The Fine Points of Obtaining a Marriage License

What you need to know about your license to wed.

At some point during your wedding planning, you will probably wonder how to get a marriage license. If you’re getting married in California, you probably didn’t know that there are two types of marriage licenses. The one that most people are familiar with is called the “License and Certificate of Marriage” which allows you to get married in any County in the State of California. The other type of license is called “License and Certificate of Confidential Marriage” and the state requires that you get this type of license in the County in which you are getting married. The State of California no longer requires a blood test for either type of license.

The other differences between the two licenses are important to note. The “License and Certificate of Marriage” is recorded publicly, which basically means that anyone can get the personal information from your license. The “License and Certificate of Confidential Marriage” is recorded in such a way as to not make your personal information public. The ‘Confidential License’, as it is referred to, is the one that I recommend you get because one of the bits of information that is asked for is your mother’s maiden name. This is important since a lot of people have bank accounts or other personal information tied to their mother’s maiden name – information that is best not made public.

Each County in the State of California has a list of places that you can visit to obtain a marriage license. In Los Angeles County you can call (562) 462-2189 to get a list of places and hours of operation. Both you and your fiancé need to be present at the County Recorder/Clerk’s office with valid and current identification. If either of you were divorced in the last two years you will need to have your divorce papers with you as well. The cost of a marriage license in California if obtained from a County Recorder/Clerk’s office is $70.00. Besides going to the County Recorder/Clerk’s office to obtain a Marriage License, you can ask your officiant/clergy if they offer that service.

The cost for each certified copy of your Marriage License is $13.00, and I would recommend that you obtain at least three certified copies of your Marriage License. This way, if you lose one of your licenses you have a back up. It is the responsibility of the person performing your wedding ceremony to mail in your license usually within four days. Include with your license a check for $39.00 made out to the County in which the license was obtained, so that you will get your certified copies in a shorter period of time. In Los Angeles County it usually takes 4-6 weeks. If you need it sooner I suggest the license and your return envelope be sent Express Mail so that you receive your license in 2 to 3 weeks. If you need further clarification call your County Recorder’s Office.

For those brides who want to take on the name of their new husband, they will need to wait until they get their certified copies to start the process. The name change is not automatic and you will have to inform everyone who has record of your current name and advise them of your name change. If you choose to do nothing, your name will stay the same.

Opening photograph by Flickr user teofilo

Authored by: Robert Ringler