According to a wedding industry website called The Wedding Report, 34,816 Alabamians got married in Alabama during 2018.
We imagine most of those couples will still want to make it a special, memorable occasion by going all out either at a wedding chapel or a similar picturesque venue (beach weddings seem popular on social media), or in a decorated church sanctuary or chapel. (FYI, the average cost of a wedding in Alabama last year according to The Wedding Report was $17,216.)
We also imagine the majority of those ceremonies will be conducted traditionally — with perhaps a few personalized and modern twists — by a minister, and will involve the exchange of vows and rings.
Beginning Aug. 29, however, both those folks and people who just want to get hitched on the cheap without a lot of fuss will have to do the same, new thing to have their marriages recognized by the state of Alabama.
At present, couples wishing to wed must get a license at their local probate judge’s office, which is good for 30 days. After they have a wedding ceremony, they must submit paperwork signed by the officiant to the probate office, again within 30 days.
Thanks to a bill sponsored by Sen. Greg Albritton, R-Range, which was passed this year by the state Legislature, here’s the new drill:
• Couples must fill out a form provided by the state — it’s currently being finalized, but will be available when that’s done at the Department of Public Health (alabamapublichealth.gov) and Etowah County (etowahcounty.org) websites.
• Take the form to a notary to sign it and have it notarized.
• Take it to the probate office to be recorded and pay a fee (it’s $70 in Etowah County, same as for the old marriage licenses) within 30 days of when it was signed.
Congratulations, you just got married. No “I do’s” or “as long as you both shall lives” are required.
According to Etowah County Probate Judge Scott Hassell, the form “will be recorded like a deed or a mortgage.” Some will say that removes the beauty and romance from the process. We’ll again note that people will still be able to have lavish, traditional nuptials, and point out that the probate office, where lots of folks have gotten hitched over the years, isn’t exactly a romantic setting.
Some will grumble about the reason for the change. It’s in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell vs. Hodges decision that legalized same-sex weddings in the U.S. There was much controversy in Alabama when some probate judges, rather than be seen as even tacitly endorsing something they personally opposed, stopped issuing marriage licenses to anyone, meaning couples regardless of gender sometimes had to drive long distances to obtain one.
We’re under no illusions that its level of unpopularity in Alabama has changed in four years, but Obergefell is the law of the land and isn’t going away. There’s no sense revisiting that battle; it’s done. At the same time, advocates for same-sex marriage who have fussed at those recalcitrant probate judges for “not doing their jobs” say this law stems from bigotry. We’re not going to revisit that battle, either.
We’ve supported this as the best compromise to end the yelling and strife, and let people marry who they want to, how they want to, and go on about their business. Anyone on either side who can’t understand that is just looking for something to gripe about.