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Getting Married in California

For those living in The Golden State of California, or even for those who are contemplating visiting and vacationing out in the state, marriage laws and regulations and having some knowledge of them will come into play when matrimony is being contemplated. For this reason, it's always a good idea to learn a bit about how things are done out in our most populous state in the nation.

In California, being as large as it is, it's always a good idea that things be planned out at least a month in advance, before showing up to grab a marriage license and arranging for everything else that needs to be done when it comes to getting married in California. Also, understand that each county in the state may have slightly different rules and regulations then the neighboring county or state would require.

California is very heavily populated, so unless one makes an appointment before showing up at the clerk's office, one might expect to wait in line for two hours or longer in order to apply for a license. This is especially the case in the larger counties like Los Angeles, San Diego or San Francisco. The good news is that one doesn't have to be a resident of the state in order to get married there.

Know What Forms and Documents You Need to Get Married in the Golden State


While it is not a mandatory requirement when getting married in California, it might be a good idea to bring along a certified copy of a birth certificate, though the law only requires a valid driver's license be presented when applying for California marriage licenses. Information to be provided on the application will include such things as the city and states where the parents were born and the names of the parents, including the mother's maiden name.

California is one of the few states that allow people who have lived together as a married couple without benefit of license to apply for what it calls a "confidential license." This means, in effect, that the license will not be part of the public record. This can be quite attractive for those who have lived together for quite a while but do not want others to know that they were never married.

If either of the persons involved in the new marriage license application have been married in the past, that person will need to supply proof of a divorce, the death of the other spouse or an annulment of the previous marriage. Some counties will require a certified copy of the divorce decree if the divorce had been granted from 90 days to 12 months before the new marriage application.

As far as waiting periods go, California does not mandate such a requirement nor does it require a public health exam such as a blood test in order to be able to get married in California. It does allow for under-18 marriage as long as at least one of the under-18 persons involved in the ceremony brings along a parent or legal guardian and a certified copy of the birth certificate of the person who is under 18 years of age.

Additionally, California requires that the couple undergo counseling with a marriage counselor prior to the marriage and then appear before a superior court judge to affirm their desire to be wed. In the recent past, California also allowed same-sex marriage, though that was overturned via a vote of the people late last year. Gay couples can nevertheless still apply for a domestic partnership certificate.

A number of people are allowed to perform marriages in California, including members of the clergy, judges, current or retired marriage commissioners and even family and friends when properly licensed under California's "Deputy for a Day" program. The marriage license is valid for 90 days from the date of issuance. What can be better, after all, than being married by a good friend or family member?