How to Elope in Iowa
Updated: Mar 17
You've decided on your person, but the wedding? Not so much. If you're looking for ways to have a simple, stress-free, debt-free journey to legal matrimony, you're in the right place!
Now, first thing's first: what do you mean by eloping?
Are you picturing a quick trip to the courthouse, a private ceremony in your backyard under the stars, or maybe even a beautiful location with photography and a few guests? Do you imagine saying your own vows, wearing a special outfit, or walking down the aisle to special music?
There are so many ways to elope, and your style, values, and capacity for planning will determine the best route for you. Keep reading, and you'll find out how to elope Iowa-style.
This is the definition of no-frills, no stress, no expense... but nothing personal. A courthouse ceremony will get you legally married quickly and easily, but there's no ceremony, no vows, no exchanging of rings, just signing paperwork.
Sound like the perfect solution? Here's how you do it:
First, apply for a marriage license. You can do so by heading to any county recorder's office in Iowa. You'll have to go together, bring photo identification for the both of you, a witness, and the $35 fee. In three days your license will be valid, then you return the signed license to the courthouse.
You may need to make an appointment or wait in line, be sure to call ahead so you know exactly what to expect. You'll receive a certified copy of your Certificate of Marriage in the mail.
Want to dress it up? You'll be able to wear a special outfit and carry flowers, even bring a photographer to capture the first few moments of wedded bliss. You can get married in any county, so try looking for more attractive buildings in nice areas (like the Marion County courthouse in Knoxville or Polk County in Des Moines), then enjoy the area afterward. You can celebrate at a restaurant or with cake and champagne back at home.
Alternatively, you don't have to sign the license at the courthouse! That means that if you have the time, the desire, and the resources, you can make your elopement even more magical.
Elopement Ceremony (one way)
Does the idea of no ceremony make you a little sad? The moment you become partners for life doesn't have to be a big elaborate event, but it doesn't have to be cold and administrative either. You can bring together a few key details, find a beautiful spot, and make your elopement ceremony a lot more meaningful.
Is this more your style? The essential components are an officiant, two people, two witnesses, and a cool backdrop. You'll probably want a pretty cool elopement look and a photographer as well, maybe some flowers. You can walk down the aisle, say your own vows, exchange rings, and have the heartfelt ceremony you're imagining.
There are some gorgeous spots right here in Iowa that can provide a beautiful elopement backdrop. Whether you're looking for...
Rivers, lakes, and bluffs
Wide open landscapes
...Iowa has got you covered. Because all you need is an officiant and witnesses, you can get married just about anywhere. Depending on your plans, just be sure to make the appropriate reservations or explain your plans to the appropriate people make sure it's okay. For public grounds you will need a special event permit, so head to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to apply. The simpler and less obtrusive, the better. If you're not sure, just ask! If you have a photographer, they'll be a great resource, especially for outdoor ceremonies.
Alternatively, you can even look into renting a small space for private use:
Authentic cabins and barns
AirBnb's, Bed and Breakfasts
Cool restaurants, coffee shops, lounges
Elopement Ceremony (another way)
photo: Chelsea Dawn Weddings
Perhaps you're not in a rush, have a strong budget, and you're willing to put some work into your celebration. You don't want a wedding, but you still want to celebrate, and you're looking for ways to celebrate both beautifully and meaningfully.
When you narrow it down, most people want to begin their married life by creating happy memories, and there's no reason your elopement shouldn't have just as many happy memories as any other marriage.
Don't be afraid to create a meaningful experience and set the ambiance, this is your wedding day no matter who you do (or don't) invite! The biggest things to keep in mind are what you want to experience and how you want to remember it.
Who is there? Is anyone standing with you at the altar?
How do you want the space to feel? Is it simple and minimalist or luxe and fully designed?
What music is playing as you walk down the aisle? Is it live or coming from a speaker?
What makes you feel incredible? What will you wear? Do you want to start the day at the salon?
You can make a vacation out of it and find an incredible AirBnb to say your vows with photography and a private chef, you can turn your home into a gorgeous ceremony space with live music, you can do whatever the hell you want as long as you celebrate wholeheartedly.
If plans start to get exhausting or difficult to manage, but you don't want to skimp on any of the details, consider working with an elopement planner.
photo: Kuburas Photography
Like the idea of something special, but planning starts getting overwhelming again? A package is a great way to get married in a beautiful environment in a stress-free, simple, but special way.
A Serenity Wedding is geared toward those couples who are wanting a meaningful ceremony without having to plan it all. You get everything you need AND you get to pick details from a menu. It's what I needed when I was fed up and tired (and canceled my wedding), I hope it helps!
Not your style? No worries! Check out these other elopement packages offered by Iowa vendors:
The Olympic Southside Theatre, Cedar Rapids:
The Oakwood Inn, Okoboji:
Arrowood Resort and Conference Center, Okoboji:
The Conservatory, Des Moines:
Happy eloping, lovebirds!