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Get a Marriage License and Get Married in California

How to Get a Marriage License, Where to Apply, Civil Ceremonies



Just Married

Chris JD at Flickr Under Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic License

Follow these guidelines if you want to get married during your visit to California:

  • Go to any County Clerk's office to get a marriage license. You can apply online in some counties, but you will still have to go to the office to pick up your license.
  • You do not need to be a California or United States resident.
  • 18 is the minimum age to marry with no restrictions. People younger than 18 need written consent of at least one parent (or legal guardian) and permission from a California superior court judge.
  • Blood tests are not required for the marriage license.
  • Both partners must appear together when filing application and issuing the license. Bring a photo I. D. such as a passport or driver's license - and check ahead of time to be sure they aren't expired.
  • Since 2009, both parties can choose and list on the marriage license the name they will use after marriage. Discuss this before you go to avoid delays (or worse, fights).
  • If you are divorced, you will need to know the exact date your divorce was finalized. If it was within the last 90 days, bring your divorce decree with you.
  • If you previously registered as Domestic Partners and are marrying the same person, bring your Declaration of Domestic Partnership.
  • A marriage license is immediately valid and remains valid for 90 days anywhere in the state.
  • The license fee varies by county and can be paid in cash, pre-printed check with a California address or a money order written out to the County Clerk. Some locations accept debit cards with an extra fee, but check in advance before you count on this option.
  • You can be married by a judge, county clerk, priest, minister or rabbi of any religious denomination who is 18 years old or over. Active and retired judges can also perform the ceremony. You also need one witness.
  • Larger cities perform marriage ceremonies by appointment at City Hall. There is an extra fee for the ceremony ($35 to $70).

Tips for Getting Married in California

Government offices often close at lunch time and are least busy in the middle of the week. Some locations take appointments. Most are not open on weekends.

  • In Los Angeles County: As of July, 2010, the fee is $90. County Clerk Information. You can apply online, but still have to pick up your license in person. Locations for Civil Ceremonies
  • San Diego County: As of July, 2010, the fee is $50. Appointments are required, even to just get a license. You'll find the phone number at the County Clerk website. Print the form you need and fill it out ahead of time. Locations for Civil Ceremonies
  • San Francisco County: As of July, 2010, the fee is $95. Print forms in advance at the County Clerk website. You can also make an appointment through their website up to 90 days ahead of time. Civil Ceremonies are performed at City Hall, weekdays only.
  • Lake Tahoe: Things get complicated at Lake Tahoe. Part of the lake is in California and part in Nevada and the laws are different. Some chapels in California issue marriage licenses on premises, but in Nevada, you have to go to the court house. More about getting married at Lake Tahoe.

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