A marriage license (American English) or marriage licence (British English) is a document issued, either by a church or state authority, authorizing a couple to marry. The procedure for obtaining a license varies between countries and has changed over time. Marriage licenses began to be issued in the Middle Ages, to permit a marriage which would otherwise be illegal (for instance, if the necessary period of notice for the marriage had not been given). Today, they are a legal requirement in some jurisdictions and may also serve as the record of the marriage itself, if signed by the couple and witnessed. In other jurisdictions, a license is not required. In some jurisdictions, a "pardon" can be obtained, for marrying without a license and in some jurisdictions, common-law marriages and marriage by cohabitation and representation are also recognized. These do not require a marriage license.
Contributions by Yourmanstan, Ewawer, and Bluewave.