New Hampshire Wedding Laws
If you'd like to marry in New Hampshire, then it is imperative to understand the state's marriage laws. Keep reading to discover the steps you need to take, including helping the couple in securing a marriage license. Find out if you can legally marry in this state and get the information you need to avoid a delay in your wedding plans. Get the legal aspects out of the way so that you can focus on planning your big day.
How to Become a Wedding Officiant in New Hampshire
New Hampshire recognizes marriages performed by clergy members, ministers of the gospel, Roman Catholic deacons who have the authority of an ordained priest, judges, magistrates and justices. The ministers of Universal Life Church qualify as authorized ministers. The officiant must be at least 18 years old, but there are no requirements pertaining to gender or a specific religion.
A person may also officiate his or her own wedding as long as the individual has the legal authority to do so. It is important to note that an officiant must report that he or she performed an official wedding to the state, even if the couple doesn't want a report. This is a legal requirement.
If a couple chooses to use an officiant from out of state, then New Hampshire law requires that person to get a license from the Secretary of State. He or she may have to provide proof that he or she can officiate weddings legally in his or her home state, such as ordination credentials. Special permission from the Secretary of State applies only to the wedding at hand, and not securing permission can open up the officiant to legal prosecution.
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N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 457:31 Solemnization of Marriage. –
A marriage may be solemnized in the following manner:
I. In a civil ceremony by a justice of the peace as commissioned by the state, by a state supreme court justice, superior court judge, or circuit court judge, and by judges of the United States appointed pursuant to Article III of the United States Constitution, by bankruptcy judges appointed pursuant to Article I of the United States Constitution, or by United States magistrate judges appointed pursuant to federal law; or
II. In a religious ceremony by any minister of the gospel in the state who has been ordained according to the usage of his or her denomination, resides in the state, and is in regular standing with the denomination; by any member of the clergy who is not ordained but is engaged in the service of the religious body to which he or she belongs, and who resides in the state, after being licensed therefor by the secretary of state; or within his or her parish, by any minister residing out of the state, but having a pastoral charge wholly or partly in this state.
Source. RS 147:6. CS 156:6. 1861, 2484:1. GS 161:9. 1877, 57:1. GL 180:9. PS 174:8. 1919, 56:1. 1921, 79:1. PL 286:28. RL 338:31. RSA 457:31. 1969, 435:1. 1998, 294:1. 2001, 11:1. 2006, 86:2. 2009, 59:3. 2014, 9:1, eff. July 13, 2014.
N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 457:32 Special Commission. – The secretary of state may issue a special license to an ordained or non-ordained minister residing out of the state, or to an individual residing out of state who is authorized or licensed by law to perform marriages in such individual's state of residence, authorizing him or her in a special case to marry a couple within the state. In the case of an individual residing out of state who is authorized or licensed by law to perform marriages in such individual's state of residence, the secretary of state may require the submission of a copy of a valid commission or other indicia of authority to marry in the individual's state of residence as proof of existence of that authority. The names and residences of the couple proposed to be married in such special case shall be stated in the license, and no power shall be conferred to marry any other parties than those named therein. The fee for such license shall be $25. The secretary of state shall keep a permanent record of all such special licenses, which record shall contain the names and residences of the couple to be married and the name and residence of the minister to whom the license is issued.
Source. RS 147:6. CS 156:6. 1861, 2484:1. GS 161:9. 1877, 57:1. GL 180:9. PS 174:8. 1919, 56:1. 1921, 79:1. 1925, 27:1. PL 286:29. RL 338:32. 2000, 75:1. 2003, 319:20, eff. July 1, 2003.
Getting Married in New Hampshire
For a wedding ceremony to be legitimate, the couple must both consent to the marriage, which usually occurs during the "I dos" in the vows. The officiant must also pronounce the couple as married. Any other parts of the ceremony are optional and left up to the couple and minister to decide upon.
It is essential that both parties are present for the ceremony because New Hampshire does not allow marriage by proxy. The officiant must also be present at the ceremony.
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N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 457:8 Prohibitions. – No town clerk shall issue any certificate for the marriage of any person below the age of consent, and no magistrate or minister of religion shall solemnize the marriage of any such person, if such clerk, magistrate or minister knows or has reasonable cause to believe that such person is below such age, unless permission for such marriage has been given under this subdivision. No magistrate or minister of religion shall solemnize any marriage by proxy.
Source. 1907, 80:4. PL 286:8. RL 338:8. RSA 457:8. 1987, 218:4, eff. July 17, 1987.
How to Get a New Hampshire Marriage License
A marriage license is available for a fee of $50 from a city or town clerk. A couple must apply for the license in person. Military members may complete paperwork with a legal representative if they cannot be present. The application must include full names, addresses, Social Security numbers and birthplaces.
Couples must also attest that neither of them is currently married to someone else and must provide the names and birthplaces of their parents. If either person was previously married, then he or she must provide proof of the end of the marriage, which would be a divorce decree or death certificate.
The couple must also provide valid IDs to verify their ages. In addition, they must provide information about the person who will officiate the wedding, the location of the ceremony and the date of the wedding. If there will be a surname change, the couple must state this at the time of securing the license.
The clerk will complete the license and give it to the couple once they have provided all the required information and documentation. The license will have an issuance date, which is important to note.
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N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 457:23 Requirements. –
I. No marriage license shall be issued by any town or city clerk until the applicants have each provided for inspection the following documents:
(a) Proof of age;
(b) A certified copy of the final divorce decree, if either or both parties are divorced; and
(c) A certified copy of the death record of spouse, if either or both parties are widowed.
II, III. [Repealed.]
Source. 1937, 186:1. RL 338:23. RSA 457:23. 1961, 222:1. 1965, 333:1. 1977, 277:1. 1979, 310:2. 1981, 95:2. 1988, 226:2; 262:6. 1995, 310:181. 2005, 261:6. 2011, 187:5, eff. Aug. 13, 2011.
N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 5-C:41 Marriage Registration Forms. –
I. There shall be 2 forms for the completion of a marriage registration. The marriage application worksheet, which shall be the form that is used to record marriage intentions, shall be completed by the prospective bride and groom and the clerk of the town or city and shall contain the information needed to complete the marriage license. The marriage license, which shall be the form that is used to record that the marriage ceremony has taken place and to record who solemnized the marriage, shall be completed by the bride, groom, the officiant and the clerk of the town or city in accordance with this section and RSA 5-C:42. The marriage license shall be the official copy of the certificate of marriage when the marriage is registered with the division.
II. The marriage application worksheet shall be completed by the prospective bride and groom in the office of the clerk of the town or city. The information supplied by the groom shall include his full name; his usual residence by street and number, city, town or location, county and state; his birthplace; his date of birth; his social security number; his father's full name; his father's birthplace; his mother's maiden name; and his mother's birthplace. The information supplied by the bride shall include her full name and maiden surname, if different; her usual residence by street and number, city, town or location, county and state; her birthplace; her date of birth; her social security number; her father's full name; her father's birthplace; her mother's maiden name; and, her mother's birthplace.
II-a. (a) Upon entering into marriage, either party may retain his or her surname prior to the marriage or change his or her surname to the surname of the other party or change the surname to a hyphenated combination of the full surnames of both parties. If a party requests a surname change under this paragraph, that party may also change his or her middle name to his or her surname prior to the marriage. Each party shall indicate on the marriage application worksheet the party's name after marriage.
(b) Provided that the change is not made for a fraudulent criminal or wrongful purpose, the name of each party after marriage as indicated on the marriage application worksheet and marriage license shall become the sole legal name of each party after marriage. If a party indicates a name change other than as described in subparagraph (a), the party shall request approval of the court.
III. The clerk of the town or city shall complete the following statistical and legal information on the marriage application worksheet for both the bride and groom with information supplied by the bride and groom: the number which represents of the currently intended marriage; if previously married, whether a civil annulment occurred or the marriage ended by death or divorce; the date of civil annulment or that the last marriage ended; their race and ancestry; their level of education; any waivers presented by the groom or the bride, either for time or age pursuant to RSA 457:4 through RSA 457:9 or RSA 457:26 and RSA 457:27; whether proof of age of the bride and groom was demonstrated using identification with photograph; if applicable, the divorce decree; and, if applicable, the death record of the former spouse.
IV. The bride and groom shall record the following on the marriage application worksheet after the clerk of the town or city completes information on the application worksheet as described in paragraph III: the date and the city or town where the marriage is intended to take place, if known; the name and address of the officiant for the marriage ceremony, if known; the groom's mailing address and phone number; the bride's mailing address and phone number; the groom's signature and date signed; the bride's signature and date signed; and certification that the information provided is correct to the best of his or her knowledge and belief and that he or she is free to marry under the laws of New Hampshire.
V. Once all of the information on the marriage application worksheet has been obtained, the clerk of the town or city shall transfer the information as listed in paragraphs II and III from the marriage application worksheet to the marriage license as well as record the following information on the marriage license: the date that the marriage license is issued, the signature of the clerk, and the name of the city or town of issuance.
VI. Pursuant to RSA 457:26, the date that the marriage license is issued shall be not more than 90 days from the date that marriage intentions were filed.
VII. Upon request of the groom, the name of a legal guardian shall be substituted on the marriage license for a natural parent's name, regardless of whether the groom who makes the request is of legal age at the time when intentions are being filed.
VIII. Upon request of the bride, the name of a legal guardian shall be substituted on the marriage license for a natural parent's name, regardless of whether the bride who makes the request is of legal age at the time when intentions are being filed.
IX. The substitution of stepparents' names shall not be permitted.
X. Persons entering dates on the marriage license shall use the full or abbreviated name of the month rather than numerals.
XI. When listing the birthplace on the marriage license, if the person is known to have been born in the United States, but the state is unknown then "U.S.-Unknown" shall be entered, and, if the person is known to have been born in a foreign country, but the country is unknown, "Foreign Unknown" shall be entered.
XII. If no information is available regarding place of birth, "Unknown" shall be entered.
XIII. The prospective bride and groom shall review the information on the marriage license for completeness and accuracy prior to signing the marriage license.
XIV. If a prospective bride or groom are not of legal age to marry, the co-signature of his or her parent shall be obtained, except when a court has issued a waiver authorizing the marriage in accordance with RSA 457:6.
XV. The officiant shall record the following on the marriage license after the marriage ceremony has taken place: certification that he or she is duly authorized to solemnize the marriage in accordance with RSA 457; the officiant's status, pursuant to RSA 457:31; the date of the marriage ceremony; the city, town or location and county where the couple were married; certification that the bride and groom were married by the officiant in conformance with RSA 457 and that the information noted is correct to the best of his or her knowledge; the signature of the officiant; the officiant's typed or printed name; the officiant's title and address; and an indication of whether the ceremony was religious or civil.
XVI. The date the marriage license is received by the clerk of the town or city from the officiant shall be recorded on the marriage certificate as the date the marriage registration is filed.
XVII. The marriage license shall include the signature of the clerk of the town or city and the name of the town or city.
Source. 2005, 268:1. 2011, 187:1, eff. Aug. 13, 2011. 2014, 69:1, eff. Jan. 1, 2015.
N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 5-C:42 Marriage License and Registration. –
I. A marriage performed in the state of New Hampshire shall be registered when the marriage certificate is filed in accordance with this section and RSA 5-C:41, signed by the clerk of the town or city, and forwarded to the division.
II. An application for a marriage license may be made in any city or town in the state of New Hampshire and the marriage license shall be issued for a marriage ceremony to be performed in any city or town in the state of New Hampshire.
III. No marriage license or court-ordered waiver issued by any other state shall be acceptable for marriage in the state of New Hampshire.
IV. The prospective bride and groom shall appear in person to the clerk of the town or city to file the marriage intentions and to sign the application for the marriage license unless either party or both are members of the armed forces and unable to appear in person.
V. If either party or both is a member of the armed forces and is unable to appear in person, the following shall apply: the armed services' legal representative shall prepare the marriage application worksheet; the completed application worksheet shall be signed by the service person; the armed services' legal representative, company commander or other superior officer, shall sign a statement attesting that the information provided is correct; the service person, if unable to appear, shall submit a signed statement authorizing the non-service person to sign for both the bride and groom; the completed application, and signed release if applicable, shall then be forwarded to the clerk of the town or city who issued the application; when the application worksheet is received by the clerk of the town or city, it shall then be used as an acceptable substitute for the personal appearance of the service person; the license shall then be prepared pursuant to RSA 5-C:41 with the non-service applicant being permitted to sign the license for both the bride and groom; and the application worksheet received from the service person shall be retained permanently by the clerk of the town or city.
VI. One party may initiate the process of applying for a marriage license; however, the license shall not be issued until signatures have been obtained from both parties.
VII. An applicant for a marriage license shall provide positive identification consisting of a certified copy of a birth certificate or a driver's license or a passport or other license or identification that contains a photograph of the applicant and the applicant's name and date of birth.
VIII. When both applicants for a marriage license are nonresidents of New Hampshire, both applicants shall be at least 18 years of age and, in accordance with RSA 457, there shall be no provision for an age waiver if both applicants and his or her parents are nonresidents of New Hampshire.
IX. If either or both parties have been previously married, a certified copy of the final divorce decree or decrees, or a certified copy of the death record of each deceased spouse, shall be reviewed by the clerk of the town or city before the marriage license is issued. The clerk shall make notation upon the marriage license of such review.
X. If a civil annulment is declared as the means of dissolving a former marriage, the clerk of the town or city shall review a certified copy of the civil annulment decree before the marriage license is issued.
XI. A divorce decree in a foreign language shall not be acceptable for presentation as proof of final divorce, unless the divorce decree is translated into English and signed by the translator, with the signature certified by a justice of the peace or notary public. The cost of the translation, if any, shall be the responsibility of the applicant.
XII. If a divorce decree from a foreign country is not available, the applicant shall provide an affidavit stating that he or she was divorced and a statement from the embassy of the foreign country stating that the records are not available.
XIII. After the marriage application worksheet has been prepared and signed by the applicants, a license fee in accordance with RSA 457:29 shall be paid by the applicants to the clerk of the town or city. If the applicants do not use the marriage license for any reason, the fee shall not be refunded.
XIV. The date of the signing of the worksheet by either the bride or groom, or the earlier of 2 dates if applicable, shall be used by the clerk of the town or city to indicate when the intention of marriage was received and recorded and the date to be used to establish the beginning of the time period during which the license shall be valid. The marriage license shall be valid pursuant to RSA 457:26 for not more than 90 days from the date the marriage intentions were filed. When 90 days have elapsed from the date the marriage intentions were filed and a completed marriage certificate or a delayed certificate of marriage has not been processed, the clerk of the town or city shall make a notation on the marriage application worksheet stating the marriage presumably did not take place. In the case where the marriage certificate is received within 6 months of the end of the 90-day period, the clerk of the town or city shall remove the notation and issue the certificate. In the case where the marriage certificate is received more than 6 months after the end of the 90-day period, the clerk of the town or city shall follow the procedure for issuing a delayed certificate of marriage.
Source. 2005, 268:1. 2011, 187:2, 3, eff. Aug. 13, 2011.
N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 457:29 Marriage License Fee. – The fee for the marriage license shall be $50 to be paid by the parties entering into the marriage. The clerk shall forward $43 from each fee to the department of health and human services for the purposes of RSA 173-B:15. The clerk shall retain the remaining $7 as the fee for making the records of notice, issuing the certificate of marriage, and forwarding the $43 portion of the marriage license fee.
Source. RS 147:5. CS 156:5. 1854, 1518:2. GS 161:5. GL 180:5. PS 174:6. 1911, 173:1. PL 286:26. 1929, 54:1. RL 338:29. 1951, 92:1. RSA 457:29. 1973, 335:3. 1981, 223:1. 1989, 277:1. 1992, 289:8. 1993, 149:2. 1999, 240:5. 2010, Sp. Sess., 1:68. 2011, 224:320. 2015, 244:2, eff. July 1, 2015.
Applying For a Marriage License in New Hampshire
New Hampshire does not have a waiting period when a couple gets a license, so they may marry immediately. The license is only valid for 90 days, but a couple may get it from any courthouse and it is valid anywhere within the state.
Upon the return of the license with the officiant's information completed, the clerk will file it, and the marriage becomes legally binding. It is important to return it to the same court where the couple received it. In addition, the clerk must receive the document within six days after the wedding ceremony. Couples can mail it in or take it to the clerk in person.
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N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 5-C:49 Officiant Responsibilities. –
I. The person who performs a marriage shall certify the fact of marriage and within 6 days return the record by mail or in person to the clerk of the town or city of license issuance.
II. No person shall certify or sign the marriage certificate as the officiant at his or her own marriage ceremony.
III. An ordained deacon in the Roman Catholic Church shall be in the category of a "minister of the gospel in the state who has been ordained according to the usage of his denomination," pursuant to RSA 457:31, and be empowered to sign the marriage certificate in the state of New Hampshire with the same authority as an ordained priest of the Roman Catholic faith.
IV. Any out-of-state minister who wishes to perform a marriage in the state of New Hampshire shall obtain a special license from the secretary of state as required by RSA 457:32.
V. In the event a special license is not obtained by an out-of-state officiant, the division shall notify the officiant by written letter to pursue a special license or be subject to prosecution in accordance with RSA 457:35. The division shall recognize the marriage certificate in such cases as valid under the provisions of RSA 457:36.
VI. In accordance with paragraph I, the officiant shall report the fact that a marriage has taken place, even if the bride and groom have a change of mind after the ceremony and ask the officiant not to report the marriage to the clerk of the town or city. The date of the marriage shall be the date that the ceremony took place.
VII. Failure of the officiant to report a marriage shall be a violation.
Source. 2005, 268:1. 2006, 141:10, eff. July 21, 2006.
N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 457:26 Marriage License. – The town clerk shall deliver to the parties a marriage license embodying the facts required in RSA 457:22, specifying the time when the application was entered, which license shall be delivered to the minister or magistrate who is to officiate, before the marriage is solemnized. The license shall be valid for not more than 90 days from the date of filing.
Source. RS 147:5. CS 156:5. 1854, 1518:2. GS 161:5. GL 180:5. PS 174:6. 1903, 93:1. 1905, 79:1. 1911, 173:1. PL 286:23. 1939, 52:1. RL 338:26. RSA 457:26. 1979, 45:2; 310:3. 1997, 325:19. 2006, 86:1, eff. July 4, 2006.
New Hampshire Marriage Requirements
Same-sex marriage in New Hampshire has been legal since 2010, and it remains legal due to the U.S. Supreme Court decision that altered federal law. There are some restrictions on marriage in the state. It is not legal to marry more than one person or to marry someone closely related by blood. Specifically, the law forbids marrying anyone closer than a second cousin.
In addition, members of a couple must both be at least 18 years old. The state may allow the marriage of someone at least 16 years old, but it requires court permission. Courts can only allow this for residents of the state and only in a court where at least one of the people live.
Furthermore, the couple or legal guardians must show the court the marriage is in the minor's best interest. They may have to explain any issues with the Bureau of Child Protection or the Department of Health and Services.
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N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 457:2 Marriages Prohibited. – No person shall marry his or her father, mother, father's brother, father's sister, mother's brother, mother's sister, son, daughter, brother, sister, son's son, son's daughter, daughter's son, daughter's daughter, brother's son, brother's daughter, sister's son, sister's daughter, father's brother's son, father's brother's daughter, mother's brother's son, mother's brother's daughter, father's sister's son, father's sister's daughter, mother's sister's son, or mother's sister's daughter. No person shall be allowed to be married to more than one person at any given time.
Source. RS 147:2. CS 156:2. GS 161:2. 1869, 9:2. GL 180:2. PS 174:2. PL 286:2. RL 338:2. RSA 457:2. 1965, 46:1. 1987, 218:2. 2009, 59:1, eff. Jan. 1, 2010.
N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 457:4 Marriageable. – No person below the age of 16 years shall be capable of contracting a valid marriage, and all marriages contracted by such persons shall be null and void.
Source. 1907, 80:1. PL 286:4. RL 338:4. 2009, 59:2, eff. Jan. 1, 2010. 2018, 272:1, eff. Jan. 1, 2019.
N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 457:5 Of Consent. – The age of consent shall be in the male and in the female, 18 years. Any marriage contracted by a person below the age of consent, except as hereinafter provided, may in the discretion of the superior court be annulled at the suit of the party who at the time of contracting such marriage was below the age of consent, or at the suit of his or her parent or guardian, unless such party after arriving at such age shall have confirmed the marriage.
Source. 1907, 80:2. 1923, 108:1. PL 286:5. RL 338:5. RSA 457:5. 1973, 72:35, eff. June 3, 1973.
N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 457:6 Petition by Party Under Age. –
I. If the marriage of a person resident in this state, or the marriage of a person who is a nonresident in this state who applies for permission to marry a resident in this state, either person being below the age of consent and above the ages specified in RSA 457:4, is desired, the parties desiring to contract such marriage, with the parent or guardian having the custody of such party below such age, if there be such parent or guardian, may apply in writing to the judicial branch family division having jurisdiction in the location in which one of them resides, for permission to contract such marriage.
II. The petition shall indicate whether, to the knowledge of the petitioner, the department of health and human services, bureau of child protection services has contacted or been involved with the family of the person under the age of consent.
III. As part of the decision making process, the court may conduct an in camera interview of each person under the age of consent, without that person's parent or guardian or the other party to the marriage present.
IV. Permission to contract such marriage shall be granted only upon clear and convincing evidence that the marriage is in the best interest of the person or persons below the age of consent.
V. No permission shall be granted to persons below the age of consent if both parties are nonresidents.
Source. 1907, 80:3. PL 286:6. RL 338:6. RSA 457:6. 1965, 121:1. 1967, 319:1. 1987, 218:3. 2011, 177:3, eff. Jan. 1, 2012. 2018, 273:1, eff. Jan. 1, 2019.
Finalizing the Union
Once the wedding ceremony is over, so are the couple's licensing responsibilities. However, someone must file the marriage license, and the couple can do this themselves.
First, though, the minister must complete his or her portion of the license. This must occur after the ceremony. The minister will provide information about him or herself, including address, title and full name. He or she also must include the location of the ceremony and the date it took place. The minister will sign the document as well. This signature swears that the information is accurate and that he or she did perform the religious ceremony and had the authorization to perform the wedding legally.
The clerk must receive the completed license within six days of the wedding. Someone can personally take it to the clerk or deliver it by mail. It must go back to the clerk who originally issued it to the couple.