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Manuel Bonifacio - Happily Ever After

What you need to get married

indoor wedding ceremonyYou will need a valid marriage license (called a Massachusetts Certificate of Marriage) before you can be married. A marriage license issued by another state cannot be used for wedding ceremonies in Massachusetts. Also, a Massachusetts marriage license is not valid in other states. Each city or town sets its own fee for a marriage license and this fee can vary from about $15 to $50.

How to apply for a Certificate of Marriage

You can apply for a license at any city hall or town hall in Massachusetts (it doesn't have to be where you live or where you are getting married). You can find a list of Massachusetts cities and towns at Massachusetts City and Town Directory. You will both need to appear in person; you cannot have someone else apply for the license. The only exception is that a person in the military may have the other party file for the license, as long as one is a Massachusetts resident.


Blood tests are not required, but you will need to bring identification and a valid proof of age. A driver's license, passport or a birth certificate. If you are a widow or widower you do not have to bring a death certificate. Persons who are divorced do not have to bring a divorce decree, but should be certain that their divorce is absolute.

After the application

There is a three-day waiting period before you can pick up the license. Weekends and holidays are included in the three days, but the day of the application is not. If you apply on a Monday you can pick up the license on Thursday, or if you apply on a Friday you can pick up the license on Monday. A waiver of the three-day waiting period can be applied for at the city or town clerk's office where you apply and then presented to a "court of competent jurisdiction" for approval. However, this can be costly (up to about $200).

Things to note about the Certificate of Marriage

When you go to pick up your license, check it carefully to make sure that all the information listed is correct. Name spell dates and especially the date shown under the heading "not valid after." It should contain a date that is on or after your planned wedding day. During November and December of each year, check that next year's date is entered correctly (i.e., February 15, 2007, not February 15, 2006). The license is valid for 60 days from the day you first apply.

Once you have a valid license, all you need is a Justice of the Peace to make your marriage "official."

What you need to do after your wedding day

After the wedding ceremony, there is nothing for you to sign, nor will you receive any documents (even though you are legally married). You will not automatically receive an official copy of your Certificate of Marriage. You must apply for this with the Town Clerk or City Clerk where you applied for your license. There is usually a nominal charge (about $10 to $15, varying by town) for each copy. I advise you to obtain a copy of your Certificate of Marriage and file it away with your other important documents (such as your Birth Certificates). You may not need it for many years, but it will be good to know that you always have a copy, rather than trying to retrieve it from the Commonwealth at some date in the future.

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