What Are My Wedding Day Duties As The California Officiant?
As the officiant, you have two main duties on the wedding day. You need to:
- Conduct the Wedding Ceremony (Non-Legal Duty)
- Complete the Marriage License (Legal Duty)
So far, we have gone over how to prepare for a wedding ceremony in California. That is your important but non-legal duty as a wedding officiant. This page focuses on how to properly handle the California marriage license.
California Law prescribes clear guidelines on marriage license handling and return. When the couple receives their marriage license, it should be accompanied with further instructions as to how, where, when, and by whom the marriage license is to be returned.
Regardless, it is a good idea for you to familiarize yourself with this subject ahead of time.
Handling The California Marriage License
As the wedding officiant, it is your responsibility to handle the marriage license on the wedding day. Though this is a serious responsibility, it is an easy task to fulfill.
Our page How an Officiant Should Handle a Marriage License outlines clear guidelines on how you should handle the marriage license as a wedding professional. These guidelines apply to weddings generally, not just in California. They follow four simple steps:
ASK, CONFIRM, SIGN, RETURN
- Ask the Couple to Present their Marriage License
- Confirming that the Marriage License is Valid
- Complete and Sign the Marriage License
- Return the Marriage License
Follow the links for more general info on each step. Continue reading for information specific to California Marriage Licenses.
STEP 1ASK THE COUPLE TO PRESENT THE CALIFORNIA MARRIAGE LICENSE
We recommend that you ask this of the couple before the wedding. It would not be ideal for you to officiate the wedding only to find out afterwards that the couple left their marriage license at home.
The coupe will probably have a lot on their plates leading up to the wedding. We suggest that you contact the couple the day before the wedding just to remind them to bring the marriage license to the ceremony.
STEP 2CONFIRM THAT THE CALIFORNIA MARRIAGE LICENSE IS VALID
Before you put pen to paper you should confirm that the marriage license is still valid. The validity of a marriage license is governed by three laws that determine the marriage license waiting period, expiration, and return. For more information on what these terms mean, check out our page, Marriage License Waiting Period, Expiration, and Return.
In California, the marriage license waiting period, expiration, and return are as follows:
- REQUIRED WITNESSES: One Adult
- WAITING PERIOD: None
- EXPIRATION: 90 Days
- RETURN: 10 Days from the Wedding
There is no marriage license waiting period in California. This means that the couple can receive and complete their marriage license on the same day that they file for their marriage license. In other words, they can get married on the same day that they file for their marriage license.
Marriage licenses in California do expire 90 days
after being issued. This means that the wedding must take place within the window of time between when the marriage license is issued and when it expires. In other words, the wedding must take place within 90 days
of the couple filing for their marriage license.
Your job as the wedding officiant is to confirm that it has not been more than 90 days
since the marriage license was issued. Once satisfied with this, you can move on to the next step.
If the marriage license is expired, then the couple will have to file for a new one. It's not the end of the world, but it is inconvenient.
STEP 3FILL OUT THE CALIFORNIA MARRIAGE LICENSE
Completing and signing the marriage license is your legal duty as the wedding officiant. Though this is a serious responsibiltiy, it is an easy task to fulfill.
Completing the marriage license simply involves filling out your portion of the license and signing it with the couple. In California,
one adult witness is
required to sign the marriage license.
If you have not filled out a marriage license before, you may be unsure how to fill out certain fields. We understand that you want to do everything correctly. Our How To Fill Out a Marriage License covers all the fields that may appear on the marriage license you will be completing.
Below we cover the four most common questions we get from our ministers regarding completing a marriage license. Keep in mind that marriage licenses in California may be formatted differently depending on which office issued the license. The license you will be completing may have any combination of these fields, or none at all.
- For officiant title, enter "Minister". You are a minister of American Marriage Ministries performing the duty of wedding officiant.
- For church name, enter "American Marriage Ministries". Even if you are a member of another religious organization, for this specific wedding you are acting under the banner of American Marriage Ministries, so that is what you should put.
- For religious denomination, enter "Non-Denominational" unless you are conducting the wedding according to a specific religious tradition. If so, then enter that.
- For ceremony type, enter "Religious". This is important. Even if you will be conducting a completely non-religious ceremony you still need to enter "Religious". The reason for this is that the designation "Religious" and "Civil" mean something different to the California Government. Civil is a designation for government officials. Everything else is considered religious, even if you include no religious references in the wedding.
STEP 4RETURN THE CALIFORNIA MARRIAGE LICENSE
After the marriage license is completed it must be returned to the County Clerk or Recorder. This is usually the responsibility of the couple though some states require this to be done by the minister.
Specific instructions on how to return the marriage license should be included with the marriage license when it is issued to the couple. If these instructions are not included with the marriage license, you can call the issuance office for further clarification.
Regardless of who returns the marriage license or by what method, it is important to return the completed marriage license to its issuance office as soon as possible.
California has a law specifying how soon the marriage license must be returned to the County Clerk or Recorder
after it is completed. In California the completed marriage license must be returned within 10 days from the wedding
to be in compliance with California Law.
As long as the completed marriage license is returned within 10 days from the wedding
the marriage license will be filed and recorded in California.
Post Wedding Actions
If you have not done so already, you should record the wedding you just officiated with our AMM Wedding Helper and even share your wedding on the AMM Wedding Wall with our nationwide network of ministers.
CALIFORNIA OFFICIANT POST WEDDING DUTIES
Learn more about the AMM Wedding Helper and post wedding officiating responsibilities by tapping the button above.