Chapter 6: Confidential Marriage Licenses Only in California

Remember the terminology “living in sin?” Confidential Marriage Licenses date back to 1878 but only the 1970’s in California (the only state that offers Confidential Marriage Licenses).

Most counties in the State of California have appointed Authorized Notaries.   If couples seeking a marriage license knew how convenient it is to obtain a Confidential Marriage License the need for more Authorized Notaries would be greater.  When the County Recorder’s Office is closed you can still obtain a Confidential Marriage License from an Authorized Notary Public.  Criteria for an Authorized Notary includes being authorized by the County Clerk and the ability to perform the marriage.  He or she must be authorized under Family Code sections 400 to 402 (e.g. priest, minister, or rabbi).  Example:  I am a Notary Public and I can perform a wedding ceremony because I am an ordained Non-Denominational Minister.  I cannot issue a Confidential Marriage License.   So before you go on or looking for any Notary Public to issue a marriage license remember only an Authorized Notary Public can issue a Confidential Marriage License.

Benefits of a Confidential Marriage License versus a Non-Confidential Marriage License:

1. Cost

The cost of a Confidential Marriage License varies by county.  In San Diego County the fee is $89.  The fee for a Non-Confidential Marriage License is $70.   When your marriage license is issued an application for a marriage certificate will be included inside your packet. The application must be signed by either partner and notarized if you’re not going in person to the County Clerk’s office to request your marriage certificate.  Certified Copies are required for federal and state government purposes, such as the DMV, Social Security, immigration issues, military proof and name change after marriage.  The County Recorder Clerk’s office will mail your marriage certificate.  The cost is $15 per marriage certificate and the standard notary fee of $15 per signature notarized.

2.  Convenience

The best reason to obtain a Confidential Marriage License from an Authorized Notary Public is convenience.  An Authorized Notary Public can issue a Confidential Marriage License when the County Recorders Office is closed and when one or both parties are unable to personally appear at the County Clerks Office to apply for a marriage license.  Examples include individuals unable to travel to the County Clerk’s office such as in the hospital or in custody.

3.  Protection

A Confidential Marriage License keeps all the personal information on a marriage license protected from public view eliminating Identity Theft and revealing to the public your marriage.  Especially same-sex couples that may or may not be “out” at work or with their families.  Only a court order or notarized application by either spouses can obtain a copy of the information.  This benefits anyone who wishes to keep their information private including celebrities.

4.  Limitations

The only limitations of a Confidential Marriage License is the license is only valid if your marriage ceremony takes place in the county where the Confidential Marriage License was issued.   So if you obtain your Confidential Marriage License in San Diego County the marriage ceremony must take place in San Diego County within 90 days of the license issued.  The only way to get a copy of your marriage certificate is by a court order or notarized application by either spouses to obtain a copy of your marriage certificate.

5.  Requirements for a Confidential Marriage License

  • Must be over 18 years old
  • Must have proper identification (same requirements for notarizing any document)
  • Must have been living together as spouses (no time requirement)
  • Must be free to marry

Definition of “free to marry” is that you cannot be legally married or legally have a Domestic Partnership with another individual filed.  You must be divorced.  If the divorce was finalized less than 90 days an original court document as proof is necessary before a marriage license can be issued.  Over 90 days it’s not necessary.  Copies of your Birth Certificates are recommended to make sure the spelling of every word is correct on your marriage license.  A single misspelled word will be a costly mistake.  Save yourself the extra money, time and frustration by having copies of your Birth Certificates available when you meet with your Authorized Notary Public or at the County Recorder’s Office when you complete your application for a marriage license.

6.  Are Confidential Marriage Licenses Legal?

Confidential Marriage Licenses are legal and can be issued by the County Recorder Clerks Office and by an Authorized Notary Public.  California is the ONLY state that offers Confidential Marriage Licenses.   A Confidential Marriage License can be issued to couples as long as they meet the requirements in #5.  U.S. Citizenship and Residency are not requirements for a Confidential Marriage License.

Due to COVID-19 the San Diego County Recorder’s Offices are closed to the public and have an outdoor kiosk set up for issuing Marriage Licenses by APPOINTMENT only.  The waiting list is approximately 4-6 weeks.  If you’re trying to get married and you need a Marriage License and a Wedding Officiant call me (619) 708-0897 so you too can be Just Married — in San Diego.

Wedding Officiant Photo

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