SIKESTON -- Obtaining a marriage license is typically an easy procedure, but as local recorders of deeds have experienced firsthand, sometimes things don't always go as planned -- and sometimes the recorders are required to step above their call of duty.
"Basically, a couple comes to the office, fills out paper work and then there's a three-day waiting period," explained Kim Hall, New Madrid County deputy to the recorder of deeds. "The three days doesn't include the day they come and apply and a picture I.D. is required to apply."
If parties are under 18, they must have the consent of at least one parent, and if they're under 15, they must get it approved by the court.
But as Tom Dirnberger knows, there are some things you can't control. Years before he was recorder of deeds for Scott County, Dirnberger and his wife faced a few obstacles when obtaining their marriage license.
"Our wedding was Oct. 21, and we applied earlier but were going to pick it up on Oct. 19, which is my birthday, and get the blood test done by the doctor in Benton who did most of the blood tests in the area," Dirnberger recalled.
The doctor's wife had a wreck in Springfield and he wasn't there when Dirnberger and his wife went to the courthouse, Dirnberger said. The recorder at the time said he couldn't issue the license without a blood test.
"So we scrambled to the Chaffee hospital -- and it was later in the evening -- and they gave us a blood test. They had to speed up the results, but we got it done," Dirnberger said. Today, blood tests are no longer required for couples seeking marriage licenses.
One of the most unique situations recorders are in involved in is when one of the parties in the couple doesn't speak English. It's happened to Mississippi County Recorder of Deeds Judy Rolwing once she said, but the person brought a translator so it worked out fine.
"I remember there was a couple -- the man was a U.S. citizen and his fiancee was Asian and couldn't speak English . . . at all. They brought and interpreter with them. It just so hard to believe and I remember thinking that they were about to get married and they couldn't even understand what each other was saying."
With the Southeast Correctional Center located in Mississippi County, one of Rolwing's duties as recorder of deeds includes taking marriage applications to inmates at the prison.
"Apparently, the prisoners are residents of the county and it's basically up to the recorder to provide the service for them," she said.
Before Rolwing decided to visit the prison three times a year, she did her research.
"Most of the other recorders in counties with prisons do take applications to the inmates. There are some who don't, but most do," Rolwing said.
The law requires the applicants to appear before the recorder of deeds or in their office to fill out the paperwork, Dirnberger explained. He recalled a time when he had to go to a couple to issue a marriage license.
An older couple lived together for years and the man was dying of cancer and was basically on his deathbed, Dirnberger explained. The family called Dirnberger and Judge Hense Winchester to come to the man so the couple could get married. A doctor examined the man to make sure he was of sound mind, and he was, Dirnberger said.
"We sat there as he signed his signature, and it was sort of sad," Dirnberger recalled. "Here was a man who wasn't going to live much longer, but he had the prettiest handwriting. It took him a while to sign, but he wanted to make sure his signature was just as proper as it had always been."
Dirnberger continued: "You know, most people just sign their name and don't think anything of it, but here was this 70-year-old making sure it was just as legible as it had always been. He was so happy, and then they got married."
Unfortunately, Dirnberger said he never followed up on the couple so he's not sure what happened with them.
And then there's the flip side where one side of the couple doesn't want them to get married.
"Most recorders are pretty lenient. They try to accommodate couples, especially when emergency situations arise," Dirnberger said.
A lot of the service men and women this year received waivers, Dirnberger said. Many didn't have time to wait for the three days because they were shipping out, he explained.
While June remains the popular wedding month, Hall said around Thanksgiving, the number of marriages increases in New Madrid County.
Rolwing said so far this year, July is the most popular wedding month in Mississippi County.
In 2002, in Scott County, 42 marriage licenses were issued in June with September and October following as the next highest with 39 licenses issued each. Approximately 360 marriage licenses were issued the entire year.
Valentine's Day weddings are always a trend, and it's the biggest marriage day, Dirnberger said. A lot of the older couples get married on Valentine's Day or during that week and it also keeps the judges busy, he said, adding that marriages performed by judges are becoming more popular.
In New Madrid County, the marriage license fee is $46, but over in Mississippi and Scott counties, the fee is $51. Once issued, the license is valid for 30 days and can be used anywhere in the state.