How to Get Married in California

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California has a few unique marriage laws and regulations that require you to make some decisions prior to getting your license. One decision is whether or not to apply for a confidential marriage license. Another is if you want a friend or relative to participate in the Deputy for a Day program.

Appointments

It is recommended that you call the California County or City Clerk's office to see if they suggest setting an appointment. You could find yourselves in a long line with as much as a two-hour wait without an appointment in some California locales.

ID and Residency Requirements

California requires a picture id such as Drivers License or other valid identification. Some counties recommend bringing certified copies of your birth certificates as well.

You do not have to be a resident of California to apply for a marriage license in the state.

The information you need to know before you start filling out the marriage license application:

  • Where each of your parents was born (city and state).
  • The names of your parents, including your mother’s maiden name.

Confidential License

If you have lived together as a married couple, you can apply for a confidential license. This means that there will be no public record of your marriage.

A confidential marriage ceremony must be performed in the county where you applied for your marriage license. If you received your marriage license in California, a public marriage ceremony may be performed anywhere in the State of California.

Previous Marriages

You must show proof of divorce, death, or annulment and know the exact date that a previous marriage ended. Though it varies by county, you may need to bring with you the final divorce decree, particularly if it occured recently.

California Waiting Period

There is no waiting period in California.

Fees

The cost of receiving a marriage license varies from county to county. Generally, it will cost you $45.00 or more to get married in California and some counties charge $84 or more.

Be advised that some California counties will only accept cash. Call to verify what your county charges for a marriage license and don't leave home without cash to pay for the license!

Other Tests

California does not require blood tests.

Under 18

If either the bride or groom is under 18, at least one of the minor’s parents or a legal guardian must appear with the couple and have photo identification with them. Alternatively, a notarized letter from a parent or legal guardian may be used. The notary must be shown proof of guardianship. If a parent's name is different from how it appears on the child's birth certificate, another form of identification is required.

Certified copies of birth certificates are required. The couple must also schedule an appointment with a counselor. Applications must be signed in the presence of the Clerk of Court at the juvenile court in that jurisdiction.

Proxy Marriages

Proxy marriages are allowed in California but on a very limited basis. Only members of the armed forces who are stationed far away in wars or conflicts can apply for a proxy marriage. The California proxy marriage law allows military personnel to give their power of attorney for someone to stand in for them during their wedding ceremony.

Cousin Marriages

Yes, a marriage between cousins is allowed in California.

Common Law Marriages

No, common law marriages are not recognized in California.

Same-Sex Marriages

California was one of the first states in the U.S. to allow same-sex marriages. The history began with state-wide Domestic Partnership Certificates in 1999 and continued with the passages of Proposition 8 in November of 2008. Further, in June of 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell vs. Hodges that same-sex couples could not be denied the right to marry anywhere within the country.

Officiants in California

People who can perform wedding ceremonies in California include members of the clergy as well as current or retired justices, judges, magistrates, marriage commissioners. Current members of Congress are also eligible. Some County Clerks may be able to perform a civil ceremony in their office.

Through the Deputy for a Day program, a few California counties allow a member of your family or a friend to officiate at a civil marriage ceremony.

Miscellaneous

A California marriage license is valid for 90 days. You have to get married and have your marriage license officially recorded within that time. If you wait past that time frame, you can't get married without applying for and paying for another marriage license.

Copy of Certificate of Marriage

In California, you must request a copy of your marriage license because it is not automatically sent to you. Whether you are newly married or need a copy later in life, contact the County Clerk or County Recorder's Office in the county in which the marriage occurred to get a certified copy of a marriage license.

Please Note

State and county marriage license requirements often change. The above information is for guidance only and should not be regarded as legal advice.

It is important that you verify all information with your local marriage license office or county clerk before making any wedding or travel plans. The California Department of Health Vital Records has up to date information on California's marriage requirements as well.