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Getting married in Massachusetts

IMPORTANT NOTE: Marriage laws and license requirements change continually, so please check the latest information with your local marriage license bureau office or county clerk's office before making your wedding or travel plans, and before inviting your guests.

Both the bride and groom must appear in person at the time of applying. This requirement is applicable to both residents and non-residents of the Commonwealth. According to Massachusetts law, you must jointly file intentions to marry, and you may do so with the city or town clerk in any community in the state.

If a person is in the military, intentions may be filed by either party, providing one is a Massachusetts resident.

If a person is incarcerated in a county house of correction or a state correctional facility, intentions may be filed by either party.

Who may apply for a marriage license

The bride and groom do not have to be a resident of Massachusetts.

If either of the parties has arrived as an immigrant from a foreign country within five days, the application may be filed at any time before the marriage, and the certificate shall be issued at any time after the filing.

Parental consent is needed if under 18 years of age. If you are between 16-18 years of age, one of your parents or guardian must be with you and provide written consent.

If you are under 18, pregnant or have a child, and show a certificate from a licensed physician stating you are pregnant or have had a child, the parental consent requirement may be waived.

If you are under 16 years of age, you will need both the written consent of your custodial parent or guardian and the written approval of a judge of the Orphans' Court Division of the Court of Common Pleas.

Cousin marriages are permitted in the state of Massachusetts.

ID requirements

Picture ID such as a driver's license is required.

You should know your Social Security numbers.

Previous marriages

You are not required to present a divorce certificate when filing intentions to marry. However, it is extremely important that an individual who has been divorced be certain that his/her divorce is absolute. If you are uncertain as to the absolute date of your divorce, you should contact the court where the divorce was granted. In Massachusetts, a divorce does not become absolute until 90 days after the divorce nisi has been granted, regardless of the grounds for divorce.

Blood tests and other tests

No blood tests are required.

Marriage ceremonies and witnesses

Witnesses are not required.

Officiants

Ordained ministers of the gospel may perform marriages. Before performing marriages, ministers are required to apply for a certificate from the state. For applications visit the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website. You must file a copy of your ordination certificate and a statement from the church saying that you are in good standing. Ministers must keep records of all marriages they perform. Also, ministers must return a certificate of the marriage to the town clerk or registrar who issued the marriage license and to the town clerk of the town where the marriage was performed.

If an out-of-state member of the clergy is to perform the marriage, the clergy person must obtain a Certificate of Authorization from the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth prior to the ceremony. This certificate, which is issued by the Public Records Division of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, is to be attached to the original license and returned to the clerk of the city or town where the license was issued. For further information, contact:

Division of Public Records
Secretary of the Commonwealth
One Ashburton Place, Room 1719
Boston, MA 02108
Tel. (617) 727-2836

Officiant for a Day: In Massachusetts, a couple can choose to have a family friend or relative perform their wedding ceremony. In order to become a "Justice of the Peace" for a day, you must fill out an application from the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth. The process takes 4-6 weeks to complete.

After filling out the application and sending it back, you will then receive a letter from the Secretary of Commonwealth granting permission for the person to perform the wedding ceremony. The letter will give you further instructions to complete the process. There is a $25 fee to apply.

Fees

Between $4 and $50 depending on the county. The state statute stipulates a fee of $4 for the license but it allows cities and towns by a vote of their city councils, boards of selectmen or town meeting, or by a change in the by-laws, to set their own fee.

Waiting period

There is a 3 day waiting period. Sundays and holidays are included in the three days, but the day the application is made is not. For example, if you apply on Friday, your license will be issued on or after Monday. Check with your town clerk to determine whether you must pick it up in person, or if it can be mailed.

If both parties are residents, or non-residents, or one of each, and they need to dispense with the three days, they may do so by applying to the judge of a probate or district court to have the license issued without delay, after filing intentions with the clerk. Under extraordinary or emergency circumstances, such as if the death of either party is imminent or the female is nearing the end of her pregnancy, an authorized request by a minister or clergyperson or an attending physician shall suffice and the clerk can issue the certificate without delay.

Validity of license

License is valid for 60 days.

Same-sex marriages

As of May 17, 2004, same-sex marriages are permitted. However, with legal challenges to the Massachusetts state law, some local jurisdictions may have residency requirements and/or not issue marriage licenses to couples.

Check with your local authorities to see how they are handling this issue.

Copy of marriage certificate

Massachusetts Registry of Vital Records and Statistics
150 Mount Vernon St., 1st Fl.
Dorchester, MA 02125-3105
Main Telephone: (617) 740-2600

For more information

Here is a list of county clerk's offices in Massachusetts:

Adams Town Clerk
Adams, MA
413.743.8320

Barnstable Town Hall
Barnstable, MA
508.790.6200

Belmont Town Clerk
Boston, MA
617.489.8201

Cambridge City Clerk
Cambridge, MA
617.349.4260

Dedham Town Clerk
Dedham, MA
781.326.1638

Edgartown Town Clerk
Edgartown, MA
508.627.6110

Fall River City Clerk
Fall River, MA
508.324.2220

Fitchburg City Clerk
Fitchburg, MA
978.345.9592

Franklin Town Clerk
Greenfield, MA
413.772.0239

Great Barrington Clerk
Great Barrington, MA
413.528.3140

Lawrence City Clerk
Lawrence, MA
978.794.5803

Lowell City Clerk
Lowell, MA
978.970.4161

Nantucket Town Clerk
Nantucket, MA
508.228.7216

New Bedford City Clerk
New Bedford, MA
508.979.1450

Northampton City Clerk
North Hampton, MA
413.587.1224

Pittsfield City Clerk
Pittsfield, MA
413.499.9361

Plymouth Town Clerk
Plymouth, MA
508.830.4050

Salem City Clerk
Salem, MA
978.745.9595

Springfield City Clerk
Springfield, MA
413.781.8100

Taunton City Clerk
Taunton, MA
508.821.1024

Worcester City Clerk
Worcester, MA
508.799.1126

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