There are many reasons that people wish to obtain marriage certificates, either of their own marriage, or the marriage of someone else. Most requests are for genealogical purposes, or come about as the result of adopted adult children wishing to identify and or locate their birth parents. Some people may also want to obtain a duplicate copy of their marriage certificate in order to prove the legal status of their union, although in this case, a certified copy of their marriage license may be a better option.
In any case, it is easier; for the most part to obtain marriage certificates than it is to obtain birth certificates or death certificates. In most states, a copy of a certificate of marriage can be purchased by anyone who requests one, irregardless of their relationship to the persons listed on the certificate. Of course, this is not an official, legal certificate, but for genealogy purposes, it works just as well. You will need to provide the full legal names of the married couple and the approximate date of the marriage , however.
Obtaining a certified copy of a marriage license is a slightly different process. This document bears the official seal of the county where the marriage took place, and is legal proof of the union. In some cases, a couple may have elected to apply for a confidential marriage license, and in that case, only the persons whose names appear on the certificate may request a copy of the certificate or an official copy of the marriage license. Otherwise, in most states, anyone can obtain a certified copy.
If you are trying to obtain a copy of a marriage certificate for someone else, it is important to know their full legal birth name and the approximate year when the marriage took place. Clerks offices charge a fee for searching, which in most cases is non refundable, even if no matching records are found, so it is good to have as much information as possible. Offices vary when it comes to how far the records go back, but in general, most have records from the 1920s onward, and some have later records as well.
There are also companies that specialize in locating marriage certificates for you, for a fee. These services can save you a lot of time, and some of them even let you place an order online. Again, just make sure that you take the time to gather as much information about the couple who appear on the certificate as possible. This will make your search, and your chances of locating a record of the marriage, much easier and much better.