A Pennsylvania marriage certificate is a legal document you and your spouse obtain after getting married in the state. Although it differs from a marriage license, which you apply for before getting married, the terms for marriage certificates and licenses are sometimes used interchangeably. You may need a copy of marriage certificate documents for a number of applications after getting married. Marriage records are not maintained in one centralized location in Pennsylvania. Rather, marriage license records are filed by each county courthouse individually. As such, if you need to perform a marriage license search or get a replacement marriage certificate in Pennsylvania, then you must apply at the county where the marriage took place. Continue reading for more information on replacing lost marriage certificate documents and searching wedding records in Pennsylvania.
Types of Pennsylvania Marriage Certificates
Before applying for a copy of a marriage certificate in PA, it is important to be aware that there are two types of marriage certificates available. Marriage records are available in the form of a plain copy or a “triple-seal” copy. A plain copy of a marriage certificate can only be used for informational purposes and it does not contain any official seals. Some couples choose to obtain a plain copy as a keepsake, rather than displaying an official copy.
A certified copy of marriage certificate documents, on the other hand, will have three official seals from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Triple-seal marriage documents can be used to change your name at the Social Security Administration, adjust benefits at work, apply for government benefits or change your name on your drivers license, passport or ID card. Although your marriage license will list your new name, it is your responsibility to complete the steps for a name change at each of these agencies to make your name change official.
How to Get a Duplicate Marriage Certificate in Pennsylvania
The process for getting copies of marriage registration documents is similar for each county in Pennsylvania. Marriage certificate copies in PA are indexed by the Orphans’ Court Division in nearly every county. In general, you can order a marriage certificate by contacting the Clerk of the Orphans’ Court in the county in Pennsylvania where the marriage took place. The methods for getting a copy of a marriage certificate may vary slightly depending on the county. For example, some counties may allow applicants to request a marriage record copy while applying for a marriage license. Other counties may require registrants to apply for certified copies after their wedding has taken place.
All counties allow you to apply for a marriage certificate copy in person, while others may allow you to apply online, by mail or over the phone. Contact the county where your wedding took place to learn more about the application methods in that county. Ordering a marriage certificate in person or by mail can prove inconvenient as walk-in services must be used during specific days and hours, and the mail-in request option can take weeks to process. Additionally, if you choose to order by telephone, you may be subject to limited payment options.
In general, getting a copy of Pennsylvania marriage certificates will require you to submit certain information about the wedding record you need. Your wedding certificate request must include:
- The full names of the bride and groom, including the bride’s maiden name.
- The date of the wedding.
- The volume and number of the marriage record, if possible.
- Your name, mailing address and phone number.
- An application fee, usually made payable to the Clerk of the Orphans’ Court.
The Pennsylvania court clerk will charge a marriage certificate search fee regardless of whether your marriage license lookup was successful or not. If a marriage record is successfully found, then you will be charged an additional marriage certificate fee for each copy you require. However, if you are a member of the armed forces, then you may receive a certificate of marriage at no charge when you present a valid military ID.
How to Perform a Marriage Record Search in Pennsylvania
There are many situations in which you may need to find marriage records and other wedding information in Pennsylvania. Most counties consider all marriage licenses and marriage certificates to be matters of public record. As such, Pennsylvania’s public records can be searched by anyone who wishes to access them. Since each marriage is recorded by the county where the wedding took place, you must access wedding records by searching a specific county’s records. You will generally need both registrants’ names and the date of the wedding to get started.
Public marriage license searches are effective for finding basic information about when and where weddings took place in Pennsylvania, including your own wedding. However, basic Pennsylvaniawedding record information cannot be used on official applications. To prevent fraudulent activity, you must have an official marriage certificate to change your name or apply for services using your new name.
While you can find a marriage record in PA from nearly any wedding that took place in the state, you cannot obtain a certified marriage certificate from a wedding unless you are legally allowed to do so. Generally, a certified copy of a marriage certificate can only be obtained by the couple named on the certificate or legal representatives who have been granted permission. Follow your county’s application procedures for more information on obtaining certified records.