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Going to the Chapel of Love -Getting Married


WRITTEN BY: Narisara P. Jongjarearn -Tasanont, Attorney at Law

This article is intended to help couples that have chosen to get married but do not know where to go to get married.  A lot of people just go to Las Vegas.  This may be the fastest way to get married but you need to have the time to drive or fly over there.  Getting married in Las Vegas is fast and convenient but for those of you with no time to go to Las Vegas, you can get married locally.

To get married in California, you need a marriage license.  After you get the marriage license, you have 90 days to get married or the license will expire.  To obtain a marriage license both bride to be and groom to be must appear together to complete the application and pay the required fee, which is $50-$80 for a public license. Both parties must be present together and show “Proof of Identity”, such as a driver’s license, passport, or alien resident card. Remember that all documents must be in English. Documents in any other language must be submitted with an English translation that has been certified as a true and correct translation. They will not accept documents that have expired.  You can also fill out the application online for faster service.

You do not need to be in legal status to get married.  This means that the visa that you used to enter this country may be expired.  And you don’t have to be a legal permanent resident of the United States to get married.  Additionally, there is no health examination requirement either.   The bride and groom must be unmarried. Any previous marriages must be legally terminated before anyone can remarry.  Written proof of a divorce or the dissolution of a previous marriage is required, if the event occurred within the last two years or less. You can get a marriage license at the Norwalk Registrar Recorder/County Clerk Building located at 12400 Imperial Highway, Norwalk, Ca. 90650, (562) 462-2137 Office Hours: 8:00 am – 5:00 pm Monday through Friday.

After you obtain a marriage license you may be married by your choice of one of the following persons qualified to perform marriage ceremonies:  1) a priest, minister or rabbi of any religious denomination who is 18 years of age or older; 2) an active or retired Judge, Commissioner, or Assistant Commissioner of a court or record or Justice Court in this State; or 3) by a Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriages.

You may also have a civil ceremony.  Marriage ceremonies conducted by the Commissioner or Deputy Commissioner of Civil Marriage are performed at the office of the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk.  You can go to the Norwalk office location for the civil ceremony as well. The fee for a civil ceremony is nominal.

The Name Equality Act (effective January 1, 2009)

The Name Equality Act of 2007 (AB 102, Chapter 567, Statutes of 2007) gives specific rights regarding the name that each party will use after marriage.  Parties are not required to have the same name, nor are they required to change their name. When you go to apply for a marriage license, you have the right to choose the name you will use after marriage.  This name is then listed on the marriage license.  If one or both of the parties want to have their new name(s) shown on the marriage license, the new name must be entered on the marriage license application at the time the application for the marriage license is made. The parties may choose any of the following middle or last names as the name they wish to be known as after marriage [FC § 306.5(b)(2)]:

  • Current last name of the other spouse
  • Last name of either spouse given at birth
  • A name combining into a single last name all or a segment of the current last name or last name of either spouse given at birth
  • A hyphenated combination of last names

Be advised that you may not change you first name using this process. Also, you may not amend the marriage license after it has been issued. The name you indicate on the marriage license application will be your name on the marriage license/certificate and cannot be changed by the County Clerk.

Employees at the Registrar Recorder/ County Clerk office cannot answer legal questions. County Clerk staff cannot advise you how to complete the marriage license application as it relates to your entry of a new name or retention of your former name on the marriage license application. If you have any questions regarding this matter and/or how the Name Equality Act of 2007 may affect you, please consult with a reputable attorney before applying for your marriage license.

Narisara P. Jongjarearn-Tasanont works out of her law office in Los Angeles. She is also the Executive Director of the Thai American Citizens Alliance.  She is an active member of the State Bar of California and the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association.  You can contact her at 323-704-6355 to make an appointment for a consultation.  The contents of this article are not intended as individualized legal advice.


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