A marriage license must be obtained prior to any marriage ceremony. The person performing the marriage may not legally marry you without this important document. We suggest you allow for a minimum of 5 business days prior to your ceremony to obtain a marriage license.
A Marriage License may be obtained 3 days following your application and is valid for 60 days after the date of application. You may apply for a Marriage License at any Town (or City) Clerk's Office in Massachusetts. Just remember that your license will remain on file with that town or city should you need to return to obtain certified (official) copies of your license after you are married.
The Bride and Groom (or Party A and Party B) must appear together. Both parties must be 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.
FEE: See the Town of Harwich Town Clerk Schedule of Fees. Fees vary from town to town.
Massachusetts requires a three-day waiting period once intentions are filed. The day you apply does not count, but you may pick up the certificate (license) on the third day (e.g. if you file on Tuesday, you may pick the Certificate up on Friday). It is possible to obtain a waiver* of the three-day waiting period.
After the Three-Day Waiting Period Has Passed
The marriage license will need to be picked up in person prior to the ceremony. The Bride, Groom, Party A, Party B, or a person designated by the couple may pick up the license. The individual who picks up the license must verify that all of the information on the license is correct. Marriage certificates cannot be mailed prior to the ceremony.
*Obtaining a Waiver of the Waiting Period
If you are unable to wait the three days and need your license issued immediately, both parties must apply for their marriage license at the Town Clerk's Office, then they must apply for a waiver at a probate or district court. After a hearing, the court may issue a certificate allowing the marriage license to be issued (which must be brought back to the Town Clerk), who will then issue your marriage license. At that point, the marriage may be performed without delay.
To waive the three-day waiting period, contact one of the following:
- Orleans District Courthouse: (508) 255-4700 Ext. 4
- or -
- Barnstable District Courthouse: (508) 375-6771
- Barnstable Family & Probate Court: (508) 375-6710
Blood Test Requirement: Pursuant to Chapter 388 of the Acts of 2004, BLOOD TESTS ARE NO LONGER REQUIRED for any couple applying for their Marriage License on or after January 28, 2005.
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.
There are no special requirements for a widow or widower who is remarrying.
What are the responsibilities of the Member of the Clergy or the Justice of the Peace?
The person performing the marriage ceremony must complete and sign the original license (in black ink) and return it to the Town Clerk who issued the marriage license.
What Should Be Done if an Out-Of-State Member of the Clergy is to Perform the Marriage?
The clergyperson 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 returned to the clerk of the city or town where the license was issued.
For further information:
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.
- One-day solemnization certificate information (includes downloadable application form)
If you would like more information (or are not a Massachusetts resident), please contact us and we will mail you an informational packet.
For more detailed information, please call us at (508) 945-5101 - or - visit the Secretary of State's website.
Are You Changing Your Last Name After You Are Married?
Don't Forget to Notify the Social Security Administration.
Click here to access the SS-5 form (Social Security webpage).
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