Getting a Marriage License in California

You’re engaged! YAY! Your mind must be swirling with all the amazing and fun parts of planning a wedding, but more importantly the idea of spending forever with your dream guy! In this post, I’ll talk you through applying for your marriage license in California.

Unfortunately, no one likes dealing with the things like insurance or legal mumbo-jumbo — and these things come up a lot when you are getting married! (Okay, maybe you’re an insurance agent or lawyer and don’t mind in– in which case, you’re amazing!) With the huge task of planning a wedding already on your mind, one of the last things you want is to spend your time sifting through legal language when you could be spending your time doing more important things. (Like choosing a dress, getting those engagement pictures taken ;), or spending time with your man!) That being said, here is my quick and easy guide to getting a marriage license in California! 🙂

The Basics & What You’ll Need to Know

To get a marriage license in California, you must be single and over 18. When you apply for your license, make sure you and your fiancée know:

  • your legal name & place and date of birth
  • your new name! (if you are changing your last name)
  • parents’ legal names & their state of birth
  • whether you will apply for a standard vs confidential marriage
marriage license in California

Standard vs Confidential Marriage License in California

You get to choose between a standard and confidential license! In general, most couples opt for a standard license, which means your marriage will become part of the public record (but no worries, it’s not searchable online)!

A confidential marriage license is for couples that have already been living together– and does not become part of the public record! Fun fact, this actually originated back in the 1800s. In farm towns, many people started living together prior to being officially marriage due to the lack of official present. To help them avoid criticism, their marriage license was confidential.

marriage license in California

Getting Your License

As things finally start getting more and more real in the wedding planning and the big day is approaching, it’s time to think about getting your license! Regardless of if you are eloping, doing a backyard ceremony, or having a big wedding, you must apply for your marriage license in California within 90 days of when you plan on sealing the deal. 😉

First, go to the Recorder-Clerk’s office nearest you– most do not require appointments, but I would recommend checking. Be sure to bring your ID (passport, driver’s license, or permanent record card). You can fill out your application in person on the public computers, or you can fill it out ahead of time! (The application is specific to your Recorder-Clerk’s office! HERE is a sample. ) The license fee is approx $80.

marriage license in California

The Big Day

Yay! You’ve jumped through all the hoops, and the day is finally here! To make it all legal & official, a clergy, judge, the clerk-recorder’s office, or a one-day deputized commissioner (which is code words for a friend or relative who gets a short term license to perform marriage ceremonies) can marry you.

Within 10 days of your ceremony, you must return your signed licensed to the Clerk-Recorder’s office. To make our life easier, I TOTALLY recommend the power of delegation on your wedding day, so this is an awesome task to hand off to a relative or friend you trust before you head off on your honeymoon! If you don’t hand it off to someone, make sure you take care of that ASAP after your honeymoon.

marriage license in California
marriage license in California

SoCal Engagement Resources

Looking for SoCal Engagement Photos? Are you a bride-to-be? You can learn more about me HERE– let’s chat about making your special day AMAZING!! My name is Karissa, a SoCal & Colorado-based Engagement & Wedding Photographer (but would love to travel to you)! I currently live in SoCal with my sweet husband Tim and our dog, and am absolutely LOVE my job! You can follow me on Instagram HERE.

marriage license in California
  1. […] Engagement Session! I have tons more resources on my blog for brides-to-be, including Getting a Marriage License in California, Styling for Your Session, and Do I Need a Second […]

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