All people who marry in Massachusetts must have a marriage license issued in Massachusetts. An out-of-state license cannot be used. This outlines the procedures you must follow to obtain the license.
How to Apply for a License
How do we apply for a marriage license?
You must both apply in person for a marriage license. This requirement is applicable to both residents and non-residents of the Commonwealth. According to Massachusetts law, you must jointly file intentions to marry, and you may do so with the city or town clerk in any community in the state. If a person is in the military, intentions may be filed by either party, providing one is a Massachusetts resident. If a person is incarcerated in a county house of correction or a state correctional facility, intentions may be filed by either party. A marriage license, once obtained, is valid for 60 days from the date intentions are filed and may be used in any Massachusetts city or town. It is not valid outside the state.
Each town on Martha’s Vineyard has a Town Clerk who can issue a marriage license. The links to each town are available at the upper right corner of our web page. The telephone numbers for each of the Clerks are:
Oak Bluffs 508-693-5515
West Tisbury 508-696-0148
Is there a waiting period from the date of application to the date the license is issued?
Yes, there is a mandatory three-day waiting period. While Sundays and holidays are included in the three days, the day the application is made is not. For example, if you apply on Friday, your license will be issued on or after Monday. Check with your town clerk to determine whether you must pick it up in person, or if it can be mailed.
Obtaining a Waiver of the Waiting Period
May we marry before the three days for good reason?
Yes, if you can obtain a court waiver after filing intentions. According to MGL Ch. 207:30, if both parties are residents, or non-residents, or one of each, and they need to dispense with the three days, they may do so by applying to the judge of a probate or district court to have the license issued without delay, after filing intentions with the clerk. Under extraordinary or emergency circumstances, such as if the death of either party is imminent or the female is nearing the end of her pregnancy, an authorized request by a minister or clergy person or an attending physician shall suffice and the clerk can issue the certificate without delay.
How do we obtain a waiver?
You should file your intentions first with any city or town clerk. Then an application for a waiver must be filed by both of you at a probate or district court. After a hearing, the court may issue a certificate allowing the marriage license to be issued, and the marriage performed without delay.
Cost of License
What is the cost of a marriage license?
Fees in most communities range between $4 and $15 dollars. The state statute stipulates a fee of $4 for the license but it allows cities and towns by a vote of their city councils, boards of selectmen or town meeting, or by a change in the by-laws, to set their own fee.
At what age may a man or woman marry?
A Massachusetts resident may marry if he or she is 18 years of age or older. A birth certificate may be required to show proof of age.
What if one or both of us is under 18?
If either party is under 18, a court order from a probate or district court where the minor resides must be obtained before the marriage intentions can be filed.
Divorced and Widowed Applicants
What if one or both of us had been divorced?
You are not required to present a divorce certificate when filing intentions to marry. However, it is extremely important that an individual who has been divorced be certain that his/her divorce is absolute. If you are uncertain as to the absolute date of your divorce, you should contact the court where the divorce was granted. In Massachusetts, a divorce does not become absolute until 90 days after the divorce nisi has been granted, regardless of the grounds for divorce.
Is there any special requirement for a widow or widower who is remarrying?
Witnesses to Ceremony
Do we need any witnesses present at the ceremony?
Massachusetts statute does not require that witnesses be present at your ceremony. However, if a member of the clergy performs the ceremony, you should ensure that you are in conformity with the appropriate religious tenets.
Clergy Persons and Justices of the Peace
What are the responsibilities of the member of the clergy or the justice of the peace?
The member of the clergy or justice of the peace must complete and sign the original license and return it to the clerk of the city or town where the license was issued.
Some Justices of the Peace on Martha's Vineyard include (this list is NOT an endorsement of any individual nor is it all inclusive. It is for informational purposes only.)
Allen, Marie B 508-693-3435
Alley, John S. 508-693-2950
DeBettencourt, Kenneth J. 508-693-1520
Fenner, Merrily 508-645-9242
Jeffers, Jeananne 508-645-3398
Johnston, Laura 508-693-8170
Pearson, John 508-693-9568
Pringle, James 508-693-3224
Ratcliff, Deborah 508-693-5112
Sollitto, Joseph 508-693-9220
What should be done if an out-of-state member of the clergy is to perform the marriage?
If an out-of-state member of the clergy is to perform the marriage, the clergy person must obtain a Certificate of Authorization from the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth prior to the ceremony. This certificate, which is issued by the Public Records Division of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, is to be attached to the original license and returned to the clerk of the city or town where the license was issued. For further information, contact:
Division of Public Records
Secretary of the Commonwealth
One Ashburton Place, Room 1719
Boston, MA 02108
Is it possible for a layperson to solemnize a wedding?
Yes, it is possible for a non-minister or non-justice of the peace (such as a relative or family friend) to obtain special permission to perform a marriage from the Governor. Call the Governor's office at (617) 727-5787 to obtain an application for a one-time special appointment to solemnize a marriage. After approval, a $25 fee is paid to the Commissions Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
Are there any special requirements if one applicant is an immigrant?
If either of the parties has arrived as an immigrant from a foreign country within five days, the application may be filed at any time before the marriage, and the certificate shall be issued at any time after the filing.
Where can we go for additional assistance?
You may contact your city or town clerk, or:
Registry of Vital Records and Statistics
Department of Public Health
150 Mt. Vernon Street
Boston, MA 02125-3105