Make it Official: How to Get a Marriage License

Your big day is finally here and you’re mentally going through your wedding checklist. Did you remember the most important thing? No, it’s not the flowers, not the cake, not the dress, and not the ring; it’s actually a simple piece of paper. Second only to your partner, obtaining a marriage certificate is one of the most imperative ingredients for tying the knot.

You can make it down the aisle, say your vows, and even cut the cake, but you’re not officially married (as recognized by the state) unless you have an official marriage license. Time after time, I see this major detail get left until the last minute, when it should be one of the very first things that comes to mind when you start your wedding planning. Here are some important things you should know regarding how to get a marriage license.

  • Both parties must appear in person and bring valid picture identification to the County Clerk’s Office to get a marriage license in California. Requirements for getting a marriage license vary by each state, so make sure to check with your local area before applying for your license.  Some counties may also require a birth certificate.
  • Marriage licenses are valid 90 days from the date of issuance. If you do not get married within those 90 days, the license will no longer be valid.
  • The person solemnizing the marriage must return the original marriage license to the County Clerk or County Recorder as applicable within 10 days of the date of the ceremony.
  • Copies of your marriage license are not issued unless they are requested and paid for. Applications to request a certified copy can be found here.
  • In order to get a marriage license, all information must be legible, unambiguous and reproducible. Information on the license cannot be changed or crossed out, and white out cannot be used.
  • All fees and hours of obtaining a marriage license may vary by county. Contact your local County Clerk/Recorder’s Office directly to find out this information. Information regarding contacting the County Clerk/Recorder to get a marriage license may be obtained here.



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