Marriage records are a great source of genealogical data. In my experience, church records tend to have less information that those kept by the town or state, but were occasionally kept by family groups if the family were long-time residents of the parish, which is helpful.
Churches and governments often kept marriage records before they documented other life events. Whether a civil or church authority performed the ceremony, local laws usually required that the marriage be recorded in civil records.
These records are usually stored with the clerk of the town or county where the bride resided, but some particularly early ones may be housed in the state’s archives and more recent ones may be found in the state’s Division of Vital Records. You may find records that show a couple’s intent to marry in addition to the records of the actual marriage
For more information concerning marriage records by State see the Summary of Marriage Records in the United States by State page. [excerpt from the FamilySearch Wiki]
Bear in mind that both types of marriage records are subject to the caveat of human error. Above is the photo of my grandparents’ marriage. My Grandfather’s name is Francis Gregory Connolly. He must have told the clerk it was Francis G. Connolly, but the clerk heard and wrote Francis Gene Connolly. My grandmother’s maiden name is Halle in the original French-Canadian spelling. When they migrated to the United States, the name changed to Hawley, but never has it been spelled Holly except here!
Courtship and Marriage of Francis and Bea (Hawley) Connolly in her own words:
While I was working at the drugstore, a skinny red-haired Irish farmer came in for a soda. I used to laugh at him going by in his horse and wagon with his lantern to guide his way to the movie house all alone and say, “Look at that crazy redhead going to the show all alone.” I didn’t realize then that he would be my husband someday.
I was seeing a fellow, Matt Powers, who owned a Ford and worked in the paper store at night. So this redhead decided to get a Dodge touring car. He wanted to take me out, so this one night I decided I wanted to go for a ride. I went home and disguised myself; I put on my mother’s clothes and her hat and a pair of glasses. I didn’t know anyone saw me, but the next day Matt came in the store and asked me where I was the night before. I told him I wasn’t anywhere…Then he said, “Do you prefer a Dodge to a Ford?” I said, “Yes, I guess I do!” So he went out of my life and I started going steady with the redhead. His name was Francis G. Connolly. We got married in February 1924. It was a terrible day, Washington’s Birthday. There was snow and slush and I had ordered a coat through the mail and the coat didn’t come. The postmaster had to go all the way to Lowell to where we were eating our dinner and bring me my coat. We spent one night in a hotel in Boston, then we came home. It was a short honeymoon; we didn’t have any money. My mother gave me a reception and told me I could invite fifteen of my friends. She gave me a ten-dollar bill for my wedding present. Big Deal.
This post is part of the A-Z Challenge