Marriage License vs Certificate

Alongside the excitement of marriage comes confusion and stress. There is so much to prepare for and get done.

Our wedding planning checklist can help you better prepare for the day ahead, and this article will help you understand the difference between a marriage license and certificate. This step comes closer to the end of the planning process, but it is important to recognize the differences between these two documents.

Marriage License

To legalize your marriage, a license must be solemnized by a justice of the supreme court, judge of the circuit court, magistrate, or any person authorized by a church. The application can take up to 30 minutes, and you must have one form of identification ready. That can be any photo ID (military, tribal, state, driver’s) or a certified copy of your birth certificate.

Fortunately, South Dakota does not require blood tests, so you don’t have to worry about adding that to your timeline! You should pick up your license before the ceremony so it is ready to be signed afterward by the officiant or authorized persons. You also don’t have to worry about picking it up until the day before. If you’re a planner, you can schedule to pick it up early, but if you and your fiancé are more last-minute, there’s no waiting period. You can use the license the same day you pick it up. Just be sure the office you will need to apply at is open before you plan for that.

Other things to know about the SD process: the license must be used within 20 days, and the application fee is $40. Locations of the register of deeds offices (also referred to as the county clerk’s office) where you can apply for your marriage license in the Black Hills are as follows:

  • Butte County: 839 5th Avenue, Belle Fourche (605) 892-2912
  • Custer County: 420 Mt. Rushmore Road, Custer (605) 673-8171
  • Fall River & Shannon Counties: 906 N. River Street, Hot Springs (605) 745-5139
  • Lawrence County: 90 Sherman Street, Deadwood (605) 578-3930
  • Meade County: 1300 Sherman St., Ste. 138, Sturgis (605) 347-2356
  • Pennington County: 315 St. Joseph Street, Rapid City (605) 394-2177
Please note: State and county marriage license requirements can change. The information provided here is for guidance only and should not be regarded as legal advice. Call your County Recorder’s office for clarification of details and hours of operation. Learn more about obtaining a license in South Dakota here.

Marriage Certificate

The certificate is much less formal; this sheet of paper is for public record proving that you’ve been legally married. To receive this, you must mail in or present your completed marriage license to the county clerk’s office. It can take a couple of weeks to get the certificate in the mail. Plan accordingly, as you will need a copy of the certificate before you can change your name on any legal documents (if that’s what you’ve decided!).

written by Sarah Richards