Congratulations! Getting married is so exciting! It can also be quite stressful, especially if you don't know what to expect. With so much information out there, it can be quite difficult to make heads or tails of what you are supposed to do to make sure that your wedding is more than just a fun day with a big party. If you want your marriage to be legal, you are going to need to apply for, receive and file your marriage license. Here is the vital information for how that works.
Who can get married in Massachusetts?
Any two consenting adults of legal age who are not already married to someone are allowed to get married in Massachusetts. In terms of who is allowed to get married within the state, pretty much the only restriction is that the marriage relationship is limited to two people. This means that same sex marriages are legally recognized within the state but polygamous marriages are not. Depending on your view point, this may be disappointing news. Sorry about that.
Does this mean same sex marriages are legal in Massachusetts?
Yes. Same sex couples are allowed to get legally married within the state of Massachusetts.
It is important to note here that once upon a time, in order for same sex marriages to be recognized by the state, the men or women had to prove that they were residents of (or intended to become residents of) the state. This law was called the "1913 law" and in 2008 Governor Deval Patrick signed a new law into practice that made 1913 law obsolete.
What if I'm not 18 yet?
Hope isn't lost if you aren't yet 18. If you are under 18, want to get married and your parents (by some miracle) are okay with this idea, you can petition the court for a court order that will allow you to legally get married. The requirements for what the court will require before it issues this court order will vary so first talk to your parents and then talk to a lawyer to see how involved the process will be for you.
There are some circumstances in which the parental consent law might be able to be voided. Typically, if the bride is both underage and pregnant this consent law can be waived.
This varies by community, though! Make sure you double check with your community clerk.
We would also be remiss if we didn't point out that getting pregnant in an attempt to circumvent the parental consent law IS A TERRIBLE IDEA. If you are that hesitant to ask your parents for permission just wait until you're 18. It is safer, easier and less life altering.
Let's repeat that: Do NOT get pregnant just to avoid having to get parental consent to marry your boyfriend. That is a terrible idea!
What if I'm currently married to someone else?
What if I used to be married to someone else?
This depends on where you live within the state. Most of the time as long as you are not currently legally married, you should be fine (this means that any divorces or annulments have been finalized). For some cities and counties, however, a waiting period is required between leaving one marriage and entering another. Check with your city and county clerks to find out what the laws are in your area.
Do I need to prove I'm divorced/widowed/a widower?
Currently most communities within Massachusetts do not require you to provide proof of a divorce or a spouse's death. This means that, typically you won't have to provide your divorce settlement papers or a death certificate to prove that you are, in fact, legally single again. Still, if you have the paperwork with you, it can't hurt to take it with you when you apply for your marriage license, just in case. Better safe than sorry, right?
Can I marry my cousin?
Can I get married right away?
Unfortunately, you aren't trying to get married in Las Vegas and that means that you are going to have to wait. Luckily the wait isn't very long. There is a three day waiting period required from the time you apply for your marriage license and when you can legally get married.
Important note: this may or may not mean three legal business days. This means that it might not include Saturdays, Sundays or state recognized holidays. If the post office won't deliver mail that day, it doesn't count as a day for your waiting period (unless it's Saturday—the mail gets delivered on Saturdays. Your waiting period, however, is paused). Double check with your community clerk to see what the rules are in the town in which you are applying.
There are exceptions to the rule!
If you procrastinated and put off applying and your ceremony is in two days, you can petition the court to have your waiting period waived. There is a fee for this, of course, but the waiver is available.
If you are pregnant and close to your due date or are terminally ill and close to death, you can have your primary care physician or a clergy person turn in a request for you and the clerk should be able to waive the three day waiting period for you.
How long is my marriage license good for?
Technically once you are married your license is good for as long as you are married. But that probably isn't what you are asking here, is it?
You have sixty days from the end of your waiting period to have your marriage ceremony performed and to have your marriage license signed and turned in by your officiant. On the sixty first day, you need to reapply for a new license and start over again.
Where is my marriage licensed recognized?
You know how in some states, a marriage license is only good for the county in which it is issued? This is not true in Massachusetts! If you apply for your marriage license in Massachusetts you are allowed to get married anywhere within the state.
Can I use an out of state marriage license to get married in Massachusetts (and vice versa)?
No. If you applied for a marriage license in, say, the state of Connecticut—you cannot use it to get married within the state of Massachusetts. This holds true for the reverse situation. You cannot use a Massachusetts marriage license to get married in another state. You must apply for your marriage license and get married within the same state. This may throw a wrench into your travel plans if you want to get married out of state so make sure you check into things like waiting periods, etc in the state in which you plan to be married and plan accordingly!
Can't I just skip all this stuff and declare myself married by common law?
No. While in some states common law marriages are recognized as legal unions (if specific sets of circumstances are met), Massachusetts is not one of them. If you want your union to be legally recognized by the state you have to apply, have a ceremony and actually do the work to get married.
Nice try though, lazy pants.
How do I apply for my marriage license?
You and your fiancé need to apply for your marriage license in person at the office of the city or community clerk. Most of the time you cannot send a proxy. Ask your clerk what to do if you think you may need to have an exception granted (if you are marrying someone homebound, for example).
Show the proper documents to the clerk, fill out your application (make sure you fill it out correctly) and pay the fee to have your application filed. Get a receipt. Ta-da! You're done!
What documents are required?
Most of the time you need to provide proof that you are who you say you are. In many communities a legal picture ID are all that you need. Some, however, will want you to provide a birth certificate too. Double check with your clerk to see which documents are required in the town in which you are applying.
Sometimes you may need to submit a document saying that you are not carrying communicable syphilis. That sounds gross we know, but it isn't difficult to visit a clinic, get tested and have written proof of your results given to you. Of course, this is not a state-wide requirement so, like with most other things, you should call your clerk to find out what exactly is required in your area. In some communities you can apply without the proof in hand but you are still required to submit it before you can actually have your marriage legally finalized.
Do I need to take a blood test?
Nope! Remember when blood tests were always required before you could get married? Well, if you want to get married in Massachusetts, you don't have to worry about this anymore. No blood tests are required!
How much does it cost?
We're starting to feel like a broken record here, but this really does vary from community to community. In Boston, for example, it costs $50 to apply. In Salem it costs $20. Your community's website should have the current fee listed on it somewhere but you can also call the clerk and ask how much to have on hand.
How should I pay?
It's a good rule of thumb here that cash is always the best option. Some clerks may accept checks or credit/debit cards but for the most part, things will be a lot smoother for you if you just show up with enough money to pay for the fee in cash. That way you won't have to worry about finding an ATM or whether or not you have checks on hand. As with everything else, we've talked about: you can call your clerk to get up to the minute information for your community.
Who can marry us?
Any person who has been ordained as a minister or clergy person can legally perform a marriage ceremony. Any person who is a justice of the peace can legally perform a marriage ceremony.
If you would like to hire an officiant who has not been ordained in Massachusetts, your chosen officiant must apply for and receive a Certificate of Authorization from the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth before the wedding ceremony can be performed.
What if I want my Mom/Grandmother/Best Friend/Non Ordained/Non Justice of the Peace Person to perform the ceremony?
In the state of Massachusetts, anybody can perform a wedding ceremony with the proper authorization. If the person you want most to perform your ceremony is not ordained or a Justice of the Peace, that person can apply and pay for a one time special permission from the Governor to perform the ceremony and file the license. The permission usually costs about $25 but contact your clerk to double check on the cost.
DO NOT PUT THIS OFF. It takes about six weeks to receive this permission from the Governor. Give yourself eight weeks just to be sure.
Do we need witnesses?
Typically you would, but right now the state of Massachusetts does not require that the marriage have any official witnesses. Your officiant's signature on the license should be sufficient.
Can I get a proxy marriage?
Proxy marriage, for those of you who don't already know what that is, is a marriage in which either the bride or the groom is absent from the ceremony and someone else (a proxy) stands in for her or him.
Unfortunately, most of the time in Massachusetts, proxy marriages are not allowed.
If one of you is in the military and on deployment or if one of you is incarcerated, there may be instances in which you can apply for an exception to be made. It all depends on your circumstances and the laws of the town in which you are applying for your marriage license and having the ceremony performed. Ask your community or town clerk whether or not this application is an option for you and your future spouse.
I've successfully filed my application for my marriage license and my waiting period has passed. Now what?
Go get married, you crazy kid! Don't forget to write a really great toast!
Okay. I'm married. Now what?
Once you're married you need to do a couple of things. Depending on how you are going to be filing your taxes, you may need to submit some new W-4s with your employer, changing your dependent/exemption status. If you are changing your name, you need to get that process started as well. There is a name change kit that will teach you exactly what you should do to make sure you've got your bases covered there.
From there, it's really up to you. Open your presents. Write your thank you cards. Learn how to live together as a married couple. It's a whole new adventure!
Where do I get certified copies of my marriage license/marriage certificate/divorce settlement/spouse's death certificate?
Contact your local office of vital records and statistics. Typically you will have to pay a visit to the office, show some identification and pay a fee to have copies of these records printed up and certified. The identification and fee requirements (both in terms of cost and payment methods accepted) vary by community so make sure you call before you go in. The last thing you want is to have to come back another day.
Make sure you keep these certified copies in a safe place like a safety deposit box at the bank. You might need them more often than you think you do and you don't want them to get lost!
One more thing. Where do I need to go to get my marriage license?
Pick a city/county clerk office below. Any of the following locations would be fine as your issued license will be valid statewide. Goodbye and good luck!
Where to Go
Where do I physically need to go to get my marriage license?
Massachusetts has 22 offices where a marriage license can be acquired. Simply choose a location below to visit. Phone numbers as well as map and accompanying driving direction links are provided for every address.
Adams, MA 01220
Barnstable, MA 02630
Belmont, MA 02478
Boston, MA 02201
Cambridge, MA 02141
Dedham, MA 02026
Edgartown, MA 02539
Fall River, MA 02722
Fitchburg, MA 01420
Greenfield, MA 01302
Great Barrington, MA 01230
Lawrence, MA 01840
Lowell, MA 01853
Nantucket, MA 02554
New Bedford, MA 02740
North Hampton, MA 01060
Pittsfield, MA 01201
Plymouth, MA 02360
Salem, MA 01970
Springfield, MA 01103
Taunton, MA 02780
Worcester, MA 01608