Many couples ask me, “Do You Get a Marriage License Before Or After The Wedding?” For some people, that’s common knowledge, but it’s not something you do every day. But I do. Let me explain.
In today’s world of a revolving door of marriage and divorce, it’s sort of taken for granted that you can ease into and out of a marriage easily. But nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve been a wedding officiant for over 25 years. Once in a rare while, a very big misunderstanding occurs. It usually is the result of either the wedding couple being too busy, too distracted or not interested in the information I send out to them or tell them.
The California Marriage License Laws
But I’ll repeat the fundamentals here: You must have an authorized and clerk -ssued or notarized marriage license, in hand, BEFORE you get married in California (and I assume, every other state in the US). In some states, it is my understanding that, there is a waiting period after the marriage license is issued. But for a California marriage license to wed, there is no waiting period. It can be issued, literally, a minute before your wedding ceremony.
Once in a while, a couple assumes that a marriage license is something that they can just get after the wedding ceremony. That is not true.
I have been asked, and pressured, by couples may times to pre-date their marriage license so that it appears to have been issued before their wedding ceremony which already took place. I will not do that because it is illegal, and it is not within my power as an agent of the County.
The County is very strict about the truth, and they should be. That’s what you expect from your government, and they take their role very seriously. As a representative of the County, I also take my role to issue a license to wed very seriously. Every step in the marriage process, from the issuance of the marriage license to completion of the marriage ceremony, must be done in order and precisely. There are no exceptions.
But there’s always someone who thinks outside the box and who throws me for a loop. For example, a couple called me months ago to ask about getting a marriage license. I told them I could do that for them, and I followed up by emailing them all the pertinent information that I need in order to issue their California confidential marriage license. Lo and behold, months later, I got a worried call from their wedding coordinator when they didn’t get their marriage certificate in the mail. They assumed, that mere act of calling me was somehow the equivalent of getting a marriage license. I can assure you, that it is not. Unfortunately for them, I had to issue a license to wed after the fact and officiate their wedding ceremony again.
A marriage license in California requires quite a bit of information to verify that both spouses are who they say they say they are. It includes information such as both spouses’ residence, their current names and their birth names, their state or country of birth and their marital history. It also includes each of their parents’ birth names, places of birth, etc. All of this information is required so the County and/or the State of California can follow through and make sure that the information is precise and correct. And they do verify it.
When issuing a marriage license I must keep a photocopy of each spouse’s current I.D., make sure that their name on their marriage license matches their I.D., and notarize several signatures by both spouses to be married. This requires that we meet IN PERSON, as I need witness and notarize their signatures and take their thumbprints. I also need to see their government-issued I.D.’s in person.
After their wedding ceremony their officiant must sign and complete the marriage certificate at the bottom of their marriage license and verify their information. THEN the signed and filled out marriage license must be filed with the county within 10 days. It is the responsibility of the officiant to make sure that the marriage license is filed. I file the marriage licenses of the couples I officiate in person because I don’t want them to get lost in the mail.
Get Your Marriage License Before Your Wedding Ceremony…and it can be minutes before.
So, if you are getting married in California, remember FIRST you must obtain a marriage license. If I am your wedding officiant, I can easily issue you a marriage license just minutes before your wedding ceremony.
As I have informed thousands of couples, you must have that marriage license FIRST before the ceremony. You cannot acquire your marriage license over the phone and it cannot be issued AFTER your wedding ceremony. Click here to submit your marriage license information so that I can issue you a legal California confidential marriage license.