Can First Cousins Marry In Iowa? (Explained)

It is currently illegal for first cousins to marry in Iowa.

First cousins once removed and other more distant relationships are allowed.

It is unclear whether the state will recognize first cousin marriages conducted outside its jurisdiction.

This article looks in depth at aspects of cousin marriage within the Hawkeye State.

What Do The Iowa Marriage Laws Say About First Cousins?

Some states have complicated marriage laws that refer to degrees of relationships. We’re left scratching our heads as to whether (and which) cousins are allowed to marry.

The Iowa state laws are much simpler. They start with a list of prohibited relationships for men:

Between a man and his father’s sister, mother’s sister, daughter, sister, son’s daughter, daughter’s daughter, brother’s daughter, or sister’s daughter.

Iowa marriage legislation

The second section simply repeats this list from a woman’s perspective.

The third section is what we are interested in. Marriage is prohibited…

Between first cousins.

Iowa marriage legislation

You can’t get much clearer than that!

If you’d like a detailed definition of the relationship, check out our article that defines what a first cousin is.

Are there any exceptions to the laws?

Some other states generally don’t allow first cousin marriage but have some allowances based on age or other criteria.

In contrast, Iowa has a blanket ban within the state. There are no special exceptions.

When was the ban introduced?

Iowa introduced its first marriage laws in 1840 when it was still a territory.

There was no explicit prohibition on first cousin marriage. The focus was on more immediate family.

The ban on first cousins was added at a later date.

Marriage In Iowa

Types Of Cousins That Can Get Married

First cousins are the only type of cousins that are stipulated in the laws. This means that other types of cousins are allowed to marry.

For example, marriages between first cousins once removed are permitted.

Of course, more distant cousins are also permitted. If you’re not sure what the difference is between the various relationships, the links below will give you diagrams and clear explanations.

Does The Iowa Marriage Application Form Ask If You’re Related?

Some U.S. states have a section in their marriage application forms where the couple must state whether they have a blood relationship.

You can see an example in our article on first cousin marriage in New Jersey.

Do Nearby States Allow First Cousins To Marry?

Iowa is bordered by Illinois, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. None of these states allow first cousins to marry.

The Volunteer State is probably the nearest choice for first cousins to marry legally. Check out our article on first cousin marriage in Tennessee.

Iowa Neighbors

Looking for a destination wedding spot?

Do you live in a state or country where first cousin marriage is legal and you simply wanted to visit Iowa as a destination wedding spot?

Consider these other states as alternative options in the region!

Looking to relocate?

Some first cousin couples move lock, stock, and barrel to another state where their marriage will be legal.

Review your options and future plans carefully. You may wish to sit down with an attorney. Some states in the U.S. will not recognize legal marriages from other states.

Roman Catholic Marriages Between Cousins

Even if close cousins move to another state that allows their civil marriage, they will face separate hurdles if they want a wedding in a Roman Catholic church.

Historically, the Catholic Church hasn’t encouraged first cousin marriages. However, the church laws have been relaxed somewhat in recent years.

There is a process that first cousins need to go through with the hierarchy in order to get permission to marry in a church ceremony. This is known as a dispensation.

You can read a more detailed explanation here on how first cousins can marry in the Catholic Church.

What about other cousins?

Second cousins (and further out) don’t need to get special permission for a Catholic Church marriage.

We suggest that you mention to your priest that you are second cousins before the service. This means he won’t get uneasy if he hears mention of “cousins” from other people.

If you’re not sure about whether you are first or second cousins, check out our article that explains what second cousins are. It has diagrams that make it clear.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some quick answers to common questions.

Does Iowa allow relatives to marry?

Iowa does not allow close relatives to marry.

More distant relatives such as second cousins are allowed to marry in the state.

Can you marry a sibling in Iowa?

Iowa does not allow siblings to marry. Half-siblings are also not allowed to marry in the state.

Is it legal to marry your second cousin in Iowa?

Marriage between second cousins is legal in Iowa.


The codes and laws referenced in this article may not be the most recent version. Iowa may have more current or accurate information.

We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or the information linked to on other sites. Please check official sources.

Margaret created a family tree on a genealogy website in 2012. She purchased her first DNA kit in 2017. She created this website to share insights and how-to guides on DNA, genealogy, and family research.

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