Steps to Get Legally Married in California by a Wedding Officiant
Updated: Jan 12
1. Couple schedules a ceremony date with the Wedding Officiant.
Most couples have a date and place of when and where they want to get married. However, if you need something simple ask a Wedding Officiant for ideas as they frequently perform ceremonies in non-traditional locations that may be fun or private.
Tip: If you have a date and venue, hire your Officiant one year in advance to have time to meet, plan, review the script and rehearse the ceremony ahead of time.
2. Couple purchases marriage license at the County Clerk's office.
The couple can obtain the marriage license in any county office. Also, you're not restricted to where you can get married, the ceremony can be performed anywhere in the state of California (that's if you want it to be a California recognized marriage by applying the laws of this state to your marriage which if you live here then that's probably the case). Just remember that California is a community property state and what's yours is his/hers and vise versa unless you sign a premarital nuptial agreement. The day the license is obtained the clerk will ask some simple questions (take your birth certificates to write down your information as it appears on your legal documents), they will also ask what type of license you want (Public or Confidential) and if you'd like to change your last name.
Tip: Before you leave the Clerk's Office make sure all your information is written correctly on your license and your last name appears exactly as you want it. Mistakes are harder to correct once you leave the office.
3. Wedding Day
The ceremony is performed by the Officiant and the marriage license is signed. If the couple obtained a Public License, 1-2 witnesses need to sign the license. If you obtain the Confidential License you don't need witnesses to sign. The difference between the licenses is that the Public is an open record and certain people have access to obtain a copy. The Confidential License is a private record which is sealed and only accessible by the couple.
Tip: Give your License to someone you trust like the coordinator or maid of honor who will make sure the Officiant gets the documents she needs to begin filling out the paperwork.
4. The marriage license is registered with the local registrar.
The Officiant will register the marriage license. They have 10 days to do so. It will get registered in the county where the license was obtained. It can be done in person or via mail. If there are no mistakes on the license, the Clerk will record it as is. If there are the Officiant and/or Couple is notified right away to make the correction.
Tip: Remind your Witnesses to write clearly and stay within the box. However, your Officiant is very vigilant about ensuring the license is signed adequately.
5. Couple obtains their Marriage Certificate
A certified copy of the marriage certificate is not automatically issued to the couple, you must request one via online, by mail or in person two weeks after the ceremony has taken place.
Tip: If any spouse has made changes to their name, once you obtain your Marriage Certificate let the Social Security Office know first to get a new card issued, then contact the DMV for a new ID/DL. From there you can continue notifying other agencies like your bank, work, insurance policies, etc.