Stay up to date with the latest wedding ceremony trends, script writing inspiration, tips and advice for first-time officiants, and news that matters to couples and wedding ministers.

Rhode Island lawmakers consider new marriage license return period, easier practices for return by mail

Published Wednesday, Apr. 26th, 2023

Photo by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash

The proposed update would give officiants two business days to return a license, and licenses mailed and postmarked within this period would be considered on time. 



Lawmakers in Rhode Island are considering legislation to shorten the state’s ‘marriage license return period’ from 72 hours to 'two business days' – provided that licenses mailed and postmarked within this window are considered on-time.


This change is expected to make it easier for wedding officiants to return a license by mail – and might result in more time to complete and file a license, in some cases. 


Currently, marriage licenses must be filed with the clerk’s office where they were issued within 72 hours following a wedding ceremony. This is the marriage officiant’s responsibility and must be completed in time in order for the marriage to be valid. 


Unfortunately, this 72-hour period doesn’t factor in the time required for a license to reach a clerk by mail, even though licenses are commonly returned this way. 



Lawmakers hope that a change in policy will make it easier for officiants to return the marriage license on time – regardless of their location and distance from the issuing office – by allowing forms that are mailed and postmarked within the return period to be counted as on time. 


The legislation (H 5443) also specifies two ‘business days’ when defining the proposed period, which takes into account the prevalence of late-week and weekend weddings. This change might give officiants more time to complete and return a license, in some cases.


The act was passed by the Rhode Island House of Representatives on March 23, and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee this week for review. The act's primary sponsor is Rep. Edith H. Ajello, and it has the support of nine co-sponsors. 




What is the 'Marriage License Return Period'?

After a wedding ceremony, the couple's marriage license must be completed and returned to the appropriate government office. Each state has its own laws on when a license must be returned -- often referred to as the 'return period.' Depending on your location, this period of time might be a couple of days, a couple of weeks, or sometimes longer. 

For example, in Hawaii, a completed marriage license must be returned before it expires (within 30 days of being issued), while a signed license in California must be returned within 10 days following the wedding ceremony.

In general, it's best to return a completed marriage license as soon as possible.

Most states allow marriage licenses to be returned by mail, but some states require either the couple or their officiant to return the completed license in-person at the clerk's office. To learn more about the return period in your state, we recommend you speak with your local clerk or registrar.

For quick reference, we've put together a list of each state's marriage waiting period, marriage license expiration period, and license return period:

+ Marriage License Waiting Period, Expiration, and Return 

Clip art showing a bride and groom, a marriage document, and a wedding officiant



Get Ordained Online & Officiate Weddings! 


Read How to Become a Wedding Officiant in Rhode Island


Conviértete en un Oficiante de Bodas en Rhode Island

Friends and family members can perform legal weddings in Rhode Island if they've been ordained online. Ordination with American Marriage Ministries is inclusive, free, easy, and fast. Click the link below to get started and learn how to officiate weddings today. 






Read Next: 




Jessica Levey
Jessica Levey

Lead Staff Writer & Illustrator

Jessica loves exploring the history and magic of ritual, the connections between people and places, and sharing true stories about love and commitment. She's an advocate for marriage equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and individuality, and is an ordained Minister with AMM. When she’s not writing or illustrating for AMM, she enjoys city hikes, fantasy novels, comics, and traveling.

How To Officiate By State

Will You Marry Us? Gift Package

Who Will Officiate Your Wedding?

Choose Your Officiant with our "Will You Marry Us?" Gift Package.

Signature Wedding Officiant Package

Signature Wedding Officiant Package

Our premiere package contains everyting you need to officiate like a pro.

The Book of Wedding Vows and Ceremonies

The Book of Wedding Vows and Ceremonies

It's finally here! Timeless scripts and heartfelt vow inspiration to bring life to your ceremony.

Professional Wedding Officiant Certification Course

Learn from the Pros to Officiate with Confidence!

Wedding Officiant Training

Wedding Officiant Training

Everything you need to know to officiate.

Read our sample wedding ceremony scripts online

Sample Wedding Ceremony Scripts

Need inspiration? Check out our free ceremony scripts!

Subscribe To Our Newsletter!


Become a Wedding Officiant with Our Free Online Ordination!