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Is his marriage valid if a wedding ceremony wasn’t performed?

There’s a significant difference between a wedding and a marriage. A wedding is an event, while a marriage is a legal matter that involves, among other things, the involvement of the state. While many people can and have had weddings without necessarily getting legally married, the opposite is less common. In fact, it begs a question – is it even possible to be legally married without some sort of ceremony? This can be a pressing question, especially if you’re wondering about the marital status of either yourself or your partner. The answer to this particular question requires defining what a ceremony is and how one becomes legally married.

What is a Legal Marriage?

In most states, a legal marriage is a relatively straightforward affair. Contrary to popular belief, the only person who most people technically have to visit is the county clerk. You’ll need to visit the clerk, fill out the appropriate paperwork and get it signed – once that’s done, you’re technically married. As such, one doesn’t technically need any kind of ceremony to occur to have any kind of legal marriage. What one does need, though, is the signed paperwork – otherwise known as a marriage license. Where things get complicated, though, is with who has to do the signing.

Marriage licenses are typically filed by the person who officiates the wedding. The requirements to be an officiant vary, but it’s usually the duty of the officiant to get the license signed by the parties to the marriage, as well as any relevant witnesses. It is the signing of the officiant that makes it possible to prove that you’re married, and most people consider the marriage ceremony to be complete once the document has been signed. As you might imagine, it’s become increasingly common for individuals to consider themselves to be officially married once the document is signed and filed.

What is a Ceremony?

It’s difficult to say if you can be married without a ceremony. You are certainly on your way to being married as soon as you have a license. There’s no technical need for any kind of fancy ceremony to occur to get the document signed. In many cases, individuals simply go before a judge and have the document quickly and efficiently signed. Depending on where you go, it takes longer to pay the relevant fees to get married than it takes to get the document signed. It’s hard to call this a ceremony, but this might not be the case for everyone.

If you consider the signing of a marriage license to be a ceremony, then it’s absolutely vital that a ceremony occurs of a marriage to be legally valid. If you just consider the signing to be paperwork, though, then it’s not necessary for a ceremony of any type to occur. This might be simple semantics to some, but whether or not you need to have a ceremony to be married really depends upon how you define having an officiant and witnesses sign the marriage license.

Why it Matters

As with many other legal matters, the language you use here matters. It is vital that you understand what your potential partner means by not having a ceremony. If he means that he has not had a marriage license signed by anyone, it’s unlikely that he is considered legally married in most states. If he means that he did not have any kind of elaborate wedding ceremony, though, it is still very possible that he is legally married and that complications could arise if you move forward with your relationship.

It’s important to take a moment to consider what the difference between being legally married and having a marriage ceremony means for any relationship in which you find yourself. It’s possible to have a marriage without any type of religious ceremony, just as it’s possible to have a marriage ceremony without a legally binding marriage. If marriage matters to you, it’s always a good idea to learn the precise situation behind the other party’s marriage and its current state. While he might not consider himself married because he didn’t undergo a culturally-specific ceremony, what it’s important is whether or not the proper legal processes were followed. Marriage is very much a legal state, so it’s the law that tends to matter in this situation.

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