Massachusetts law about marriage

Laws, regulations, cases, and web sources on marriage law.

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Table of Contents

Massachusetts laws

18   or over to marry

MGL c.207: Marriage. Particular sections of interest:

  • § 1 Marriage of man to certain relatives prohibited
  • § 2 Marriage of woman to certain relatives prohibited
  • § 4 Polygamy prohibited; exception
  • § 7 Marriage of minors prohibited
  • §14 Determination of validity (annulment)
  • § 24 Nonage minors; receiving of notice; prohibition (age requirement is 18)
  • § 25 Access to legal remedies and relief for married minors
  • § 30 Dispensing with 3 days' notice
  • § 33A Intention of marriage; proof of age
  • § 36 Registering marriages that took place outside of Massachusetts
  • § 47A  Breach of contract to marry not actionable “Heart Balm Act”

MGL c.272, § 15 Polygamy

Federal law

U.S. Constitution, Article IV, Section 2, Clause 1
“Privileges and Immunities Clause, a/k/a the Comity Clause.” The basis for recognition of out-or-state marriages.

Respect For Marriage Act, P.L. 117-228 (2022)
Signed into law by President Biden on December 13, 2022, this act "provides statutory authority for same-sex and interracial marriages."

Selected cases

Collins v. Guggenheim, 417 Mass. 615 (1994)
The Court held that "cohabitation in Massachusetts does not create the relationship of husband and wife in the absence of a formal solemnization of marriage." Common-law marriage is not recognized in Massachusetts.

Commonwealth v. Lane, 113 Mass. 458 (1873)
The court held that “we ordinarily extend recognition to out-of-State marriages under principles of comity, even if such marriages would be prohibited here, unless the marriage violates Massachusetts public policy, including polygamy, consanguinity and affinity.”

Elia-Warnken v. Elia, 463 Mass. 29 (2012)
The Supreme Judicial Court “recognized a Vermont civil union as the equivalent of marriage in the Commonwealth under principles of comity.” 


Marriage without delay. Mass. Probate and Family Court, District Court, and Boston Municipal Court Depts.
Note: this form can no longer be used for marriage of minors. Effective July 1, 2022, no one under 18 may marry in Massachusetts. Use to request waiver of the required 3 day waiting period. See also: Instructions for marriage without delay.

One day marriage designation, Mass. Secretary of the Commonwealth.
Use to have a friend or family member perform the ceremony.

Procedure to perform marriages by members of the clergy living in Massachusetts, Mass. Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Procedure to perform marriages in Massachusetts by nonresident clergy, Mass. Secretary of the Commonwealth.

Web sources

"Common law marriage is not legal in Massachusetts – except when it is", Kimberley Keyes, Lynch & Owens P.C. Blog, 5/17/17.
"Attorney Kimberley Keyes reviews how Massachusetts treats common law marriages from other states in divorce and inheritance cases."

Getting married in Massachusetts: before the wedding, Exec. Office of Technology Services and Security.
Provides answers to questions commonly asked prior to a wedding, such as who can officiate a wedding and how to apply for a marriage license. This website does not reflect 2022 changes in the law prohibiting the marriage of minors, specifically MGL c. 207, sections 7 and 24.

Getting married in Massachusetts: after the wedding, Exec. Office of Technology Services and Security.
Includes information on how to: change your name, get a new ID, file taxes, change your health insurance.

How to get a marriage license in Massachusetts”,, 2021.

How to get married at City Hall, City of Boston, (updated 5/31/23).

How to get married in Massachusetts, Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD), July 2015.
Written for same-sex couples, but the procedures are identical for all couples. Clear detailed information. Includes information on how to change your surname.

Justices of the Peace: summary of duties, Office of the Massachusetts Governor.
Explains the duties of a justice of the peace in performing a marriage, including the form of the ceremony, permitted fees, and more.

Ordering a birth, marriage, or death certificate, Mass. Registry of Vital Records and Statistics.
Information on getting copies of marriage records from the Mass. Registry of Vital Records and Statistics. Note that you can also get a copy of your marriage license from the city or town clerk in the place where you got the license.

Premarital agreement law in Massachusetts, Charles P. Kindregan Jr., December 3, 2012.
This paper provides an overview of the drafting and use of premarital or prenuptial agreements in Massachusetts.

"What happens if someone objects at a wedding?",, updated 7/27/23.

Print sources

Family law and practice; with forms, 4th ed. (Mass Practice vol.1-3), Thomson Reuters, 2013 with supplement. Chapters 17-23 "The Law of Marriage".

Fiancé & marriage visas : a couple's guide to U.S. immigration by Ilona M. Bray, Nolo, 2022. (eBook available here with library card).

LexisNexis practice guide: Massachusetts family law, LexisNexis, annual.
Chapter 1:  Marriage:  this chapter covers who may enter into a marriage, the legal requirements of a marriage, annulments and same sex marriages in Massachusetts.

Lindey and Parley on separation agreements and antenuptial contracts, Matthew Bender, loose-leaf, 1999 with current supplements.
Includes information on prenuptial agreements.

Prenuptial agreements : how to write a fair and lasting contract by Katherine E. Stoner, Nolo, 2023. (eBook available here with library card).

Contact   for Massachusetts law about marriage

Last updated: August 14, 2023

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