Falling in love and deciding to get married is an exciting milestone in the lives of many couples. While not quite as exciting, but still important, are the lengthy discussions couples should have about finances, housing, and legal documentation before marriage. These details should not be ignored or go overlooked; while there’s nothing romantic about discussing pre-marital logistics, these conversations can be instrumental in building a strong foundation for a lifelong marriage.
1. Getting Your Marriage License
Throughout all of your planning for the wedding — flower arrangements, the perfect venue for the ceremony, invites, etc. — you will have to clear a bit of bureaucratic red tape. A government-issued marriage license will need to be obtained to allow both parties to wed.
How to Get Your Marriage License
Acquiring a marriage license is not complicated; however, you will need to fulfill several duties and provide documents to prove that you are both legally allowed to get married. To get your official marriage license, you (or both parties involved) will have to:
- Search for your local city, county, or municipality’s clerk’s office to apply for, and receive your marriage license. Your local clerk’s office is generally the agency through which you can apply for a marriage license, but this is not always the case. Visit this directory to understand where to apply for a marriage license in your state. Here, you can find information on waiting periods, fees, and more;
- Bring in required documents to show you are legally able to be married;
- Sign the marriage application;
- Pay the marriage license fee;
- Adhere to the waiting period;
- Hand the certificate to your marriage officiator, who will then send it to the state for processing.;
- Get married within the license validity period.
Required Documents for a Marriage License
You will need to provide several documents during the marriage licensing process. Bring the following items to your local clerk's office to show proof that you are legally able to be married (not all will necessarily be applicable):
- Birth certificate. To show proof of age;
- Parental consent. In most states, if you are under 18, you will need parental and/or court consent to be married;
- Photo ID. This may be a passport, driver’s license, state ID card, etc.;
- Divorce Decree. To show that you are legally divorced and are able to marry again;
- Death certificate. To show proof you are able to get married again if you are widowed.
The above documents are generally required for every state. Your state may require additional paperwork to obtain your marriage license. Your marriage license isn’t usually thought of when you are enchanted in the romantic atmosphere of planning your wedding, but it is legally necessary to obtain one.
2. Moving in Together
Engaged couples may have already decided to move in together to save money on rent, or to see if they can live amicably together. If you haven't moved in with your significant other, combining households can be challenging, but worth it.
Finding the Perfect Place
If already live together, you may know of the importance of finding the right place to start your married life. However, for those who have not yet moved in together, the perfect place to cohabitate will help the two of you to enjoy your first year(s) of married life.
Finding a living situation you can both afford, in a neighborhood you both will like, and in a place that is big enough to hold both of your belongings will be essential to happy cohabitation.
Combining Two Households
Moving in with your loved one means fitting two sets of belongings in one place. This can be a difficult task, but if you both are willing to take steps to declutter your belongings, this process could become much more manageable. It is likely the case that both of you will need to take an honest look at your belongings and decide what to keep, sell, donate, or throw away. Willingness to do this, while understanding your significant other will do the same, can help both of you keep what you want without arguing over the things you don't necessarily need.
If you are finding that you have too much stuff that you are not willing to part with, you can always get a personal storage unit to store sentimental items that don't need to be in the house, but you want to keep for future use.
3. Arranging Your Bank Accounts
Financial talks may come up during the moving in process, but an in-depth discussion about organizing your bank accounts should be conducted before getting married. Ensuring that you both are on the same page financially will make many decisions going forward feel more comfortable, and will help minimize financial tension between you two.
Talking About Finance
Financial transparency should be at the forefront of your financial discussions with your significant other. Especially before moving in with each other, it is a great courtesy to let your significant other understand what they are getting into financially with marrying you. Let your fiancé know of any debt, and short and long-term financial goals so that you can both get on board with achieving these objectives together.
Joint and Separate Bank Accounts
It is also a wise idea to speak with your loved one about whether or not you will merge your bank accounts, or keep them separate — or, have a joint account together as well as different accounts. Your financial discussions may help make these decisions for you.
If you choose to merge your bank accounts, you may alleviate some legal affairs, and you will have two sets of eyes keeping track of your finances. Although this may seem great, joining your bank accounts also will result in a loss of independence. Additionally, one person may be taking on the other person's debts and merging two vastly uneven accounts may not be financially sound. In a worst-case scenario, one may be in danger of taking on that debt in the event of a pre-marital breakup, death, or divorce.
You may want to take the approach of having both a joint and separate bank accounts to avoid some of these complicated drawbacks.
4. Taxes in the First Year of Marriage
Marriage can come with tax benefits and bonuses. For instance, if you file jointly, the spouse making a lower (or no) salary can pull the one making higher income into a lower tax bracket — reducing overall taxes, and possibly even receiving a bonus since you are using the money for the both of you, not just one person. Depending on the time of year you get married, you may not have to file taxes right away, but filing jointly should undoubtedly be considered after getting married.
The Social Security Administration
The Social Security Administration (SSA) will inform the IRS automatically of your name change. To change your name, or if you are both choosing a new name, you will need to fill out a name change application through the Social Security Administration.
File Your Taxes Properly
The IRS will reject your tax return if your name change has not been completed correctly, and with enough time for the SSA to process and send it to the IRS. Additionally, you will need to make sure everything is filed correctly — if you have moved in together, report your change of address and any change in health insurance information. You will also need to adjust the tax withholding from your paychecks and check for them on your W-4 after marriage. Once this all is filed correctly, you should receive your return (and tax breaks) with no problem.
It is very easy to become starry-eyed when you and your loved one decide to get married. However, it is essential to remain practical and think about the pragmatic elements that go into a marriage as well. Doing so can help result in a great, loving, and lasting marriage.