Love surely is grand, and the decision to marry is more often fueled by passion rather than logic. Who wants to think about legal documents when there is a ring to buy, caterers to interview, and pictures to be taken?

The fact is that marriage is a legally binding agreement and, as such, individuals who wish to marry must consider the ramifications.

The necessary legal steps, however, do not have to unfeather the love nest. Consider these steps.

Before the Wedding…

  1.  Apply for your marriage license. The state of Missouri will not recognize your marriage as legally binding unless and until you obtain a marriage license. Certain rules apply for obtaining a marriage license in Missouri – for example, you and your intended must be over 18, must provide proof of identity, and cannot be related.
  2. Decide if your soon-to-be spouse wishes to assume your last name. While this is not required by law, an official copy of the marriage certificate will be required when requesting a name change with government agencies, financial institutions, and other entities
  3. Consider the prenup. A ‘prenup’ (prenuptial agreement) can prevent costly litigation in the event of a future divorce, and can aid in establishing custody of children brought into the marriage from previous relationships.
  4. Talk about money. Before marriage, people tend to gloss over money issues. But money arguments consistently land in the Top 5 Marriage Arguments, so do talk about your debts and your assets, as well as your spending habits. Missouri is a “dual-property” state, mean both “marital property” and “non-marital property” exist. It is important to know which items are yours, his or jointly owned.
  5. Make sure your marriage is legal. In Missouri, any clergyman in good standing (active or retired) and any judge can perform your wedding ceremony.

After the Nuptials

Your legal responsibilities do not end with wedded bliss.  Employers, banks, government institutions and others will want proof of your marriage. After you sign your marriage license, your wedding officiant will mail your license to the appropriate county authorities. Once processed, you will complete a form, provide some identification and pay a nominal fee to request copies of your marriage license. Get plenty of official copies, because you will need them to change your name with social security and on your passport and financial accounts, to get a new driver’s license, to update insurance companies and health care providers, to open a joint bank account, and much more.

Compared to marriages of fifty years ago, many more Americans are waiting until their thirties to tie the knot. And while this may signal good news for skyrocketing US divorce rates, couples contemplating marriage still tend to procrastinate about legal aspects of marriage. Take steps toward your happily-ever-after by consulting with a qualified attorney in Missouri today.