The Officiant Wrote the Date in the Wrong Place on My Marriage License, and They Say It Isn't Valid

I was married this weekend in New York State, and in the space on the license where it asks for the officiant’s title, he wrote the date. He then crossed it out, wrote his title above the error and put the date in the correct spot.

I just got a call from the town clerk’s office saying that the license isn’t valid and my wife and I will need to come back to the town clerk’s office to get a new license for the officiant and witnesses to sign. That isn’t possible for several reason.

Before my wife and I go to our local town hall and have a second ceremony, I would like to know if it’s really necessary, or is the town clerk misinformed? Thanks.

Congratulations to you and your wife! May you have a long and happy marriage.

Is the clerk saying you need a second ceremony, or just that you need to have the new licence properly filled out?

I think you have slipped through a wormhole into an episode of Mad About You. Does your wife look like Helen Hunt?

The town clerk is saying that my wife (if that’s what she really is) and I would need to go back to town hall in the city we were married, get a new license and have the officiant and witnesses complete the form again (without any cross outs this time).

Since none of that is possible, we figure it’d make more sense to just get (re)married by the local justice of the peace.


And given your circumstances, yes, just get a new license and remarry for the legalities of it all.

Start married life with undreamed riches. Sue the incompetent SOB and the jurisdiction for every last dime.

I think the town clerk is incorrect as New York Domestic Relations Article 3 Section 19 would indicate as long as all of the information is there, the clerk can officially record it. I would ask the state Department of Health as that agency is the authority over wedding licenses. Since your marriage has been solemnized and attest to but the officiant, you are married (IANAL) and now it is ia matter of getting it recorded properly.

Call the person who made the mistake and explain what happened. Then ask him what he’s going to do about it? it seems it’s on him to correct his error, not on you.

Which is to say… the best way to overcome a recalcitrant bureaucrat is to bring to bear the powers of a superior bureacrat.

Hopefully they won’t close ranks against you.

Call the clerk back and explain why you can’t make it back, and ask if getting married where you are would be allowed.

it could also be that the marriage is official and recordable but the photocopy/carbon of the license as is would not be acceptable proof of that.

enjoy your married bliss or short term fornicating whichever is the case.

Yeah, it’s not a matter of the marriage being invalid, but the paperwork. No new vows need to take place (and shouldn’t). Have them issue a new license and mail it to you to sign as per the witness of a notary public. Then, the same with the witnesses and officiant. If they charge you for it, tell them to bill the officiant who made the mistake and who should have known better – it says all over the place ‘no cross-outs or changes accepted.’

Why is it not possible for the officiant and witnesses to sign a new form?

Do you watch Game of Thrones?

My father is from Louisiana, and thus bears a Francophonic surname very common to the Pelican State but largely unknown elsewhere. When he married my mother, a small-town Kentucky girl, the old priest mangled the pronunciation of the name. My father, an attorney, maintains (in jest) that due to this technicality the marriage is invalid, and that they’ve been living in sin for the past 50 years.

Consider yourselves married. If you ever want a divorce, just walk away, save thousands of dollars in legal fees. If you ever decide to divorce, just take your document back to the town clerk and have it stamped “invalid” and signed and notarized.

There are almost no situations any more in which a benefit can accrue to individuals because they can prove they are married. When there is (like health insurance, etc.), it is unlikely that the bureaucrat examining your document will be as fussy as the town clerk. Almost everything you do (before divorce or death) can be legally accomplished jointly whether you are formally married or not. For what it’s worth, I was married 22 years ago, I have the certificate, and I seriously doubt that I have ever shown it to anybody, but I might have taken it along somewhere once or twice in case I needed it. A declared marriage is generally deemed to be what the parties say it is.

Someday when you are on an exotic vacation to Mexico or Sri Lanka, get married there, and get the document, which is internationally portable as proof of marriage. Get it out if you ever need to, but otherwise just share it as a happy keepsake.

As a practical matter, you are in a happy gray area, in which you are married or not married, to suit your convenience at the time.

A few notes about bigamy might be useful way down the road:

  1. Bigamy is very easy to commit, just get married and declare that you have never been married before. They can’t and won’t check, unless you were married in the same state.
  2. Bigamy is never prosecuted, unless there is an angry and spiteful plaintiff. The police, in a routine stop for a tail light, will not ask you to prove you are only married to one person, or run your name through all 50 states and every country we have diplomatic relations with to see if there are conflicting spouses.

But the exceptions may be big ones. We were told that my fiancee would need to take the Social Security Administration a certified copy* of our certificate of marriage to change her name. If your town clerk, who I presume is the same person who is going to certify it thinks it’s invalid, you’re going to have a hard time obtaining one. If that matters.

  • This appears to support that.

Well, I don’t think I’ve ever shown anyone the actual form signed by the officiant at my marriage; what they (health insurance, etc.) have wanted to see is a copy of the license issued by the town clerk. So, I think that the OP may well need to get past the town clerk one way or the other.

I’d start by just asking the clerk if there’s any reason they can’t mail you a form, and have you mail the form around to the officiant and witnesses and back to the clerk. Assuming there’s no particular hurry in getting the marriage registered, that is.

Otherwise, just go down to the local Justice of the Peace and do a quickie civil marriage. You won’t even have to tell your parents that the ceremony they saw was (legally) a sham!

So don’t change her name. My wife never changed hers, still goes by her previous name. Never had a problem in more than 20 years… She once got a library card, and when we went to the library together, the librarian called me “Mr. Hername”. Not a big deal.

My understanding of the OP is that he got a “certified” copy, but was later told that it was invalid. So his original “certified” copy is valid.

Something not unlike this happened to a friend of mine (the officiant and witnesses signed the license at the end of the reception when they were very, very drunk and could barely hold pens much less manage to sign on the correct lines)

Years later when she needed proof of marriage for something or other, she found out that according to the state, she wasn’t technically married. They had a lot of paperwork to fill out but didn’t need a new ceremony.