Rhode Island Wedding Laws
Drafted and last reviewed for accuracy by the Rhode Island marriage law team at the Universal Life Church Ministries on
The Ocean State is the smallest state in the county, but it boasts amazing coastlines and attractions. If you’ll be having a wedding or officiating a ceremony in Rhode Island, it’s important that you understand all of the applicable laws. This thorough guide will tell you everything that you need to do to ensure that your ceremony will comply with the law.
Rhode Island Marriage Requirements
Rhode Island recognizes 18 as the legal age of consent to enter into a marriage. Minors who are 16 or 17 years old may be granted a marriage license if they obtain written permission from a parent or legal guardian. In some cases, it is possible for minors under 16 to get a marriage license, but there will be an investigation by the department of human services prior to the issuance of a license.
Rhode Island grants marriages to same-sex couples; marriages in which the parties are both men or women are given a full legal status.
One may not enter into a marriage with a blood relative, which includes siblings, parents, grandparents, grandparents’ spouse, a parent’s sibling, or any spouse’s child or grandchild.
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15 R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-1-2. Marrying kindred forbidden.
No person shall marry his or her sibling, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, stepparent, grandparents' spouse, spouse's child, spouse's grandchild, sibling's child or parent's sibling.
15 R.I. Gen Laws § 15-2-11. Consent and procedure required for license to minors and persons under guardianship.
(a) No minor or person under the control of a parent or guardian shall be allowed to give and subscribe to the information provided for in §§ 15-2-1 – 15-2-10, or shall receive the license provided for in these sections, unless the consent in writing of the parent or guardian, given in the presence of the town or city clerk or any clerk employed in that office, has first been obtained; provided, that proof shall be submitted that the minor has attained the age of sixteen (16) years; and provided, that this information may be given and subscribed to by a minor who has attained the age of sixteen (16) years, residing in this state upon the consent in writing of the director of public welfare of the town or city in which the minor resides, given in the presence of the town or city clerk or any clerk employed in that office.
(b) In addition to the requirements in subsection (a) of this section, no license shall be issued to any minor under the age of sixteen (16) years unless and until the following requirements have been complied with, and the town or city clerk is directed in writing to issue the license by the family court:
(1) The town or city clerk, upon receiving information provided for in §§ 15-2-1 through 15-2-10, shall immediately transmit a certified copy of the information to the family court. The court shall immediately transmit a copy of the information, together with a written request for a complete investigation of and a report upon the advisability of the issuance of the license, to the department of human services. The department shall within fifteen (15) days after the receipt of the information, the request, and the report file in the court its complete report in writing.
(2) The court shall then conduct a hearing in chambers to determine the advisability of the issuance of the license and shall notify the town or city clerk of its determination. The court shall have the power to summon at the hearing any persons that it may deem advisable.
(3) The court shall also file the report and a notation of its determination in the office of the clerk of the court, but any papers filed at the office of the clerk shall not be matters of public record and may be examined only upon the written authorization of the court.
(4) During the pendency of the proceedings, the court shall exercise the authority of a guardian in respect to the minor or minors involved.
How to Get a Rhode Island Marriage License
To apply for a marriage license, couples must apply in person in the town or city in which either of the two parties reside. People who are not a resident of the state must apply in the town or city in which the wedding will take place.
If either party applying for a marriage license has previously been married, it will be necessary to produce evidence that the marriage was legally dissolved.
The cost to apply for a marriage license is $24. Once approved, a city or town clerk will issue the license to the minister or officiant who will perform the marriage ceremony.
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15 R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-2-1. License required – Proof of divorce – Obligation of clerk to issue license.
(a) Persons intending to be joined together in marriage in this state must first obtain a license from the clerk of the town or city in which:
(1) Either party to the proposed marriage resides; or
(2) The proposed marriage is to be performed, if both parties are nonresidents of this state.
(b) Before any license shall be issued to any person who, having been previously married or a party to another relationship that provides substantially the same rights, benefits and responsibilities as a marriage, has been divorced, the person shall present to the town or city clerk an authenticated copy of the decree granting the divorce or an authenticated copy of the final dissolution of the previous relationship.
(c) The town or city clerk shall issue a license to any person eligible to marry under the provisions of chapter 15-1.
15 R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-2-9. License fee – Presentation of license to person performing ceremony.
For issuing the license the town or city clerk shall collect a fee of fourteen dollars ($14.00). The license shall be presented to the minister, elder, justice, warden, or other person who performs the marriage ceremony. The city or town shall retain six dollars ($6.00) of the fourteen dollars ($14.00) for its own use and in lieu of any reimbursement to which it may be entitled pursuant to § 45-13-7. The city or town shall forward the eight dollars ($8.00) balance of the fourteen dollars ($14.00) to the general treasurer of the state of Rhode Island.
15 R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-2-9.1. Additional fee for family and children trust fund.
For each license the town or city clerk shall charge and receive an additional fee of ten dollars ($10.00), of which he or she shall retain two dollars ($2.00) and shall transmit eight dollars ($8.00) to the general treasurer for deposit to the credit of the family and children trust fund created by § 42-72-30. Each clerk shall keep an accurate account of all fees charged and received under this section and shall transmit all sums due to the general treasurer at least monthly in the manner and with the forms which the general treasurer shall prescribe.
15 R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-2-7. Form and contents of certificates, reports, and other returns.
The forms of certificates, reports, and other returns required by this chapter, or by regulations adopted pursuant to this chapter, shall include as a minimum the items recommended by the federal agency responsible for national vital statistics, subject to approval of and modification by the state director of health. Both parties shall subscribe to the truth of data in the application in the presence of the local registrar or his or her assistant.
Applying For a Marriage License in Rhode Island
There is no mandatory waiting period between the time that a license is issued and the date on which a ceremony may be held.
The minister or officiant who performs a ceremony is obligated to return the license and certificate of marriage within 72 hours of the ceremony. All licenses must be utilized within three months from the date of their issuance, after which time they shall expire. If the wedding does not occur within three months, the license must nonetheless be returned to the issuing office.
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15 R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-2-8. Period of validity of license – Return if unused.
The license required by § 15-2-1 shall be valid for three (3) months after the date of issue, and if unused at the expiration of the three (3) months, the party or parties having possession of the license shall immediately return it to the town or city clerk from whom it was obtained.
15 R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-3-12. Endorsement and return of license.
(a) Every minister, elder, justice, warden, or other person who joins any persons in marriage, shall:
(b) Endorse the "License and Certificate of Marriage" form, prescribed pursuant to § 15-2-7, presented to him or her by the persons, as provided in § 15-3-7, and certify that the persons have been joined in marriage by him or her in accordance with the laws of the state of Rhode Island; and
(c) Complete all the information on the "License and Certificate of Marriage" and file the form within seventy-two (72) hours following the date of the marriage with the clerk in the town or city from which the license was issued.
How to Become a Wedding Officiant in Rhode Island
Rhode Island requires that anyone officiating a wedding be at least 18 years old. This is the same age that most ordaining bodies require to grant a person the title of a minister. It is not necessary that a person be a legal resident of the state in order to officiate a wedding within its borders. A person who is officiating a ceremony as a minister need not be a member of any particular faith.
Ministers ordained by the Universal Life Church or any other ordaining body should have proof of their ordination in case it is requested.
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15 R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-3-5. Officials empowered to join persons in marriage.
Every ordained clergy or elder in good standing; every justice of the supreme court, superior court, family court, workers' compensation court, district court or traffic tribunal; the clerk of the supreme court; every clerk, administrative clerk, or general chief clerk of a superior court, family court, district court, or traffic tribunal; magistrates, special or general magistrates of the superior court, family court, traffic tribunal or district court; administrative clerks of the district court; administrators of the workers' compensation court; every former justice or judge and former administrator of these courts; every former chief clerk of the district court; every former clerk, administrative clerk, or general chief clerk of a superior court; the secretary of the senate; elected clerks of the general assembly; any former secretary of the senate; any former elected clerk of the general assembly who retires after July 1, 2007; judges of the United States appointed pursuant to Article III of the United States Constitution; bankruptcy judges appointed pursuant to Article I of the United States Constitution; and United States magistrate judges appointed pursuant to federal law, may join persons in marriage in any city or town in this state; and every justice and every former justice of the municipal courts of the cities and towns in this state and of the police court of the town of Johnston and the administrator of the Johnston municipal court, while he or she is serving as an administrator, and every probate judge and every former probate judge may join persons in marriage in any city or town in this state, and wardens of the town of New Shoreham may join persons in marriage in New Shoreham.
Getting Married in Rhode Island
Rhode Island requires that the couple being married and the person officiating the wedding be present at the actual wedding ceremony. The state requires that there be two witnesses to the ceremony.
During the ceremony, the couple must verbally proclaim their intent to be wed. In general, this may be accomplished when the officiant requests that the couple says, “I do.” In addition, the officiant must formally pronounce that the couple is wed.
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15 R.I. Gen. Laws § 15-3-8. Witnesses to ceremony.
The solemnization of marriage shall be in the presence of at least two (2) witnesses besides the minister, elder, justice, or warden officiating.
Finalizing the Union
After a ceremony, the minister or officiant has to return the completed marriage license to the city or town clerk’s office from which it was issued. The license must be returned within 72 hours of the ceremony. If a license is returned more than 72 hours after a ceremony, a city or town clerk’s office will likely refuse to accept it.
The minister or officiant must fill out the marriage license completely and accurately. The information provided shall include the title of the person performing the ceremony as well as his or her home address. If the officiant is a minister ordained by the Universal Life Church, he or she should identify the Universal Life Church as the ordaining ministry.