A. E. Jordan
In addition to the excellent explanations about the difference between a marriage certificate and a marriage license, there is one other major difference between a marriage license and a marriage certificate. A marriage certificate means that the couple were actually married. A marriage license does not. So, it is possible that a marriage license was issued but the marriage never took place.
No this is incorrect. There are very few differences between the normal NYC marriage license and the marriage certiifcate. They asked the same set of questions. At times the clerk asked for more specifics for a date of birth versus just an age or year and also a city not just a country. But mostly the big difference is if the bride was very young because the license would require parential consent and if they admitted to having been married before the clerk asked for more details versus the mariage certificate.
The marrage license second or third page is for the person performing the marriage to fill in when they performed the ceremony. The same set of details about the ceremony are filled in on that page as it is on the marriage certificate.
It is possible that the licenses was taken out and not a ceremony but the license copy will show the details of the ceremony if the license was returned to the clerk. Rarely you find licenses that are not on file with the clerk and then it is possibe the ceremony did not take place.
The license was also "portable" to use a 21st century term .... meaning you could get a NYC license and the ceremony could have been performed any where in the state. So the license form would tell you that too.
The best difference between the license is that the file goes past the end of the file for the certificates in NYC and licenses over 50 years of age are public record. When both exist comparing the two can sometimes also help with issues of marks that are blocking reading details or to try and dechiper hard to read handwriting.