Unlawfully Wedded for 48 Years: Couple Says 'I Do'

Image credit: Courtesy Clark Family

By Salma Touma

Bob Clark says that sharing everything is the secret to his successful marriage with wife Norma Clark. But after 48 years of marriage, the Redlands, Calif., couple was surprised to discover that their marriage was never legal.

After celebrating their 48th wedding anniversary in August, they had no idea of the surprising discovery they were about to make. It happened in November, while Bob was reading the Wall Street Journal.

"He wanted to make sure we had all the right paperwork in order, in case one of us passed away," said Norma, who began the search for their marriage license.

The Clarks met at San Jose State College and started dating soon after. They later took their vows at a church south of San Francisco back in 1956, and say the ceremony was perfect. But after 48 years, they learned there was no marriage certificate and barely any legal proof that they have been legally married for nearly five decades.

They wrote to the San Mateo county hall of records, which had no record of their license.

Luckily the church where they had married still had a record of the ceremony and some family members as well as friends who attended the wedding were visiting for Thanksgiving.

"Thank god we still had family and friends who were alive and could serve as witnesses," Bob said.

"We showed them book pictures, but they were more interested in the witnesses who were my brother junior usher at the time and the maid of honor," Norma said.

On Nov. 21 the couple finally made their marriage legitimate, and filed their paperwork to obtain their license at the San Bernardino County Hall of Records.

"I wanted to duplicate the bouquet she held 48 years ago but couldn't get the same flowers at this time of the year," Bob said. "So I went for the white roses, a nice bouquet for my now legal wife Norma."

He finally kissed his bride as their son Alex and about 35 other guests clapped for the newlyweds. The couple did not take this whole issue too seriously and found it fun recalling and looking at the old pictures.

"This was funny and we had a good time with it," Bob said.

"The legal documents made no difference for us, because the most important thing is to love each other, communicate and support your partner," Norma said.

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