Can First Cousins Marry In California? (Explained)

It is currently legal for first cousins to marry in California.

The state laws prevent closer relationships such as brothers and sisters.

The application form to get married in California does not ask if you are related. You simply confirm that there is no legal impediment to marriage.  

This article looks in-depth at aspects of cousin marriage in the Golden State.

Types Of Cousins That Can Get Married In California

All types of cousins can get married in California.

If you’re not sure what the different types of relationships mean, check out the links below to articles with easy-to-understand explanations.

It’s important to be sure that your partner is your cousin and not a half-sibling. Half siblings aren’t allowed to marry in California.

If you’re unsure about what this relationship means, we have it covered in our article on what “half siblings” means.

Marriage In California

What You Should Know About First Cousin Marriage In California

California requires that you apply for a marriage license to get married in the Golden State.

You don’t have to be a resident. But be aware that some states in the U.S. may not recognize your marriage if they prohibit first cousin unions.

You can apply online for the license in bigger counties like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County.

However, you’ll both need to go see the clerk in other counties.

In these cases, you take your documentation to the county office. The clerk issues the marriage license at the end of your appointment.

Be prepared for the possibility that the county clerk will ask you if you are related in any way. Don’t worry and just explain the relationship.

Does the California marriage form ask if you’re related?

Some states have a section where you must state a relationship e.g. first cousin.

You can see an example in our article on first cousin marriage in Colorado.

We reviewed the San Diego license application form in 2022. It doesn’t ask for this information.

Who Can’t Get Married In California?

These are the relationships that are prohibited from marriage in California’s law books:

  • Ancestor and descendant of any degree
  • Brother and sister (half-blood included)
  • Uncle and niece
  • Aunt and nephew
  • Bigamy and polygamy

You can get the exact details in this link to a summary of the California Family Code.

The first line of “ancestor and descendant” simply means that you can’t marry anyone in your direct line.

This means your children, your grandchildren, your parents, your grandparents, or great grandparents.

The laws explicitly mention a list of other relationships. The major point is that first cousins aren’t listed here.

California laws don’t say explicitly that first cousins can marry. They simply don’t mention the relationship in their restrictions.

The Option Of A Confidential Marriage License

California differs from other states by offering the option of a confidential marriage license.

This is slightly more expensive, but there’s not much difference in the cost.

If you go this route, it means that your marriage license is not part of the public record.

In other words, other people aren’t allowed to obtain a certified copy of your license from the county clerks.

The only way to access your personal information is with a court order. Of course, this doesn’t hide your marriage from law enforcement.

But if you want privacy from your family or neighbors, then this provides a route. I mention it here in case you want the extra privacy it affords.

There are a few criteria attached. For example, you must be living with your would-be spouse at the time that you apply for the license.

Do People Travel To California To Get Married?

California is bordered by Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon.

Nevada and Oregon prohibit first cousin marriages. Arizona allows it in restricted circumstances.

Some people think that crowds of first cousins from out of state descend upon California to get married. However, I can’t find any evidence that this is the case.

Roman Catholic Marriages

If you want to celebrate your California wedding in a Roman Catholic church, you will face separate challenges.

Historically, the Catholic Church hasn’t been keen on first cousin marriages. However, the church laws have been relaxed somewhat in recent years.

There is a process you need to go through with the hierarchy in order to get permission to marry in a church ceremony.

We explain in detail in our general article on first cousins (scroll down to the end).

What about second cousins?

Second cousins (and further out) don’t need to get special permission for a Catholic Church marriage.

We suggest that you explain the second cousin relationship to your priest before the service. This means there will be no confusion for the celebrant if there is mention of “cousins” during casual conversation later.

If you’re not sure about whether you are first or second cousins, we have an article that explains the second cousin relationship. It has diagrams that make it clear.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does California allow relatives to marry?

California does not allow close relatives to marry.

More distant relatives such as first and second cousins  are allowed to marry in the state.

Can you marry a sibling in California?

California does not allow siblings to marry.

Half-siblings are also not allowed to marry.

Is it legal to marry your second cousin in California?

Marriage between second cousins are legal in California.

Other cousin relationships, such as first and third cousins, are also allowed marry in the state.


The codes and laws referenced in this article may not be the most recent version. Delaware may have more current or accurate information.

We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or the information linked to on other sites.

Please check official sources.

Margaret created a family tree on a genealogy website in 2012. She purchased her first DNA kit in 2017. She created this website to share insights and how-to guides on DNA, genealogy, and family research.

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