Get legally wed in California is easy with our breakdown of essential information



Now that the Supreme Court has dismissed the Prop. 8 case and instructed California’s courts to throw it out, legally recognized same-sex marriages in California have resumed. If you are planning to wed in the state of California, you’ll need to apply for a marriage license at one of the 58 county clerk offices to ensure the marriage is made legal. Once you’ve applied, there is no waiting period and you and your intended can tie the knot immediately. Otherwise, you have up to 90 days to marry before the license will expire. Here’s how to apply for a marriage license in California.

When does gay marriage go into effect in California?
Same-sex couples are currently able to have legally recognized marriage ceremonies. 

Do I have to live in California to get married there?
No, anyone can apply for a marriage license in California. There is no residency requirement. 

Where can I apply for a marriage license?
In California, marriage licenses are issued by each county and must be applied for by the couple in person. Any of the County Clerks offices in one of California’s 58 counties can be visited by the couple to obtain a marriage license. Most county websites allow you to download and complete the application form prior to visiting the clerk’s office. Each county may have its own unique requirements.

Is a blood test required?

Is there a waiting period to get the marriage license?


How soon after applying for a license can I get legally married?

Are there witnesses required in order to get legally married?
Yes, you’ll need one witness. A maximum of two are allowed to sign the marriage certificate. 

How much is the marriage license application fee?
The fee is $35-$100, depending on the county. Bring cash since some counties don’t accept credit cards.

How long is the marriage license valid for?
The license is valid for 90 days.

Can I apply online for a marriage license?

Do we both have to be there to apply for our marriage license?

Yes. Both parties must appear in person and bring valid picture identification to the County Clerk’s Office to apply for a marriage license in California. Valid picture identification is one that contains a photograph, date of birth, and an issue and expiration date, such as a state issued identification card, drivers license, passport, military identification, etc. Some counties may also require a copy of your birth certificate.

What paperwork is required when I apply for my marriage license?
Picture ID such as a driver’s license or passport. You should know your Social Security numbers and the state and county in which both of you were born. 

Who can officiate the marriage ceremony?
Official of a religious order or a deputy clerk or a judge. You can even have a minister from another state officiate your wedding.

If I don’t live in California, will my marriage be recognized by my home state?
The marriage will be respected in California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington State and Washington, D.C. In Nevada, the marriage will be seen as a domestic partnership.

Is my California gay marriage recognized by the U.S. federal government?
Yes, it is!

If I get legally married in California, will I still need special legal paperwork to protect my family?
Yes, if you plan to travel with your partner beyond California state, it will be necessary for you to hire an attorney to draw up paperwork to protect your family in case something happens in a state where your marriage is not recognized. Read our expert advice on how to legally protect your relationship and children.

Is a divorce decree required?
Yes, if previously married, you will need to show proof of how the marriage ended, i.e. a divorce judgment or a death certificate. These must be certified copies.

How do I change my name?
You’ll be asked your new last name on the marriage application. Once you receive your official copy of your marriage license, you can use that document to change your name on social security card, driver’s license etc., if you live in the state of Maryland. If you live out of state, and in a state where your marriage is not legally recognized, it’s much harder and will, in most cases, require a judge’s order. Read our editor-in-chief’s account of what it was like taking her partner’s last name in Georgia. 

When will I get my marriage certificate?

You will not receive a copy of your marriage license after you have been married unless you request and pay for a certified copy from the County Clerk or County Recorder as applicable.

Photo: Naomi and Shavonda, Sara Maren Photographers