Advice on Getting a Marriage License By Dianna Marder Inquirer Food Columnist

Here's an American Civil Liberties Union primer on applying for a marriage license, so you can avoid being misled or denied your rights. If you encounter problems in one county, you can go to another or contact the ACLU.

Where to apply

Marriage licenses are issued by the Office of the Register of Wills and Clerk of Orphans Court in each of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. You may buy a license in any county and have the ceremony there or in any other county.

Same-sex couples?

Civil unions for same-sex couples are not available in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvanians may have civil unions in New Jersey (if you get the license and hold the ceremony there). Those unions are not recognized in Pennsylvania.

Timing is everything

In parts of Asia, couples consult the calendar for a fortuitous wedding date. In Pennsylvania, be mindful of the three-day waiting period between when you apply and when you can actually marry. That's three business days. And the license is valid for only 60 days, so don't apply too soon.

Cash up front

Like towing companies, county offices accept cash or money order only. License fees range from $45 to $90 in Chester, Bucks, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties.

Don't go alone

Both parties must be present to apply for the marriage license. Widows or widowers, bring a certified copy of the death certificate; divorcees must show a certified divorce decree.

No officiant?

No problem. Any couple may marry themselves in front of two witnesses - without an officiant. Ask for a self-uniting license. Members of Baha'i and Quaker communities also use self-uniting licenses.

Attending the Church of the Unknown?

Your mother, father - even your Weight Watchers meeting leader - can be ordained online and officiate at your wedding, according to a December 2008 court ruling by Bucks County Court Judge C. Theodore Fritsch Jr.

And it does not matter if the clerk on duty the day you're applying has never heard of the particular church or officiant you've chosen. Their questions violate the U.S. Constitution.

Common-law marriage?

That was repealed in January 2005. And don't let anybody tell you the repeal of Common Law changed the rules for self-uniting couples. A federal judge ruled to the contrary in 2007.

Young and in love?

If either of you is under 16, you'll need consent of the court. Under 18, you'll need parental consent. Kissing cousins? Fuhgetaboutit.