Adapted from information provided by the State of California Department of Public Health, this article covers the most common situations involving the state’s marriage laws, and some of the complexities as well. And if you are interested in becoming ordained as a wedding officiant to perform marriage ceremonies in California — a very uncomplicated process — please click here.
This article will provide you with general information regarding the requirements for the issuance and registration of both public and confidential marriage licenses in California, as well as answer many frequently asked questions regarding the laws pertaining to marriage licenses and ceremonies in California.
If you are getting married in California, for further information please contact the County Clerk/Recorder’s Office in the county where you will be applying for the marriage license. Information regarding contacting the County Clerk/Recorder may be obtained from the California Department of Public Health website.
The registration of public and confidential marriages in California is a local and state function. The California Family Code provides for a continuous and permanent marriage registration system. The system depends upon the conscientious efforts of local officials, clergy and other officiants in preparing the original records and in certifying the information on these records.
“Laws are mutually accepted rules by which, together, we maintain a free society. Liberty itself is built on a foundation of law. That foundation provides an orderly process for changing laws. It also depends on our obeying laws once they have been freely adopted.”
— From the Freedoms Foundation’s “Bill of Responsibilities”
The County Clerk issues public and confidential marriage licenses. The County Clerk is the local registrar of confidential marriages (Family Code, Section 511). The County Clerk maintains a permanent index of all confidential marriages registered.
The marriage officiant, e.g., clergyperson or authorized individual who performs the marriage ceremony, is required by law to complete the marriage license and return it to the County Recorder’s office within 10 days of the event for registration. For confidential marriages, the marriage license is returned to the County Clerk’s office for registration. The State of California does not certify persons who intend to perform marriage ceremonies, and does not maintain a registry of persons permitted to perform ceremonies in the state. Bridal couples should ask their minister or officiant to present his or her active ordination credentials prior to the marriage ceremony.
For information on becoming ordained to perform marriage ceremonies in California, please click here.