How to get legally married during the coronavirus crisis


Instead of a bouquet, a masked bride is holding a bottle of Corona beer in her Instagram wedding photo. A boyfriend is holding a can of disinfectant. It is difficult to know if someone blushes behind the masks. Marriage in the coronavirus era, like many aspects of life, has changed.

Couples in Southern California who were trying to say “yes, I want” before the pandemic hit had many options. For a fee, a wedding planner could handle everything from flowers to vows. Or the couple could race to court for a quick civil marriage.

Now tying the knot has become more complex. How do you get a marriage license? Can you get a marriage license?

This is how it works now, and in some cases not, in Southern California.

Can i get married

Yes, it is still possible for couples to legally marry in California. However, each county approaches the situation differently, making it difficult depending on where you live and what your health dictates, access to transportation, and various deadlines.

First get a license

To be legally married, a couple must obtain a valid marriage license. It is a legal document generally issued by the county in which the couple marries. Some counties also allow specially trained notaries to issue licenses. Once received, the license must be solemnized with a ceremony performed by someone recognized as having the legal power to do so. Then the couple and the officiant fill it out and sign it, and one or two witnesses if it is a public marriage, and send it to the county clerk’s office.

One of the biggest obstacles right now is getting a physical license. In mid-March, many county administrative offices across the state closed in response to the spread of the coronavirus. Hundreds, if not thousands, of marriage license appointments were canceled, postponed, or confused.

Since then, many counties have begun offering some way to obtain a license. Check with the clerk’s office before trying to go in person.

Los angeles countyIn particular, it has not issued licenses since it closed its offices on March 16 and probably will not for several more weeks.

orange county On April 20, she began issuing licenses and holding ceremonies by appointment in an Anaheim parking lot. The county is now reserved until June 2. County Clerk of Record Hugh Nguyen said the county expects to issue 3,800 licenses by that date.

Riverside county began offering licenses and holding ceremonies by appointment starting April 24. At least one member of the couple applying for the license must live in Riverside County.

Ventura County has began offering licenses and ceremonies by appointment. At least one member of the couple applying for the license must live in the county.

Are there virtual ceremonies?

On April 30, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order allowing couples to legally marry via video conference during the pandemic.

This order did not make Zoom ad hoc weddings legally binding. But it gave county employees the discretion to develop a teleconferencing system through which marriage licenses could be issued and civil ceremonies could be performed.

The conference call could allow people who are unable to obtain a license in person, for reasons of mobility or health, such as not having a car or being at high risk of contracting COVID-19, the opportunity to legally marry. Others may need to get married quickly to access health care through a spouse or stay in the country as their visa expiration date approaches.

Some counties, including Ventura and San Diego, offer in-person services and have decided not to develop a teleconferencing system.

Los Angeles County plans to implement a system, but there is no set release date. It can take until June to begin, said county clerk spokesman Mike Sanchez.

Meanwhile, the first Riverside County teleconference wedding was held on Thursday, according to assistant county clerk Michele Martinez-Barrera.

The Orange County system is being tested and could be implemented next week, Nguyen said.

You are not going virtual and you can get a license. Now what?

The quickest option is to get married at the same time the license is issued. A county employee may officiate, and in some cases another employee may serve as a witness. All the parties sign the document and all the legal part of the marriage is finished. (Riverside County requires that couples using their teleconference wedding service must perform the ceremony at the same time.)

If you have a marriage license but want a ceremony beyond what a particular county offers, you have options.

As in pre-pandemic times, those who can officiate a wedding in California include priests, rabbis, imams, healers, or other types of religious leaders, as well as ordained nondenominational ministers. Other types of people who have the power to marry are justices and justices of the peace.

What has changed is that many churches, synagogues and mosques have stopped organizing ceremonies there. Many courts are also closed or offer limited access to the public. Those who are determined to marry according to the rites of a specific religion, or anywhere outside the secretary’s office, must find a priest, a rabbi, or a nondenominational officiant willing to make a home visit, meet in a open public place or otherwise accommodate necessary social services. distancing

Many professional wedding officials still offer their services, with modifications such as signing licenses on the sidewalk.

Important deadlines

All California wedding licenses expire within 90 days of the county issuance. For authorized notaries, the clock starts ticking from the moment they receive the county license.

Once the marriage is officiated, the county must issue the license within 10 days. Often the officiant sends the documentation for the couple, but couples can also do it.

You have a license, but you want to postpone

Those who have a license but are no longer eager to snag within the 90-day period, can simply let it expire.

The expiration date cannot be extended, it is written in state law. This means that couples who want to wait more than 90 days for their marriage to become official must obtain a new license.

Officials in the Los Angeles County Clerk’s Office are in talks with the state about whether to waive fees for new licenses or whether to issue refunds for expired licenses. “But nothing has been written in stone,” Sánchez said.

According to Rabbi Jonathan Aaron of the Beverly Hills Emanuel Temple, most couples who were scheduled to get married in the synagogue in the next few weeks have been postponed for a year or more.

“No one wants to have a marriage ceremony that no one can attend,” said Chris Robinson, a wedding services professional in Los Angeles.

Alyce Barrick, a wedding planner with Laurel & Fey, said she has encouraged couples to downsize if they are not postponing. However, he hopes the outlandish issues will come back: “2021 will be crazy.”