How to Elope in Iowa

You've decided on your person, but the big 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:

Make it Legal

You'll need to head to any county recorder's office in Iowa and obtain a marriage license. Make sure you have a witness (18+ years old), photo identification, and the $35 fee.

There is a three day waiting period, so be sure to plan ahead! After your ceremony, head back to the county recorder's office to return your Certificate of Marriage. You'll receive a certified copy in the mail. Now what happens between those two trips to the county recorder's office? That's up to you! But here are the general steps:

Decide on the Big Picture

Elopements aren't just rushing off to the courthouse or sneaking off in the middle of the night to road trip it to Vegas! The world is starting to catch onto the magic of a wedding for two, and you can even invite a handful of your closest loved ones to witness the joy. Some couples even keep all the traditions and expectations of a traditional wedding, but scale it way down to 50 people or less for a much less stressful and expensive micro wedding.

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. The good news is, there are so many wonderful ways to celebrate your marriage that don't involve elaborate plans with huge budgets! The biggest thing to keep in mind are what you want to experience and how you want to remember it.

So, private vows on the lake followed by a rooftop dinner with your friends? 3-day cabin rental kicked off with a simple woodland ceremony? Upscale, fully designed minimony for 20 followed by a backyard potluck? Hell yeah! Pick a guest list and a budget, then...

Find a Space

If you plan on hosting 20 people or less, you have a lot of unique options for where to hold you ceremony! Consider a bed and breakfast, private home or backyard, or even an airbnb (always confirm your plans with the host!). This is a very affordable option, just be sure to factor in the cost of transforming the space into a venue with seating, rentals, lighting, and decor. You'll need to have an inclement weather plan and make sure there's enough parking, and set up could take quite a bit of time. An event planner or designer can help make this a seamless experience so that you can just relax and get married.

Traditional venues are also great! They're already equipped to handle your event with seating, some decor, couples' suites, and bathrooms. Here are a couple of small space suggestions:

Little Lights on Main in West Branch, IA

Snowden House in Waterloo, IA

Raspberry Hill Bed and Breakfast in Ames, IA

Your Private Bar in West Des Moines, IA

Hearst Center for the Arts in Cedar Falls, IA

If you opt for a restaurant or public space like a park, art gallery, or lake, be sure to communicate your plans and get all the appropriate permissions. For public grounds you will need a special event permit, so head to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to apply.

Develop Your Look

What will you wear on your wedding day? Traditional wedding gowns are beautiful but can usually take several months to order and may require alterations. If you don't have that kind of timeline or just don't want to be bothered with the hassle of ordering from a shop, don't be afraid to skip it! You can get married in anything that makes you feel fabulous.

Consider a formal gown or jumpsuit, an heirloom piece, or even your favorite outfit. Still want the traditional bridal look without the stress or expense? Consider buying a second hand dress or ordering online. If you're wearing a tux you'll have an easier time finding a rental or buying something new for less time and expense.

Don't forget shoes, jewelry, accessories like a belt or veil, and your wedding bands! Finally, make arrangements for your hair and/or makeup. If you're doing it yourself, don't forget a trial run or two.

Build Your Team

Don't be afraid of asking for a little help. You don't have to do it alone! Here are a few vendors and services you might want to consider bringing on board:

Officiant to perform your ceremony

Florist for couples' flowers

Musician to play during your ceremony

Baker for wedding cake

Photographer to capture still memories

Videographer to capture video

Hair/Makeup Artist to look your best

Planner to pull it all together

Plan Your Ceremony

Alright, this is what we're here for: the moment you say I Do! When the big party (which usually takes up a bulk of the planning and expense) is no longer a factor, you can put more of an emphasis on creating a beautiful ceremony.

Don't be afraid to create a meaningful experience and set the ambiance. Do you want to walk into a romantic candlelit room, your family arranged in a circle around the altar? Scent creates the strongest memory. Do you want to remember the scent of roses and eucalyptus as you say your vows? Do you want the space to feel bright and airy or moody and deep? What music is playing as you walk down the aisle?

Get creative and don't be afraid to lean on the help of your vendors. An officiant can help you write your ceremony, a photographer can help with your day's timeline, and a venue usually sets up chairs.


You're married now! However you plan to celebrate, just make sure you create an experience you want to remember for a lifetime.

...and Consider Going All-Inclusive

Does this list still feel daunting? I get it! Maybe you're completely over planning or just looking to have a beautiful marriage ceremony ASAP without all the logistics. A Serenity Wedding is a fully designed all-inclusive minimony package including:

Choice of Venue




Couples' Flowers

We also have relationships with local photographers, videographers, and hair/makeup artists so that all you have to do is get dressed and show up! We'll take care of all the details. Find out all about your new favorite way to plan an intimate event at

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