Marriage Ceremonies in Florida

Solemnizing marriage is one of the honors of a notary public in Florida, as well as in South Carolina, Maine, and Nevada (if the notary is specially licensed by the county clerk). The solemnization of a marriage is the formal ceremony which unites a couple in legal marriage. The ceremony isn’t just for show – without a ceremony, there has been no marriage. 

Florida notaries can only solemnize a marriage (perform a wedding ceremony) within the legal boundaries of the state of Florida (which generally includes three miles off the coast). Notaries from other states may not perform marriage ceremonies in Florida, and Florida notaries cannot perform marriage ceremonies in other states. 


Marriage Ceremony Requirements


Before a Florida notary public may solemnize any marriage, he or she must require the parties to produce a marriage license issued in accordance with Florida law. Two persons who wish to enter into a marriage in Florida are required to obtain a Florida marriage license, issued by a county court judge or clerk of circuit court, under his or her hand and seal. The parties must first submit to the clerk of circuit court (or county court judge) an application, including an affidavit setting forth their ages and Social Security numbers.  Non-citizens may provide an alien registration number or other form of identification.  The parties must also file a written statement stating whether they completed a premarital preparation course and verifying that they have read or otherwise accessed the family law handbook published by the Florida Bar.  If there appears to be no impediment to the marriage, the clerk (or judge) will issue a marriage license. No marriage ceremony may be performed in Florida without a valid marriage license. 


Marriage License Effective and Expiration dates


A Florida marriage license does not become effective until three days after its issuance (although this three-day waiting period is waived for out-of-state residents and for couples who submit valid certificates of completion of a premarital preparation course).  The marriage license is only valid for a period of sixty days.  The effective date and expiration date are clearly stated on the license. In order for the marriage to be valid, the ceremony must be performed on or after the effective date and on or before the expiration date. Once the license expires, no ceremony of marriage can be performed. 


Florida marriage licenses are valid statewide. For example, even if the parties obtain their license in Hillsborough County, the marriage can still be solemnized in Pinellas County. However, after the ceremony, the license must be returned to the county where it was issued – regardless of where in Florida the ceremony took place.
 

Steps for a Florida Notary to Follow


Before performing the wedding ceremony, a Florida notary should take custody of the marriage license and inspect the identification of the parties. The marriage ceremony can be of any form, as long as there is a verbal consent to be joined in wedlock, the vows reflect the couple’s intentions to make a legally binding commitment to each other, and the Florida notary pronounces the couple married at the conclusion of the ceremony. The website of the Executive Office of the Governor provides sample marriage ceremonies, in English and in Spanish, that can be used by notaries public. Visit https://www.flgov.com/marriage_ceremonies/ for more information.
 

Who can Perform Marriage Ceremonies in Florida


In addition to notaries public, Florida law provides that the following persons may solemnize the rites of matrimonial contract (perform a wedding ceremony): regularly ordained ministers of the gospel and elders in communion with some church and all other ordained clergy; judicial officers of the State of Florida, including retired judicial officers; clerks of the circuit courts of the State of Florida, including deputy clerks; Florida civil-law notaries; and all persons connected with the Society of Friends (Quakers) who have charge of the marriage ceremony according to the rites and ceremonies of that society.
 

Return the Marriage Certificate to the Office that Issued It.


Once the ceremony is completed, a Florida notary must complete the marriage certificate portion of the marriage license and return it to the official who issued it within ten days of the solemnization. The “Certificate of Marriage” portion of the license is the primary concern for the notary. The certificate, which is completed and signed by the person performing the ceremony, reads: “I hereby certify that the above-named spouses were joined by me in marriage in accordance with the laws of the State of Florida.” The notary must legibly enter, in black ink, the date of marriage (in a “month, day, year” format), the city, town or location wherein the marriage was performed, and the officiant’s signature, mailing address, name, and title. There are lines for two witnesses to sign the certificate, but witnesses are not required by Florida law. If witnesses are present, they should sign in black ink. The notary who performs the ceremony should not sign as one of the witnesses. 


Until the completed marriage record is filed with the issuing office, there is no official record of the marriage. It is important to note that state law provides that the notary is responsible for mailing or delivering the license; the original license should not be given to the parties to return themselves. The notary should also record the act in his or her official journal or record book. 


Fees a Notary in Florida Can Charge


Performing wedding ceremonies is an exciting opportunity for notaries in Florida. A notary public can charge up to $30 for solemnizing a marriage, in addition to any reasonable travel or booking fees agreed to in advance. The notary can also charge for attendance at the rehearsal, providing photography or floral arrangements, and other such services. All costs should be itemized and provided to the couple in the form of a written invoice. 


A client may request a Commemorative Marriage Certificate for an additional cost.


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