How to get a CA Marriage License

green ring box with diamond wedding ring on redwood tree log

The most important piece of any elopement is your California marriage license! Don’t get caught eloping without it. Here is everything you need to know about getting your marriage license.

There are only a few things you need to get married: someone to marry, a marriage license, an officiant, and a witness. Topping that list is someone to marry and a marriage license! It can be difficult to navigate the requirements of different states when it comes to getting yours ahead of your big day. To help alleviate some of that stress, I’ve got everything you need to know about getting your California marriage license right here! 

Who can get a California marriage license?

Two unmarried adults over the age of 18 can apply for a marriage license in California. Both parties need to be present at the time of application. Sounds like a great opportunity for a pre-wedding lunch date to me.

San Francisco is also a great destination for international couples to elope as there is no requirement that you are a U.S. citizen to obtain a marriage license! 

Bride and groom hugging and kisses in a redwood forrest

When should I get my marriage license?

Your California marriage license is valid for 90 after you receive it. Fun fact: once you have it, you can get married on any day within that 90 day period! This is especially great for elopements, when you want some built in flexibility on your elopement day or weekend. You have the freedom to make last minute changes on your schedule.
 At this time, in San Francisco, all marriage license applications must be submitted by appointment. Make sure to give yourself lots of time, and get your appointment scheduled HERE. There is no way to get around this. Make sure your appointment is scheduled before you make travel plans if you aren’t from the area.

What do I need to bring to get it?

Don’t show up to your appointment empty handed. First thing, bring money! Your marriage license will cost $113. That price is subject to change, however, so double check HERE before your appointment. Second, you will need identification. A valid, unexpired photo I.D. is generally great, with an exception. When you have an I.D. without your full legal name, you will need to bring a secondary form of identification such as a certified copy of your birth certificate or social security card. 

If you’ve been married or legally partnered before, you will need to know the exact date that the previous relationship legally ended. If that marriage or relationship ended in the 90 days prior to your marriage license appointment, you’ll need to bring a certified copy of the divorce, annulment, termination, or death record.

Finally, don’t forget to bring your completed application! Find a PDF HERE. 

You will also make any desired name changes at this appointment. Both parties get to make changes to their middle and last names when submitting their application. Have you decided if you’re changing names? Make sure you know before your appointment!

Who can officiate my wedding?

I can! No, I’m serious, I can marry you. If you are looking to minimize the number of people at your elopement, I can be the one to make your vows official, as an ordained officiant through the Universal Life Church (Click HERE for more info). They’re a non-denominational organization whose purpose is to make sure your wedding is officiated by the person you want it to be. They are a recognized authority in California!

Besides little ol’ me, there are a lot of people that can make your vows official. These include any authorized priest, rabbi, or minister, a judge, and more. For more information about who can officiate a wedding in California, CHECK OUT THIS LEGISLATION (Click HERE). 

Have someone special in mind to marry you? Send them to the Universal Life Church (Click HERE) so they can become ordained. 

Can I elope at City Hall?

Heck yes you can! And you can still have me photograph it! Civil marriage ceremonies at San Francisco City Hall are beautiful, and allow up to 6 guests, including your photographer (Click HERE to see my work). Marriage ceremony appointments are held on weekdays from 9am to 3:30pm. You can also elect to hold a private ceremony at City Hall, if you want more guests, or would like to choose your officiant. Find more information about making those reservations HERE

Can you believe that’s really all you need? Just a few simple steps and you are ready to elope in San Francisco with your shiny new California Marriage License. I’m so excited for you to say “I do”! 

Have questions about what it looks like to have me photograph your elopement? Maybe even officiate? Let’s CHAT, and plan your perfect San Francisco elopement. 

Ashlynn Shelby

February 17, 2022

Hi! I'm Ashlynn. When you choose me as your photographer, I promise to extend everything I have into your experience and your photos. You deserve the best experience possible and that's what I plan on providing.
My blog is where I share love stories I've been a part of, and resources for couples planning their engagement , wedding or elopement. I hope you can find some helpful information here to help you plan your big day. 


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  1. Some counties allow notaries to issue a confidential license. There are four that I know of Placer, which I am licensed for, El Dorado, and a few southern CA counties. I can issue a license without any waiting or witnesses. Perfect for eloping!

  2. Ashlynn Shelby says:

    This is great information to know! Thank you for sharing, Christa.