Gay Marriage

Planning A Gay Marriage (How to Get Married in California)

State Requirements Vary Widley

So you have finally decided to get married.  Congratulations!  Now what do you do and how do you start?  The first step is to consider where you want to get married.  You need to verify what requirements that the state imposes on people wanting a marriage license.  These requirements vary greatly from state to state, so you have to be very careful and make sure you fully understand all of the state’s requirements.

One of the most important considerations when choosing a state is whether the state requires a waiting period.  A waiting period requires that once you file for your marriage license, you must wait a specific number of days before you can legally get married.  Some states have waiting periods, but allow you to apply online in advance which makes this requirement less of a problem.  Another consideration is whether the state requires any blood or other tests.  This requirement is less common today, but some states still require blood tests.  Whether a state has a waiting period, blood test requirement, or any other special requirements shouldn’t mean you need to look for another location, rather it just means you need to know about this in advance and plan.  You don’t want to have a large wedding planned only to find out the day before the ceremony with all the guests in town and the facility rented, that you have not fulfilled all the requirements and have to postpone the ceremony.

Next decide whether you want an elaborate marriage ceremony or a simple ceremony performed by a government official, or something in between.  If you want a large wedding, you will likely use a church, wedding planner, or licensed minister who can help you through the process.

California is a great state for gay marriage because the process is simple, fast, and relatively inexpensive.  There is no waiting period, and by selecting a “Confidential Marriage” you do not need to have a witness.  In California, you can submit and pick up our marriage license in the morning (it is available on-line) and have your ceremony the same day (actually the same morning if you make an appointment with the clerk’s office).  Since Palm Springs is a favorite gay travel destination, Riverside County is where you would go to get your license.  The same rules and process apply in you want to marry in San Diego, Los Angeles, or San Francisco.  Just go to the county clerk’s website for those cities.

Obtaining the License

Fortunately, the marriage forms and information packets are available on-line for Riverside County, as well as most California counties.  Actually, you can download the marriage license from any county and use it anywhere in California, except for “Confidential Marriage Licenses” which require that the marriage occur in the same county which issued the license.  Also, applicants for a “Confidential Marriage License” must reside at the same address (whether that address is in California or another place).  All marriage licenses are issued by the county clerks office.  Riverside has four county offices which do ceremonies, and  the Palm Desert office is the closest to Palm Springs.  In Riverside County, a “Confidential Civil Marriage License” costs $100 versus a regular “Public Marriage License” which costs $90.  Once the license is issued, it is good for 90 days.

Wedding Ceremony

While you must obtain your license in person with the required proof of identity at a county office, the marriage ceremony can occur where ever you want (with the caveat that confidential marriages must occur in the same county that issued the license).  Palm Springs City Hall does not perform civil marriages.  There is a large number of wedding officiants in Palm Springs who can legally perform the ceremony and file the license with the county for fees ranging from an extra $150 up to thousands for an elaborate, large wedding.

In California, the clerk’s office has officiants who can perform the ceremony, whether you want a public or confidential ceremony.  By selecting a “Confidential Marriage” which costs $10 extra, you would not need to have a witness.  Besides not requiring a witness, “Confidential Marriages” remain private meaning that your names, addresses, telephone numbers and the marriage license will not be publicly available – marketing companies will not get your private information.

The Palm Desert office (38-686 El Cerrito Road, Palm Desert, CA) requires that if you want to obtain your license and have the Country perform the ceremony on the same day, you need to schedule an appointment for your ceremony during the morning hours – this means you must process your license earlier than the appointment for the ceremony.  (One other caveat, at the time of this writing, the Indio branch office will stop performing civil ceremonies on July 25, 2013, until some time in September 2013, because they are moving office locations.)

The cost for a “Confidential Civil Marriage Ceremony” is $75 which is the same for a “Public Civil Marriage Ceremony.”

If you use the Palm Desert Clerk’s office, you will find that the staff could not have been more friendly, helpful, or respectful.  They will take all the time you need to answer all of your questions and made sure you are all set for your big day.


The County accepts debit cards (but not credit cards), personal checks, and cash.  So verify in advance, when you schedule your ceremony, what method of payment you intend to use and make sure the County accepts it.  It is not an issue or problem you want to come up on that special day. Normally the County requires payment when you make the appointment.  However, since so many people are applying for license as a result of the Supreme Court decision, the County may let you pay the full amount when you apply for your license.  NOTE:  This is a temporary change of rules.  At some point the County will go back to its rule requiring full payment at the time you schedule your appointment.

Proof of Identity

The County accepts any government issued picture ID, so state issued driver’s licenses with a picture are accepted, as well as a passport, Military ID, state ID cards, or several other government issued picture ID documents.  Check their website to verify what types of ID are acceptable.

Same Day License and Ceremony

As mentioned above, in the Palm Desert branch office and in some other county clerks office,  if you want to obtain your license and have the ceremony on the same day, the County requires that you schedule a morning ceremony.  The Palm Desert, and all other Riverside branch offices, open at 8 a.m.

So on the day of your ceremony, you go to the County office and advise them that you are there to a) obtain your license, and, b) have your ceremony at the County office the same morning.  Since you have scheduled an appointment, you will be issued a number ahead of people who have just walked into the office to pick up a license.  Once you have the license, your next stop will be your ceremony.

Congratulations!  You will be married before noon.

Brian Raymond, Owner Out Destinations
Written by Brian Raymond
Brian owns Out Destinations, a premier gay travel agency featuring gay & mainstream cruises and tours, as well as customized vacations. Out Destinations also offers group travel, and social organization fundraising opportunities. For a free consultation, contact him toll free at 855-949-1500 or email him at
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