Must You Have A Ceremony To Marry In California?

California marriage laws, Los Angeles wedding officiant
Photo credit: Connie Jones-Steward

From time to time during my many years as a Los Angeles wedding officiant I have been asked if a ceremony is needed to be legally married in the State of California. These wedding clients have wondered if they could just meet with me and have me sign the license.

The answer lies in what you consider a ceremony. While it’s  true that the California’s Family Code requires a “ceremony” for a marriage to be legal section 420(a) makes it clear that there is no legally required format for the ceremony. Specifically section 420 (a) of the Family Code reads:”No particular form for the ceremony of marriage is required for solemnization of the marriage, but the parties shall declare, in the physical presence of the person solemnizing the marriage and necessary witnesses, that they take each other as spouses.” That means that I can legally marry two people by simply receiving an answer of “yes” or “I do” to the question “Do you Mary take John to be your husband?”.

There are various legitimate reasons that a couple would want such a ceremony. For example, the couple pictured below had a legally non-binding ceremony earlier in the day followed by my officiating  a “Simple I do” ceremony as part of their evening Halloween party.

California marriage laws, Los Angeles wedding officiants, African-American Wedding Officiant
Photo credit: Connie Jones-Steward

Other reasons include that they are marrying for insurance or tax purposes or one partner is deploying soon. In these cases there are usually plans for a more formal ceremony in the future.

One thought on “Must You Have A Ceremony To Marry In California?

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