I recalled today that a while ago I mentioned that I was going to do a very bad imitation of the Big Mac Index seeing I haven't been scanning books for a little while. Well, to make the short story shorter, it was a fee comparison for marriage licences between Pennsylvania counties. In all the madness about moving, I forgot that I had this for over six months now lying on my computer's desktop. (It's like adding everything one browses to one's favourites and then forgetting where one put the important link to one's university calendar. Somewhat.)
It may well not be complete, and so on, so, yeah, but it's now uploaded.
The main reason this started my interest is that when I got married in Pennsylvania I was told that any county could issue a marriage licence valid for anywhere in the state. (As an aside, the licensed celebrant need not be domiciled in the county of issue or marriage either, I thought I was also told.) Now, of course one is almost certainly going to go to their nearest marriage clerk (which, for example, in Centre County is the Clerk of Orphans' Court and Register of Wills -- a dual elected position -- in Bellefonte, and in Allegheny County is some non-elected office).
Naturally, costs are going to vary by the cost of living (paying the clerks), cost of the office (the rent or whatever) and the volume of applicants (of both licences and certificates), so I'm not berating the counties that are most expensive, I want to make clear. This was just purely for interest.
The short points are the following, as of roughly June last year:
- Allegheny County (Pittsburgh, and then some) and Philadelphia City at $75 and $80 respectively are the most 'expensive' counties.
- The counties of Clearfield and Forest are the cheapest, with both charging $25.
- If one is thinking long term, sealed copies of a marriage licence that are good for women taking their husband's name -- I never checked if a man could do it -- vary greatly as well. For example, Northampton County throws in a free certified copy after the used licence is returned, whereas to me it appears that Bucks County wants $20. (The married couples, at least in one county, get to keep an 'original' in the form of half of the licence that they keep, that said, but that's not replaceable, so a certified copy is always useful.)
- Some counties have 'volume discounts' of sorts if one orders more than one sealed certificate at a time, in addition to the counties that bundle a free sealed certificate upon the celebrant filing the completed licence.
- Some also ask for a stamped, self-addressed envelope, while others build the cost in to their fees.
The spreadsheet, to add a further warning to the disclaimers, is definitely out of date already; I get the feeling, for example, that the fee for the first sealed certificate is incorrect for Butler County. That said, I have no guarantees with my busy life nowadays that I will update the list, but I shall attempt to.
As of right now, http://ngeru.info/eUDaxI here at ibiblio is where you'll find the current June 2010 version of the spreadsheet. It's in Microsoft Excel .xlsx, because that's the easiest format for me to manipulate the data with (so no you-should-have-used-OpenOffice.org, please, which I would have used had it what I wanted). The undated .xlsx files are symlinks to the current file, in case I do upload this. [Update: I forgot about the Google Spreadsheets option, but loading the 'last update' symlink in read-only mode on Google Docs gets rid of basically all of the nice formatting from Excel, not to mention the column sorting that Excel does.]
Um, so, yeah. Enjoy!