With hundreds of miles of coastline, several wine regions, and breathtaking mountain ranges, it’s not hard to see why you’d want to marry in the Golden State.

Lucky for you, getting married in California is relatively straightforward, no matter where you’re coming from.

Here are best practices and requirements to keep in mind before your big day.

First Things First: Get a Prenup

Two hands holding a giant ring representing a marriage license in California

If you live in California, getting a prenup must be item number one on your list.

Prenuptial agreements are contracts that override the default California laws on important topics like property division and spousal support. A prenup lets you and your partner (instead of California courts) determine how your marriage runs and what happens if things don’t work out.

However, a prenup is more than just a legal document — it’s a relationship tool.

Working through critical conversations with your partner about your views and values on money gives you an incredible opportunity to deepen your relationship before you tie the knot.

You get to be on the same page and set yourself up for long-term success heading into the wedding by speaking openly and honestly about your past, present, and future financial and life goals.

Make sure to understand the ins and outs of California prenups so you feel solid as a couple, even before you plan to get your marriage license.

Getting a Marriage License in California

Scene at San Francisco, including the Golden Gate Bridge

The first step to getting married in California is acquiring your marriage license. The marriage license is what you and your partner, your witness, and your officiant will sign on the day of the ceremony.

In order to obtain your marriage license in California, you and your fiancé will need to make an appointment with the County Clerk’s office. Some counties allow you to apply online, but you’ll still need to pick up the license in-person.

Here are the requirements to keep in mind for your appointment:

  1. You must be at least 18 years old.
  2. Both parties must appear together to obtain the license.
  3. You must provide valid photo identification. This can be a state driver’s license, US or foreign-issued passport, naturalization certificate, resident alien card, or military ID. Certain counties require a birth certificate in addition to these items.
  4. A marriage license fee costs between $35-$105 depending on the county in which you file.
  5. If you have been married before, you must provide the date and reason that the marriage ended.

Public Marriage License vs. Confidential Marriage License

A secret garden venue for a confidential marriage

Additionally, there are two types of marriage licenses in California, a public marriage license and a confidential marriage license.

The main difference is that a public marriage license requires at least one witness, whereas a confidential marriage license does not require any witnesses. You must also be living together as spouses at the time of the application in order to be eligible for a confidential marriage license.

Do I Need to Be a California Resident to Marry in California?

No, you can marry in California as long as you’ve legally obtained a marriage license from a County Clerk’s office in California. You cannot use a marriage license from a different state.

Do I Need a Wedding Officiant?

Buddhist celebration in California

Yes, a wedding officiant is required to sign and submit your license at the wedding ceremony. The good news is that your wedding officiant can be anyone over the age of 18.

Nothing in California law requires that the person performing the wedding have a certain religious denomination, be a certain gender, or live in a particular area. Your minister isn’t even required to register online, though it’s generally recommended that this person get ordained in the rare case that any disputes or questions arise.

If you’re looking for a more official option, California Family Code Section 400 suggests any of the following authorized persons: priest, minister, rabbi, US judge or magistrate, or any legislator or constitutional officer representing a California district.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Marriage License in California?

There is no waiting period in California. Once you’ve submitted your application and it’s been approved, you will receive your marriage license immediately.

How Long is a Marriage License Valid For?

In California, your marriage license is valid for 90 days from the date it was issued.

What Is Needed to Complete My Marriage License?

In order to complete your marriage license, you will need the license document, an officiant, and at least one witness to sign during the ceremony (with room for up to two witnesses to sign). Your officiant must return the signed license to the County Clerk’s office within 10 days of the ceremony.

Once your license is recorded, this becomes your marriage certificate. To get a copy of your certificate, you’ll have to make a request to the county where you were married and pay a fee.

Final Thoughts on Getting Married in California

A heart shaped lock representing getting married in California

Overall, tying the knot in California is relatively painless. Just be sure to have important talks about money and get a prenup before anything else so that you and your partner are 100% ready to commit to becoming legally married.

Follow the state requirements, pick up your marriage license ahead of your ceremony, and last but not least — have the time of your life.

If you need assistance on California prenups, book a call with me to make sure your agreement is airtight and you and your partner are headed on the right path to marital success.

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