Guide 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.

What should I know about getting married in Massachusetts?

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

Can I 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.

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Who can conduct my wedding in Massachusetts?

There are 4 primary groups of people who can officiate at weddings in Massachusetts. Each group 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 are most likely already authorized to perform the ceremony. However, if they haven’t performed a marriage in the state before, they’ll need to file 3 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 some 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 — Clergy members or Justices of the Peace 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. They shouldn’t file the application more than 6 weeks before your wedding day. Once your officiant-to-be gets the certificate — usually 2–4 weeks after applying — they have to file it with the city or town clerk that will issue your marriage license within 10 days of the ceremony.
  • Anyone with a 1-day Designation — If you want a friend or family member to officiate your wedding, they can apply for a 1-day designation. They must fill out an application online or by mail from 6 months to 1 week before your wedding date. There is no residency requirement for 1-day designations.

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Where can I get married in Massachusetts?

If you’d like to have your 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, and a limited number of parks can accommodate larger weddings, as long as you get a special use permit for the day. Contact the park you’re interested in for availability and additional information.

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What paperwork do I need to get married in Massachusetts?

There's a 3-day waiting period once you apply for a marriage license. The license is valid for 60 days once you have it.

You need to have a marriage license to get married in the Bay State. 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, but in general, before your wedding you’ll need to:

  • Fill out a Notice of Intention of Marriage Form — You and your future spouse will need to go in person to your city or town clerk to fill out this form. You’ll need to provide:
    • Proof of your age, such as a birth certificate or passport
    • Your Social Security number
    • Payment for fees, which vary by town
    • The name you’ll use after the wedding if you’ve decided to change it
  • Pick up Your Marriage License — There is a required 3-day waiting period before you can pick up your marriage license. In some cases, you can apply for a marriage without delay at the probate or district court in the town where you submitted your notice to waive this period. The license is valid for 60 days. If you’re not married within 60 days of the date the license was granted, you’ll need to apply for it again.
  • Give Your License to the Person Conducting the Ceremony — After you’re 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.

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I'm married! What's next?

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

Share this guide with family and friends who are getting married in the Bay State. Have questions about your big day? Tweet us @MassGov.

Image credits:  George Headley

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