In Vermont, marriage is neither a promise nor an agreement: it's a legal contract. For you to enter into a civil marriage contract you must first procure a marriage license from a city or town clerk's office.
Note: any future reference to marriage should be taken to mean "civil marriage."
You'll primarily be dealing with the city or town clerk or one of their appointed assistant clerks. Assistant clerks are sworn and authorized to perform the same duties as the principal clerk, including licensing and recording.
You and your soon-to-be spouse must apply for a license together—no proxy applicants or powers of attorney allowed. Furthermore, marriage-by-proxy is not permitted.
Civil unions discontinued
Due to Vermont's Marriage Equality Act, which made same-sex marriage legal, the ability to enter into a civil union was discontinued as of September 1, 2009. Civil unions entered into prior to September 1, 2009 will still be recognized.
One or both are residents
If one or both of you lives in Vermont, you must obtain your license from the city or town clerk's office where either resides. Your marriage must take place in that municipality.
Neither are residents
If neither of you are residents of the state, you can obtain your license from any city or town clerk's office and subsequently marry anywhere in the state.
Unorganized towns and gores
If you're a resident of an unorganized town or gore, you will not have a dedicated clerk's office available; instead, you must obtain your license from your county clerk's office.
County clerk fees related to licensing and vital records registration would mirror that of any city or town clerk's office.
Marriage license and certificate fees may be paid at the same time. If you elect to pay by credit or debit card, you will be charged an extra transaction fee.
A Vermont marriage license costs $60. The fee is the same in every city and town. The city or town clerk only retains a portion of the license fee; the monies are actually distributed as such:
|17%||$10||Kept by the city or town clerk|
|58%||$35||Deposited into the Domestic and Sexual Violence Special Fund|
|25%||$15||Forwarded to the State Treasurer on a quarterly basis|
If you'd like to be mailed a certified copy of your marriage certificate after you're married, it'll cost you $10 per copy. It will be sent to the mailing address you specify on the application. This is an optional purchase.
Civil ceremony fee
State law only dictates what an acting judge may charge to perform a civil ceremony, which is $100.
The marriage license application is designed by the Vermont Department of Health. You'll be asked to document and swear to the following, under penalty of perjury:
- Self-designation (e.g., bride, groom, spouse)
- Legal name
- Surname at birth, a.k.a. maiden name
- Date of birth
- Birthplace (state or foreign country)
Most clerk's will ask to see a certified copy of your birth certificate as part of the identification process to corroborate your declared age, place of birth, and last name at birth.
- Home address
- City or town of residence
If you're a participant in Vermont's Safe at Home address confidentiality program, notify the clerk so that your confidential address and city or town of residence doesn't show up on any public record. If you don't bring it up, you'll be waiving your right to privacy.
- Parents' first and middle names
- Parents' last names at birth
- Parents' birthplaces (state or foreign country)
Your parents' information is collected for genealogical purposes.
- Total number of marriages and civil unions, including this one
- How the last marriage/civil union ended
- Date the last marriage/civil union ended
You do not need to bring documentary evidence of dissolution, such as a divorce decree, civil union dissolution, or death certificate.
Means of contact
- Telephone number
- Email address
- Post-marriage mailing address
If you purchase a certified copy of your marriage certificate at the same time you submit your application, it will be delivered to your post-marriage mailing address.
- Ceremony date
- Ceremony location (city or town)
- Officiant's name and address
Reveal your ceremony details, if known, otherwise skip it.
Bring a certified copy of your birth certificate and one form of government-issued photo identification, such as a driver's license, non-driver's ID card, or passport.
If you have inadequate or nonexistent identification, the clerk may exercise his or her discretion to determine what other forms of identity verification would be acceptable, including affidavits.
Ages 18 and above
If you're 18 years old or older and not the ward of a guardian, then you do not need to obtain consent to marry, considering you've reached the age of majority.
If you're an adult who's under guardianship, your guardian's written consent authorizing you to marry is necessary.
Ages 16 and 17
If you're either 16 or 17 years old, you may only marry by obtaining written consent from your guardian, assuming you're under guardianship, or from one competent parent, otherwise.
Ages 15 and below
If you're below the age of 16, you cannot marry—consent or no consent. There is also no court remedy.
Parent or guardian consent form
If you require permission to marry (e.g., underage, under guardianship), your parent or guardian must accompany you to the making of the marriage license application in order to sign an affidavit consenting to your marriage.
Note: any person who falsely claims to be a consenting parent or guardian, for the purpose of aiding a minor to procure a license, may be fined a maximum of $500.
There's no marriage license waiting period. You'll be issued a license immediately and it can be used without delay.
License and certificate issuance
Once your application has been approved, the clerk will copy over your biographical and parental information onto a blank "Vermont License and Certificate of Marriage" form. Give this document to your officiant.
Your marriage license will expire 60 days after it's been issued, after which it will be void and unusable. The precise date of expiration will be written or printed on the license.
You're not required to get a blood test or premarital medical certificate in order to get a marriage license. Unlike some other states, you won't even be given gratuitous pamphlets about STD's and testing sites.
Although you'll have to briefly document your previous marriages and civil unions on the application, you won't have to present a divorce, dissolution, or death certificate.
The person who solemnizes, or presides over, your marriage is called the officiant. State law spells out specific criteria for who qualifies to perform this role, as follows:
Your marriage may be solemnized by certain members of the judiciary, such as a justice of the peace, magistrate, judicial bureau hearing officer, supreme court justice, superior court judge, or probate court judge.
Mayors are given a special carve-out to perform marriages, synonymous to justices of the peace.
Your marriage may be solemnized by any member of the clergy who resides in this state and is licensed, ordained, or authorized to perform marriages by the authorities of his or her religious denomination.
Clergypersons from neighboring states and Canada may solemnize if they have a church, parish, mosque, temple, or equivalent body, partially or entirely within the state.
Members of religious societies, such as the Religious Society of Friends (a.k.a. Quakers), Baha'i Faith, or Christadelphian Ecclesia may solemnize marriages by whatever procedure is customary in their societies.
Anyone, who's 18 years old or older, can register to become a temporary officiant by submitting an application and $100 check or money order payment to the Secretary of State's office. Authorization, in the form of a certificate, will be granted to solemnize the marriage of one specific couple, one time only.
The temporary officiant must attach the authorizing certificate to the returned marriage certificate, following the ceremony.
Solemnization is the presiding over of your marriage ceremony. Before commencing, you must present your marriage license to the authorized officiant. If your marriage takes place without a license, or with an expired license, it will be illegitimate.
No religious organization, association, or society—directly or indirectly—is required to provide services, goods, or accommodations in service to a marriage solemnization or celebration. No cause of action—meaning they can't be sued—can be brought against them for refusing to participate.
You don't need witnesses to attend your ceremony or sign anything afterward.
Once your ceremony is complete, the officiant must document the ceremony details on the bottom-right "officiant" portion of the marriage license. This entails entering the following details:
- Ceremony date
- City or town of marriage
- Officiant's name, title, signature, and address
At this point, the license's designation changes from "civil marriage license" to "civil marriage certificate."
If the officiant fails to return the certificate in the allotted time, he or she will be fined up to $10.
If your marriage is solemnized by someone who claimed to have authority or jurisdiction to do so, but that turned out to be a fiction, your marriage would not be invalidated as long as you or your spouse believed the ceremony was lawfully conducted at the time.
Any person who knowingly solemnizes a marriage without legal authority will be subject to a fine between $100 and $300, or up to six months imprisonment, or both.
The city or town clerk is responsible for alphabetically indexing and filing your returned marriage certificate in a volume, which must be permanently protected in a fireproof vault or safe within the office.
Right clerk, wrong clerk
If your marriage certificate is returned to the wrong city or town clerk—who is still obligated to file it—then the wrong clerk will send a certified copy of the certificate to the right clerk by the first day of the following month. When the correct clerk receives their copy, it'll be recorded as normal.
Dispatch to state vital records
The city or town clerk must send the state supervisor of vital records registration a certified copy of your recorded marriage certificate within a week of its receipt, if the population is over 5000, or by the tenth of the following month otherwise.
Failure by the clerk to send the state their copy incurs a maximum fine of $100.
Record non-Vermont marriage
If you were married outside the state and subsequently moved to the state, you can optionally request the clerk of your city or town record your non-Vermont marriage certificate. You'll have to make an oath that the certificate is authentic. This option is available for your children's birth certificates as well.
Marriage certificate copy
You can obtain a certified copy of your marriage certificate from the city or town clerk's office where you obtained your license. You can pay for your certificate when you pay for your license, or anytime after your marriage has been recorded.
Certified license vs. certified certificate
When you obtain a certified copy of your marriage certificate, it's the same as obtaining a certified copy of your marriage license, or certificate of marriage, or marriage record—they're synonyms.
Certified copies, which are issued on unique paper containing antifraud attributes, hold the same legal weight as the original it's derived from, and will be accepted in all courts and government institutions throughout the state as proof of marriage.
Although you can marry your first cousin, you cannot marry any of the other following members of your family, whether related by the whole blood, half blood, no blood, or adoption:
Impact of marital dissolution
Relationships established through marriage remain banned even after the marriage ends in divorce, annulment, or death, unless the marriage was deemed void or illegitimate.
For instance, a stepparent cannot marry a former stepchild after the marriage which brought them together has ended, unless the prior marriage was declared void or unlawful.
Voiding kinship marriage
A marriage solemnized in this state between prohibited kinship and blood relations is void from inception, whether or not divorce or dissolution proceedings take place.
You cannot get married if you have a living husband or wife or civil union partner. The subsequent marriage would constitute bigamy and be void.
Voiding bigamous marriage
A bigamous marriage that takes place in this state is void by default, without the need of a divorce or dissolution procedure to declare it so. Either party to a suspected bigamous marriage may file an action to have it annulled and declared void.
Punishment and escape clause
Bigamy is a crime punishable by up to five years imprisonment. This disgraceful label, penalty, and automatic nullification do not apply to anyone whose prior spouse was not known to be alive during seven consecutive years preceding the subsequent marriage.
A voidable marriage is susceptible to being annulled, instead of being inherently void. A voidable marriage may only be disintegrated if someone who has standing files an annulment action in court.
Moreover, a voidable marriage isn't automatically void once an annulment action is filed and allegation declared. The court will review evidence and admissions and denials from all parties involved before granting or denying a decree of nullity, which is analogous to a divorce decree.
Force or fraud
If you consented to a marriage due to force or fraud, an annulment action can be brought forth by you or your parent, guardian, or relative.
If you were to die before the conclusion of annulment proceedings, your parent or a relative, but not an ex-guardian, may keep the annulment proceeding active on your behalf.
An annulment action cannot be filed if you willingly cohabitated as a married couple prior to bringing the suit, regardless of the veracity of any coercion or deception allegation.
If a fraudulent or forced marriage is annulled, the innocent parent is typically granted custody of any children involved, while the guilty parent is on the hook, financially, for the education and upkeep of the children.
If you were mentally incapable of entering into your marriage, an annulment action can be instigated by a relative or count-appointed "next friend," assuming no relative steps up; however, only a relative can continue such a suit in the event of your death.
You can file your own annulment action upon the restoration of your mental faculties; on the other hand, if you freely cohabitate as a married couple after your mental health is restored, the right to pursue an annulment disappears.
Note: references to mental incapacity, incapacitation, or incapability only refer to serious psychiatric or mental dysfunctions.
If you were physically incapacitated at the time of marriage, you would have two years from the date of solemnization to seek an annulment on those grounds.
Too young to marry
If you were below the age of 16 when you entered into a marriage, it can be voided, even if the marriage was established in another state, country, or jurisdiction where such a juvenile marriage was legal.
An annulment action can be initiated by you (the underage party) or your custodial parent or guardian. If no custodial parent or guardian exists, the court may appoint a "next friend" to represent your interests.
If you reach adulthood and choose to freely cohabitate as a married couple, the marriage would no longer be voidable.
Vermont does not recognize common-law marriage, regardless of when and where it was instituted. Instead, a marriage license must be acquired, followed by solemnization.