By: Bruce Friedman
The trend in recent years has been toward greater creativity in marriage ceremonies, including location, vows, and officiants. Each state (or country) determines its own legal requirements for marriage, which always include taking certain steps to ensure that the marriage is valid. Spouses who marry in religious or other ceremonies that do not comply with the law may be considered married according to their religion but not under the law thus failing to attain any of the legal rights of marriage.
We have had cases where the couple started the divorce process only to find out later that their marriage was invalid. This left one or both people without the rights normally associated with marriage and substantially limited the issues that could be considered by the court.
Missouri does not mandate any particular form of ceremony or vows. However, the law requires applicants to obtain a marriage license and to thereafter solemnize their wedding in the presence of an “officiant” authorized according to law.
A marriage license is issued by the recorder of deeds in each Missouri county and is valid only in Missouri. Marriage license applicants are not required to be Missouri residents; a marriage license can be issued by the recorder of deeds in any Missouri county. Both people appear in person before the recorder of deeds or a deputy recorder and present valid identification containing their birth date, along with a Social Security card, to apply for a marriage license. Other requirements include:
- Applicants for a marriage license without parental consent must be at least 18 years old.
- Applicants who are younger than 18 must have consent from a custodial parent or guardian.
- Applicants under age 15 must obtain a circuit court order.
- Applicants cannot be married already and may not be related by blood, through and including first cousins.
- The license must be picked up prior to the marriage ceremony. The person performing the ceremony must have the license prior to the ceremony.
- The person performing the marriage ceremony shall return the license to the issuing Recorder of Deeds within 15 days.
- If a marriage ceremony does not occur, the license shall be void after thirty days from the date of issuance.
Who can perform a marriage ceremony in Missouri?
Missouri law says:
Marriages may be solemnized by any clergyman, either active or retired, who is in good standing with any church or synagogue in this state. Marriages may also be solemnized, without compensation, by any judge, including a municipal judge. Marriages may also be solemnized by a religious society, religious institution, or religious organization of this state, according to the regulations and customs of the society, institution or organization, when either party to the marriage to be solemnized is a member of such society, institution or organization.
People considering marriage must comply with the law in the place where they are to be married so that they do not later find out that their marriage is invalid. The attorneys at Paule, Camazine & Blumenthal can advise you on steps you can take to find out whether your marriage meets all of the requirements.