Downloadable Format: California Marriage License Information
The registration of public and confidential marriages in California is a
local and state function. The California Family Code provides for a continuous
and permanent marriage registration system. The system depends upon the
conscientious efforts of local officials, clergymen, and other officiants in
preparing the original records and in certifying the information on these
“Laws are mutually accepted rules by which, together, we maintain a free
society. Liberty itself is built on a foundation of law. That foundation
provides an orderly process for changing laws. It also depends on our obeying
laws once they have been freely adopted.”
The County Clerk issues public and confidential marriage
licenses. The County Clerk is the local registrar of confidential marriages
(Family Code, Section 511). The County Clerk maintains a permanent index of all
confidential marriages registered.
The marriage officiant, e.g., clergyperson or
authorized individual, who performs the marriage ceremony is required by law to
complete the marriage license and return it to the County Recorder’s Office
within 10 days of the event for registration. For confidential marriages, the
marriage license is returned to the County Clerk’s Office for registration.
The County Recorder is the local registrar of public
marriages (which includes declared and non-clergy marriages) under the direction
of the State Registrar (Health and Safety Code, Sections 102285 and 102295).
The local official is required to see that a complete and acceptable
certificate is filed for each marriage and that each entry on the certificate is
clear and unambiguous. Once reviewed for proper completion, the local official
collects the certificates of marriage filed and transmits them to the state
office not less than quarterly (Health and Safety Code, Section 102355).
An important function of the local registrar of marriages is to produce an
index of marriages registered in his/her jurisdiction (Government Code, Section
 1985 by Freedoms Foundations at Valley Forge