Can You Get Married Without a Marriage License in San Francisco?

You and your partner are getting married in San Francisco, California. With so much to do at this exciting time, it’s essential to have the greatest amount of information at your disposal, including how to get married legally based on where you live.

In this guide, we’ll answer, “Can you get married without a marriage license in San Francisco?” and discuss how someone goes about marrying their significant other in the Bay Area. We’ll also discuss marriage licenses and how they impact whether or not you’re truly married to your spouse.

Plan your big day using tips and tricks from City Hall Wedding. We’ll help you prepare for the perfect city hall wedding in San Francisco.

A bride and groom signing a wedding document.

How To Get Married in San Francisco, California

If you want to legally marry your partner, then you need a marriage license. Here’s what you need to know:

The Legal Requirements for Marriage

To legally get married in San Francisco, a couple must meet all marriage license requirements since this is the primary document that signifies your legal union. You can acquire a marriage license from any California county, but it is only valid for 90 days after issuing.

You’ll need a valid photo ID, such as your driver’s license or passport. If you bring an expired form of ID, you’ll need another, up-to-date form on hand or will need to come back at a later date when you have the appropriate information.

Obtaining a Marriage License

The answer to “Can you get married without a marriage license?” is no if you want to be legally married, so you must take the right steps when obtaining this document.

If you schedule an appointment to get your marriage license on the same day as your wedding, make sure the appointment is at least an hour before the ceremony.

If you’re nervous about cutting it too close, schedule an appointment online as soon as possible. You and your partner both must attend the appointment at city hall to sign the document and show a copy of your photo ID, so one person can’t show up without the other.

Marrying at City Hall in San Francisco

If you schedule a civil marriage ceremony at San Francisco’s City Hall, you must check in at least 10 minutes before, though getting there a bit early certainly doesn’t hurt. Your assigned number will tell you when you and your partner will marry, as the judge often marries three couples at a time within a 30-minute window. Consider beforehand if you are okay with this type of proceeding or make alternative arrangements.

You can expect a short ceremony and may bring up to six people. Verify that one or two of these people are willing to act as your witness who can sign your marriage certificate. Bring your marriage license to the ceremony and ensure your witness is willing to participate.

Prepare for the Marriage License Process in Advance

Anyone wondering, “Can you get married without a marriage license in San Francisco?” will always be met with a firm “no.” This holds true even if you take all the steps you need to, but the marriage license isn’t ready by the time your ceremony starts. All logistics must be in place at least 45 minutes or an hour before your ceremony to avoid issues with the marriage ceremony legalities.

Act quickly and follow all the necessary requirements before marrying your partner. While this aspect of your wedding needs sufficient planning and checklists, you have far more flexibility in other aspects, including:

  • Your outfits
  • Photography
  • Post-ceremony reception

Obtaining the Witness Signature

Your witness will come with you for the ceremony, joining you, your spouse, and the Deputy Marriage Commissioner, who will serve as your officiant. It’s best to have someone who is at least 18 years old and understands what they are agreeing upon. Confirm your witness’s participation ahead of time.

The Ceremony and Kiss

You and your partner can dress in whatever way suits you, from formal to casual clothes, depending on your preferences. The same holds true for your witness and those in your party. Once the Deputy Marriage Commissioner declares you legally married, you’re free to kiss and enjoy your new life together.

After Your Wedding Ceremony

Marriage License Issuance

Once you, your partner, the officiant, and the witness sign the marriage certificate, you’ll need to hold onto this document and keep it safe. You and your spouse have the next 10 days to return this to the City and County of San Francisco to legally certify your marriage. If you fail to do so, you may have to complete the process again and schedule another appointment, so don’t waste any time and make this a priority.

Average Costs for Marriage Licenses

The costs for a public or confidential marriage license are the same, running at $120. Should you need a second copy (or duplicate), this will cost an additional $28. Any amendments to the license require you to pay $34, and you’ll need to submit these changes to the state registrar.

While you can pay for a souvenir marriage certificate for $9, this isn’t the legal version you’ll need for proof of marriage. Searching for marriage records and obtaining copies will also cost money, ranging from $12 to $17. Finally, civil ceremonies and access to a commissioner cost between $150 and $300, so remember to budget accordingly for these expenses.

Marriage Without License Consequences

Without a marriage license, you and your partner aren’t legally married, meaning benefits for spouses don’t apply. Anywhere between three months before your wedding and the day of is acceptable to acquire your marriage license, but having it at least the day prior is a good recommendation.

City Hall Wedding is here to assist with your wedding needs and can help you plan a stunning city hall wedding. Now that we’ve covered “Can you get married without a marriage license?” check out what you should know about wedding insurance. Contact us via our convenient online form for assistance in planning your wedding.

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