Birmingham couples: 3 things you need to know about Alabama’s new marriage law

Weddings optional under Alabamas new marriage law
Weddings in Alabama could become a thing of the past . . . but we doubt they will. Photo by Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

The times, they are a’changin’, and as of today, August 29, 2019, Alabama’s got a new marriage law to prove it.

To help untangle the threads, we’ve pulled together a handy-dandy guide to the current legal side of getting married in Alabama. Read on for all the details.

1—Marriage: what is it anyway?


Marriage is a matter more of worth / than to be dealt in by attorneyship.

1 Henry VI 5.5.50-1, William Shakespeare

Seriously, when most of us think of marriage, we picture a happy (or stressed out) couple assembled in front of friends and family for “the big day.”

They’re usually decked out in their finest, whether the gathering is under a big tree, in a house of worship, or sometimes at a courthouse.

An ordained clergy person is usually officiating, or at least an internet-ordained friend or family member, and sometimes a judge. There are vows and tears, cake and punch and all the rest.

But now, all that has become optional. Meaning, you can simply register a marriage like you do a birth or death, no fancy party required.

Under Alabama's new marriage law , marriage certificates will become sort of like birth certificates.
Amilee Gaskins Birth Certificate” by Billskins Ga. CC BY-SA 2.0

2—How you get married under Alabama’s new marriage law

Ready for the big event
Ready for the big event. Photo by Matthew Niblett for Bham Now

While you’re totally still welcome to have a big ceremony for the benefit of all your friends and family, you don’t have to. Here’s how the legal side works now:

  • Find that special someone. Pop the question, or have a thoughtful discussion between the two of you—your marriage, your preference.
  • Download your handy-dandy marriage certificate here. Note that there are supposed to be different forms for adults (18 and above) and minors (16-17), who can now get married with one parent’s permission as long as it’s their first go-round. Maybe I wasn’t looking carefully enough, but I couldn’t tell any difference between the two forms on the website . . .
  • You can also head to your nearest probate judge’s office to pick one up IRL. We’ve got the full list for you.
The top half of the new marriage certificate form under Alabama's new marriage law
The top half of the new marriage certificate form. Screenshot
  • Fill in the form (both of you), print, sign, and get it notarized. For this, you’ll need a notary public. Make sure they fill out the complete notary info, including name, signature, stamp and date so it’s legit.
  • Once it’s signed and notarized, you’ve got 30 days to get it to the probate court. This step is required.
  • At the probate court, they’ll file and record the marriage certificate. No license required. Then they send it to the State Bureau of Vital Statistics.
  • The certificate costs $70, plus filing fees which vary by county.
  • Assuming you’ve filled in the certificate, signed it, notarized it, and filed it with probate court . . . with the appropriate fees . . . within 30 days of signing, the marriage becomes official.
  • After doing all the above, the marriage date becomes the date of the second spouse’s signature.
  • If you have any questions, call the State of Alabama at 334-206-2714.
The bottom half of the new certificate under Alabama's new marriage law
The bottom half of the new marriage certificate form. Screensho

3—There are some concerns about Alabama’s new marriage law

There are a few concerns about Alabama's new marriage law
Caution” by Dean Streleau. CC BY 2.0

Change always brings uncertainty, and some judges and clergy members have expressed some reservations about the new law. Here are some of their concerns:

  • Who will check to see that people are the right age to get married with no one having to show up in person with a driver’s license?
  • What about vulnerable people who may be coerced into marriage? Think about your wealthy aunt who may have a mild case of dementia . . .
  • What will the new marriage certificates mean to LGTBQ couples when they go to apply for out of state insurance or military benefits? Will this be considered a legit proof of marriage by other states? Time will tell . . .
  • Who will make sure that marriages are healthy and consensual? Often part of getting married with a clergy-person is premarital counseling, which can be very valuable.

Over time, we’ll see how Alabama’s new marriage law plays out. Will it make things simpler for everyone? Will it make things harder for some people?

Of course, if you want to go old-school, we’ve got some awesome guides for you:

Now you tell us: what do you think about Alabama’s new marriage law?

Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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