To be legally married in Florida, both parties must have ‘capacity,’ that is, the ability to voluntarily and knowledgeably enter into an ordinary commercial contract. Also in Florida, currently, the parties must be of opposite genders (as of 2010, five other states and Washington, D.C., allow gay marriage, and ten other states allow civil unions).
The parties must pay a fee and obtain a license to marry. This allows government officials to investigate the capacity of the parties. Taking a voluntary premarital preparation course reduces the license fee. There is also a three-day waiting period between obtaining the license and the actual ceremony, although this may be waived if the parties take the premarital preparation course.
Finally, there must be an actual ceremony, although it may be quite limited. The basic requirements for the ceremony are an ‘officiant,’ witnesses, and an exchange of promises. The ‘officiant’ is the person who conducts the ceremony, such as a member of the clergy or a public official who is authorized to give an oath. The witnesses are there to make sure the promises are actually exchanged. And the promises must be exchanged between the parties.
In Florida, the parties have several obligations. These include an obligation to support each other (a duty), and an obligation for sexual exclusivity. The legal identity of the individuals is maintained and spouses are individually liable for contracts and torts; there is no vicarious liability between spouses. But, spouses can sue each other, as there is no interspousal tort immunity, either. Finally, in Florida, the female spouse can adopt the husband’s name or keep her own name. A court order is required for any other name changes, such as a hyphenated name or if the husband wants to take her name.