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All you need to know about marriage license in California

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

One of the questions I’m often asked is how to obtain the marriage license in California. The process is actually pretty easy!

wedding ring on flowers


Let's start by saying that in California you have two different types of marriage license: confidential and public (or non-confidential). Both, of course, are legal documents and will make your marriage official.

The confidential marriage license allows all personal information on a marriage license to be protected from public. This means that once the marriage is officially recorded, this information will be available to the married couple only. The benefit of this is for anyone who wishes to elope or keep their information private. No witness is required if you are filing for a confidential marriage license.

The public (or non-confidential) marriage license is a public record, which means anyone can request copies, provided they pay the required fees. If you are filing public, you will need to have at least one witness.

Either type of license will be registered with the County Clerk’s Office in the county where it was originally filed and recorded. You can order a certified copy from the County Clerk Recorder’s Office. After the ceremony, the marriage license must be signed by your officiant and returned to the Clerk’s Office for registration. Once registered, you can purchase a copy of your marriage certificate.

wedding place card and wax seal


Even if you don't reside in California, you can get married in the state, as residency is not a requirement to validate the license.

The license is valid for 90 days from the date it is issued, and it can only be used for wedding ceremonies in California. If you have to postpone your wedding and miss the 90 days mark, you will have to apply and pay for a new one and start the process from the beginning.

With regard to the documents and information needed to file for a marriage license, you can expect to be asked for your parent’s names, places of their birth, your mothers’ maiden name, and documents such as divorce certificate of a potential previous marriage, etc.

The following links will give you all the information needed to schedule an appointment and obtain a marriage license in San Diego County.

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