Marriage License

If you’re getting married anywhere in the United States, the first step is to get your marriage license. The rules for doing so vary from state to state, with different minimum age, cost, number of witnesses, and blood test requirements.  For 'Destination Elopements | Weddings' taking place in another country, the rules, guidelines & requirements are specific to each country. 

California, however, is the only* state that offers both a regular Public Marriage License and a Confidential Marriage License. Detailed information regarding public & confidential marriages in California can be found below.  For more information regarding the requirements in the bay area county where you will be applying for the marriage license, please select the following links:

If you’re getting married anywhere in the United States, the first step is to get your marriage license. The rules for doing so vary from state to state, with different minimum age, cost, number of witnesses, and blood test requirements.  For 'Destination Elopements | Weddings' taking place in another country, the rules, guidelines & requirements are specific to each country. 

California, however, is the only* state that offers both a regular Public Marriage License and a Confidential Marriage License. Detailed information regarding public & confidential marriages in California can be found below.  For more information regarding the requirements in the bay area county where you will be applying for the marriage license, please select the following links:

Bay Area Counties
General Information
  • You do not need to be a California resident to marry in California. 

  • To marry in California, the two parties to the marriage may not be already married.  

  • Marriage by proxy is NOT allowed in California.  Family Code, Section 420(a) requires the two parties, marriage officiant, and witness if applicable, be physically present together in the same location for the marriage to be performed. 

  • Blood tests are NOT required to obtain a marriage license in California. 

  • Both parties must appear in person and bring valid picture identification to the County Clerk’s Office to apply for a marriage license in California.  Valid picture identification is one that contains a photograph, date of birth, and an issue and expiration date, such as a state-issued identification card, driver’s license, passport, military identification, etc.  Some counties may also require a copy of your birth certificate. 

  • If you have been married or in a State Registered Domestic Partnership (SRDP), you will need to know the specific date your last marriage or SRDP ended, and how it ended (Death, Dissolution, Divorce or Nullity).  Some counties may require a copy of the final judgment if your previous marriage or SRDP ended by dissolution or nullity.  An SRDP need not be dissolved prior to the issuance of a marriage license if the parties to the SRDP and the parties to the marriage are the same. 

  • Marriage licenses are valid for 90 days from the date of issuance.  If you do not get married within 90 days, the license will no longer be valid.  You must purchase a new license. 

  • All fees and hours of issuance for a marriage license may vary by county.  Please contact the County Clerk/Recorder’s Office directly to find out this information.  Information regarding contacting the County Clerk/Recorder may be obtained by clicking the following link: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/certlic/birthdeathmar/Pages/CountyRecorderOffice.aspx.  

  • You will NOT receive a copy of your marriage license after you have been married unless you request and pay for a certified copy from the County Clerk or County Recorder as applicable.  You may access an application to request a certified copy of a marriage certificate at the following link: http://www.cdph.ca.gov/certlic/birthdeathmar/Pages/CertifiedCopiesofMarriageandDivorceRecords.aspx.

  • ALL information on the marriage license MUST be legible, clear and reproducible.  DO NOT change any information on the license, cross out information, use white out, etc., as that will require the payment for and issuance of a duplicate marriage license.  Contact the County Clerk’s Office if you have questions about completing the marriage license and/or incorrect information contained on the marriage license.

Public Marriage License
  • You must be at least 18 years old. Persons under 18 with written consent from at least one parent (or legal guardian) AND permission from a California Superior Court Judge may marry. Emancipated minors are NOT exempt from this process.

  • The marriage license may be obtained from any county in California. You are not required to get married in the county where you purchase the public marriage license; however, you must be married in California. You must file the license in the county where it was purchased.

  • You must have at least one witness present at your ceremony. The license contains a place for two witnesses if you prefer. You may NOT have more than two witnesses sign the official marriage license. Licenses received with more than two witnesses' signatures will be returned to the officiant and a duplicate marriage license will need to be purchased.

  • 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.

  • The marriage license is registered at the County Recorder's Office in the county where the license was purchased, and is a public record. Anyone may request copies of the marriage license by submitting the required fee to the County Recorder.

Confidential Marriage License
  • The participating parties must be at least 18 years old to apply for a confidential marriage license. Minors may NOT purchase a confidential marriage license.

  • The participating parties must be living together as spouses at the time they apply for the marriage license, and must sign an affidavit on the license attesting to those facts.

  • Effective 1/01/15 - The couple may be married in any county in California.

  • No witnesses are required to be at the ceremony, AND no witnesses sign on the marriage license.

  • The marriage license is a confidential record and is registered at the County Clerk's Office in the county where it was purchased. Only the couple may purchase copies of the marriage license and must present valid picture identification together with the required fee to the County Clerk 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 to the County Clerk in the county where the license is registered.

  • Copies of confidential marriages are not available from the state office.

Destination Weddings

For detailed information regarding the requirements for a destination elopement | wedding in another country, please select the following link:  Marrying Abroad.

Getting Your Overseas Marriage Recognized In the U.S.

To understand the laws|requirements for determining whether or not your destination elopement will be recognized in the state in which you reside in the United States, read the Officiant Guy's article entitled "The Downside of Destination Weddings Overseas".  Additional information can also be obtained by contacting the California Office of Attorney General.

NOTE:  SOME OF THE INFORMATION CONTAINED ON THIS PAGE WAS GATHERED FROM THE CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES WEBSITE 

© 2011 by Jus Gorjus | All Rights Reserved

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Serving the San Francisco Bay Area & Beyond