Information on Marriages


Components of a Legal Marriage

The Legal Marriage Ceremony is made up of:

  1. An exchange of vows or promises (facilitated by an authorized officiant, unless the ceremony is self- solemnizing)
  2. A pronouncement from the officiant
  3. A valid, state-issued marriage license that has been completed and signed.

While no specific words or phrases are legally required to be used in the wedding ceremony, couples still must make / exchange their Declaration of Intent, and the officiant must make the Pronouncement.

The Declaration of Intent is the part of the ceremony where the couple verbally declares that they wish to enter into the marriage contract and intend to legally commit to one another. This is often heard in the form of, “Do you take _ as your lawful/wedded __?” and “I do,” but can be worded any way the couple prefers.

The Pronouncement or Proclamation is the part of the ceremony where the officiant pronounces the couple as officially and legally wed. This is often heard as, “And now, with the power vested in me by the commonwealth of Pennsylvania, I pronounce you…” Again, this official proclamation can be made in any way the couple wishes.

After the ceremony, the couple’s marriage license must be completed, signed, and returned, so that the marriage can be officially recorded.

With a regular marriage license, an officiant must preside over the marriage ceremony. This person must be qualified under 23 PA CSA §1503. After the ceremony, the license is signed by the officiant. It must returned to the Marriage License Department within 10 days.

Your marriage certificate comes in three sections:

Top section: Stays with the officiant who married you for their records.
Middle section: Completed and signed by the officiant. This section must be returned to the Register of Wills within 10 days. It can be mailed in, or taken care of by the officiant OR the couple. The Department then has 10 days to get the paperwork processed.
Bottom section: Stays with you for a keepsake (it’s not the official marriage certificate) however, It is recommended that the couple take their copy to the Social Security office to have name changed (if desired) and the drivers center for updates.

Marriage Ceremony Fees

Under Pennsylvania law, borough mayors are officials empowered to conduct civil marriage ceremonies.

When and how is a mayor permitted to receive fees for performing such marriage ceremonies? Well, generally speaking, any salary paid under an ordinance to a mayor shall be in lieu of all costs and fees allowed a mayor. 8 Pa.C.S. §10A05(a). Practically, this means that any amounts collected or received by a mayor must be deposited into the borough treasury. 8 Pa.C.S. §10A05(a). Furthermore, such costs and fees cannot be diverted in any way even as a gift or it could be considered a violation of the Pennsylvania Ethics Act relating to ethical standards and disclosures.

However, the Borough Code provides an exception for certain marriage ceremony fees. The Borough Code at 8 Pa.C.S. §10A05(b)(1) does authorize a mayor to receive a monetary fee for the performance of a marriage ceremony in this Commonwealth, if the fee does not exceed $150 for each ceremony performed and a mayor furthermore meets two (2) additional requirements set forth in the Code. First, prior to performing these ceremonies, the mayor must notify council in writing of the mayor’s intention to perform marriage ceremonies. 8 Pa.C.S. §10A05(b)(2). The notification to council shall remain in effect for the term of the mayor or until the notification is rescinded by the mayor. 8 Pa.C.S. §10A05(b)(3). Second, the mayor must also maintain accurate accounts of the fees received relating to the performance of marriage ceremonies and provide council each quarter with a report of money received for that period. 8 Pa.C.S. §10A05(b)(4). Such quarterly report shall include the amount of money received and the names of persons from whom money was received, along with the date and the location of the performed ceremony, and the report is considered a public record.

Mayors Qualified to Perform Marriages

Title 23 Pa.C.S.

§ 1503. Persons qualified to solemnize marriages.

(a) General rule.–The following are authorized to solemnize marriages between persons that produce a marriage license issued under this part:

(5.1) A former mayor of a city or borough of this Commonwealth who:

  1. has not been defeated for reelection
  2. has not been convicted of, pleaded nolo contendere to or agreed to an Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition or other probation without verdict program relative to a misdemeanor or felony offense under the laws of this Commonwealth or an equivalent offense under the laws of the United States or any one of its possessions, another state, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico or a foreign nation.
  3. has not resigned the position of mayor to avoid having charges filed or to avoid prosecution by Federal, State, or local law enforcement agencies
  4. has served as a mayor, whether continuously or not, by election for an aggregate of a full term in office; and
  5. is a resident of this Commonwealth