What is the Difference between a Marriage License and a Marriage Certificate
Many people are confused about the two terms above.
To clarify: You first must obtain a marriage license which is essentially an approved request to marry. Aquiring a marriage license does not make you married. This can be obtained through the county. You can get this marriage license either directly from the County Clerk's office or through a specialized notary public (not just any notary public). Many people today choose the latter option because of the crowd at the Los Angeles Recorder and the inconvenience of getting there, parking and waiting in long lines.
After you have been married, your wedding officiant will sign and verify the marriage license and submit this back to the county. The county will then take several weeks (sometimes up to eight weeks) and issue a marriage certificate to you upon request. This marriage certificate is the official document that states you are married. A certified copy of the marriage certificate is $14. It is recommended that you order at the very least two certified copies, to keep in your personal files for proof of your marriage.
To sum up, a marriage license is issued to you so that you can get married and a marriage certificate is issued to you when you turn in the marriage license after your marriage has been solemnized by an officiant.