If you want to find a Justice of the Peace in Massachusetts for your wedding ceremony, first of all, congratulations on your engagement!  As you look for the JP for your wedding ceremony, you want to decide on your priorities in terms of cost, assistance with the preparation, qualities of an officiant that are important to you, and expectations for the day. Here are some tips on how to choose the right wedding officiant for you.

Costs Involved when you Hire a Justice of the Peace in Massachusetts
If saving money is your main priority, here are some tips:

  1. In Massachusetts, for just $35, you can be legally married by anyone you want.  All they need to do is take an online course and become “Justice of the Peace for a day.” 
  2. Try to choose a Justice of the Peace who lives in the same city or town as your ceremony location.  A Massachusetts wedding officiant can legally charge $100 to perform a wedding ceremony in his/her home city, and $150 for a ceremony outside of his/her home town.
  3. Ask a lot of questions to get a sense of their additional fees.  Find out if you are far enough away that you will incur “travel expense charges,” or fees for preparing the ceremony, meetings, or rehearsals.  Also, when you call different JPs ask if they require any of these “additional services” as part of their package. 

Justice of the Peace Wedding Ceremony Preparation
What are your expectations in terms of the preparation of the ceremony?  If you have no idea, fear not.  An experienced JP will know what to do.  On the other hand, if you have it all planned out, you want to make sure you select someone who is happy to implement your plan.  Here are some things to consider before you start calling JPs: 

  1. If you’re short on time, or unsure where to start when it comes to what you want the JP to say during your wedding ceremony, most JPs have a standard ceremony they will do for you, and others have a few choice “scripts” so you can just pick one out. 
  2. If you want a unique, custom ceremony, some JPs enjoy meeting with the couple and creating something personal together.  This is a good option if you have a good sense of the mood and sentiment you want to get across, but you have no desire to start writing something from scratch or doing a ton of research finding a reading that actually conveys what you have in mind.
  3. If you’re as type A as I am, I researched outlines for wedding programs and wedding ceremony readings online so I could write my own wedding program a year before I even tried to find a Justice of the Peace so I just had him check it over.  In that case, you will need someone who is willing to learn and practice a new program.  By doing this, I was able to Email it to a prospective JP and bypass the need (and fee) for a meeting altogether. 

The Wedding Rehearsal
This also varies widely.  Some JPs actually require a rehearsal, and others I talked to told me, “Honestly, you don’t really need one, but I’ll do one if you like.”  You’ll simply need to weigh the pros and cons.

Pros:  Peace of mind that the ceremony will run smoothly.  You’ll know where to go and when, what to do, and have time before the actual day to discover any obstacles that you didn’t realize on paper (such as timing or space issues).  Being able to visualize the ceremony the night before your wedding may help you relax. 
Cons:  Cost.  There’s usually a fee for the rehearsal, and it’s usually the same price as the ceremony itself.  

Important Qualities of a Justice of the Peace
When I phoned a variety of JPs I paid attention to a few things:

  1. His voice.  My guests are going to be sitting and listening to him speak for 15 to 20 minutes, so he needed to have a nice tone of voice, be somewhat animated, and articulate.  So as I asked him about his availability for my date and his fees, I was secretly rating him on how he sounded.
  2. His leadership.  One guy I called sounded like, “Yeah, whatever you want.”  It’s not that he didn’t sound like he didn’t care at all, I believe he was trying to convey that he is flexible. Another guy I called took charge, and said, “Let me tell you a little bit about what you can expect, and then I’ll answer questions.”  He took charge, but was willing to listen. 
  3. His attention.  When I first called, the guy I hired said, “Hold on, let me get to a clearer phone.”  He told me he likes to get to know the couple a little bit with a meeting (and doesn’t charge).  I asked him if I could Email the program (before I had even hired him) and he agreed.  He told me he wouldn’t be able to get to it tonight, but he would call me tomorrow after he read it.  And then he DID Email me in the evening after all.  All those things told me that he can act like he’s invested in making my wedding ceremony a good one.   
  4. His affect.  Between his tone, leadership, and attention, you can probably guess the guy I chose has his act together.  He sounds very in tune and “present.”  I didn’t want someone overly bubbly because that can be annoying, and I didn’t want someone who sounded bored or tired.  The Justice of the Peace I chose also said my program looks great, it just needed one thing.  And it was actually something that LEGALLY needed to be in there; he wasn’t nit-picking.  But he let me know in a positive but direct way. 

Does He/She Have a Website
I didn’t want to judge a JP solely on his website.  However I have to say the one I chose had a great one.  It was very professional looking, it told about his professional background, it told about what he is willing to assist with on your wedding day, and it laid out his fees clearly.  You shouldn’t discount a Justice of the Peace just because he/she doesn’t have a website, but if he/she has one, definitely look it over.  You might as well learn as much as you can about someone you are considering hiring.  Good luck in your quest to find a Justice of the Peace in Massachusetts! 

Additional Resources:
Planning a Wedding in Massachusetts?