Sometimes you don’t want to get married where you live. I get that! Maybe you’ve always dreamed of a beach wedding but you’ve settled down in Nebraska; maybe you want to get married close to your family and friends, or as far away as possible. In any case, out-of-state elopements and destination weddings still require a marriage license. While getting one may feel a bit more daunting than for a local wedding, we are here to walk you through the necessary steps.

There are four different scenarios in which you may be getting married in a place where you are not a resident. We’ll break them down and then walk you through each one.

1. You are getting married out of state.


Most states in the U.S. do not require you to be a resident of the state in order to obtain a marriage license there. Check with the state where your wedding will be held to find out what paperwork to bring with you when applying for your license and whether there is a waiting period. is a good place to start researching local laws and requirements.

While a marriage license issued in any state is valid throughout the country, you can easily obtain a license from your home state simply by holding the legal ceremony at your local Justice of the Peace, then packing your bags for the big celebration elsewhere.

2. You are getting married in another country.


First, give us all a moment. We’re trying not to be jealous here!

Next, you should know that foreign marriage certificates cannot be recorded or registered in the State of California. If you need to establish a record of the marriage in California, you may file a petition in Superior Court to establish a “Court Order Delayed Certificate of Marriage”, which is exactly as fabulous as it sounds – Eek! The process involves filing papers, attending a hearing, proving the date and location the marriage took place, and submitting the resulting court order to the county clerk.

Alternatively, of course, you can get legally married in California before you head overseas – or, if you prefer, do it the way we’re planning too and do the ceremonial marriage first somewhere far away and come home and tie the knot legally.  You’ll just have two wedding anniversaries every year…most presents and celebrations!

3. You are from out of state and want to get married here.


California has no residency requirements for a marriage license. If you live in another state but have chosen to wed here (we won’t judge!) simply follow our instructions for obtaining your San Francisco Marriage License and you should be golden. 😉

4. You are from another country and are marrying in San Francisco (or anywhere in California).


Non-US citizens can obtain a marriage license just like citizens; there are no extra requirements in California. However, for the marriage to be legal and recognized in your country of residence you will need to comply with any local laws and requirements. This may include obtaining an apostille from the California Secretary of State. If an apostille is required by your country, you will need to purchase a certified copy of your marriage license to submit to the Secretary of State for its preparation. Be sure to visit the Secretary of State’s website for requirements, fee, processing times, and address.

How far in advance should you take care of these legal details?

Once you’ve decided where to obtain your marriage license, find out if there is a waiting period before you can use it. Familiarize yourself with the days and hours of the clerk’s office you will be visiting and the paperwork you will need, and work this into your travel plans so there are no nasty surprises or time crunches. For your peace of mind, have all these details hammered down a few months before the wedding so you can focus on the rest of your preparations worry-free.

What does it cost to get legally married far from home?

It depends on local fees. Check with the County Clerk where you hope to get your license for the cost as well as what paperwork will be required to process your request.

Good luck and congratulations!!!

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