Massachusetts Marriage Laws

Massachusetts is the quintessential historical pioneering state, home to the first telephone call, subway car, lighthouse, college and game of hoops. Among its more modern achievements? It boasts one of the lowest divorce rates in the country. So whether you’re born and bred in the Bay State, or you’re an adventurous couple looking to Massachusetts as a matrimonial talisman, take a moment to browse through the step-by-step guide we at the Universal Life Church have compiled after carefully combing through the state’s legal codes with experienced eyes. It will ensure whatever wedding you plan is legally binding.

Requirements for the Couple

Min. Age of Couple:
Age 18, Under 18 Guardian Consent
Residency:
Not Required
Min. Distance of Kin Allowed:
First Cousins
Marriage Equality:
Yes

Massachusetts sets the legal age of consent for marriage at 18 years old. All minors looking to get married in the state must produce the written consent of a living parent or legal guardian to the relevant county court for any exception to be made.

Traditionally home to a sizable LGBTQ community, Massachusetts continues to welcome same sex marriages, whether between residents or those from out of state or even country. However, any and all unions between descendants, siblings or relatives any closer in blood than first cousins are strictly prohibited in the state.

Marriage License Requirements

Who Picks Up License:
The Couple
Where License is Valid:
County of Issuance
Marriage License Pick-Up:
In Person Only
Cost of License:
Varies by County
Accepted I.D. Types:
Birth Certificate, Passport
Proof of Divorce Required (If Applicable):
No
Blood Test Required:
No

Prospective couples must personally present themselves before a town clerk and fill out, under oath, applications furnished by the Massachusetts state registrar of vital records and statistics. Exceptions can be made in cases where one person is sick and procures an affidavit from a registered physician, and if either or both parties are in the armed forces, or incarcerated.

While a marriage license application is part of the public record, a second form with the couples’ social security numbers and current addresses will be forwarded to the state registrar. Couples may be asked to produce birth certificates and passports to prove their identity, although neither divorce documents nor blood tests will be required.

The fee for a marriage license varies by county. The state of Massachusetts requires a three-day grace period between application date and ceremony.

Marriage License Facts

ULC-Officiated Ceremony Type:
Religious
Mandatory Waiting Period:
3 Days
License Valid For:
60 Days
License Must Be Submitted:
By Expiration

The clerk who issues the marriage certificate will take care to mark both the date and its ultimate expiry date before signing it. It will be valid for a period of 60 days, and only in the city or county in which it was issued. It’s the couple’s responsibility to deliver the license to the minister or magistrate tasked with performing the wedding ceremony, and that person’s job to return the completed documents within the prescribed expiration period in order for the marriage to be deemed valid and legally binding.

Requirements for the Minister

Min. Age of Minister:
Age 18
Residency:
Not Required
Document(s) Required:
Ordination Credential and Letter of Good Standing
Online Ordination Recognized:
Yes
Relevant Office of Registration:
Secretary of the Commonwealth
Latest Document(s) Submission Date Allowed:
Before the Ceremony
Minister I.D. # Issued:
No

The state of Massachusetts lists in great details all the religious and civil representatives capable of solemnizing marriages in the state. This includes all ordained ministers and deacons of the gospel, cantors and rabbis, inams; Buddhist priests, representatives of a Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is or the Friends or Quaker Society; as well as justices, clerks and registrars, or leaders of the Ethical Culture Society.

Amongst this list falls ministers ordained online by the Universal Life Church, who are recognized as religious actors.

That being said, all ministers from out of town will be required to register with the secretary of state, and in doing so be asked to produce both their ordination credentials and a letter of good standing, available in the online catalog on our website, in order to obtain a certificate of validation that will then be attached to the marriage certificate. This will cost the minister between $20-25 depending on whether the application is submitted electronically or by hand. It can even be done after the ceremony in certain cases.

Wedding Ceremony Requirements

Marriage By Proxy Allowed:
No
Minister Required to be Present:
Yes
Number of Witnesses Required:
None
Min. Age of Witnesses:
N/A
Couple's Consent Required:
Yes
Pronouncement Required:
Yes

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts will not recognize any marriage ceremony conducted by proxy, which basically means both members of the couple and the minister must be present at the wedding. While no witnesses are required, each party in the couple must solemnly declare their intent to take the other as a spouse, a declaration the minister must ultimately pronounce formally.

Final Steps

Officiant's Title on Marriage License:
Minister
Church/Ordaining Body:
Universal Life Church Ministries
Address of Church:
Minister's Home Address

Once the ceremony is complete, it’s the minister’s job to fill out the relevant section of the marriage certificate that requires their name, title, ordaining body (Universal Life Church Ministries) and home address, and to ensure that both persons in the couple have filled out their own information completely and correctly.

It’s also the minister’s job to ensure that the marriage certificate is returned to the original county clerk where it was issued before the 60-day expiration date.