Intention of marriage
In order to get married in New Hampshire, you must obtain a marriage license from any city or town clerk's office. You can obtain a license by submitting a marriage license application, also referred to as a "marriage application worksheet" or "intention of marriage" form. To keep things straightforward, we'll often refer to it as "application worksheet" or simply "application."
Although most couples will apply for their marriage license together and in person, you are allowed to apply separately and not necessarily in person.
Although one applicant can start the application process, the city or town clerk will wait to release the marriage license until both applicants have completed their part and affixed their signatures.
Armed forces members
If you're a member of the armed forces who's unable to apply in person, you must get an armed services' legal representative, company commander, or superior officer to forward a completed application worksheet and affidavit of marriage intentions to the clerk.
First signature and expiration
The marriage license expiration countdown will begin the moment the first signature is applied, which is the date the application worksheet will be filed.
Issuance when both signatures obtained
The marriage license will not be physically issued by the clerk until the signatures of both applicants have been obtained.
A New Hampshire marriage license costs $50, which is nonrefundable. Forty-three dollars of the fee is routed to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to fund state domestic violence programs. Seven dollars is retained by the clerk's office to render the licensing service.
The license fee does not include a certified copy of your marriage license/certificate, which costs about $10 extra. As a matter of fact, if you come across a clerk's office charging $60 instead of $50, it's because they're throwing in a certified copy of your marriage record. If you don't want to pay extra, then you may raise an objection to the clerk.
State residents and nonresidents may apply for a marriage license in any city or town clerk's office and subsequently marry anywhere within the state.
The only residency constraint of consequence is when neither of you are state residents and either of you is underage.
The marriage application worksheet is a two-page form you must fill out in order to record your intention of marriage.
The New Hampshire Division of Vital Records Administration is solely responsible for designing and disseminating the application worksheet to all city and town clerk's offices.
Be prepared to disclose the following about yourself on the application worksheet:
- Self-designation, including bride, groom, or spouse
- Full legal name, including suffix
- Last name at birth
- Date of birth
- Residence, with street and number, city or town or location, and county and state or foreign country
- Social security number
- Parents' full legal names, including suffixes
- Parents' last names at birth
- Parents' birthplaces
Guardians, stepparents, and natural parents
If you've specified the name of a legal guardian on your application worksheet, you can request the clerk replace their name with the name of a natural parent on the marriage license. However, you cannot use this substitution option to swap out your stepparents' names.
Middle and last name changes
Starting on January 1, 2015, the application worksheet asks you to supply the new last name and new middle name you intend to take after you're married. You can keep your surname, take your spouse's, or choose a hyphenated variant. Middle name changes are relegated to keeping it unchanged or replacing it with your pre-marriage surname.
Statistical and legal
The clerk will collect the following statistical and legal information:
- Which marriage this represents (e.g., first, second, third)
- If you were previously married or in a civil union, how it ended (e.g., divorce, annulment, death) and the date it ended
- Race (e.g., Black, White, Asian) and ancestry (e.g., English, German, Puerto Rican)
- Highest education levels completed (secondary and/or college)
Once the clerk is done transcribing your legal and statistical information, you'll be asked to detail the following, if known:
- Marriage ceremony location and date
- Officiant's name, title, and address
The ceremony date and officiant's contact information is solicited if the clerk needs to investigate why your marriage license was not returned for recording after your anticipated marriage date.
Methods of contact
Right before you sign and date the application, you'll be asked to provide your mailing address and phone number. This information will not be shown on your marriage license. The clerk may use this information to contact you if a problem arises in the return or recording of your license.
Signatures, oaths, and issuance details
When you sign and date the application worksheet, you're swearing that the information you've provided is accurate to the best of your knowledge and that no legal impediment to your proposed marriage exists.
Following your signature will be the clerk's signature, notation of the date of issuance, date of expiration, and the name of the city or town of issuance. Having the location of issuance on the license is useful in case the completed license is returned to the wrong clerk's office.
Note: intentionally falsifying any aspect of your application is a class B felony.
Application to marriage license
The city or town clerk will copy over the information from your application worksheet onto a marriage license, which is the form that will later be used to document your marriage ceremony.
The application worksheet will be permanently held in the clerk's office. You're to hand over the issued license to whoever will solemnize your marriage ceremony.
Your marriage license will be issued immediately after your marriage application worksheet has been completed by both parties to the marriage. You can get married the same day it's issued.
If you're applying separately, the city or town clerk will issue the license to whoever applies and signs last.
Your marriage license will expire 90 days after your marriage application worksheet is filed, not when it's issued, which is typically the same day, unless you're applying separately. If you're not applying together, the date of filing occurs with whoever applies first.
Return unused license
If you don't intend to use your marriage license, before or after it expires, you're asked to kindly return it to the city or town clerk's office that issued it, or else you will be contacted to verify your marital status.
You are not required to get a blood test for any communicable disease as part of the marriage licensing process.
Although blood tests are not required, every city and town clerk's office will make available the following information: a list of family planning organizations and services available in the state, and brochures covering fetal alcohol syndrome and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
These resources are compiled by the Department of Health and Human Services and disseminated to all city and town clerk's offices for public circulation.
Identification is solicited to confirm your age and identity. Acceptable forms of ID include an original or certified copy of your birth certificate, driver's license, passport, or other document containing your name, date of birth, and photograph.
In New Hampshire, the age of majority, or legal adulthood, is 18 years. If you're below this age, you must obtain consent to marry from a custodial parent or legal guardian as well as judicial permission. At least one of you must be a resident of the state for this to work.
Note: false reporting of age to a city or town clerk, either by you or a participant, is a misdemeanor offense punishable by a $60 fine.
If you're a female below the age of 13 or a male below the age of 14, you cannot marry under any circumstance. If such a marriage were to happen, it would be null and void.
Minimum age for same-sex couples
If you're entering into a same-sex marriage, you and your prospective spouse must be 18 years old or older.
Consent and court waiver
Either you or your prospective spouse, along with the parent or guardian of the underage party, must submit a written age waiver request to the family division of the judicial branch having jurisdiction over the area where either of you lives.
An immediate hearing will be arranged where the judge or justice will hear all parties involved and determine if there is sufficient special cause to waive the age restriction. If your request is granted, you'll be given an age waiver that must be presented to the city or town clerk when applying for your license.
Open to annulment action
Any underage marriage will forever be susceptible to a superior court annulment action/suit by the underage party, or their parent or guardian, unless the underage party reaches the age of legal adulthood and endorses the marriage.
Previous marriages and civil unions
If your prior marriage or civil union was legally dissolved or left you as a widow or widower, you must submit proof of that fact.
Proof of divorce
If your previous marriage ended in divorce, you must present a certified copy of your final divorce decree to the city or town clerk.
Non-English divorce decree
If you plan to present a foreign divorce decree that's not written in English, you must first get it translated into English and have the translator's signature certified by a notary public or justice of the peace.
Foreign divorce decree unavailable
If you're unable to get a hold of your foreign divorce decree, you must submit an affidavit stating so and present a statement from the embassy of the foreign country confirming the decree could not be located.
Proof of annulment
If your prior marriage or civil union ended in annulment, you must bring a certified copy of the annulment certificate or decree for review by the city or town clerk.
However, if you're in a civil union that was established out-of-state—New Hampshire replaced civil unions with marriage in 2010—and the person you intend to marry is a party to the civil union, then it needn't be dissolved/annulled first.
Proof of spouse's death
If your previous marriage or civil union left you widowed, you must bring a certified copy of your deceased spouse's death certificate for examination by the city or town clerk.
The following types of marriages are prohibited and void in this state if contracted:
You are legally forbidden from marrying your parent, child, grandchild, sibling, aunt, uncle, niece, nephew, or first cousin.
Stepsiblings may marry if each of their adoptive parents is not related by blood any closer than first cousins.
Adopted siblings may marry if they're not biologically related any closer than first cousins.
You cannot get married if you having a living husband or wife; your prior marriage must have been finalized in divorce, annulled, or left you widowed.
Crime and punishment
Knowingly committing an act of bigamy is a class B felony that's punishable by up to seven years imprisonment, or a fine not to exceed $4,000, or both.
A criminal bigamy indictment only applies to legally solemnized marriages and not common-law marriages.
Who may solemnize
The person who solemnizes your marriage is referred to as the officiant, solemnizing official or officer, or solemnizer. We'll use the term officiant henceforth. Your marriage may be solemnized in a civil or religious ceremony.
If you're having a civil ceremony, it may be conducted by a state-commissioned justice of the peace, state supreme court justice, state judge of the circuit or superior court, or federal judge or magistrate who resides in this state.
Judges, justices, and magistrates, but not justices of the peace, must obtain a special license from the Secretary of State to conduct each marriage.
If you're having a religious ceremony, it may be solemnized by an ordained minister residing in the state, a non-ordained clergyperson residing in the state, or an out-of-state minister who has full or partial charge of a parish within the state.
For solemnization purposes, ordained deacons in the Roman Catholic Church who reside in the state are classified the same as ordained ministers of the gospel who reside in the state.
Non-ordained clergypersons and out-of-state ministers must obtain a special license from the Secretary of State to solemnize a marriage.
Religious officiants are free to conduct the ceremony in a secular or nonsecular fashion. Furthermore, rabbis, imams, and the Society of Friends, also known as Quakers, may solemnize marriages by their respective traditions and norms.
One-time solemnization license
Only state-commissioned justices of the peace and ordained ministers who reside in the state can solemnize marriages without the need of a special license. Other eligible judicial and religious officiants must apply for a special license from the Secretary of State that authorizes the performance of one marriage for a specifically name couple.
Applicants must pay a $25 fee and submit proof of their authority to solemnize marriages.
Before the solemnization, celebration, or presiding over of your marriage ceremony can begin, you must present the officiant with your marriage license.
You are not required to bring witnesses to your marriage ceremony. Even if you do bring witnesses, their names, addresses, or signatures cannot be recorded on the completed license.
Completing the license
Following the ceremony, the officiant must record the details of the ceremony on the "marriage certificate" (a.k.a. certificate of marriage) portion of the marriage license. He or she must notate the date of solemnization, where it took place, their name (printed or typed), title, address, and signature, and an indication of whether it was a civil or religious ceremony.
By the completing this section the officiant is certifying that he or she was authorized to perform the marriage, that no known impediment to the marriage existed, and that you and your spouse were lawfully married.
Returning the license
The officiant must return the completed marriage license, by mail or in person, to the city or town clerk's office that issued it within 6 days after the ceremony was conducted.
The officiant is required to return the completed license and report your marriage even if you had a subsequent change of heart and asked him or her to disregard that the marriage ever happened.
Some states permit self-solemnization, where the couple can act as their own officiant and are responsible for certifying and signing the license, post-ceremony: New Hampshire is not one of those states. By extension, an officiant authorized to perform marriages is not allowed to serve as their own officiant.
No person, organization, or society that's authorized to perform a civil or religious marriage ceremony is required to do so if it violates their religious beliefs. No civil suit, cause of action, or penalty may be brought against them by any person or the state for failure to provide marriage-related services, goods, or accommodations.
This legal carve out, which is enshrined in state law, is primarily meant to allow members of the clergy and religious groups from bowing out of performing same-sex marriages. Moreover, it is used to allow nonparticipation of ceremonies where the religious doctrine disagrees with who may marry within the faith, such as nonbelievers or nonmembers.
If you are married by someone who lacked the proper authority or jurisdiction, it would not nullify your marriage as long as either you or your spouse believed the marriage was lawfully performed at the time. In spite of this, the unauthorized person who performed the solemnization would be guilty of a misdemeanor.
Once the completed marriage license has been returned to the city or town clerk's office that issued it, the clerk will notate on the "marriage certificate" section the date the marriage registration was filed along with their signature.
Forward to vital records
Your marriage will not be considered fully registered and recorded until the clerk delivers the license to the state's Division of Vital Records Administration for final filing.
Once the state registrar within the Division files the original license, certified copies will immediately be available for order.
Follow-up for non-return
If your license is not returned within 30 days after the expected date of marriage or within 90 days after its filing (which is the date it expires), the clerk will contact you or your spouse to determine if your marriage actually took place.
If your marriage did happen, the clerk will want you to confirm who performed the solemnization so that your license can be tracked down and properly returned for recording.
Failure to recover completed license
If the clerk is ultimately unable to retrieve your non-returned license from the officiant after you confirmed the marriage did take place, the Division of Vital Records Administration will be notified of this within 24 hours, and you or your spouse and the clerk will begin the cumbersome process of recording your marriage after the fact by way of a "delayed marriage certificate."
You can obtain a certified copy of your marriage certificate, which is the same document as a certified copy of your marriage license, from the city or town clerk's office that issued and recorded your marriage license or from the state division of vital records, which maintains the original copy.
The cost is $15 for the first copy and $10 for each additional copy.
Marriage name change
If you intend to change your last name or middle name as a result of marriage, be sure to specify your new name preferences on the marriage application worksheet. FYI, first name changes are only made possible by petitioning the court for a "change of legal name."
Proof of legal name change
After your marriage has been registered, a certified copy of your recorded marriage license will serve as proof of marriage and will be accepted in all courts. This also means the Social Security Administration, DMV, and passport office will treat it as a legal document authorizing you to change your name.
Middle and last name change options
Either you or your spouse, or both of you, may keep your last name, take your spouse's last name, or hyphenate surnames. You may also replace your middle name with your maiden name or birth surname.
Name change for nonresidents
If you're getting married in New Hampshire but you're not a resident of this state, you will be bound by the name change laws of your state or foreign country. Wherever you may live, a certified copy of your marriage license would be considered the principal document to be used to facilitate a name change after marriage.
Status of civil unions
Effective January 1, 2010, New Hampshire discontinued the establishment of new civil unions in favor of marriage. Couples whose civil unions were established in this state had until January 1, 2011 to request their civil union be legally converted and recorded as a marriage. All remaining non-converted civil unions were automatically merged into marriage on January 1, 2011.
Out-of-state civil unions
A civil union, or legally similar relationship, established outside of New Hampshire will be regarded as a valid marriage here, although that doesn't preclude anyone from obtaining a marriage license to marry their partner in this state.
Marriage by proxy
Getting married by proxy, where one or both parties to a marriage employ a stand-in to take their place during solemnization, is not permitted in New Hampshire.
New Hampshire will recognize a common-law marriage as a legal marriage only after a spouse has died and prior cohabitation for three years can be proven. This makes common-law marriage only legally useful for inheritance purposes and civil actions.
If you get married outside of New Hampshire, your marriage would be recognized in this state as long as it could have legally taken place here.
Residents, who marry out-of-state, where that marriage would have been prohibited by the laws of this state would, would return home with an illegitimate marriage. Intent to evade the law and ignorance of the law are treated equally.
If you're feeling adventurous, you can obtain an offshore marriage, but it must be within three miles of the shoreline. The city or town containing the port of departure should be recorded as the location of solemnization when your officiant completes the license.
Marriage on a plane in flight or aboard a ship on a body of water is also considered valid, as long as the ceremony was conducted over the state of New Hampshire.
Next step: choose a clerk's office
Now that you're well-versed on the ins and outs of New Hampshire marriage license requirements, you must now choose which city or town clerk's office to visit and apply in. Consult the city and town list below to continue your journey.