Marriage in California

Planning a wedding in California can be a rather unique experience, simply because the marriage laws in California are quite unusual in many aspects.  It is wise to make sure that you understand the requirements and regulations before getting too far into your planning—after all, you don’t want anything to spoil your big day!

Getting Your Marriage License

Unless you are the type of person who doesn’t mind waiting, you should probably call the California County or City Clerk’s office to try to get an appointment to come in to get your marriage license.  This is because there are some locations in the state where it isn’t uncommon to have to wait up to 2 hours—or longer—for your turn to come up in line.

Also, make sure you show up with cash—many counties will not accept checks or credit cards.  The fees vary by county, but are usually around $50 (though they can be more).

Here is what each member of the couple will need to bring:

  • Photo identification, such as a driver’s license or state identification card
  • Certified copy of your birth certificate (this is not required in all counties)
  • Information:  names of your parents, including your mother’s maiden name
  • Information:  city and state where each of your parents was born

Additionally, proof of the end of any previous marriages is necessary (divorce decrees, death certificates, etc.). 

Minor Marriages

If either member of the couple is under the age of 18 at least one of the minor’s parents or guardians must appear with the couple to get the marriage certificate.  The marrying couple must also visit a counselor and appear before a California superior court judge.

Unique Marriage Options in California

Confidential license:  If a couple has already lived together as a married couple, they can apply for a confidential license.  This means that there will be no public record of their marriage.  (This is useful for people in the public eye.)

Proxy marriages:  Proxy marriages are also acceptable in California—at least under certain conditions.  A proxy marriage is one in which a person stands in for either the bride or the groom during the wedding ceremony.  People who are in the armed forces can apply for a proxy marriage if they are stationed far away in wars or other conflicts.

Same-sex marriages:  Same-sex marriages are acceptable in California, as of 6/16/08.  Gay couples can marry or they can apply for Domestic Partnership Certificates.

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