Glad you asked!
In Los Angeles County a small number of notaries public are authorized by the County Clerk's Office to assist with the issuance of marriage licenses. Where most marriage licenses issued by the Recorder are public record and require witnesses, confidential marriage licenses are not public record and require no witnesses. They are just as legal and binding as a regular marriage license; the differences are only in the qualifications for obtaining one and access to certified copies.
All persons who apply for any marriage license must have valid, unexpired state-issued ID or a passport. There are a few additional requirements that must be met in order to qualify for a confidential license:
- the applicants must already be living together as spouses,
- the marriage must take place within Los Angeles County, and
- proof of dissolution must be provided for any marriage that ended within the previous two years or any legal name change since birth.
Any U.S. state's driver's license or ID card is acceptable, but it must be unexpired. Notaries cannot accept birth certificates, school IDs, or matricula consular as identification for marriage licensing.
If you meet these requirements you may be able to take advantage of a notary marriage licensing service like MarriageToGo.Com. A notary-issued license can be issued outside of the limited hours of the Clerk's Office in the privacy of your home or office, saving you time and travel. Appointments are often available with short-notice, though surcharges may apply. As of January 1, 2015 MarriageToGo can issue confidential licenses at any location in California for your convenience. Click here for more info on how it works.
On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is the law of the land. That means all U.S. states must issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and all out-of-state LGBT marriages must be recognized. In addition, the California State Constitution guarantees LGBT citizens in CA equal access to wedding services--you cannot be denied on the basis of sex or sexual orientation.
As longtime equality allies, we are grateful that the marriages of our LGBT friends and clients will now have full force of law everwhere in the United States. Let freedom--and wedding bells--ring!
If you're a same-sex couple wanting to marry but don't know where to start, check out our Helpful Hints For The Newly Marriage-Enfranchised.
Though the U.S. now has civil marriage rights, discrimination against LGBT people in housing, employment, and public accommodations are still embedded in laws around the country. For more information about the current landscape around these issues, please visit Equality Case Files, a non-profit organization providing information on litigation and legislation impacting the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. You can also "Like" the Equality Case File Facebook page for regular updates via social media.
We here at MarriageToGo have supported marriage equality for years and strongly believe that no religious or political organization has a patent on the concept of Love or a trademark on the word or definition of "marriage." Civil marriage is a human right, and love should be confirmed, consecrated, and supported wherever it occurs. We remain committed to these principles and will continue to provide high-quality services for all who wish to celebrate their loving relationships.
On June 17th, 2008 I has the great privilege of serving as a Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriage at the L.A. County Clerk's Norwalk office, witnessing and performing some of L.A. County's first same-sex ceremonies, and the honor of privately performing dozens of additional ceremonies right up until the passage of Prop 8. I am proud to have been part of this historic moment in California and national history, and we will continue to advocate for and support civil rights efforts by those working to obtain marriage rights throughout the world.
Finally, you might enjoy reading author Bob
Morris' charming New York Times story recounting his MarriageToGo ceremony in 2008
(thank you Bob!)
Of course--we loving using social media for keeping in touch! Please "Like" our Facebook page for photos and ideas from recent weddings, news from the wedding world, and more!
Also, keep an eye out for our new blog: TheWeddingWonk.com (a federally registered trademark.)
Unlike many other states and county governments, California has no registry or permits for those who officiate weddings. This has the advantage of reducing government interference in faith practices, but leaves consumers no recourse if they end up choosing an unscrupulous or incompetent provider.
It is very important to check references and credentials before you hire, since there is no government regulation or agency screening potential candidates for you. Many officiants claim to have a "license" to perform ceremonies in California; it is untrue. No such license exists.
However, if your officiant is also a notary who will be issuing your marriage license, they must hold an authorization from their local County government. Authorizations can be verified by phoning that County's Marriage Licensing unit. Due to the high level of wedding fraud and document error here in Los Angeles County, it's a good idea to call the County Clerk's office to confirm that the notary's authorization is legitimate and no disciplinary actions are pending. As of 1/1/15 notaries can issue marriage licenses anywhere in the state. L.A. County notaries may not issue licenses for the incarcerated.
MarriageToGo has an excellent reputation for providing legit, prompt, and informed service, and we can back it up! Please check out our Yelp rating, and we are happy to provide you with references from recent clients so you may speak with them about the quality of our work. We are also glad to provide any other info you need to verify our credentials.
We're confident you'll find we deserve our sterling reputation as a legitimate, conscientious, and properly authorized marriage license and officiant service. We hope to continue earning your trust and regard throughout our client relationship.
That depends, but what you have in mind is probably not something I would do. Here's why:
According to the California Family Code, it's unlawful to conduct a wedding ceremony without a valid marriage license being issued first. This is to avoid wedding fraud, which happens more than you might think.
Commitment ceremonies became popular when LGBT couples were not permitted to marry. They arose as a way for same-sex couples to enjoy the benefits of a wedding celebration, and it was understood they were not legally binding. However, since same-sex couples can now marry, the status of the commitment ceremony is, in my opinion, legally grey.
The terms "marriage," "spouse," "husband," "wife," are all legal terms. Words like "wedding" and "vows" aren't legal terms, but they are associated with marriage and *imply* a valid marriage is taking place. If you're envisioning some kind of "commitment" ceremony with things like an officiant, a white dress, vows, and rings, but don't want it to be legally binding, you're skirting the line betweeen the lawful exercise of your rights of expression and marriage fraud. This is particularly true if you have someone authorized to solemnize marriages acting as an officiant.
Commitment ceremonies can pose problems later on too. Throughout the history of California, many courts have upheld marriages that were solemnized at weddings without a marriage license. If you have a falling-out with your "commitment partner" in the future, they might have a basis to claim you are actually married and sue for marital rights or fraud. IMHO, it's just not smart to have a ceremony that resembles a wedding without getting married. It can come back to haunt you.
It may be possible to ceremonially express your love and commitment for each other in a non-legally-binding way, but the presence of a qualified officiant at a commitment ceremony muddies the waters. If you don't want legal marriage status granted by a ceremony, it might be best to do it privately and without a qualified officiant present. For this reason, we will usually decline to conduct commitment ceremonies.
A surprise wedding is where one person in a couple surprises the other with a marriage license and wedding ceremony, without the surprisee's knowledge or consent.
We don't do those anymore.
Why? Because literally half the time, the other party would say NO. Not because they didn't love you, or didn't want to marry you someday, but they weren't expecting--and didn't want--something they didn't plan too.
Yes, you see surprise weddings on TV, but what you don't see is that they often aren't legally solid. A "surprise" wedding can be seen as coercion--which invalidates consent to marriage--which is why some of those TV show people sue for annulments later. SURPRISE!!
However, there are other ways to do a surprise wedding that are legally robust and perfectly charming and fun. I've done several this way: both partners *know* they are getting married on a certain day and have submitted their signed marriage license application, but one of the partners doesn't know the specifics of exactly where or how. The other plans something wonderful, and they enjoy the surprises together without any coercion or consent problems. This kind of surprise I'm happy to help you with.
I also enjoy assisting with "ambush weddings," which are weddings the couple has planned together with full knowledge, but their guests have no idea a wedding is about to take place. Ambush weddings can happen at a holiday dinner, a birthday party, on your way to Disneyland, at a lecture or a picnic...any time or any place you choose. It's fun, and your guests will remember this surprise forever.
Let us know what you have in mind! We're happy to brainstorm with you.
There are firms that will take your money to perform weddings by phone or Skype and they'll tell you it's legally binding, but they're lying. Sorry, but all phone and internet weddings are strictly illegal. You'll lose your money and have no legal recourse when your legally-married status is denied. Don't do it.
Click here for more information on fraudulent wedding services scams like phone marriage for military/incarcerated and where to report marriage fraud.
Technically we don't have "justices of the peace" here in CA under state law, but active or retired State judges or commissioners of the court are empowered to perform weddings under that title. There are wedding clergy in L.A. County who claim to be Justices of the Peace who DO NOT hold those credentials, and signing a license as a JOP when one is not qualified may invalidate the marriage.
If having a civil officiant is important to you, check your officiant's credentials carefully. Since more couples are seeking non-religious ceremonies, many prefer not to have a clergyperson's signature on their marriage license. As a result, there are some nondenom religious officiants who claim--perhaps knowingly and fraudulently, or perhaps out of ignorance of state law--that they are Justices of the Peace and can sign a marriage license that way. This, however, may subject your marriage to invalidation.
The only persons who can sign a marriage license as "JOP" in California are active or retired Judges, Commissioners, or Assistant Commissioners of a court of record or Justice Court. Some public officials and legislators are also empowered to conduct wedding ceremonies; notaries and attorneys are not unless they have an additional credential that allows them to do so.
So check carefully that your "Justice" is in fact an active or retired judge, since a lot of the people out there claiming to be JOPs are in fact "mail-order ministers" who have never served in a court an are, in fact, committing fraud.
Bear in mind to that if you are contracting privately with a JOP to conduct your wedding outside of their regular government office hours, this does not guarantee you will receive a non-religious ceremony. Ask if you can review the text of their ceremony in advance to ensure you don't end up having a wedding that includes sentiments you don't want.
Though Elizabeth Oakes performs non-religious civil ceremonies as a Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriage for Los Angeles County, this credential can only be used when solemnizing weddings conducted in the Clerk's offices. Elizabeth Oakes is an also ordained ULC minister who performs both religious and non-religious ceremonies, but cannot sign the license as a Deputy Commissioner or Justice of the Peace. Ministers must use the title "Minister" when signing your marriage license even if they perform a non-religious ceremony.
If you'd like to come in to the County Clerk's office in Norwalk for a civil ceremony with Elizabeth Oakes, please inquire by email about scheduling.
Until late 2010, yes I was! I was the founding National Wedding Examiner @ Examiner.com, but have resigned my post since the new contract offered by Examiner.com was not all I'd hoped. As of this writing my articles can still be accessed there; you're invited to browse my columns on marriage politics worldwide, wedding planning, wedding industry practices, the history of wedding traditions, creative and humorous weddings, significant cultural movements in marriage, and much more by clicking here.
In the meantime you can "Like" our Facebook page to see what we've been up to recently, news from the wedding world, and more!
It's not for lack of trying--by TV producers, I mean. I am solicited constantly by reality TV companies that have a GREAT IDEA!!! for creating a show about me and MarriageToGo. This "idea" is almmost always the same: they want to follow me around with a camera for free, and exploit my work and my clients. Thanks but no thanks.
We also don't provide client information for contests, promotions, or other media "opportunities" that look to create cheap content without regard for the intimacy and authenticity of your wedding.
Some are seduced by the siren call of the entertainment industry. Me, not so much. I grew up here in Los Angeles with family and friends in The Industry, so I know a little about the mechanics of Hollywood business deals. My approach to wedding work doesn't center on making money, it's about serving others as best I can, and I try to protect this work from the often unethical and unscrupulous business practices of others.
It's true, there are wedding officiants out there that have enhanced their professional profiles and their bottom lines by appearing in film and TV projects. I myself don't accept such work unless I can do so in good conscience, and I'm quite a stickler about things like worker protections and living wages. As you can guess, I don't end up doing a lot of Hollywood projects these days.
However, all is not lost. I am available as a paid consultant and open to offers based around my work and stories; I merely require a fair and equitable deal that includes provisions for content ownership and creative control. I am not amenable to most reality projects since they cannot meet these requirements.
For scripted series or films, I require a executive producer credit, and a writing credit if any of my original texts are utilized. Licensing of my trademarks or copyrighted materials can be negotiated for those or other projects.
Finally, I am a member of the sister unions and I have an excellent entertainment attorney a>who reviews all incoming offers. If you're willing to step up to the plate with a high-quality project proposal, we would be happy to speak with you.
(P.S. I think I should be played by Parker Posey, or maybe Laura Linney).
Of course you can, but in keeping with our ethics of fairness and social justice we do not refer on the basis of sex or gender. We are happy to make referrals if we don't possess the language skills, ordination, or other special credentials, but we feel it reinforces a sexist cultural bias to refer based on the content of one's pants (or pantyhose).
We ask that you carefully consider why you feel having a male officiant is important to you, and we sincerely hope that soon all traditions will embrace women's voices in their spiritual work.
Do not confuse proxy marriage with phone marriage--phone marriages are never legal, and notaries and wedding chapels cannot provide marriage licensing for those in custody!! You'll find lots of chapels and notaries that offer phone marriages and jailhouse weddings if you pay cash--and then they won't return your phone calls or your money when you run into trouble later. Don't be fooled!
Proxy marriage is a court-ordered process whereby a legal representative is appointed to obtain the marriage license and attend the wedding ceremony. At one time in California, proxy marriages were available to active military personnel, but this provision is no longer active due to reclassification of our conflicts overseas.
There is a process for marrying a person in custody called "Inability To Appear." Please contact the L.A. County Clerk's office to inquire about correct procedures for Inability to Appear marriage licensing and detention facility weddings.
Click here for more information on weddings scams, consumer alerts concerning marriage fraud, and how to report a wedding chapel or notary scam.