Heidy and Hugh, who are both Massachusetts residents, are getting married in Boston trying to determine who may solemnize Massachusetts marriage as they plan their big day. Heidy’s brother, who is an ordained minister in New York, would like to perform the ceremony. Heidy and Hugh wonder if this will be sufficient to make their marriage valid. They have heard that the solemnization of their marriage is a requirement. Will Heidy’s brother qualify as a person who may solemnize their marriage, despite being from out of state?

According to Massachusetts General Laws, chapter 207, section 38, which sets out the meaning of solemnization of a marriage in Massachusetts, Heidy’s brother should be able to perform the ceremony for a valid marriage to exist. A marriage may be solemnized in any place in the Commonwealth through three types of persons:

  1. A duly ordained minister or religious clergyman (such as a rabbi or imam) in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who is in good standing within his or her church or denomination;
  2. A justice of the peace who is appropriately registered to perform solemnization within the Commonwealth; or
  3. A duly ordained non-resident minister or clergyman, so long as he or she is a part of a church or denomination which is fully established in the Commonwealth.

Heidy’s brother falls under the third category. As long as he practices in a denomination which is fully established in Massachusetts, he may perform the ceremony and solemnize Heidy and Hugh’s marriage. (Note here that churches and other religious organizations are required by law to “file in the office of the state secretary information relating to persons recognized or licensed” to solemnize marriages.)[1]

The person solemnizing the marriage must keep a record of the marriage, must fill out the Certificate of Intention of Marriage by stating the place and date of the marriage, and must return the Certificate to the Massachusetts clerk or registrar who issued it.

One thing to point out here: if a marriage were not sufficiently solemnized, because the person performing it were not authorized under the statute to do so, the marriage isn’t necessarily void. So long as the marriage is in all other respects lawful and the parties consummate it in the belief that the marriage is lawful, the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office may validate the marriage by issuing a certificate.

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[1] Mass. Gen Laws, ch. 207 s. 38