: Find an officiant. This can be a legally ordained minister, a judge—either active or retired or a public official. They will preside and effectively “perform” your wedding ceremony. It is required by law that a qualified person presides over a wedding but you probably already knew this.

In some cases, your officiant will have to apply for a temporary authorization to preside, should they have residence in a different state. It is crucial to check the laws regarding officiant in the state where you intend to get married.

2) LICENSE TO WED: Get a marriage license. A marriage license can be obtained from a county clerk and must be returned before its expiration date. In most cases, this period of time lasts 60 days. It is the responsibility of the person officiating your ceremony to fill out the date, location and time on your marriage license before it is returned. Most of the time, this is done on the day of the wedding, when all parties are present to complete their portion.

(It is law in some counties that the wedding must take place within county lines. Because of this, you may have to do some reading about where you should obtain your marriage license.)

3) CAN I GET A WITNESS?! This varies by state but most marriage licenses are not legally official without at least two witnesses to the marriage. In some cases, these witness may also have to sign the document. So confirm what the requirements are for the state in which you are getting married.

4) FILE. FILE. FILE. Once all parties have completed their portion of the marriage license, you’ll need to officially have it filed. This is a relatively simple process…in fact, you don’t have to do a thing! It’s your officiant’s responsibility to file the document with the county clerk. You’ll receive an official certification of marriage in the mail, about a few weeks after the license has been filed but once the filing is done, you’re officially considered married!

While there are plenty of things to stress over when it comes to planning your wedding, the legal documents and procedures should not be one of them. Your happily ever after should start right away!

Image by Brittani Elizabeth