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California Weddings - Marriage Laws

California Weddings - Marriage Laws

Congratulations on your engagement! Here's what you need to know to make the marriage legal in California.

In order to get married, you need to apply and receive a marriage license. This is the document in your state that allows you to officially tie the knot under the law. The rules for acquiring your marriage license varies from state to state, so you should check with your city's marriage bureau at your clerk of court's office to find out what your local rules are.

You'll typically need to apply for your marriage license at least one month before your wedding ceremony. You'll traditionally need to send in your birth certificates, tax information, and other official documents. You don't, however, want to apply for your marriage license too early. In some states, the licenses do expire, if you don't get married within a few months.

When you apply for your license, you'll not only need a proof of identification and age, will need to provide any information about previous marriages, and will need to pay a nominal fee. You will also need to have a witness when you sign the application, so plan on bringing your maid of honor or best man with you. The bride will need to know what her married name will be before she signs the marriage certificate. You'll have to write that name on the application.

And, believe it or not, just because you have your marriage license sent to you in the mail does not mean you are officially married. You need to have a justice of the peace or a religious clergyman sign the document. On your wedding day, you'll give your chaplain your marriage license, then after the ceremony, he'll sign it and send it to the proper government agency for validation.

Appointment Suggested: It is recommended that you call the 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 locales.

ID Requirement:
Picture id such as Drivers License or other valid identification. Some counties recommend bringing certified copies of your birth certificates. Know your parents names, mothers' maiden name and places of their birth.

Application Requirement: Both the bride and groom must appear in person at the time of applying.

Residency Requirement: Do not have to be a resident of Califorina.
Waiting Period: No waiting period.

Previous Marriages: 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.)

Fees: $80.00. Some counties will only accept cash.
Other Tests: No tests.

Under 18: 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 superior court judge.

Proxy Marriages: No.

Cousin Marriages: Yes.

Common Law Marriages: No.

Officiants: Any priest, minister, or rabbi of any religious denomination, of the age of 18 years or over may perform marriages. Ministers must complete the marriage license and return it to the county clerk within 4 days after the marriage.

Valid: License is valid for 90 days.
The license can only be used within the State of California.

Confidential License: A regular marriage license is a public record. A license and Certificate of Confidential Marriage is only accessible by the husband, wife, or by decree signed by a superior court judge. At least one witness is required to observe the solemnization for a regular, public ceremony. No witnesses are required to observe a confidential marriage ceremony. A regular license may be used throughout the state. However, the confidential license may only be used in the county of issue. The confidential license costs $80.00 same as the regular license.

Solemnization Authority: Marriage may be solemnized by any of the following who is of the age of 18 years or older:

  1. A Priest, minister, or rabbi of any religious denomination.
  2. A judge or retired judge, commissioner of civil marriages or retired commissioner of civil marriages, commissioner or retired commissioner, or assistant commissioner of a court of record in this state.
  3. A judge or magistrate who has resigned from office.
  4. Any of the following judges or magistrates of the United States:

    A. A justice or retired justice of the United States Supreme Court.

    B. A judge or retired judge of a court of appeals, a district court, or a court created by an act of Congress the Judges of which are entitled to hold office during good behavior.

    C. A judge or retired judge of a bankruptcy court or a tax court.

    D. A United States magistrate or retired magistrate.

    E. A legislator or constitutional officer of this state or a member of Congress who represents a district within this state, while that person holds office.

Each county offers civil ceremonies performed by a judge or commissioner. The cost is approximately $40.00. For additional information call your County Clerk's office.

California County Clerk's Office

Alameda County RecorderOakland, CA 510.272.6363
Alpine County RecorderMarkleeville, CA530.694.2281
Amador County RecorderJackson, CA 209.223.6469
Butte County RecorderOroville, CA530.538.7691
Calaveras County RecorderSan Andreas, CA209.754.6375
Colusa County RecorderColusa, CA530.458.0500
Contra Costa RecorderMartinez, CA 925.646.2360
County Of Orange RecorderSanta Ana, CA714.834.2500
Del Norte County RecorderCrescent City, CA707.464.7216
El Dorado County RecorderPlacerville, CA530.621.5490
Fresno County RecorderFresno, CA 559.488.2609
Glenn County ClerkWillows, CA 530.934.6407
Humboldt County RecorderEureka, CA707.445.7593
Imperial County RecorderEl Centro, CA760.339.4427
Inyo County RecordsIndependence, CA760.878.0410
Kern County ClerkBakersfield, CA805.868.3588
Kings County ClerkHanford, CA559.582.3211
Lake County ClerkLakeport, CA 707.263.2293
Lassen County RecorderSusanville, CA530.251.8217
Los Angeles County ClerkNorwalk, CA562.462.2137
Madera County ClerkMadera, CA209.675.7724
Marin County RecorderSan Rafael, CA 415.499.6092
Mariposa County RecorderMariposa, CA209.966.2007
Mendocino County ClerkUkiah, CA 707.463.4370
Merced County RecorderMerced, CA209.385.7501
Modoc County ClerkAlturas, CA530.233.2512
Mono County RecorderBridgeport, CA 760.932.5241
Monterey CountySalinas, CA831.647.7906
Napa County ClerkNapa, CA 707.253.4246
Nevada County ClerkNevada City, CA 530.265.1221
Placer County ClerkAuborn, CA 530.889.7948
Plumas County RecorderQuincy, CA 530.283.6305
Riverside County ClerkRiverside, CA 909.486.7000
Sacramento County ClerkSacramento, CA916.874.5522
San Benito County ClerkHollister, CA831.636.4029
San Bernardino RecorderSan Bernardino, CA909.387.8314
San Diego CountySan Diego, CA619.237.0502
San Francisco CountySan Francisco, CA 415.554.4176
Orleans Town ClerkAlbion, NY 716.589.5100
San Joaquin ClerkStockton, CA 209.468.2362
San Luis Obispo CountySan Luis Obispo, CA805.781.5088
San Mateo County ClerkRedwood City, CA 650.363.4711
Santa Barbara County ClerkSanta Barbara, CA 805.568.2250
Santa Clara County RecorderSan Jose, CA408.299.2481
Santa Cruz County RecorderSanta Cruz, CA831.454.2800
Shasta County ClerkRedding, CA 530.225.5378
Sierra County RecorderDownieville, CA530.289.3295
Siskiyou County ClerkUreka, CA916.842.8084
Solano County RecorderFairfield, CA 707.421.6319
Sonoma County ClerkSanta Rosa, CA 707.527.3800
Stanislaus County ClerkModesto, CA 209.525.5265
Sutter County RecorderYuba City, CA 530.822.7120
Tehama County RecorderRed Bluff, CA916.527.3350
Trinity County RecorderWeaverville, CA916.623.1222
Tulare County ClerkVisalia, CA559.733.6518
Tuolumne County ClerkSonora, CA209.533.5570
Ventura County RecorderVentura, CA 805.654.2263
Yolo County ClerkWoodland, CA 530.666.8130
Yuba County ClerkMarysville, CA 530.741.6341

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