California Marriage License Requirements: What Do You Need?

Understanding the Basics of a California Marriage License

California, a state known for its diverse culture and scenic beauty, also has specific requirements when it comes to obtaining a marriage license. Engaged couples looking to tie the knot in the Golden State must navigate through a set of legal prerequisites to ensure their union is recognized by law. Here's a comprehensive guide on what you need to know about California marriage license requirements.

Eligibility Criteria

Before you can walk down the aisle, it's important to understand who is eligible to get married in California. Both parties must be at least 18 years old or have attained parental consent if they are under 18. No blood tests are required, and there is no residency requirement, meaning non-residents can marry in California just as residents can.

Necessary Documentation

To apply for a marriage license, both parties must present valid identification such as a driver's license, passport, or birth certificate. Additionally, if either party was previously married, documentation proving that the past marriage was legally terminated—such as a divorce decree or death certificate—must be provided.

The Application Process

Couples must appear together at a County Clerk's office to fill out and sign the marriage license application. Some counties in California offer online applications; however, the couple will still need to visit the Clerk's office in person to finalize the process. The license fee varies by county but generally ranges from $35 to $105.

Waiting Period and Expiration

Unlike some states, California does not impose a waiting period between issuing the marriage license and when the ceremony can be legally performed. Once issued, the marriage license is valid for 90 days. If not used within this timeframe, it expires and the couple will have to reapply.

Who Can Officiate?

California law stipulates that ordained ministers, judges, and certain other public officials can officiate a wedding. Friends or family members wishing to perform the ceremony can become deputized specifically for the event through a County Clerk's 'Deputy Commissioner for a Day' program.

Historical Context

The process of obtaining a marriage license has evolved over time. In early American history, marriages were often recorded in church registries. As governments began keeping their own records for statistical purposes, they started requiring licenses as official documentation of marriage. Today's requirements in California reflect both an adherence to legal formality and an accommodation of modern societal norms.


Navigating the bureaucratic process of obtaining a marriage license might not be romantic, but it's an essential step towards marital bliss in California. By understanding and preparing for these requirements ahead of time, couples can focus on celebrating their love without any legal hiccups.