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How to get a marriage license in California

Now that you’ve decided to tie the knot at a California banquet hall, first you will need a marriage license. At MGM Banquet Hall, we want to make the process as painless as possible, so here is a brief run-down of the rules and requirements.

Let’s get the other nots out of the way first. You do not need to be a California resident to marry in California, and blood tests are not required to obtain a marriage license in the Golden State. However, marriage by proxy (where one party is absent) – with the exception of a member of the Armed Forces serving in a conflict or a war overseas – is not permissible

The good news is that once you have applied at your local County Clerk’s Office, there is no waiting period. You can get married straight away at our California banquet hall or wait up to 90 days before the license expires. If you really are in a rush, we cater to all tastes and budgets with an option for cheap banquet halls.

The fee for the marriage license itself varies by county but is in the range of $80 to $90. And just so you know: afternoons and Fridays are the busiest times at the local County Clerk’s office.

To complete the application at the county office, you must:

  • Appear together in person (some counties also allow you to begin the application online, but you will still have to turn up to complete the process),
  • Both present a valid form of photo ID (non-expired, government-issued, such as a driver’s license or passport),
  • Provide the full birth name of both sets of parents and the state or country where they were born,
  • Select the name both bride and groom wish to use after marriage.

Following the convention of the bride adopting the groom’s surname is no longer considered the right choice for everyone. Legally in California, there is no obligation to change the name. However, the names used on the marriage license will be binding and can only be changed later by court order, so it’s best to get this tricky question resolved before applying for a marriage license.

Public or confidential marriage license

California is the only state to offer both confidential and public marriage licenses. There are different rules for these two categories. A public license goes on the official state record at the County Clerk’s office for anyone to view. A confidential license can only be viewed by a member of the public by court order. To be eligible for a confidential license, as well as being 18 or over, you must:

  • Tie the knot in the same county in which you receive your marriage license,
  • Sign an affidavit to confirm that you have been living with your spouse-to-be before applying.

If this is not your first marriage

You will need to provide the date your last marriage ended and under what circumstances (here we get to the dreaded ‘Ds’: death divorce or dissolution … or nullity). Some counties may require a copy of the divorce decree or a certified copy of the death certificate. Check your local County Clerk’s Office.

What’s next?

Despite taking your vows, and celebrating your wedding day at one of our banquet halls in California, your marriage is only official once you return the marriage license to the County Clerk, who can then issue a certified copy (for another fee). The whole process is not too onerous. Attending to the paperwork and showing up at the County Clerk’s office to get your license early can give you peace of mind while preparing for your big day.