Iowa Marriage Laws

Don’t let Iowa’s cornfields and rolling plains lull you into a false sense of calm. There’s plenty tucked away in the midwestern state’s marriage laws to for prospective newlyweds to peruse. That’s why we at the Universal Life Church have taken the initiative to comb through the relevant legal codes, pluck out all notable rules and exceptions, and present it all in an easy-to-follow chronological guide. So if you’re a couple or a minister with a wedding date in the Hawkeye State, please read up and then relax, because a legally sound and binding wedding is waiting in the wings.

Requirements for the Couple

Although the state of Iowa clearly sets the legal age of marriage at 18 years old, it will consider any marriage solemnized between any two persons falsely claiming to be adults valid, unless the underage person specifically chooses to come clean and annul the union. Otherwise, 16 and 17-year-olds can technically be issued a marriage license provided they procure the written consent of either one or both of their parents or legal guardians and then convince a district court judge they’re fit to assume the responsibilities of marriage. While pregnancy alone might not be a good enough reason, the judge can also make his own ruling in the case where parents are determined to be unreasonably withholding consent.

Iowan law clearly stipulates that only marriages between one male and one female will be valid. However, recent changes in federal marriage equality laws since upheld by the Supreme Court means same sex couples are free to marry in the state.

No marriage between relatives closer than second cousins will be tolerated.

Marriage License Requirements

Who Picks Up License:
The Couple
Where License is Valid:
County of Issuance
Marriage License Pick-Up:
In Person Only
Cost of License:
$35.00
Accepted I.D. Types:
Photo ID
Proof of Divorce Required (If Applicable):
No
Blood Test Required:
No

The first step in securing a marriage license involves prospective couples visiting the county registrar in person and filing a verified application. That application must include both their social security numbers, as well as an affidavit signed by one competent witness attesting to both their stated ages.

Simply providing the date of all previous divorces is sufficient, unless those occurred within the past 60 days, in which case a copy of the decree must also be provided with the application. There is a $35 fee for applying.

Marriage License Facts

ULC-Officiated Ceremony Type:
Religious
Mandatory Waiting Period:
Varies by County
License Valid For:
Does Not Expire
License Must Be Submitted:
Within 15 Days of Ceremony

If all the information provided in the application checks out, the county registrar will issue a marriage license that will only be valid after a three-day waiting period. In Jasper County, the waiting period is 5 days. Licenses issued in the state of Iowa are valid only in the county of issuance. They technically do not expire, but must be returned to the same issuing clerk within 15 days of the ceremony.

Requirements for the Minister

Min. Age of Minister:
Age 18
Residency:
Not Required
Document(s) Required:
Varies by County
Online Ordination Recognized:
Yes
Relevant Office of Registration:
County Clerk
Latest Document(s) Submission Date Allowed:
After the Ceremony
Minister I.D. # Issued:
No

The state of Iowa recognizes all marriages solemnized by either judges or magistrates, as well as any person ordained or otherwise designated as a leader of a religious faith, provided they are at least 18 years old.

This extends to ministers ordained online by the Universal Life Church, religious actors authorized to perform weddings without prejudice to their place of residence, stated gender or personal beliefs. Despite this, ULC ministers may be asked to present their ordination credentials or a letter of good standing after the ceremony, depending on the specific county in Iowa where the ceremony takes place.

Wedding Ceremony Requirements

Marriage By Proxy Allowed:
No
Minister Required to be Present:
Yes

The state of Iowa is generally not in the business of dictating the specifics of any formal marriage ceremony performed on its soil, leaving it to couples and ministers to do so according to their own particular customs and desires. However, the state does require that each member of the couple consent to take the other as their spouse in the presence of both an authorized officiant and at least one adult witness for the marriage to be properly solemnized. Exceptions will be made for couples belonging to certain denominations whose own marriage customs do not conform to this formula.

Final Steps

Officiant's Title on Marriage License:
Minister
Church/Ordaining Body:
Universal Life Church Ministries
Address of Church:
Minister's Home Address

It is up to the minister or magistrate to attest to the marriage on the space provided in the certificate, stating the date and place of the ceremony and the names of both the couple and witness. They must also make sure to include their own name, title, ordaining body (Universal Life Church Ministries) and provide their own home address, if asked. Once that’s done, the marriage certificate must be returned to the same county registrar who issued the original license within 15 days of the ceremony.