Obtaining a Marriage License in California

To marry in California, a couple must first obtain a marriage license from the County Clerk’s office. We have compiled this information from various county clerk websites to give you the basic guidelines and requirements for getting a marriage license in California.

California State Law requires:

  • Applicants must be at least 18 years old.
  • Both applicants must be present when applying for a marriage license.
  • Valid (government issued) picture IDs (such as driver’s license, passport, military identification) that include full legal name and date of birth must be presented to verify age and identity.
  • Both applicants will need to know their parents’ full names, including mothers’ maiden names and the state or country where their parents were born.
  • If either applicant has been previously married, they will need to know the date the marriage ended. In some counties, the clerk will need to know whether it ended in death, dissolution, divorce or nullity.
  • Applicants who are currently in a State Registered Domestic Partnership (SRDP) may be issued a marriage license if the parties to the SRDP and the parties to the marriage are the same, and the parties are not already legally married to one another in another jurisdiction. Applicants currently in a SRDP marrying someone other than the registered domestic partner must first terminate their SRDP.

Miscellaneous Information

  • No blood tests are required.
  • There is no waiting period; the license may be used upon issuance.
  • The license is valid for 90 days from the date of issuance.
  • Marriage ceremonies may be performed anywhere in the State of California.
  • First cousins may marry in California.
  • Common-law marriage and marriage by proxy are not allowed in California.
  • The Name Equality Act of 2007 allows one or both applicants for a California marriage license to elect to change the middle and/or last names by which each party wishes to be known after solemnization of the marriage.

Types of Licenses

There are two types of marriage licenses commonly issued in California: public and confidential. A public marriage license is filed with the California Department of Public Health Vital Records and a copy is filed in the County Recorder’s Office. A confidential marriage license is filed only in the County Clerk’s office and it is not public information.

Specific Requirements for Each License Type:

Public Marriage License

  • Both parties to the marriage must be at least 18 years old, or, if under the age of 18, must have written consent from at least one parent (or legal guardian) and present a certified copy of the court order granting permission to marry. Emancipated minors are not exempt from this process.
  • Your wedding ceremony must take place in California.
  • You must have at least one witness present at your ceremony. You may not have more than two witnesses sign the official marriage license. There is no age requirement in California for witnesses; however, they must be old enough to know that they are witnessing a marriage ceremony and be able to sign their name on the official marriage license.
  • After the marriage ceremony, the license is registered in County Recorder’s Office and becomes a public record. Anyone may purchase copies of the marriage license.

Confidential Marriage License

  • Both parties to the marriage must be at least 18 years old.
  • The parties to the marriage must be living together as a married couple at the time they apply for the marriage license and must sign an affidavit attesting to this fact.
  • You must be married in the county where the license was issued.
  • No witnesses are required at the wedding ceremony, and no witnesses sign on the marriage license.
  • After the marriage ceremony, the license is registered in the County Clerk’s Office. Only the married couple may purchase copies of the marriage license and must present valid photo identification in order to do so. Persons other than the married couple requesting copies of a confidential marriage license may only do so by presenting a court order.

Who can perform a marriage ceremony?

In California, marriage ceremonies may be performed by any of the following persons:

  • Priests, rabbis, or ministers of any religious denomination
  • Commissioners of Civil Marriages
  • A Judge (current or retired)
  • Legislators or Constitutional Officers of this state, or a member of Congress who represents a district within this state, while the official holds office

Note: Ships’ captains do not have authority to perform marriages unless they fall into one of the categories listed above.

Northern California County Clerk’s websites

All information was correct when this article was written, but links are subject to change. Find something that needs updating? Please let us know!