Getting Married in Massachusetts: Before the Wedding

If you’re planning your dream wedding in the Bay State, congratulations!

Whatever your theme or guest list — should you invite Aunt Edna or your second cousin Joe? — there are a few things you’ll need to do before the big day to make sure your ceremony is official.

Massachusetts General Law Chapter 207 covers many of the legal requirements around getting married in Massachusetts. The Secretary of the Commonwealth also provides some guides to get the right paperwork filed on time, but for the most detailed information, you should contact your city or town clerk, because each place has its own regulations about marriage licenses.

Who Can Get Married in Massachusetts?

You don’t have to be a state resident to get married in Massachusetts. If you or your partner is under 18 years old, you’ll need permission from a parent or legal guardian to get married. You also can’t marry certain close relatives, which is detailed in Sections 1 and 2 of Chapter 207.

Who Can Conduct a Wedding in Massachusetts?

There are four groups of people who can officiate at weddings in Massachusetts. Each needs to meet different requirements to get licensed:

  • In-state Clergy Member — If you’d like to be married by a member of the clergy who lives in Massachusetts, they likely are already authorized to perform the ceremony. However, if they haven’t performed a marriage in the state before, they will need to file three forms with the Commissions Section of the Public Records Division.
  • In-state Justice of the Peace Justices of the Peace are appointed by the Governor with the advice and consent of the Executive Council and are authorized to perform marriages. Contact your city or town clerk for more information if you’d like to be married by a Justice of the Peace.
  • Out-of-state Clergy Member or Justice of the Peace — Non-residents who are authorized in other states to perform marriages have to file the non-resident, out-of-state clergy petition to get a certificate to officiate your ceremony. Justices of the Peace from other states should also use this form. They shouldn’t file the application more than six weeks before your wedding day. Once your officiant-to-be gets the certificate — usually two to four weeks after applying — they have to file it with the city or town clerk that will issue your marriage license. You should check with your clerk to find out about specific deadlines for this license in your area.
  • Anyone with a One-day Designation — If you would like a friend or family member to officiate your wedding, they can apply for a one-day license to do so. They must fill out an application online or by mail from six months to one week before your wedding date. There is no residency requirement for one-day designations.

Where Can We Get Married in Massachusetts?

If you’re interested in having the ceremony here in the Bay State, there are hundreds of beautiful venues to fit every couple’s personality and budget. The Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism (MOTT) provides some highlights on their wedding venue ideas page.

In addition, many Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) parks are happy to accommodate small wedding ceremonies, as long as you get a special use permit for the day. Contact the individual park you’re interested in for availability and additional information.

What Paperwork Do We Need to Get Married in Massachusetts?

You need to have a marriage license to get married in the Commonwealth. Although Massachusetts law outlines some key steps for getting a license, each town and city can add their own requirements to the process.

Keep in mind, you can apply for a license from any city or town in the state. It doesn’t have to be from the town where you live or where your ceremony will be.

You should contact your city or town clerk to find out exactly what you and your future spouse need to do to get a marriage license. In general, however, before your wedding you’ll need to:

  • Both go in person to your city or town clerk and fill out a Notice of Intention of Marriage form
    • You may need to bring identification or other paperwork, as well as payment for fees.
    • If you’ve decided to change your name, you may need to provide the name you’ll use after the wedding.
  • Wait three days to pick up your marriage license
  • Give the marriage license to the person conducting the ceremony on the day of your wedding
    • Make sure that they already have a license to conduct marriages in Massachusetts if they need it.

After you are married, your officiant must sign and return the license to the city or town clerk who issued it before the 60-day time period is up.

Once you’ve got all your ducks in a row, you and your future spouse will be able to enjoy your wedding day, whether it’s in the Boston Public Garden or overlooking the Pioneer Valley. And stay tuned for more information about what you’ll need to do after the wedding to get your marriage certificate, change your name, and more.

Share this with family and friends who are getting married in the Bay State. If you have questions about your big day, tweet us @MassGov or comment below.

more recommended stories

%d bloggers like this: