California has a few unique marriage laws and regulations that require you to make a few 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.
Call for Appointment
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 2-hour wait without an appointment in some California locales.
ID and California 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.
You do not have to be a resident of California to apply for a marriage license there.
Information you need to know before you start filling out the marriage license application:
- Where each of your parents were born (city and state).
- The names of your parents including your mother’s maiden name.
Confidential License in California
If you have lived together as a married couple, you can apply for a confidential license. This means there is 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.
You must show proof of divorce, death or annulment. You need to bring a copy of your final divorce decree if you have divorced within the 90 days through past year (varies by county).
California Waiting Period
There is no waiting period in California.
It will cost you $45.00+ to get married in California. Some California counties charge $84+. The cost of receiving a marriage license varies from county to county and some California counties will only accept cash so call to verify what the county charges for a marriage license and don't leave home without cash to pay for the license!
California doesn't require blood tests.
If either the bride or groom is under 18, at least one of the minor’s parents, or legal guardian, must appear with the couple. Certified copies of birth certificates are required. The couple must also schedule an appointment with a counselor and then appear before a California superior court judge.
Yes, 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.
Common Law Marriages:
"By a 5-4 vote, the justices held in Hollingsworth v. Perry that the traditional marriage activists who put Proposition 8 on California ballots in 2008 did not have the constitutional authority, or standing, to defend the law in federal courts after the state refused to appeal its loss at trial."
- 6/26/2013: The Supreme Court ruling on Prop 8 allows gay couples to marry in California.
- Although the court decided on February 7, 2012, that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, the decision is stayed pending further proceedings.
- On August 4, 2010, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker overturned California's Proposition 8. An appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was filed by supporters of the gay marriage ban. That trial will begin on December 6, 2010. Gay weddings are still not allowed in California.
- As of June 16, 2008, due to the May 2008 ruling of the California Supreme Court, same-sex marriage was legal in California. That was changed with the passage of Proposition 8 in November 2008.
- Gay couples can still apply for a Domestic Partnership Certificate.
California will now "provide the same legal protections that would otherwise be available to couples that enter into civil unions or domestic partnerships out-of-state. In short, this measure honors the will of the People in enacting Proposition 8 while providing important protections to those unions legally entered into in other states."
Officiants in California:
Clergy, Justices, Judges, Magistrates, Marriage Commissioners (current or retired).
Frequently Asked Questions by Marriage Officiants
A few California counties allow a member of your family or a friend to officiate at your civil marriage ceremony.
A California marriage license is valid for ninety (90) days. What this means is you two have 90 days to get married and have your marriage license officially recorded. 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:
You have to contact the County Recorder's Office in the county in which the marriage occurred to get a certified copy of a marriage license.
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.
Mike Sacks, Ryan J. Reilly. "Supreme Court Rules on Prop 8, Lets Gay Marriage Resume in California." HuffingtonPost.com. 6/26/2013.
Dan Smith. "Schwarzenegger signs gay rights bills." Sacbee.com. 10/12/2009.