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  • Writer's pictureZach Michaud

Getting Hitched in New England: Navigating Marriage Laws in Maine and Massachusetts

If you stumbled across this blog, it means 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. 


I would guess you have questions about where and how to obtain your license, who your witnesses can be (or if you need witnesses at all), and who can officiate your wedding ceremony. These are all great questions because your marriage license is a vital record and there can be penalties for you or your officiant if you end up violating any of the laws that regulate this important legal document. 


Having lived on the west coast for the last 17 years, I had to review that information myself upon my move back. I thought I would share what I found here. To limit the amount of details you need to sift through, this is the first in a series of posts. This one will focus on Maine and Massachusetts. Look for New Hampshire and Vermont here and Connecticut and Rhode Island 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!


MAINE



We will start our list in Maine because, well, I live here and I’m biased. Go here if you want to go directly to the source, but I will summarize below.


How/Where to obtain license: Going directly to the State Registrar is an option for all couples, no matter their residency. If you both live in the state, you can also choose which municipal office from which to obtain your license. Don’t file in both municipalities. If only one of you lives in the state, use that municipal office. If you are from out of state, pick your municipality! Wherever you obtain your license from, you will be able to marry at any location within the state.


What to Bring: Photo ID (you must be 18 years old or older), divorce or death certificate if this is not the first marriage for either of you, $40 for the filing fee.


Waiting Period: There is NO waiting period after you file your intentions and obtain your license in Maine.


License Expiration: Though there is no waiting period to marry after obtaining your license, you must be married within 90 days.


Witness Requirements: You must have two witnesses. Your officiant cannot be one of your witnesses. Your witnesses do not have to be 18 years of age, but they have to be able to read, write, and understand what they are signing when they sign your marriage license.


Who Can Officiate: Ordained ministers of the gospel, a person licensed to preach by an association of ministers, religious seminary or ecclesiastical body (this is where your relative or friend who got ordained online by the Universal Life Church gets their authorization), judges or justices (residents of Maine only), lawyers admitted to the Maine Bar (residents of Maine only), licensed Marriage Officiant. Notaries Public are given the option to obtain their Marriage Officiant license free of charge, but some may opt out or decline this privilege, so please make sure your Notary Public is licensed. I am a minister licensed to preach by an association of ministers AND I have my Marriage Officiant license.



MASSACHUSETTS



With Boston being the biggest urban center in New England, I thought I would give the next spot on the list to Massachusetts. All of you looking to marry in one of the city’s many amazing venues, this information is for you. It’s also for anyone looking to marry anywhere else in the commonwealth. PLEASE invite me to officiate your ceremony in Western Mass with live strings playing you down the aisle! Please visit here to go directly to Massachusetts’ source for weddings.


How/Where to Obtain License: Both marriers must appear together at ANY Town Clerk’s office within the state to fill out your Intention of Marriage paperwork.


What to Bring: Proof of age (birth certificate, baptismal record, passport, life insurance policy, etc.), your Social Security number, payment for fees (which vary by town), new name if you are changing yours with your marriage.


Waiting Period: Three days. For real. It takes a judge’s order to bypass the waiting period. This means, if you are getting married on a Saturday or Sunday, you need to apply NO LATER THAN the Tuesday before your ceremony to get your license by Friday.


License Expiration: Sixty days after filing intentions to marry.


Witness Requirements: No witnesses required!


Who Can Officiate: In-State Member of the Clergy, justice of the peace, or a one-day solemnizer (family or friend with application and $25), Out-of-State Clergy with submission of petition and receipt of authorization that needs to be submitted with completed marriage license after ceremony (this authorizes me).


That is it for the first two New England states. I know I’ve learned a lot. Any questions that you have that I did not address? If you are interested in chatting more about your wedding, I’m available for free 30-45 minute online consults. Contact me and I would love to chat with you and get your imagination revved up for what could be possible for your ceremony.

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