Applying for Marriage Licenses
How to Apply for a License
Both applicants must appear in person at the Town Clerk's Office to file for a marriage license, each presenting proper identification, such as a driver's license or passport. This requirement is applicable to both residents and non-residents of the Commonwealth. According to Massachusetts law, you must in-person 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 of Massachusetts.
When filing intention to marry, we will ask for the name and contact phone of the person who will perform the marriage.
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 Monday, your license will be available as soon as Thursday; if you apply on Tuesday, your license will be available as soon as Friday; and if you apply on Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, your license will be available as soon as the Monday after the weekend. The Town Clerk's office is not open on Fridays but arrangements can be made in advance.
One party must pick up the valid license at the Town Clerk's office prior to the wedding; a review of the license for errors is required before it will be issued.
Obtaining a Waiver of the Waiting Period
You can obtain a court waiver after filing intentions. According to M.G.L 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 Town 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 member of the clergy or an attending physician shall suffice and the clerk can issue the license without delay.
To 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 Town Clerk to issue the marriage license to the couple, and the marriage may be performed without delay. The court schedules the hearing at the complete discretion of the Court, the couple should plan for a wait of several hours.
Cost of License
The filing fee in Essex is $20.00. This fee is payable at the time the intention is filed; cash or check payable to the Town of Essex are acceptable forms of payment.
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.
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
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.
If a previous marriage was annulled, you will be required to show a copy of the annullment paperwork.
There is no special requirement for a person who is widowed to remarry.
Witnesses to 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.
Massachusetts no longer requires medical information before marriage. State lawmakers repealed the law requiring blood tests late in 2004.
Clergy, Justice of the Peace and One-Day Solemnizers
The Member of the Clergy, Justice of the Peace or other officiant must complete and sign the original license and return it to the clerk of the city or town where the license was issued.
Call the Town Clerk's office if in need of names of Justice of the Peace. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has set the rate for JP services at $100.
Out of State Clergy
If an out-of-state member of the clergy is to perform the marriage, the member of the clergy 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 instructions and application for an out-of-state clergy certificate, go to the Mass.gov website or call the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office at (617) 725-4055.
One Day Solemnizer
A person who is not a recognized member of the clergy in Massachusetts or a Justice of the Peace (such as a relative or family friend) may obtain one-day special permission from the Secretary of the Commonwealth to perform a marriage.
For instructions and application to be designated as a one day Solemnizer for a marriage, go to the Mass.gov website or call the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office at (617) 725-4055.
A $25 fee is paid to the Commissions Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth and a one day Solemnizer certificate is sent to the approved Solemnizer. The certificate must be submitted with the signed marriage license after the ceremony.
For specific instructions to complete the marriage license, see One Day Solemnizer Instructions.
Special Requirements for Immigrants
If either of the parties has arrived as an immigrant from a foreign country at least five days before filing the intention application, the application may be filed at any time before the marriage, and the certificate shall be issued at any time after the filing.
Obtaining Certified Copies of the Marriage Certificate
After the marriage is performed, and the Solemnizer (JP, Priest, Rabbi, etc.) has returned the signed marriage license to the Office of the Town Clerk, the marriage is recorded. Only then can a certified copy of the marriage certificate be issued. Usually this process takes approximately ten (10) days after the marriage. Parties are welcome to telephone the Town Clerk's Office at (978) 768-7111 to check on availability of the marriage certificate if time is an issue. Each certified copy is $10.00 and usable for all legal purposes.
Changing Your Name
In addition to being a marriage application form, the Notice of Intention to Marriage form also serves as a legal name change document. The document will ask which surname you would like to use after marriage. Both parties may change their last name to whatever they wish at this time. By answering this question, you avoid the probate court fees for initiating a name change.
You will also separately need to change your name with Social Security, Registry of Motor Vehicles, your work, insurance, health care provider, banks, retirement, etc. and update your Voter Registration A certified copy of your marriage certificate will be needed to apply for a name change through Social Security and the Registry of Motor Vehicles. Go to: Mass.gov website for more information.
Additional assistance can be found at:
Mass Registry of Vital Records
150 Mt. Vernon Street
Dorchester, MA 02125-3105