Years later I did ask a lawyer what would have happened had I torn up the license 3 days later like I wanted to, having realized I'd made a serious error. Would the marriage still be legal, even if the certificate was never sent in and recorded?
I was my ex-husband's second wife. The first wife he married in the cult. She left him about a year later.
The "minister" who did the first marriage never filed the paperwork with California. When the now-ex and I decided to get married, I went down to the County Courthouse to look it up. They said they had no record of his previous marriage, so he technically wasn't married, so we could get married, and it would be legal. I ran that second certificate down to the Courthouse myself.
The license just makes it legal for a third party to say the magical "I now pronounce you..." Tearing that up makes no difference. The certificate is the legal doc that says yer hitched.
In my case, the minister gave us the completed certificate to send in ourselves and because I'm way too efficient, I did so that very day. But, what if all legal elements had been met, except the mailing in of the certificate for it marriage to be registered? What if I had torn it up instead of mailing it in? Insta-divorce?
The way the lawyer explained, or how I understood it, was because the reg/minister who was legally sanctioned by the State had performed the ceremony (using the double ring ceremony from LRH's large, leather-bound Book of Ceremonies), which was witnessed and the certificate was then signed by the witnesses and minister, in short, all the legal requirements had been met. Even if it was never registered, the marriage was legal. The scenario he gave me was a What If. Let's say I tore up the certificate, went my merry way, and later married someone else? What if my ex objected? All he had to do, according to the lawyer, was round up the witnesses/minister and challenge the new marriage. If he made a big enough stink, I could get into trouble as a bigamist. Sadly, my ex was exactly the sort of person to do such a thing. He thrived on making big stinks- something I figured out within 3 days of married life, and why I wanted out.
You know, there's a lawyer joke in here somewhere...