The first thing that I should point out about getting married in the US is that each state has its own laws and costs. Even within a state, there can also be minor differences between the different counties, so it is always best to check and double check the relevant info and regulations in advance. My specific personal experience was getting married in Florida, so bear in mind that although there are bound to be lots of similarities with other states, there will also some differences too. Given my very positive experience, I would certainly recommend getting married in Florida. My wife and I were married in north central Florida in the city of Gainesville, a college town which is home to the University of Florida.
Background to getting married in the US
Getting married to a US citizen and obtaining a marriage license was a requirement of my K1 Fiance Visa, but my wife and I never lost sight of the fact that were mainly getting married because we loved each other and wanted to live together as man and wife. The K1 Fiance Visa was purely a tool for achieving that. Given the logistical problems that would be involved with getting all our respective families together, my family from across the Atlantic in the UK and my wife’s family from the north east of the US, we opted to have just a small intimate ceremony, rather than a big wedding. Because neither of us are particularly religious, we also decided that we would go for a civil ceremony, rather than getting married in a church.
Arranging the ceremony, getting the license and getting married in Florida
I am a UK citizen, so I can only really make comparisons with getting married in England, where I am from. Compared to the UK, getting married in the US seems cheap when it comes to paying for a civil ceremony. Getting married is also much quicker, although there is a three day waiting period in Florida (unless you either do a short pre-marital course, or you live outside Florida, in which case the three day waiting period is waived). As my wife and I didn’t want to do the premarital course and we both live together in Florida, we were liable for the waiting period, and so decided to apply for our marriage license at the start of the week and arrange with the court for getting married in Florida on the Friday. The fee was $93.50, which at around £65 seemed relatively cheap to me. We had to go together to get the marriage license and I had to use my passport as I.D. The marriage license they gave us was valid for 30 days, but as I mentioned we arranged for our wedding to take place just four days later. It was all very straightforward, partly because neither of us had been married before, so we didn’t have to prove that we were divorced or widowed.
The marriage ceremony and afterwards
As I mentioned earlier, we kept the number of people at the marriage ceremony small, just inviting a couple of friends, plus my wife’s daughter. If you are getting married in the US, be aware that because of the gun culture there and the threat of terrorism, there is much stricter security at public buildings such as court houses – I was somewhat surprised when all of us were searched for weapons when entering the courthouse on our wedding day, albeit in a friendly way. All in all, however, I thoroughly enjoyed my wedding experience and would heartily recommend getting married in Florida.
Getting married meant that we had fulfilled the requirements of the K1 Fiance Visa by getting married in the US within 90 days. This meant that I was now able to put in an adjustment of status application for a US green card.