Martha's Vineyard, Vineyard Haven, MA

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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 Vineyard.

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.

Waiting Period

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 be mailed.

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.

Age Requirement

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
617.727.2836

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. 35339.