Common-law marriage has diverse names, from "marriage in fact", "marriage by repute and habit", "informal…
Where to Apply
How can I get married in Iowa?
In order to get married in Iowa, you must first apply for a marriage license at the county recorder's or registrar's office.
Do I go to the county recorder or county registrar?
The county recorder and county registrar are one and the same. "Recorder" is the more commonly used title.
Where is the county recorder's office located?
The county recorder is usually located in the county courthouse or administrative building. See the county list at the end for directions.
Are there any residency requirements?
Your residency has no affect on the marriage license process or fee. Iowans and foreigners are welcome.
How much is a marriage license?
An Iowa marriage license costs $35. It includes one certified copy of your marriage certificate. The fee is nonrefundable.
Where can I use my marriage license?
Your Iowa marriage license can be used anywhere in the state. It is only valid in Iowa.
Can I use a non-Iowa marriage license in Iowa?
You can only get married in Iowa using an Iowa-issued marriage license.
What form will I have to fill out?
You must detail the following on the gender-neutral marriage license application:
- Title (i.e., bride, groom, or spouse)
- Birth name
- New name after marriage
- Is legally nonbinding
- Used by the SSA and Iowa DOT
- Will appear on your marriage certificate
- Can be written in
- For statistical purposes
- City, state, and county
- City and county is optional
- Date of birth
- Must match identification
- State or foreign country of birth
- Parents' full birth names
- Phone number
- Mailing address
- PO Box is acceptable
- One address for both applicants
- Where to mail your marriage certificate
- Social security number
- For child support payment enforcement
- For IRS earned income tax credit compliance
- Expected ceremony date and officiant
- Leave blank if unknown
How can I submit my application?
Apply in person?
You must both be present if submitting a marriage license application in person.
Apply by mail?
A mailed application must include payment and be notarized. Anyone can pick up the marriage license, as it will not be mailed.
What's this I hear about an application witness?
What will my witness do?
A witness aged 18 or over—with photo ID—must vouch for both of you by completing an "affidavit of competent and disinterested person" form.
What if my witness can't attend?
The "affidavit of competent and disinterested person" can be notarized by a notary public in lieu of physical attendance.
Can a family member serve as my witness?
A family member can indeed serve as your application witness.
How old must I be to get married?
Aged 18 and over?
If you're at least 18 years old and mentally competent, parental consent to marry is unnecessary.
Aged 16 and 17?
If you're 16 or 17 years old, you can marry with the consent of your custodial parents or guardian. The county recorder's assigned district court must also approve.
Aged 15 and under?
If you're 15 years old or younger, you cannot lawfully marry.
How does underage marriage work for 16 and 17 year olds?
Which comes first: consent, court, or the application?
First, complete the consent form. Second, schedule a district court hearing. Third, take the court order to apply for a marriage license.
How can parental consent be granted?
The consent to marry a minor form can be picked up in any recorder's office. Either complete it in person or have it notarized.
Who grants consent if I don't live in a two-parent household?
Whoever has primary legal custody over you grants consent, be it one or both parents.
What if one or both parents refuse to grant consent to my marriage?
If your custodial parents object to your marriage, you can request a district court judge override them. Success is unlikely.
When will I get my marriage license?
Your marriage license will be issued immediately, but there's a three-day wait to use it, excluding the current day. For instance, apply on Monday to marry Friday.
Can the three-day waiting period be waived?
A district judge can waive the three-day waiting period for extraordinary situations. The county recorder preps the petition. The waiver fee is $5.
For mailed applications, how long is my license held in reserve?
You will have six months to pick up your marriage license, after which it will be voided. A voided license will not be refunded.
Who can pick up the license?
The application provides a spot to designate who may pick up the marriage license.
How long will my marriage license remain valid?
Iowa marriage licenses do not expire once issued.
Do I have to show my ID?
You must present unexpired government-issued photo ID, such as a driver's license, state-issued ID card, or passport.
Does my witness need to show ID?
The witness you bring to the making of the application must also present valid photo ID.
Do I have to bring my birth certificate?
You do not need to bring your birth certificate. That goes for adults and minors.
Do I have to bring my social security card?
You do not need to bring your social security card. Just know the number.
Do I have to get a blood test?
You are no longer required to obtain a premarital blood test.
Do I have to show proof of divorce?
You do not have to bring proof of divorce, such as a divorce decree.
If recently divorced, do I have to wait to marry?
You can marry the same day your divorce is finalized.
Do I have to show proof of being widowed?
If you've been widowed, you do not have to bring your late spouse's death certificate.
How can I change my name because of marriage?
You can choose a new name on the marriage license application. Your marriage certificate will reflect it. The SSA and other institutions will honor it. An online name change resource can prepare the forms.
What are my name change options?
You can change your middle or last name because of marriage. First name changes require petitioning the court.
Are witnesses required at my marriage ceremony?
Two competent witnesses aged 18 or older must attend your marriage ceremony. Afterward, they'll sign the marriage license.
Who can lawfully preside over my marriage?
Your marriage can be solemnized by a judge, magistrate, authorized official of a religious organization or society, or yourself.
Can I solemnize my own marriage?
You and your prospective spouse can preside over your own marriage. No officiant needed.
Can I get married in the county recorder's office?
Civil ceremonies do not take place in the county recorder's office. However, you may request a list of available judges.
When does the marriage license need to be returned?
The marriage license must be returned to the issuing county recorder for recording within 15 days after the marriage ceremony.
How can I get a certified copy of my marriage certificate?
You'll automatically receive one certified copy of your marriage certificate by mail after your marriage license has been recorded.
What if I need additional certified copies?
Certified copies of an Iowa marriage certificate are sold by county recorders and Iowa's vital records office for $20.
Can I go to any recorder's office?
For marriages before 1954, go to the recorder's office that issued the marriage license. Otherwise, go to any office.
Can I get married through a proxy?
You cannot get married by proxy, phone, videoconference, or similar. You must be in physical attendance.
Can I marry my first cousin?
Iowa outlaws marriage among first cousins without exception.
Can I marry a particular member of my family?
You cannot marry a blood relation closer to you than a second cousin.
Does Iowa permit common-law marriage?
Iowa law does recognize common-law marriage, as long as you cohabitate and present yourselves as married.