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How to Get Married in California

Gabrielle Applebury
couple kissing at wedding reception

The ins and outs of getting married in California can feel confusing. Staying organized and creating a checklist can help you and your partner move through this process with ease.

Requirements for Getting Married in California

There are a few steps to take to ensure that you are eligible to get your marriage license. To get married in California, be sure to follow these steps:

  1. First, appear in the county clerk's office with your partner and both have valid forms of identification (driver's license, military identification, or passport).
  2. You'll fill out paperwork together and be issued a confidential or public marriage license if all requirements are met.
  3. If you've been previously married, you may need to add the date and reason for the dissolution on your paperwork and some counties will need the court documentation stating that you are no longer married.
  4. Once your license has been issued, it goes into effect immediately with no waiting period, and from that point you will have 90 days to get married.
  5. If you aren't married within 90 days, you will need to obtain another license.
  6. You will have a choice between a civil marriage ceremony or doing something on your own with an authorized officiant.
  7. The original copy of the marriage license must be returned to the county clerk's office within 10 days of the marital ceremony.
  8. To receive a copy of your marriage license, you will need to contact the county clerk's office and request one.

Residency Requirements

You do not need to be a California resident to get married there. You and your partner will both need to be present during the licensing and ceremony in order to be legally married in California.

How to Get a License

To get a license, you and your partner will need to bring valid forms of identification to the county clerk's office located in California. If one or both of you has been previously married, you may need to bring proof of the marital dissolution issued by the court, although some counties will only require a date and reason. Once your license has been issued, you will need to have an official ceremony within 90 days and the officiant will need to return the original copy of the marriage license to the county clerk's office within the same county of issuance within 10 days. You may then opt to pay a fee and receive an official copy of your marriage license.

Waiting Periods Associated With Getting a License

Although it differs in other states, there is no waiting period associated with getting a marriage license in California. This means that your license is valid as soon as the paperwork is completed and within 90 days you and your partner will need to have a civil marriage ceremony or one officiated by an authorized person in order to officially be considered married in the state of California.

Fees Associated with Getting a License

Fees may differ depending on the county. In general:

  • A public marriage license costs around $90
  • Confidential license costs around $85
  • A civil marriage ceremony costs around $35
  • Around $20 for a civil marriage ceremony witness

Specific California Marriage Regulations

In California, there are specific rules and regulations put in place regarding marriage that are helpful to be aware of.

Age Requirements

In California, there is no regulation regarding the minimum age requirement for marriage as long as both parties are adults. If a couple wants to get married and one or both partners are under the age of 18, the minor or minors will need to get parental consent prior to marrying.

Blood Test Requirements

Although some states require a blood test prior to marriage, California is not one of them. Pre-marital blood tests were originally put in place to help check for rubella and venereal disease and rule out other genetic issues that couples may want to know prior to marriage.

Questions About Types of Marriages

Some couples may be curious about their specific situation and wonder what the guidelines are in California. Although restrictions can vary from state to state:

  • In California, marriage by proxy is not allowed. In other words, both partners must be in the same location during the marriage ceremony for it to be legal in California.
  • In California, same-sex couples follow the same guidelines and steps as heterosexual couples do.
  • In California, first cousins can marry without restrictions. In some states genetic counseling or child bearing guidelines are present.
  • California does not recognize common law marriages while other states do. This means that whether you live together for a few months to years, unless you go through the marital process specific to California's guidelines, you are not considered legally married.
  • For overseas military men and women, an appropriate attorney-in-fact can stand in place for one partner in the states while obtaining the license and during the marriage ceremony.
Couple Exchanging Rings at Wedding

How to Change Your Name in California

Some individuals are interested in changing their names post marriage. To do so:

  • Write your intended new last name on your marriage certificate in the appropriate spot.
  • Once your marriage certificate is filed post ceremony you can begin the name change process.
  • Fill out the social security application for name change so you can receive a replacement card with your new name.
  • Make an appointment at the DMV and appear in person to change your license to match your new last name. You can fill out the name change form beforehand or while you wait to be seen. Be sure to bring your old identification card and proof of residence. Expect to pay a fee of around $30.
  • To receive a new passport, fill out the appropriate paperwork, include a photo that suits their guidelines, and submit via mail.
  • Notify credit card companies, banks, and anyone else who may need to know this new information.

Moving Through the Process Seamlessly

Although it can feel overwhelming at first to go through the steps it takes to become legally married, staying organized can make this process move seamlessly. If you have any questions, you can contact the county clerk's office for additional assistance.

How to Get Married in California