How to Obtain a Marriage License in Massachusetts
All people who marry in Massachusetts must have a marriage license issued in
Massachusetts. An out-of-state license cannot be used. The following information
outlines the procedures you must follow to obtain a license for marriage on Martha's
How to Apply for a License
You must both apply in person for a marriage license. This requirement is applicable
to both residents and nonresidents of the commonwealth. 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 in 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. A marriage license, once obtained, is valid for 60 days from the date
intentions are filed and may be used in any Massachusetts city or town. It is not
valid outside the commonwealth.
There is a mandatory three-day waiting period. While Sundays and holidays are
included in the three days, 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
Obtaining a Waiver of the Waiting Period
You may marry before the three day waiting period for a good reason if you can
obtain a court waiver after filing intentions.
To obtain a waiver, file your intentions first with any city or town clerk. Then
an application for a waiver must be filed by both of you at a probate or district
court. After a hearing, the court may issue a certificate allowing the marriage
license to be issued, and the marriage performed without delay.
Cost of License
The state statute stipulated a fee of $4 for the license but it allows cities
and towns by a vote of their city councils, boards of selectman or town meeting
or by a change in the by-laws, to set their own fee.
A Massachusetts resident may marry if he or she is 18 years of age or older.
A birth certificate may be required to show proof of age. If either party is under
18, a court order from a probate or district court where the minor resides must
be obtained before the marriage intentions can be filed.
Pre-Marital Blood Tests
Pre-marital blood tests are not required in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Divorced and Widowed Applicants
If one or both of you has been divorced, you are not required to present the
divorce certificate when filing intentions to marry. However, it is extremely important
that an individual who has be 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 has been granted, regardless of the grounds.
There are no special requirements for a widow or widower who is remarrying.
Witnesses to Ceremony
Massachusetts statute does not require that witnesses be present at your ceremony.
However, if a member of the clergy performs the ceremony, you should ensure that
you are in conformity with the appropriate religious tenets.
Clergy Persons and Justices of the Peace.
The member of the clergy or justice of the peace must complete and sign the original
license and return it to the clerk of the city or town where the license was issued.
Follow this link to officiants.
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
It is possible for a non-minister or non-justice of the peace (such as a relative
or family friend) to obtain special one-time permission to perform a marriage. The
governor may designate any other person to solemnize a particular marriage on a
particular date and in a particular city or town, and may for cause at any time
revoke such designation. Upon application, approval, and receipt of the letter of
designation, a registration fee of $25 is then paid to the office of the secretary
of commonwealth, through the public records division, to receive the Certificate
of Solemnization. The entire process takes approximately four to six weeks. The
bride and bride-groom must then turn in this Certificate of Solemnization with their
marriage certificate to their local city/town hall. For more information about One
day designations, contact the governor’s appointments office at 617.725.4080, ext.