San Francisco County Marriage License Requirements

San Francisco County
Marriage License Requirements

Whether you’re planning a grand wedding celebration or a private intimate ceremony, obtaining a marriage license is a crucial step for tying the knot legally. San Francisco, with its romantic charm and iconic landmarks, offers a range of options for couples seeking to make their union official. In this article, we’ll delve into the details of public and confidential marriage licenses, their requirements, fees, and all the essential information you need to know before saying “I do.”


San Francisco, with its picturesque landscapes and vibrant culture, is a sought-after destination for couples looking to exchange their vows. To legally formalize your marriage in this city, you’ll need to acquire a marriage license from the appropriate authorities. Whether you’re planning a grand celebration or a private ceremony, understanding the process and requirements is crucial.

Understanding Public and Confidential Marriage Licenses

In San Francisco, there are two types of marriage licenses available: public and confidential. A public marriage license is accessible to the general public for viewing, while a confidential marriage license ensures that personal information remains protected from public access. A court order or a notarized application by either spouse is required to obtain a copy of the information on a confidential marriage license.

Necessary Documentation for Marriage License Application

Before applying for a marriage license, both parties (referred to as First Person and Second Person) must provide valid photo identification with birth dates. Acceptable forms of identification include a driver’s license, military ID, passport, or green card. If the original identity documents are in a foreign language, they must be translated into English by a certified translator. Additionally, both parties must be at least 18 years old, and minors are not eligible for a confidential marriage license.

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Application Process and Reservations

To apply for a marriage license in San Francisco, both parties must be present and file the application together. Reservations for marriage license appointments can be made online or in person. The marriage license is typically issued within 30 minutes of the reservation appointment.

Differences Between Public and Confidential Marriage Licenses

While both public and confidential marriage licenses serve the same purpose, there are key differences between the two. A public license is available for public viewing, while a confidential license protects personal information. This means that only those with a court order or specific authorization can access the details of a confidential marriage license.

Mandatory Waiting Period and Residency Requirements

San Francisco does not have a mandatory waiting period for obtaining a marriage license. Once you submit your application, you’ll receive your marriage license immediately. Additionally, you do not need to be a California resident to marry in San Francisco County.

Previous Marriages and Legal Documentation

If either party has previously been married or in a State Registered Domestic Partnership (SRDP), you’ll need to provide specific details about the previous union. If the previous marriage ended within 90 days of your marriage license reservation date, you must present a “certified” copy of divorce, annulment, termination, or death record.

Exploring Marriage License Fees

Obtaining a marriage license comes with a fee. The cost for both public and confidential licenses is $103, subject to change. It’s important to note that payment is preferred in cash, money order, or debit card for in-person applications, while online applications accept Visa/Mastercard.

Prohibited Marriages and Exceptions

While California allows first and second cousins to legally marry, common law marriages are not recognized. Blood tests are not required for a marriage license, and there is no provision for proxy marriages.

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Marriage Officiants in San Francisco

Marriage ceremonies in San Francisco can be officiated by various individuals, including priests, ministers, rabbis, judges, and magistrates. The officiant is responsible for returning the original marriage license to the County Clerk within 10 days of the ceremony.

Witness Requirements and Expiration Date

A public marriage license requires the signature of at least one witness, with an option for an additional witness. The license is valid for 90 days from the date of issuance. If the marriage does not take place within this period, a new license must be purchased.


San Francisco provides a beautiful backdrop for couples to start their journey of marital bliss. By understanding the intricacies of obtaining a marriage license, you can ensure that your special day is legally recognized and celebrated in accordance with the law.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can I apply for a marriage license if I’m under 18? Anyone under 18 must obtain a court order through the Juvenile Court system.
  2. Is marriage by proxy allowed in California? No, marriage by proxy is not allowed in California. Both parties, the officiant, and any witnesses must be physically present for the marriage ceremony.
  3. Are blood tests required for a marriage license? No, blood tests are not required to obtain a marriage license in California.
  4. How much does a marriage license cost? The fee for both public and confidential marriage licenses is $103, subject to change.
  5. What is the expiration date of a marriage license? Marriage licenses are valid for 90 days from the date of issuance. If the marriage does not occur within this period, a new license must be purchased.

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