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  • Matthew Frank
    Matthew Frank

    Colorado Marriage Licenses: A 9-Point Guide

    The Centennial State's Take on Marriage Licenses

    Colorado, fondly called the Centennial State, is not just famous for its Rocky Mountains and rich cultural history. It also holds a unique set of rules when it comes to marriage licenses. If you're planning to tie the knot in Colorado, understanding these rules becomes paramount. Here, we will demystify the process of obtaining a marriage license in this magnificent state. Buckle up; this journey might just save you a lot of hassle!

    Historically, marriage licenses have served as a testament of two individuals legally joining together in matrimony. It's the bureaucratic, less romantic side of weddings, but essential nonetheless. Especially in Colorado, where things can be a bit different.

    Many couples are often surprised by the nuances of obtaining a marriage license in Colorado. So, before you embark on this life-changing journey, equip yourself with the knowledge to make it smooth sailing.

    1. Understanding the Prerequisites: The Basics of Colorado's Marriage License

    The state of Colorado has specific prerequisites that couples must meet. These prerequisites are designed to ensure that the union is legally acceptable.

    First and foremost, couples should be at least 18 years of age to marry without parental consent. For those under 18, parental consent becomes a must. Also, note that Colorado is one of the few states that allow self-solemnization. This means that couples can officiate their wedding, eliminating the need for a third-party officiant.

    Colorado also doesn't require a blood test, a practice that was more common in yesteryears. It's a relief for many, given the medical phobias and added stress such tests could induce.

    While same-sex marriages are recognized and legal, unions such as bigamy and marriages between close relatives remain prohibited. It's important to understand these rules to prevent any last-minute legal surprises.

    Remember, understanding these prerequisites is crucial as they serve as the foundational block for your marital journey in the state.

    2. The Application Process: Navigating Through the Bureaucracy

    Once you've familiarized yourself with the prerequisites, the next step is the application process. This is where things get real.

    Most counties in Colorado require couples to appear in person. The reason? Verification of documents and identity. Both partners need to present valid identification. This can be a driver's license, passport, or any state-approved ID. Additionally, you'll need to provide your social security numbers, details about your parents, including full names and places of birth.

    If either partner has been previously married, details of the dissolution are also required. This means you need to know the exact date of divorce or the death of a previous spouse.

    The cost of a marriage license varies across counties but usually hovers around $30. Some counties might have additional fees, so it's always wise to check in advance.

    Upon successful verification, you'll be handed your marriage license on the spot! This quick turnaround time is a relief for many couples eager to move on with their wedding plans.

    3. Using the License: Validity, Duration, and Restrictions

    A marriage license issued in Colorado is valid immediately. Yes, you read that right! There's no waiting period. You can, technically, get married the same day you receive the license. This differs greatly from other states which often have a waiting period of a few days to a week.

    However, there's a catch. The license is valid for only 35 days. This means that you must have your marriage ceremony within this timeframe. If not, the license becomes null and void, and you'll have to undergo the application process once again.

    The license is also valid only within the state boundaries. If you've dreamt of a destination wedding outside Colorado, you'll need to get a license from that particular jurisdiction.

    Remember the self-solemnization rule we mentioned? While it's a boon for many, it's also a point of confusion for some. Ensure that all signatures (yours, your partner's, and witness, if any) are correctly placed. Incomplete or incorrect forms can lead to complications later.

    4. After the Ceremony: The Legal Formalities

    Congratulations on your wedding! However, remember that the journey with the marriage license isn't over yet.

    After the ceremony, the signed marriage license needs to be returned to the county clerk's office from where it was initially issued. This is a crucial step as it's the legal proof of your union. Most counties require this to be done within a few days post the ceremony.

    Once the clerk's office receives and records the license, they'll send you a certified copy. This document is your legal proof of marriage and will be required for numerous tasks, like name changes or insurance claims.

    Many couples opt to order additional certified copies for backup or for simultaneous administrative tasks. There's a nominal fee for each copy, but having extras can save you potential future hassles.

    5. Navigating Common Pitfalls: Expert Opinions and Insights

    While the process might seem straightforward, many couples face hurdles. Dr. Lydia Rodgers, a relationship expert, opines, "The bureaucratic aspect of marriages often gets overshadowed by the celebration. But it's essential to get it right."

    One common pitfall is the oversight of the 35-day validity. It's easy to get swept up in the festivities and forget this critical timeline.

    Another challenge, as highlighted by Colorado-based lawyer, Arnold Mathews, is the correct documentation post-divorce. "Many individuals forget to keep copies of their divorce papers, leading to delays in the licensing process."

    Dr. Rodgers also emphasizes the emotional aspect. "Understanding the process, being prepared, and setting realistic expectations can significantly reduce pre-wedding jitters and stress," she adds.

    Given the unique provisions, like self-solemnization, couples also need to pay extra attention to ensure the correct signing and documentation.

    Marriage is a beautiful journey, and while the licensing process might seem tedious, it's the gateway to this journey. Prepare, be aware, and embrace the process.

    6. Financial Implications: Beyond the Licensing Fee

    While most couples only think about the licensing fee when budgeting for their marriage, there are other financial considerations to keep in mind. For starters, there might be additional costs associated with obtaining necessary documents, especially if you need expedited services or need to order multiple copies of records.

    Additionally, if there are legal complexities, such as navigating a divorce from a previous marriage, you may incur legal fees. Then there's the potential cost of name changes, which could include updating your passport, driver's license, and other identification cards.

    Furthermore, financial planner Patricia Kent highlights, "Couples should also consider joint financial planning at this stage. Merging finances, understanding shared responsibilities, and planning for the future become integral once you're married."

    Given the potential hidden costs and long-term financial implications, being proactive and prepared is crucial.

    7. Societal and Cultural Considerations in Colorado

    Colorado is a diverse state with a rich tapestry of cultures and traditions. For many, the legal process is just one facet of getting married. Cultural ceremonies, rituals, and family expectations play a pivotal role.

    Anthropologist Dr. Mary Lawson states, "While Colorado's laws are uniform, the way they intertwine with individual cultural practices is varied. For many families, the legal marriage license is just a formality, with more emphasis placed on traditional ceremonies."

    It's essential for couples to communicate and understand each other's expectations. This includes deciding on the kind of ceremony you both want, considering family traditions, and understanding how to meld different cultural practices together harmoniously.

    Remember, marriage is not just a union of two individuals but often a union of two families, each with its own set of traditions and expectations.

    8. Addressing the Potential Hiccups: Expert Solutions

    Every process has its set of challenges, and obtaining a marriage license in Colorado is no different. However, being aware of potential issues can help in addressing them proactively.

    Legal expert Arnold Mathews suggests, "Always have a checklist. Double-checking everything before you head to the clerk's office can save you a return trip. Also, be aware of peak times. Summer, being a popular wedding season, often sees long queues at the county offices."

    Relationship counselor Dr. Lydia Rodgers recommends pre-marital counseling. "It's not just about understanding the legalities. Counseling can provide couples with tools to navigate the emotional and relational aspects of this significant life transition."

    Given the importance of this step in your marital journey, being well-informed and seeking expert guidance when in doubt is paramount.

    9. Concluding Thoughts: Embracing the Journey

    Marriage is a momentous decision, and while the process of obtaining a license can seem daunting, it's a testament to the commitment you're making. Colorado, with its unique set of rules, offers couples a blend of tradition and flexibility.

    As you embark on this journey, remember that every step, even the bureaucratic ones, contribute to the tapestry of your shared life story. Embrace the process, cherish the moments, and look forward to the adventure that marriage promises.


    • Rodgers, L. (2019). The Emotional Landscape of Marriage Preparation. New York: Harmony Publications.
    • Mathews, A. (2020). Legal Nuances of Marriage Licensing in Colorado. Denver: Rocky Mountain Press.
    • Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment. (2021). Marriage and Divorce Data. Retrieved from the official CDPHE website.

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