Getting a license
You can obtain a marriage license from any Idaho county recorder's office. The official whose job it is to process marriage license applications is the county recorder, or their authorized deputy. You must apply together: no proxies or split appearances.
You'll find a list of county recorder offices at the end of the page.
Marriage is a contract
In Idaho, marriage is a civil contract. You must be competent to make such a contract and you must enter into it willingly.
Consenting to enter into a marriage contract is one leg of a three-legged stool. The second and third condition is to be issued a marriage license and have your marriage solemnized by an authorized official.
The cost of an Idaho marriage license varies ever so slightly from county to county, where the fee ranges from $28 to $31. Note, some counties will charge extra on Saturdays.
All counties accept cash. Only some counties will accept a check, money order, or credit or debit card. Credit/debit card transactions will likely incur a surcharge to absorb the transaction fee.
Your payment covers a full-fledged service, and not just a piece of paper, including the processing of your application affidavit and later recording of your marriage.
Whether you're a state resident or nonresident is irrelevant; you may apply for a marriage license in any county recorder's office and then marry anywhere within the state.
In Idaho, if you're below the age of 18, you're considered a minor. Underage marriage is tightly controlled and harder to achieve the further you descend below the age of majority.
Age 18 and above
If you're 18 years old or older, that makes you a legal adult in this state, therefore consent to marry from a parent, guardian, or judge is not required.
Age 16 and 17
If you're 16 or 17 years old, that makes you a minor, and minors must obtain consent to marry from a parent or guardian.
Age 15 and below
If you're 15 years old or younger, it's still technically possible for you to get married in this state, but the requirements are tougher and the likelihood of success decrease the younger you are.
First, you must obtain consent to marry from a parent or guardian. Second, you must petition the court, which is the toughest bridge to cross.
If you're below the age of 18, then this underage marriage section is directed to you.
Prior marriage exemption
If you're a minor who's been previously married, the consent and judge requirements are tossed out the window. Since marriage is a civil contract, and you entered into such a contract before, state law says you're automatically eligible to enter into another contract without having to jump through further hoops.
If you're 16 or 17 years old, you'll need to obtain written consent to marry from a guardian or parent. It must be acknowledged and sworn to before a person who is authorized to take such acknowledgements, such as a county recorder or notary public.
The "affidavit of consent to marriage of minor" consent form can be picked up from the county recorder's office in advance.
Petitioning the court
If you're below the age of 16, in order to marry you must have parental consent and a court order. Any interested party to the marriage can petition the court for a hearing. The court may solicit the opinion of a doctor to determine if you're physically and mentally ready for marriage. If the court finds marriage to be in your best interest, a certified court order will be filed with the county recorder, authorizing them to issue a marriage license.
The marriage license application is actually an affidavit that you must swear to, under oath and under penalty of perjury, that what you've stated is true. The county clerk will administer the oath.
This sworn affidavit is the instrument that protects the county recorder from liability if they issue a license to someone who falsely claimed to be legally eligible to marry.
The application doesn't require you to disclose much more than your current name, birth name, age and date of birth, residence, race, prior marital status, and social security number. These details, minus your social security number, will appear on your issued license.
No social security number
If you don't have a social security number, you must get a written statement from the Social Security Administration that verifies that you haven't been assigned a number. You can look up your local social security office as well as offices outside the United States.
If you're a foreigner, the identification you provide must originate from a foreign government and you must prove that you're in the country lawfully.
You must present identification to verify your age and identity, such as a driver's license, state-issued identification card, passport, or the original or certified copy of your birth certificate.
ID minors must bring
If you're a minor you'll have to bring your original birth certificate, or certified copy. If that's not possible, then you'll have to bring some other form of identification that confirms you age to the satisfaction of the county recorder.
Some recorders are sticklers, mandating the birth certificate as a must-have document. If you encounter such a disciplinarian, or their deputy, there's not much you can do other than to comply or plead for leeway, as state law does allow recorders to exercise such flexibility.
ID for legal guardians
Legal guardians must present a certified copy of their guardianship papers.
ID for non-U.S. residents
If you're not a resident of the United States, the identification you provide must originate from a foreign country. This typically goes hand in hand for applicants without a social security number.
Issued license and certificate
Your issued marriage license will come in two parts. First, the license that authorizes your marriage to take place. Second, the marriage certificate which must be filled out by the solemnizing official. Both items will appear on the same document and are inseparable.
Who is the license for, really?
While the license may be issue to you, its language is wholly directed to whoever will preside over your marriage ceremony, thereby empowering them to perform the solemnization; you are simply the courier.
Once your submitted application is approved, you will receive your marriage license immediately. You can get married as soon as you have your license in hand.
Your marriage license will not expire, which is a rarity in this country. However, if a year goes by and you don't get married, Idaho's Department of Health and Welfare does prefer you to notify their vital records division of that fact. It's not mandatory, but a courtesy that allows them to annotate their records.
You're not required to get a blood test prior to being issued a marriage license.
Must read AIDS pamphlet
In lieu of a blood test, you will be required to read a Department of Health and Welfare designed confidential pamphlet on AIDS, discussing its cause and effect, symptoms, and ways to mitigate infection.
You cannot marry most family members, up and down the line, including an ascendant, descendant, sibling, or their children. To be clear, marriage with any of the following family members is incestuous and void from the beginning:
- First cousin
If you have a living husband or wife, you can't remarry until your prior marriage has been dissolved or annulled. Such a marriage would be bigamous and void from the beginning.
There are two ways a bigamous marriage might survive being voided:
- Your prior spouse had been absent for five consecutive years immediately preceding your subsequent marriage and was not known to be alive.
- Your prior spouse was presumed to be dead and you believed that to be the case when you remarried.
Your latter marriage would remain intact until a tribunal of valid jurisdiction decides to nullify it.
Lack of understanding
You cannot marry someone who has a lack of understanding or is mentally incompetent.
Since marriage is a civil contract, and any person who lacks understanding is not able to enter into any contract, you cannot marry someone who lacks understanding or is mentally incompetent.
You cannot marry an insane person unless their sanity has been restored. If the medical director or physician of the asylum where the lunatic was committed and subsequently discharged provides a certificate confirming the madness has been expunged, marriage can take place.
The ceremonial part of your marriage, where you consent to take each other's hand in marriage, is referred to as solemnization. This is the third and final phase of the marriage process, following consent and licensure.
Your marriage may be solemnized by any of the following Idaho officials: a current or retired district court judge or magistrate, supreme court justice, appeals court judge, or governor; or a current tribal judge, authorized tribal official, mayor, or lieutenant governor.
Your marriage may also be solemnized by an in-state or out-of-state non-retired federal judge or a priest or minister of the gospel of any religious denomination.
FYI, the solemnizing official is often referred to as an officiant or solemnizing officer.
Validation before solemnization
Before the marriage ceremony can begin, the solemnizing official must verify the names, residences, and ages of you and your spouse; that any necessary consent to marry requirements has been fulfilled, assuming you're a minor who's never been married; that you're not currently married; and that no known lawful impediment to the marriage exists.
Failure to adequately verify that you and your future spouse are eligible to marry opens up the solemnizing official to a misdemeanor charge that imposes a fine between $50 and $200, upon conviction.
Customs and rituals
Other than solemnly declaring that you'll take each other's hand in marriage, your ceremony isn't required to following any particular form or ritual.
Although witnesses are not required, the certificate portion of the license will provide blank spaces to enter two names. The solemnizing official must be satisfied that the witnesses are up to par, same as you.
Completing the certificate
Immediately after the ceremony is complete, the solemnizing official must certify the certificate on the license. This means he or she must document, under his or her name and seal, the time and place of the marriage, you and your spouse's names and counties of residence, and the names of two witnesses.
Neither you nor your spouse will affix your signatures to the certificate. It is the prerogative of the solemnizing official to enter witness names directly or to allow each witness to sign their own name.
Returning the license and certificate
The solemnizing official has a duty to return the license and certificate to the county recorder's office that issued it within 30 days following the ceremony. The sooner it's returned for recording, the faster certified copies of your license and certificate will become available.
Failure to return within the allotted time is a misdemeanor offense that's punishable by a fine of $20–50, upon conviction.
If your marriage is solemnized by anyone who lacked the authority or jurisdiction to do so, it wouldn't invalidate your marriage as long as you, your spouse, or both of you fully believed the marriage was lawfully conducted at the time.
When your endorsed license and certificate is returned to the county recorder who granted it, it will be recorded in a dedicated marriage book kept in the office.
If the county recorder neglects to document your marriage within a month of receiving your license and certificate, he or she will be subject to a fine of $100. Of course, failure to record isn't likely, nor it is it expected to take a full month to process.
Once your marriage license and certificate have been recorded, your marriage will officially be on the books and recognized by the state. At that point, certified copies of your license and certificate will be available for purchase. The original stays in the county recorder's office.
If you need your certified copies quickly, then be sure to push the person who solemnized your marriage to expedite the return of your marriage record.
Certified copies, and not photocopies, are a must if you desire to change your name following marriage or have a need to confirm your marriage exists.
Name change after marriage
The original or certified copy of your marriage certificate—which must be recorded—represents proof of marriage. It's a document that must be accepted in all courts and places as proof of the facts stated therein. It's what the Social Security Administration, Division of Motor Vehicles, and other government entities utilize as authorization to change your name.
For those not in the know, a common-law marriage is created without ever having obtained a marriage license and when a couple declares themselves to be married while playing the part publicly.
Idaho's legal recognition of common-law marriage has been abolished since January 1, 1996. However, the state will continue to officially acknowledge any common-law marriage that took place prior to this date.
Foreign and out-of-state marriages
If you're an Idaho resident who gets married outside the state, your marriage would be recognized here as long as it (1) was lawful where it was solemnized, and (2) could have legally taken place in this state.
Therefore, getting married in another state or country in order to elude this state's marriage laws or prohibitions would be counterproductive, ineffective, and ultimately a waste of time.
You should now be ready to forge ahead to make your marriage license application. Since you're able to apply anywhere, the next step is to find your closest county recorder's office.