How to Get a Marriage License in Massachusetts

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Photo by Henry + Mac 

Massachusetts is a coastal wedding treasure. Whether it’s a dreamy waterfront ceremony in Cape Cod, an urban rooftop vow exchange in Boston, or a rustic farmhouse celebration in one of its charming rural towns, Massachusetts offers a variety of locations and landscapes to suit any couple’s wedding vision. Once you've decided where to be married in Massachusetts, it’s time to get your license. 

"Obtaining your marriage license in Massachusetts is easy to do. However, couples should be aware that Massachusetts requires all officiants to register with the Secretary of State before they’re authorized to perform a marriage. Make sure you’ve considered your officiant’s credentials and any registration requirements," says Natasha Anakotta, an expert in wedding officiant responsibilities and wedding legalities, including marriage licenses. 

Meet the Expert

Natasha Anakotta is the outreach and operations manager of American Marriage Ministries. AMM offers free legal ordination to perform weddings all over the United States, in addition to a variety of ceremony planning resources for couples and officiants.

There’s no need to be intimidated or worried if you follow the instructions and pay close attention to specified waiting periods, deadlines, and expiration dates. With Anakotta’s help, we have everything you need to know about how to get a marriage license in Massachusetts. 

Where to Get a Marriage License in Massachusetts 

In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you can apply for your marriage license in any city or town—it doesn't matter where you live or where the ceremony is taking place. When you receive your marriage license, you can use it anywhere in the state.

There’s a three-day waiting period after your marriage license application is approved. "Although the day of application isn't part of the waiting period, Sundays and holidays are counted. Once issued to the couple, the marriage license will expire after 60 days," says Anakotta. No blood tests or residency in Massachusetts is required. If you’d like to forego the waiting period, you'll have to submit a notice to waive it at a local probate or district court and then apply for a Marriage Without Delay.

At this time, there are no options to apply and receive your license without visiting the courthouse, town hall, or other license-issuing offices. Every couple must go in person to fill out a Notice of Intention of Marriage.  However, for Suffolk County, which includes Boston, you'll first need to schedule an appointment online and the clerk will send you a "Pre-Intention" form. Fill it out, bring it with you to the in-person meeting, and it should take you just a few minutes to review, edit and sign your paperwork at city hall.

A copy of the recorded marriage license isn't sent to you automatically from the county in Massachusetts. Request your certified copy of the marriage certificate from the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics.

Massachusetts State General Law prohibits marriage between certain relatives. A man can’t marry his mother, grandmother, or daughter, et al. Neither can a woman marry her father, grandfather, or son, et al., but, first cousins are allowed to marry.

Bring Your Documentation

When you both go to the city hall or town clerk’s office to fill out a Notice of Intention of Marriage, make sure you have all the necessary documentation. If one of you can’t appear because of hospitalization, military service, or incarceration, contact the office of the Massachusetts Secretary of State for further information. 

In addition to the Notice of Intention of Marriage form, couples will need to provide:

  • Proof of Identity and Age. Both parties must be 18 years of age or older with valid identification. Bring a passport, driver's license, or military ID., and birth certificate. You will need your Social Security number. If you don't have one, you'll need to explain in writing why you don't. You may be allowed to marry if you are not yet 18 years of age but must appear before a court with your parents or guardian to obtain a court waiver from a probate or district court.   
  • Money. Fees vary for each county and town; in Suffolk County, it's $50 for a marriage license. The cost in Cambridge in Middlesex County is $35. While in Framingham, also part of Middlesex County, you pay $30. and the fee includes a certified copy of the marriage certificate. Make sure you confirm the form of payment the county accepts before you go.   
  • Important Information and Dates. Be sure of the name you’ll use as your married name. Know your mother's maiden name and both parents' state or country of birth. Have your date of divorce or bring annulment papers with you.

Get Married!

Only registered members of the clergy or a Justice of the Peace can legally perform a marriage in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. However, if you have your heart set on a family member or friend to perform your ceremony, they can apply for a one-day designation certificate. When granted, the person has legal officiant status for one specific day and can perform only one marriage in Massachusetts. Allow several weeks before the wedding for the designation to be approved. 

Right after the ceremony, the officiant must sign and complete the license. Afterward, the officiant will need to promptly return the license to the city or town clerk where the license was issued.

Make It Special

Congratulations, you’ve done it! You have your Massachusetts marriage license in hand. At Brides, we recommend a little celebration to mark the moment in your journey to your wedding day. We think a sunset sail in the waters of the Bay City or a smart cocktail in an establishment with a water view is in order, don’t you?