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Marriage Licenses, Marriage Certificates, Ketubot, and Other Ritually & Symbolically Significant Marriage Contracts - Mitzi Schwarz, BA, MJS - Chaplain, Wedding Officiant

You’re getting married; CONGRATULATIONS!!! You’re doing so much now. You feel an extra intensity.  Be careful! You might inadvertently procrastinate on getting the legal, “boring” tasks accomplished. Perhaps that’s because they feel time consuming, and let’s face it, they don’t feel nearly as romantic as choosing your floral designs, the wedding attire, the wedding officiant……. But, without this one little thing, guess what? YOU’RE NOT LEGALLY MARRIED!

I’m talking about the MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE! In this blog, I’m going to provide as much information and clarification as I can to demystify this crucial piece of documentation. Because a big part of my job as your Wedding Officiant is to offer a tremendous amount of support to you, including making sure that your marriage license turns into a marriage certificate within 10 days of your wedding ceremony.

MARRIAGE LICENSE VS MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE

Here’s the difference. A marriage license allows you to get married, whereas a marriage certificate is the proof of your marriage. You need to get a marriage license before you can get married! Once you’ve had your ceremony, your Wedding Officiant takes your marriage license down to the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s Field office and submits it. The RR/CC processes it,and then it becomes a legal Marriage Certificate.  Before I can officiate your wedding, you must have your completed marriage license application in hand at your ceremony, and you must have paid the $91.00 fee to the Los Angeles RR/CC.

Because I’m based in Los Angeles/Southern California, the information I’m sharing here pertains to Marriage Licenses and Certificates in LA County. If you’re getting married in the State of California outside of Los Angeles County, I can still officiate your ceremony and sign your Marriage License! Depending on how far away from LA County I am, I may need to send your Marriage License via Certified Mail back to the RR/CC field office in the County in which your ceremony took place. I can do this! 

Important general facts to keep in mind:

  • APPLYING FOR YOUR MARRIAGE LICENSE:
  1. You and your partner must either (a.) go down in person to a Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk field office (I have included a list of Field Offices at the end of this article) and fill out the application for the marriage license there, or you may (b.) download an application for the LA County Marriage License here and then make an appointment to submit the completed document in person, along with the application fee. The application fee for a standard wedding application is currently $91.00 USD.
  2. Once you’ve filled out the marriage license application, walked it into the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office and submitted the fee, you have 90 days to get married!
  3. When you go to the RR/CC field office with your completed Marriage License application, you must bring proof of your identity. This includes a recent photo of yourself (one pic for each of you), plus a valid form of ID: a current Driver’s License; a valid Passport; a California Real ID card; or an Alien Resident card.
  4. The RR/CC representative will take your fee and record that you have paid. Now, it’s time to get married!!
  • GETTING MARRIED:
  1. Once your marriage has been solemnized by your Wedding Officiant (me), I will sign your License. Two witnesses that you’ve chosen will also sign their names to your Marriage License to verify that you’ve indeed married each other. That’s pretty simple, but oh, so significant!!
  • FROM LICENSE TO CERTIFICATE:
  1. I have 10 days from the day of your ceremony to get your license back to the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk office. If I have officiated your ceremony within Los Angeles County, you have my word that I will walk the license into the RR/CC office myself. If I have officiated your ceremony outside of Los Angeles County, depending on how far away from LA County it is, I might need to send your License via Certified Mail to the appropriate RR/CC office. I will provide you with the receipt of certified mail, so that you will know that the Signed Marriage License (signed by you both, plus the Wedding Officiant, plus 2 Witnesses) has been sent off to the appropriate Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk’s office.

THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A SECULAR MARRIAGE CERTIFICATE AND A KETUBAH:

A Jewish marriage contract is called a Ketubah (plural: Ketubot). Ketubot have been in existence for over 2000 years. They’re  traditionally written in Aramaic, and for most of their history, they spelled out the financial obligations a husband had to his wife. Thank goodness, times have changed!  In America today, many Jewish and Interfaith couples, heterosexual or LGBTQ+, are still committed to having the Ketubah be a significant part of their wedding ceremony, as there is incredible ritual symbolism contained in them. Moreover, they’re often designed by renowned artists, and couples today love to create their own heartfelt verbiage. Remember, however, that they don’t carry the weight of the American law of the land. As such, a Ketubah is NOT the same thing as a Marriage Certificate in American courts. For a wonderful article about Ketubot and American law, I encourage you to read this article.

OTHER RITUALLY SYMBOLIC MARRIAGE CONTRACTS:

There are so many beautiful and symbolically rich wedding customs, rituals, and traditions practiced all over the world. I have deep respect for worold traditions, teachings, customs and wisdom. I am very open to learning about the customs that YOU want to weave into YOUR wedding ceremony. Thank god we live in a time where no one needs to say no to what they believe in anymore. It’s ok to practice the customs that bring you spiritual, psychological, emotional and mental fulfillment. I can say that the richest, most fulfilling ceremonies for me are the ones in which both YOU and YOU honor each other, the places you come from, and the life you want to build and create together. Marriage should be an expansive endeavor, one that’s filled with joy and discovery of who you are as individuals and as a couple.

I am so excited to guide and support you on your way to the marriage of your dreams!

LOCATIONS OF LOS ANGELES COUNTY REGISTRAR-RECORDER/COUNTY CLERK FIELD OFFICES:

The phone number for all of the Los Angeles County RR/CC Field Offices is 800-201-8999

LAX: 11701 S La Cienega Blvd #6, Los Angeles, CA 90045

Norwalk: 12400 Imperial Hwy., Norwalk, CA 90650

Florence/Firestone: 7807 Compton Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90001

Beverly Hills: 9355 Burton Way, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Van Nuys: 14340 Sylvan St, Van Nuys, CA 91401

Lancaster: 44509 16th St W #103, Lancaster, CA 93534

City of Industry: 13401 Crossroads Pkwy N, City of Industry, CA 91746