Marriage Licenses

Marriage Licenses

April 12, 2012 10:09 am


It’s the must-have accessory for every bride: A Marriage License!  So let’s review the basics you need to know about getting licensed to wed.

Getting the License

Both bride and groom must go, in person together, to a County Clerk’s office.  In California, you can go to the Clerk’s Office in any county; it does not need to be the county in which you are having the wedding. Neither of you needs to be a California resident to apply for a California marriage license.  No blood test or medical exam is required and there is no waiting period: You apply, pay, and receive the license then and there.

You both must:

  • Be at least 18 years old. If you’re younger, you need consent of parent or guardian.
  • Bring a government- issued valid picture ID (such as a driver’s license) that includes your full legal name and date of birth.
  • If you have been married before, bring Proof of Dissolution. You cannot apply for a marriage license if you are married, even if your divorce is almost final.

What to Do With the License

You receive an unsigned license. Here’s what happens to make it an official wedding certificate:

  • The license is good anywhere in California, regardless of which county issued it. It’s valid for 90 days. If 90 days pass before a wedding ceremony, you must get a new license.
  • Before the wedding, give the license to the person who’ll officiate at the ceremony. The officiant is required to review the license before conducting the ceremony. It’s a good idea to bring it to the rehearsal for go over it with the officiant, and of course bring it to the wedding.
  • After the ceremony, the officiant will complete and sign the license, and have it signed by bride, groom and at least one witness.
  • The officiant will return the license to the County Clerk’s office within 10 days of the ceremony, so it can be officially recorded. Once recorded, you can buy a copy of your wedding certificate (depending on the county, you don’t receive one automatically).

Where to Apply in the East Bay

In both Contra Costa and Alameda you can apply at the County Clerk’s office during weekdays from 8:00am to 4:00pm. Their offices close at 4:30, so they request you arrive by 4:00 to have time to complete the paperwork.