You're engaged and have decided to get married somewhere in Monterey County. Now what?
The most frequent question we get is about how to begin the process, and what paperwork needs to be filed. Before you can get married, you need to get a marriage license. The good news is that this can be obtained from any county clerks office within the State of California. Some things to note:
- Both parties (future spouses) need to go into the county clerk together (you can't go separately)
- Typically, you don't need to make an appointment but it's always a good idea to check with the county clerks office.
- The whole process only takes about 30 minutes.
- You both need to bring in a form of identification. If you have been divorced within the last 90 days (prior to filling out the form to get your license), you need to bring your decree of divorce.
- There are two different types of licenses -- a public marriage license and a confidential marriage license. The cost is fairly similar but the main differences are: (1) a public license requires a witness signature, a confidential does not (2) a public license is public record while a confidential one is not (3) if you running short on time, a confidential license can be issued by certain notaries (we can let you know) and (4) to be able to get a confidential license, you must attest to the fact you are already living together.
- They will type up your form and provide you with a whole packet of information including information on how to change your name (if applicable).
- You need to bring that wedding license to the ceremony (a wedding ceremony cannot begin without the officiant having the wedding license in his or her possession).
- You can only get your license 90 days or less prior to the wedding (e.g. they expire in 90 days so if you get it a year in advance, it will not be valid).
- The officiant is required to mail in the license back to the county clerks office. Some counties will allow you to bring it back in yourself (we allow this as well - you just need to fill out a short, one page form releasing us of our responsibility).
- The officiant has 10 business days to mail in the wedding license (from the date of the wedding). Regardless of when the license is officially received, your wedding date is the day you actually had the ceremony.
- You do not have to live in the county where you are getting married (e.g. if you live in San Francisco, you can get your license from San Francisco and use it for a wedding in Carmel).
- You CAN get married in California - even if you are from out of the state or out of the country.
- In the packet you received from the county, there will either be a single sheet that you fill out to receive a certified copy of your wedding license or instructions on how to do it online. It is best to wait about 7 business days after your wedding to request this (gives them time to properly record the marriage). They do not send this to you without your prompt!