The dress, the rings, the flowers, the cake … but in all the planning, don’t forget the marriage license.
Jefferson County Recorder Kelly Spees explained the steps a couple must follow to obtain a “License to Marry in Iowa.”
First, the couple, both age 18 or older, and a witness must visit the recorder’s office in the Jefferson County Courthouse to complete an application for the marriage license. The couple and their witness must each bring a photo identification.
The witness who comes to the courthouse with the couple does not have to be one of the two witnesses who will eventually stand up with them in the wedding ceremony, added Liz Hickenbottom, Jefferson County deputy recorder.
Hickenbottom suggested couples discuss name changes before arriving at the courthouse to apply for their marriage license.
Spees said the spouses-to-be can change their names on the License to Marry. She said both can take advantage of the opportunity to change a name spelling, for one to take the other’s surname or to make any other changes.
“This is the legal name change — probably the cheapest way to do it” since an Iowa marriage license costs only $35, said Spees.
Because the name change is legal, Spees continued, the change also must be made on driver’s licenses, bank accounts and with the Social Security Administration. The list also includes investment accounts, retirement plans, utility accounts, credit card accounts, loans, insurance policies, patient information, voter registration and legal documents.
The name change also must be made on passports, added Chris Carter, clerk/passport agent in the recorder’s office.
Carter said a newlywed can make a name change on a passport at no charge for up to one year from the issue date of the passport.
If a couple is leaving on a wedding trip before a name on the passport is changed, they must carry their marriage certificate with them as an explanation of why their names don’t match, continued Carter.
A blood test is not required for a License to Marry in Iowa.
Iowa has a three-day waiting period, and the marriage license becomes valid on the fourth day after it was applied for; for example if the date of application was on a Monday, the valid date for the license would be Friday. Be sure to consider this when planning a trip to the county recorder’s office to compete an application for a marriage license. After the waiting period, the couple can return to the recorder’s office to proof the information and pick up the license. They also are issued a Certificate of Marriage that needs to be completed at the ceremony.
Although a couple must wait three days to pick up their license, they actually have up to six months to pick it up before it becomes void. But once it is picked up, it never expires, and the two people named on the license can marry each other whenever they like anywhere in the state of Iowa.
The waiting time can be waived if a couple “has a really good reason,” and a judge signs a waiver, said Spees. The waiver costs $5.
Once the couple has their License to Marry and Certificate of Marriage, they can take the forms to an officiant to be wed.
Because a magistrate judge can elect to perform a wedding, Spees and Hickenbottom have seen couples come into the recorder’s office to pick up their certificates and go right on upstairs to the magistrate court office to be married.
But a couple who would like to be married by a magistrate court judge at the Jefferson County Courthouse should call ahead to make sure the magistrate is willing to perform the ceremony and if and when he is available to do so. The phone number to the magistrate court office is 472-3454.
Both the License to Marry and Certificate of Marriage must be completed and signed immediately after the ceremony.
Spees stressed the importance of signing the Certificate of Marriage in bold black or dark blue ink.
“No White-Out or scratch outs can be on the certificate,” she said. “Any errors require a new form, so be sure to sign where you are supposed to sign, print where you are supposed to print, and use black or dark blue ink; not markers — ink, and no colors.”
A couple who obtains a License to Marry and a Certificate of Marriage in Jefferson County can wed in any Iowa county, but the completed Certificate of Marriage must be returned to and filed in Jefferson County. The certificate can be dropped off or mailed to the recorder’s office. Hickenbottom added that the couple does not need to return the License to Marry to the recorder’s office. The officiant often keeps one copy of the license, and the couple can keep the second copy, she said. The License to Marry in Iowa does not prove the marriage event occurred, only that the application to marry was made.
Once the Certificate of Marriage is returned to the county recorder’s office, the staff mails the information to the State of Iowa so it is recorded at the state level. The staff also makes a certified copy of the Certificate of Marriage, which the newlyweds can either pick up or have mailed to them, along with information explaining the certificate is a legal document and should be treated as such, and how to change a name with the Social Security Administration. Additional certified copies of the certificate can be purchased from either the county recorder or the state’s vital records office.
Spees said that a couple having a destination wedding outside of the United States should plan ahead and get several certified copies of their marriage certificate while there because they won’t be able to get certified copies locally and it can be difficult to get certified copies from the foreign country’s government later.
“Three copies at a minimum, but six copies is not out of the question,” she said. “You are always going to have a need for them.”
For detailed information about Licenses to Marry in Iowa, Certificates of Marriage, passport name changes and more, visit the Jefferson County Recorder’s Office or call 472-4331.