Getting Your Marriage License In California: A How-To Guide

If you’re reading this, more than likely you recently got engaged. If so, congratulations! Now comes all the fun and occasionally stressful wedding planning. Once you’ve chosen your perfect wedding venue, your band or DJ, your catering, your dress, your flowers, and everything else, eventually you’ll start thinking about your marriage license.

If you’ve never looked into a marriage license before, you might be wondering where you even begin. This is a typical reaction, but it isn’t as difficult as it may seem. Here’s a helpful breakdown on how to get your marriage license in California.

The Difference Between A Public vs. Confidential Marriage License

From time to time, we’re asked by couples, “What’s the difference between a public and confidential marriage license?”

Well…it’s exactly what the name implies. A public license is available for the public to see and get a copy of, while a confidential license is blocked from the public.

If you want your license to be confidential, here’s what needs to happen:

  • You must be 18 years or older.
  • You must be living with your spouse prior to applying for the license (you will sign an affidavit for this).
  • You must be getting married in the same county in which you apply for the license.

The other major difference between the two types of licenses is that witnesses don’t sign a confidential marriage license.

What You Need To Get Your Marriage License

Every state is different, but for the purposes of this article, we’re focusing on what you need for your marriage license in California (since that’s where we are located and understand the requirements the best).

In California, if you have not been married before, all you need to apply for a license is a valid ID.

Types of Valid ID:

  • Driver’s license
  • State ID card
  • Military ID
  • Passport
  • Green card

How Do I Get My Marriage License If I Was Previously Married?

There’s no need to panic if you’ve been married before. There are just a few extra steps required.

If you’ve previously been married, you will need to provide the exact date that your marriage ended, as well as the reasons why it ended.

Depending on what county you’re applying in, you may need to bring documentation about your previous marriage.

Where To Apply For Your Marriage License

marriage license in california

Every county should have a few county clerk’s offices that you can apply at.

If you’re applying for a marriage license in Los Angeles County, there are currently seven locations that you can choose from.

How Long Your Marriage License Will Last

It sounds confusing, doesn’t it? Why would a marriage license expire?

What that really means is that from the date that your license is valid, you must get married within a specific time frame. Every state is different on how long you have.

In California, your marriage license lasts 90 days. So within 90 days, you must get married by a legal officiant and have the license signed by your witnesses (unless you have a confidential license, as mentioned above).

If you don’t get married within those 90 days, you will need to re-apply for your license and start that process over again.

How Long It Will Take To Get Your License

Depending on what state you’re applying in, you may have to endure a waiting period.

There are no waiting periods in California. You will get the license on the same day that you apply for it. From that moment on, it will be valid for 90 days.

The Fees For A Marriage License

Since we’re in L.A County, we’ll discuss the costs here.

If you are looking to apply for a public license, it will cost $91.

If you are applying for a confidential license, it will cost $85.

It’s good to note that prices vary around the state depending on what county you’re in.

What To Do With Your License

On the day of your wedding, you’ll need to have the license with you at your wedding ceremony. Hand it over to someone you trust (your maid of honor or best man) to give to the officiant.

After the ceremony, your two witnesses will sign the marriage license, and eventually you will need to take it to the county clerk’s office that you received it from.

The county clerk will process the marriage license, and after approximately a week you will be able to purchase a copy of it for yourselves.

Conclusion

What seemed like a possibly difficult process suddenly seems pretty easy, right? It’s important that you don’t rush to get the license too early, since it could expire. However, you don’t want to get it too late, either. We recommend applying for it approximately one and a half months before the wedding date.

Once you’ve purchased your own personal copy after the wedding, make sure you keep the marriage license in a safe spot where it won’t get lost.

Good luck!