The Deep Dive
How to get married in Vermont FAQ
Who can get married in Vermont?
Two people who are each at least 18 years old can get married in Vermont. If you are at least 16, but under 18, you will need the consent of a parent or guardian. Your parent or guardian should go with you to the town clerk's office to sign an affidavit giving you permission to marry. (The affidavit is on the back of the marriage license and is a legal part of the license.) By Vermont law, no one under the age of 16 may marry in Vermont.
Are there any other marriage restrictions?
Anyone under guardianship cannot marry without the guardian's written consent. Vermont also does not allow marriage between most close relatives. You cannot marry a parent, grandparent, sister, brother, child, grandchild, niece, nephew, aunt or uncle. You cannot marry if either of you is currently married to someone else, or if either of you is joined in a civil union to someone else. The law requires that both parties be of sound mind.
Do we need a license? Do we need blood tests?
You will need a license, but you do not need blood tests, and there is no waiting period.
Where do we get a marriage license and how much does it cost?
Licenses are issued by Vermont town clerks. If both parties are Vermont residents, you may go to the town clerk in either of your towns of residence. If just one of you resides in a Vermont town, you must buy the license in that town. The license costs $60, and is valid for 60 days from the date it is issued. During that time an authorized person must perform your wedding ceremony —otherwise, the license is void. If you want a certified copy of your marriage license, there is an additional fee of $10.
Do we have to be a Vermont resident?
No. Any couple from anywhere in the world, same-sex or different-sex, can marry in Vermont, if otherwise qualified. Non-U.S. residents should check with the clerk in the city or town where they intend to marry to find out what identification documents are needed. Non-resident couples can go to any town or city in Vermont to apply for a marriage license.
What information must we provide to get a marriage license?
Besides basic information about yourselves (names, towns of residence, places and dates of birth), you must also provide your parents’ names, including your mothers’ birth (maiden) names, and their places of birth. Certified copies of your birth certificates can supply most of this information. You will also be asked to provide the number of previous marriages & civil unions, and how & when they ended. This information is confidential and does not become part of the marriage certificate. Vermont law requires that both parties sign the application certifying the accuracy of the information you provided. The town clerk will review the application to confirm that the information provided does not indicate that you are prohibited from marrying in Vermont and that both of you have signed the application. The town clerk will then issue a license if at least one of you has signed the license in front of the clerk.
What if either of us were married or in a civil union before?
If your husband, wife or civil union partner has died, you are free to marry. The clerk will ask the date your spouse or civil union partner died. If you are divorced, you may remarry after the date on which your previous marriage or civil union was legally dissolved. If you are partners in an existing civil union, you are free to marry one another.
Can a license be issued through the mail? Can we be married by proxy?
No. A marriage license cannot be issued through the mail, and you cannot be married by proxy.
Where can we get married?
With a valid Vermont license, you can be married anywhere in Vermont, but only in Vermont.
Who can marry us? Do we need witnesses?
A Supreme Court justice, a superior court judge, a district judge, a judge of probate, an assistant judge, a justice of the peace, or an ordained or licensed member of the clergy residing in Vermont can perform your wedding ceremony.
A clergy person residing in an adjoining state or country can marry you if his or her church, temple, mosque, or other religious organization lies wholly or partly in Vermont. A clergy member residing in some other state or in Canada can marry you if he or she first obtains a special authorization from the probate court in the district where the marriage will take place.
In addition, any person who is over the age of 18 may register with the Secretary of State to become a temporary officiant to a marriage. A person who has filled-out the registration form and who has paid the registration fee of $100 will receive a certificate authorizing the person to solemnize a specific Vermont marriage. The individual’s authority to solemnize that marriage will expire at the same time as the corresponding license.
Vermont law does not require witnesses, but, if you are planning a religious ceremony, check to see if the religion’s tenets require witnesses.
What do we do with the license? What happens to it after the ceremony?
By law, you both must sign the license and deliver the license to the person who will conduct your wedding ceremony before the marriage can be performed. After the ceremony, the person who performs the ceremony (officiant) will complete the sections concerning the date, place and officiant information, and sign your license. At that point, the license becomes a marriage certificate.
The officiant must return the certificate to the town clerk’s office where it was issued within 10 days after the wedding, so that your marriage can be officially registered. If the officiant has registered with the Secretary of State as a temporary officiant, a copy of the certificate of authorizationissued by the Secretary of State should be attached to the signed certificate and returned to the clerk’s office. The certificate is not a complete legal document until it has been recorded in the town clerk's office where it was purchased.
How do we get a copy of our marriage certificate?
At the time you buy your marriage license, you can arrange with the town clerk to mail you a certified copy of your certificate as soon as your marriage has been recorded. The cost is $10 for the certified copy along with the $60 for the license purchase ($10 + $60 = $70).
Or, two weeks or more after the ceremony, you can request, in person or in writing, additional copies from the town clerk’s office where you bought your license for the same $10 fee. Or, six or more weeks after your ceremony, you may request, in person or in writing, a certified copy from the Vermont Department of Health, Vital Records Office for $10.
In either case, you will receive a copy of the original certificate, embossed with the town or state seal, signed and dated by the appropriate official. This copy is accepted for all legal purposes as proof of a valid marriage.
How do I change my surname?
Legal name changes are necessary only if you want to change your name through an official court order. For changes after marriage, an official court order is often unnecessary. A certified copy of your marriage certificate should allow you to change your surname with the Social Security Administration, the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles, and on your passport.
The Deep Dive
Same-Sex Marriage FAQ
Can same-sex couples marry in Vermont?
Yes. On April 7, 2009, Vermont became the first state to obtain marriage rights for same-sex couples through a legislative process rather than a court case. The bill, S.115 An Act to Protect Religious Freedom and Recognize Equality in Civil Marriage (the “Marriage Act”) was passed by the legislature on April 3, 2009, and took effect on September 1, 2009.
Six years later, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the U.S. Supreme Court made marriage equality a reality nationwide when it held that the U.S. Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry. Post-Obergefell, all 50 states are required to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, and all states must respect the marriages of same-sex couples performed in other jurisdictions.
What is the difference between marriage and civil unions?
Although civil unions provide state-based legal rights that normally come along with marriage, marriage is more than the sum of its legal parts. Because it is a social, cultural and legal institution, access to marriage provides protections to the married family on each of those levels. The word is itself a protection because others understand that when you are married you are a family. For some, being married allows them to express publicly the nature of their commitment. Marriages receive widespread respect. Beyond these intangible protections, there are some concrete differences.
The word “marriage” is the gateway to federal obligations and protections, and there are 1138 federal laws that distinguish based on marital status. Now that Section 3 of the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been ruled unconstitutional, most of the federal benefits, protections and responsibilities of marriage will only be available to married couples (the one exception is Social Security).
Additionally, it will be harder to gain respect for one’s civil union in other states – in whole or in part – than it would be for a marriage. Marriages are advantaged over civil unions because all states have a marriage-system, and now, because of the United State Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, every state must respect the marriages of same-sex couples.
How does one get married in Vermont?
To get married in Vermont, an eligible couple submits an application for a license in either the town or city in Vermont where one of the parties lives (out-of-state couples can go to any town or city clerk). The couple must pay the applicable fee and receive a marriage license from the clerk. The couple must then have the marriage solemnized (i.e., have a ceremony) within 60 days of filing the application. The person who performed the ceremony has 10 days to send the license back to the city or town where it was issued, and the clerk will file the original. The couple can then receive an official certificate of their marriage.
What happens to existing Civil Unions?
The passage of the “Marriage Act” does not make any changes to existing Vermont civil unions. Existing civil unions from Vermont or any other state are still valid and will remain valid unless legally dissolved by the parties, and all the benefits, protections, and obligations remain unchanged. So if you have a civil union, Vermont will provide you with access to all the state laws that pertain to marriage.
However, couples now no longer have the option of applying for a civil union license in Vermont. If you are currently in a civil union and want to be married in Vermont, you will need to go through the marriage process set forth above.
Can I get married if I have a Civil Union?
Yes, so long as you intend to marry the same person with whom you already have a civil union.
However, if you have a civil union with one person and wish to marry a different person, you must dissolve your civil union first, since otherwise you would have a legally recognized relationship with two different people, which would violate Vermont’s bigamy law and the new marriage may be “void.”
Civil Marriage versus Religious Marriage
The new Marriage Act makes it clear that for all couples, whether different-sex or same-sex couples, Vermont law creates a state licensing system for civil marriage, and civil marriage only. Every religion can continue to define marriage as it chooses for its own religious purposes.
Are clergy required to solemnize a same-sex Marriage?
No. The new Marriage Act augments the existing statute governing those persons who are authorized to solemnize a marriage by making explicit that this authorization “does not require a member of the clergy authorized to solemnize a marriage ... nor societies of Friends, Quakers, the Christadelphian Ecclesia, or the Baha’i Faith to solemnize any marriage, and any refusal to do so shall not create any civil claim or cause of action” (emphasis added). This did not change the law; it simply restates in forceful terms what the law has always been.
Non-Discrimination Rule in Places of Public Accommodation
The new Marriage Act did make changes that could raise issues for same-sex couples marrying in Vermont. Current Vermont law protects citizens from discrimination in places of public accommodation. “Place of public accommodation” means “any school, restaurant, store, establishment or other facility at which services, facilities, goods, privileges, advantages, benefits or accommodations are offered to the general public.” People are protected from discrimination in public accommodations on account of a number of bases, including a person’s sexual orientation and marital status. Therefore, the law’s protection extends to couples who are entering into a civil union or a marriage or are married or in a civil union.
Must a church allow a same-sex couple to use church property?
No. The new Marriage Act adds a new, narrow exemption to the public accommodation law to provide that: “a religious organization, association, or society, or any nonprofit institution or organization operated, supervised, or controlled by or in conjunction with a religious organization, association, or society, shall not be required to provide services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges to an individual, if the request for such services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges is related to the solemnization of a marriage or celebration of a marriage.” The exempt entities may selectively provide these various services, etc. “to some individuals with respect to the solemnization or celebration of a marriage but not to others.”
How Does the Act Affect Fraternal Benefit Societies?
The new Marriage Act also adds language to the law governing Vermont fraternal benefit societies, simply making clear what the law already requires: that the civil marriage laws do not: (a) affect the ability of any such society to determine eligibility for admission of its members; or (b) require any such society that is “operated, supervised or controlled by or in connection with a religious organization to provide insurance benefits to any person if to do so would violate the society’s free exercise of religion” as guaranteed by the United States and Vermont Constitutions.
How Will A Marriage Or Civil Union Affect My Children?
If both parties were parents before the marriage or civil union (e.g., through joint or second-parent adoption), both parties remain parents.
If one party to the marriage or civil union was not a parent before, the marriage or civil union will not change that. He or she will be considered a stepparent, carrying whatever weight that status has in Vermont. The sure way to become a legal parent in this situation is for the non-legal parent to adopt the child. Moreover, that adoption decree from the court is a legal judgment. As a result, it should be recognized broadly outside of Vermont and has legal significance independent of the marriage or civil union.
If two people joined in a marriage or civil union subsequently have a child, both parties may be legally presumed to be the legal parents of a child born to either of them. In Vermont, a child born into a marriage or civil union is presumed to be the child of both parties. Nonetheless, this is just a presumption and does not have the same effect as a court judgment. It is subject to being challenged and overturned.
Information was obtained from the Vital Records Office of the Vermont Dept of Health, and GLAD Legal Advocates & Defenders for the LGBTQ Community.
If you have questions that are not answered on this page, contact the Vital Records Office at 802-863-7275, or your Town Clerk. Please mention you found their information on VERMONT.COM.
The purpose of this page is to provide general information only. For legal advice and guidance on your particular situation, please contact a lawyer.