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How to Get Married in Rhode Island - Planning a Wedding in the Ocean State

Published Saturday, Jul. 1st, 2023

Photo: Victoria Priessnitz / Unsplash

Planning a Rhode Island wedding? This short guide will help, from how to find a wedding officiant to how to apply for and complete your marriage license. 


From stunning coastlines to historic mansions, quaint seaside towns to first-class resorts, Rhode Island offers romantic backdrops of every kind – for every kind of couple! 


Applying for a marriage license in this charming New England state will look different in each county, so it’s important to get a head start on the planning process to avoid unnecessary stress. With this in mind, we’ve compiled a short guide to help you begin. 


Asked to officiate a wedding in Rhode Island? 

Read How to Become a Wedding Officiant in Rhode Island



An outdoor wedding is about to begin in the distance, white chairs are set up in rows under large shade trees. In the foreground there is a wooden swing. It's a peaceful scene before things begin.



How to get married in Rhode Island in 6 Steps 



1. Get yourself a sweetheart! 


Got one? Whew! There will be a few more boxes to check, but the hardest part’s over.


2. Find a wedding officiant in Rhode Island.


A wedding officiant is the person who conducts your ceremony and signs the marriage license, making things legal.


A friend or relative can perform your wedding ceremony if they’ve been ordained.



If you want to hire a professional, the state has many qualified independent officiants to choose from. The following people are authorized to solemnize marriage in Rhode Island, including AMM Ministers:


Officials empowered to join persons in marriage: Every ordained clergy or elder in good standing; various judges, justices, and clerks of the court; the secretary of state and various other officials; and any person adult who has been granted one-day officiant designation by the governor to solemnize a marriage. (Summarized from Rhode Island General Laws §15-3-5)


(Find a detailed list and more RI marriage laws here.)


Newlyweds sit together on the steps beside a blue door, the groom admires the bride's ring

Photo: Gustavo Henrique / Pexels



3. Choose a date and a venue...


Rhode Island is known for its 400 miles of coastline, rich cultural heritage, and quintessential New England charm. And tourist favorites like Newport, Providence, Warwick, and Block Island make it a favorite for destination weddings. 


Whether you’re dreaming of a big to-do or a romantic elopement for two, there’s something for everyone!


Popular dates, venues, and officiants book up fast, so start early. And remember you’ll need permission (and a permit) to use a public space, such as a city park or recreational area. Permits can take weeks to process, so factor this into your timeline, too. 



Rhode Island Marriage License Quick Facts

No Waiting Period
3 Month Expiration Period
72 Hour Return Period

Stylized graphic shows a bride and groom in wedding clothes, a large gavel, and a wedding officiant holding an oversized pen signing a legal document that symbolizes the marriage license

Did you know? Every state has different laws governing when the marriage license is issued, can be completed, and must be returned. There are called a state's marriage license Waiting Period, Expiration Period, and Return Deadline. Learn more here.



4. The marriage license. 


Alright, time to make sure your wedding’s legal! We’ll break down each part of the marriage license process, one step at a time: 

Apply for your Rhode Island marriage license


You’ll apply for your marriage license through a Registrar or Clerk at the Vital Records Office. If you or your partner are state residents, you’ll need to apply for your license in the county where you live. If you’re visiting from out of state, you’ll need to apply for your license in the county where the ceremony will take place.


Requirements to Apply: 


  • Applicants must provide a valid photo identification, proof of current address, certified birth certificate, and the full names of their parents
  • Applicants must be at least 18 years old (no exceptions for minors)
  • If applicants were previously married (including common law marriage), they must provide a certified final divorce decree / dissolution or a certified death certificate for their former spouse
  • You must use black ink to complete your paperwork


If you’re planning a wedding anywhere in Rhode Island, we recommend contacting the Clerk in your home county, or closest to your venue, to learn more. 


Your license will cost about $24. Some offices will only accept certain forms of payment, so plan ahead! There’s no fee to register your marriage after the ceremony.

Waiting period

There's no waiting period between the time you receive your license and when your ceremony can take place.

Use and return your marriage license

If you are a resident in Rhode Island, your marriage license can be used anywhere in the state. If you’re visiting from out of state, you’ll need to apply for and use your license in the same county. Your marriage license will expire three months from the day it’s issued, so be sure to use it before that date.



The license must be signed in black ink by each party to the marriage, two adult witnesses, and the marriage officiant following the ceremony, and returned to the local registrar’s office within 72 hours of the ceremony. In some cases, Officiants may be able to return a license by mail, or place it in a drop box at the local registrar office or City Hall. Directions on how to return the license will be given to you when it's issued.


After the ceremony: A Rhode Island marriage license must be returned by the officiant within 72 hours of the ceremony.



View of Providence, Rhode Island, with city buildings and a canal against a bright blue sky

Photo: Tom Henell / Unsplash

Get married in Rhode Island! There are many affordable venues and vendors to help you plan the perfect celebration. 



5. Meet with your wedding officiant...

Once you’ve chosen a date, a venue, and have your marriage license details worked out, you’ll be ready to meet with your wedding officiant to plan the ceremony! 


This is when things start to come into focus. You’ll talk about the tone of your ceremony, the ‘vibe’ you want to create for your guests, and any special elements and unity rituals you want to include. You and your officiant might meet a few more times to exchange more ideas, fine-tune a script, or rehearse the ceremony leading up to the wedding day. 


AMM’s website is full of resources to help you decide what kind of ceremony you want, tips on working well with your officiant, and advice on keeping your ceremony authentic and on budget. 


Visit Articles for Couples on our American Weddings blog, or browse general articles by category or keyword. 

6. The wedding day! 


Aside from yourselves, the most important thing you’ll bring with you on the wedding day is your marriage license -- because you can’t get married without a marriage license. Your officiant won’t be able to perform the wedding without having a license present (even if you have it at home), so make sure it’s with you. 


After the ceremony, you’ll sign your marriage license along with 2 witnesses and your officiant. 



After it’s signed, it must be returned to the local registrar’s office by your officiant within 72 hours. Check with your county for details.


Once your marriage license has been recorded, you’re officially married! 


Two grooms hold hands and a bouquet of flowers on their wedding day, the photo shows a close up on their hands, their wedding rings, and the sun shines through the outline of arms and along the sides of their sleek black wedding suits, they are standing outdoors in the grass at sunset

Photo:  Danie Franco / Unsplash


Want to become a wedding officiant in Rhode Island? 


Visit Weddings by State: Rhode Island 


We’ve got everything you need to understand the state’s licensing and registration requirements, any ministry credentials and paperwork you might need, and helpful tips for several cities in the state, including Providence.






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Read all Rhode Island Wedding Articles



A young hip couple in colorful wedding clothes gets married outdoors in front of a wedding altar covered in balloons and flowers, with a wedding officiant in sunglasses and an alternative style black suit

This short 5 question quiz will help you choose the best type of wedding officiant for your ceremony! Read the full article and take the quiz here.



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