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Frequently Asked Questions by Marriage Officiants

If I am deputized to perform marriages for a day, do I have to perform the marriage in the county I was deputized in?

No. The authority of a Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriages to solemnize marriages extends throughout the state. However, the deputy-for-a-day program varies and may not be available in all counties.

Does a deputized Commissioner of Civil Marriages have to be a California resident?

No. Family Code, Section 401, contains no requirement that a deputized Commissioner of Civil Marriages be a California resident. Out-of-state or out-of-country priests, ministers, or clergy persons may perform marriages in California if they are ordained or invested by a denomination.

Where do I register to perform marriages in California?

The laws of the State of California make it unnecessary for persons performing marriages to file credentials with the clerk of the court or with anyone else. The county and state are removed from any responsibility for verification of credentials. The state does not maintain a central registry of members of the clergy. Any such concern for verification is totally at the discretion of the parties to the marriage.

What authorization do I need to perform a marriage in California?

In California, it is the ordination or investment by the denomination that gives each clergy member the authority to perform the marriage rite. Family Code, Sections 400-402, are the statutes pertaining to whom can solemnize a marriage in California.

What statutes do I need to know to perform a marriage in California?

The marriage officiant who performs the marriage ceremony must know the California laws regarding the performance of a marriage and the requirements for officiants. Family Code, Sections 420-425, are the statutes pertaining to the performance of a marriage in California. Please visit California Legislative Information for the full Family Code sections.

Can Captains of the Salvation Army perform marriages in California?

Yes. Captains of the Salvation Army are permitted to perform marriages in California.

Can the captain of a ship solemnize a California marriage?

It depends. Ships’ captains have no authority to solemnize California marriages unless they fall into one of the categories listed under Family Code, Section 400-401.

Can a Medicine Man perform marriages?

Yes. Native American religions are recognized as “denominations.” A religious leader or a Shaman is authorized to perform marriages. If the title of the religious leader is Medicine Man, then he is eligible to perform marriages.

How soon after the wedding ceremony do I need to return the marriage license?

Ten (10) days. Family Code, Section 359(e), states: “The certificate of registry shall be returned by the person solemnizing the marriage to the county recorder of the county in which the license was issued within 10 days after the ceremony.”

When is a duplicate marriage license issued?

According to Family Code, Section 360: “(a) If a certificate of registry of marriage is lost or destroyed after the marriage ceremony but before it is returned to the county recorder, the person solemnizing the marriage, in order to comply with Section 359, shall obtain a duplicate certificate of registry by filing an affidavit setting forth the facts with the county clerk of the county in which the license was issued. (b) The duplicate certificate of registry may not be issued later than one year after issuance of the original license and shall be returned by the person solemnizing the marriage to the county recorder within 10 days after issuance.” Contact the County Clerk in the county where the license was issued to find out the cost and process for issuing duplicate marriage licenses.

Do I have to review the marriage license prior to solemnizing the marriage?

Yes. The marriage license must be reviewed by the marriage officiant prior to solemnizing the marriage. Any person who solemnizes a marriage without first reviewing the license is guilty of a misdemeanor (Penal Code, Section 360).

What statutes pertain to confidential marriages?

Please visit California Legislative Information for the pertinent Family Code, Sections 500-511.

A couple comes into the Recorder’s Office and presents their marriage certificate issued in a foreign country. They want the Recorder’s Office to record their foreign marriage certificate in California. Can their marriage be recorded in California?

No. A foreign marriage certificate cannot be recorded in California. If the couple needs to establish a record of the marriage in California, they can file a petition in Superior Court to establish a Court Order Delayed Certificate of Marriage.

Will I automatically receive an official copy of my marriage license?

No. You must request and pay an additional fee to receive an official (certified) copy of your marriage license. Download a copy of the Application for Certified Copy of Marriage (PDF).Opens a new browser window.

Can I have more than two witnesses sign on my public marriage license?

No. The public marriage license requires the signature of one witness and, if desired, has a place for an additional witness. No more than TWO witnesses may sign on the public marriage license. Only one signature per line is allowed. No witnesses may sign on the confidential marriage license.

Can an ordained minister from another state perform a marriage ceremony in California?

Yes. If they are authorized under Family Code, Section 400, out-of-state ministers may perform marriages.

Can an ordained minister perform a marriage ceremony for multiple couples at the same time?

Yes. There is nothing that prohibits multiple couples from being married at the same time.

Can a couple qualify for new health coverage if recently married?

Yes. One or both members of a newly married couple can qualify for health coverage through Covered California's special enrollment.  You have 60 days from the date of marriage to enroll into health plans.  See Special Enrollment for more details (

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