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  • Writer's pictureZach Michaud

Getting Hitched in New England: Navigating Marriage Laws in Connecticut and Rhode Island

This is part three in a series about useful information about the legal requirements surrounding your wedding ceremony. If you stumbled across this blog, it must mean you are likely engaged. Congratulations! Additionally, you are planning to have your wedding ceremony somewhere in New England because either you live here or want a destination wedding or elopement that only the natural beauty that New England can provide. What do you know, I am a wedding Celebrant looking to officiate ceremonies that I custom create with couples in the New England area. 

As we have been finding in our first two posts, this is an important resource for anyone wanting to get married in New England because even though all New England states could fit into the state of Washington, each state has their very own rules, even when it comes to marriages. You are dealing with a vital record when you obtain a marriage license and have your wedding officiated so there can be penalties for you or your officiant if you end up violating any of the laws that regulate this important legal document. We don’t want that, so read on!

Having lived on the west coast for the last 17 years, I had to review all of this information myself upon my move back. I thought I would share what I found here. This post will focus on Connecticut and Rhode Island. Look for Maine and Massachusetts here and New Hampshire and Vermont here. I will attempt to keep all of the information for each state in as similar an order as possible to make navigation easy. Let me know if I left out any information you were looking for!


I used to work at the Walmart in Groton, Connecticut when I was in school, but that is about the only part of the state that I have seen, so I was anxious to find out what their laws around marriage were, not knowing much about the state otherwise. Back up my research by visiting this helpful website.

How/Where to Obtain License: If you are at least 18 years old, you both must appear at the town or city clerk’s office WITHIN THE TOWN YOU PLAN TO HAVE THE CEREMONY PERFORMED. You both must fill out the application and attest to the truth of the information you have provided. The fee is town dependent ranging from $30.00 - $50.00.

What to Bring: Bring your photo ID and any proof that you are no longer party to other marriages. Social Security card. Name and address of the person serving as your officiant.

Waiting Period: No waiting period!

License Expiration: Sixty five days after obtaining license.

Witness Requirements: No witnesses required!

Who Can Officiate: Judges and retired judges, including federal judges and judges of other states; Family support magistrates, family support referees, state referees and justices of the peace who are appointed in Connecticut; and Ordained or licensed members of the clergy, including persons who have been ordained through online ministries and who are given the authority to officiate marriages through such ministries. 


While we started with Maine, the state in which I grew up, we are ending in Rhode Island, the state where I attended University at the University of Rhode Island and started to spread my wings as a young adult. Up to this point, I have only attended one wedding in the state, that of a college friend of mine. Being simply a guest at that wedding, I did not glean any insider knowledge then, so I had to dig into some research. Much of it you can find here. I have to say, Rhode Island is looking like a winner as far as ease and cost. The location rule feels a little restrictive, but it is such a small state, it makes sense not to overload certain jurisdictions. I remember it only taking 45 minutes to drive from one corner of the state to the other on the highway, so even if you are traveling from out of state, you won’t be put out by needing to travel to the town office of the place you will have the ceremony performed. It just takes a little planning.

How/Where to Obtain License: If you are at least 18 years old, you both must appear at the Town Clerk’s office from the town or city you are from if one of you lives within the state to fill out your Intention of Marriage paperwork and be witnessed by the clerk signing the application. If you are both from out of state, you must go to the office WITHIN THE TOWN OR CITY YOU PLAN TO HAVE THE CEREMONY PERFORMED. The fee is $24.00. If you want a certified copy, bring another $22.00.

What to Bring: Photo ID and certified birth certificates, proof of address if your ID does not contain your current address. If either marrier was married before, bring certified paperwork for divorce or certificate of death. Any paperwork that is not in English must be translated into English with a certified translation. 

Waiting Period: There doesn’t seem to be a waiting period, but be mindful of when your town/city office is open, especially if you are getting married on a weekend or around a holiday. You will have three months, so best to plan ahead.

License Expiration: Three months. The license will clearly state the date range.

Witness Requirements: Two witnesses besides the officiant are required. They must be 18 or older.

Who Can Officiate: Rhode Island civil servants as defined in RIGL 15-3-5, or those authorized by the Rhode Island General Assembly may perform civil ceremonies. Rhode Island accepts all ordained clergy and ministers, including those from online ministries. If the officiant provides verification that they are in good standing with their ministry, then they are allowed to perform the ceremony and the marriage is valid. Note, if you are ordained by an online ministry, you must indicate you are performing a religious ceremony on the document, even though no religious wording is required in the ceremony. Only those civil servants defined in RIGL 15-3-5 can use the civil ceremony selection.

That concludes this series on the important legal information you need to know before getting married in one of the New England states. As we saw, each state has slightly different rules, so make sure you don’t mix any of them up. Refer to these posts as much as you need to and send the links off to friends and family who may benefit from them. If there is anything I missed, please leave me a comment and I will gladly amend the posts.

Looking to get married in New England and need an officiant or just have some planning questions? Reach out through my contact page and we can set up a free consultation where we can have a 30-45 minute chat to talk through any of your questions and get your imagination revved up around what your ceremony could be!

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