December 11, 2019

How to Legally Get Married in California + Nevada: A Go-To Guide for Couples Getting Married in Lake Tahoe

One of the least “fun” parts about planning an elopement is taking care of all of the legal stuff. But, of course, if you actually want to end up married after your elopement, double-checking that you’re doing everything correctly – and legally – is a must. After all, what a disappointment to have to attend to all of these details after your ceremony when you should be off enjoying married life! If you’re thinking about eloping and getting married in Lake Tahoe, California, or Nevada, here’s what you need to know. And, remember, every state (and country) is different, so changing your location last minute to a different state will require that you take a look at the legal side of marriage again.

Your (The Couple’s) To-Dos

  • As the couple getting married, one of the most important things you must do to make your marriage legal is to pick up your marriage license. You need your driver’s license or passport, and, in some cases, a birth certificate. After it’s signed at the ceremony, it needs to be returned to the county issuing office within ten days by the officiant. There is usually a fee of $50-$75 to get a marriage license. The marriage license is then often valid for about 90 days.

The Officiant’s To-Dos

  • An officiant must get in touch with the County Clerk’s office in the county where the wedding ceremony is taking place. This office will let the officiant know exactly what they need, including documents. Each county is different, but most will require you to order some sort of “Wedding Kit”, which will give you everything you need for the wedding.

  • At the ceremony, the officiant must sign the marriage license (along with the other witnesses)

  • The officiant is responsible for filing the signed documents to the proper office within 10 days.

Getting Married in Lake Tahoe – Must-Know FAQs 

If you want a friend to marry you in California or Nevada, they must be officially ordained. This can be done online through the Universal Life Church or American Marriage Ministries for free. Unlike some states, once you’re ordained you don’t have to be officially registered as a minister in California, but registration is required in Nevada. Another difference? In California, you don’t have to be a resident of the state the marriage is taking place (for example, you could be a resident of Colorado and still perform a legal marriage in California). For Nevada, however, the state you are a resident of is relevant, which means they are more strict about where you’re coming from and why. Both California and Nevada require your officiating friend to be eighteen in order to legally officiate a marriage.

In both Nevada and California, you must have at least one witness present at your ceremony to sign your marriage license. In a lot of cases, your photographers work as wonderful witnesses! (Talk about handy!)

Learn more about getting married in CA here.
Learn more about getting married in NV here.

Did you know that M is ordained in both CA and NV? If you are planning on working with VILD she might be able to help you with the ceremony as well (only if it’s a smaller gathering/elopement).

If you prefer to hire someone else to officiate you or to help you through the process, check out our favorite officiants:

Lake Tahoe, California Marriage Licenses

You may purchase a Regular or Confidential marriage license.  A Regular license is a public record and requires only one witness.  A Confidential license is not a public record (requires a court order to obtain a copy for someone other than the parties on the license) and does not require a witness.  Both licenses are valid anywhere in the state of California and are valid for 90 days.

South Lake Tahoe Office
El Dorado County Recorder-Clerk’s Office
3368 Lake Tahoe Blvd. / U.S. Hwy 50 Suite 108
South Lake Tahoe, CA 96150
(530) 573-3409


Lake Tahoe, Nevada Marriage Licenses

For a Nevada wedding, the couple must obtain the marriage license directly from the county clerk’s office within the state. Ministers cannot issue a license for a Nevada wedding. The approximate cost is $70, but this varies by county. Nevada marriage licenses have a one-year expiration. However, regardless of which county you obtain the license from, the ceremony can be performed anywhere in the State of Nevada. It only requires one witness.

South Lake Tahoe Office
County Administration Building
175 Highway 50
Stateline, NV 89449
(775) 586-7290

Carson City Office
Carson City Marriage Bureau
885 E Musser St # 1025
Carson City, NV 89701
(775) 887-2084

M officiating Mark and Erica during their Mountain Bike Elopement at lake Tahoe

M officiating Mark and Erica during their Mountain Bike Elopement.