How to Get Legally Married in Iowa and Plan Your IA Wedding

Planning your special day in the Hawkeye State? We've got your back.
Jamie Spain - The Knot Contributor.
Jamie Spain
Jamie Spain - The Knot Contributor.
Jamie Spain
The Knot Contributor
  • Jamie contributes wedding content to The Knot on a variety of topics.
  • You can also find her work at Good Housekeeping, BuzzFeed, and People.
  • Jamie holds a master's degree and a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Northwestern University.
Updated Aug 31, 2021

If you're getting excited about your upcoming wedding in the sprawling fields and historic plains of Iowa, chances are you aren't dreaming about the marriage license process. For those interested in tying the knot in the Hawkeye State, take a deep breath and remain calm. Applying for a marriage license, scoping out the perfect venue and gathering the best vendors may seem like an arduous task at first, but it is completely possible. Make sure to plan ahead of time so you aren't scrambling last minute to get all of your documents in order.

Once you've nailed down your marriage license application, learn how to get a name change in Iowa if you're interested in taking on a new married moniker.

How to Get Married in Iowa

You've spent the last few weeks absolutely sky-high thinking about the bridal outfits, possible honeymoon destinations, and of course how much you love your partner, and now you're panicking because you've realized you haven't done any research on the nitty-gritty of making it all legal.

Is there a waiting period to get married in Iowa?

Depending on the county where you will wed, there is a 3 to 5 business day waiting period after applying for the marriage license before you can be wed. You can apply to waive the waiting period by speaking with a district court judge and offering a compelling reason as to why you need a day waiver for the waiting period.

What are the legal requirements to get married in Iowa?

To legally tie the knot, both parties must be over 18 years of age, or over 16 with a consent form signed by a parent or guardian. Blood relatives are not able to legally get married in Iowa nor are those who have a living spouse they have not finalized a divorce with, but a blood test is not required for the marriage license application.

For a traditional wedding ceremony to be complete, you must have two adult witnesses present at your ceremony and have completed and returned your marriage certificate within 15 days of the ceremony. Afterward, a certified copy of the certificate will be mailed to you. Both you and your spouse must be present during the ceremony to make the marriage legal.

What's considered a common law marriage in Iowa?

Iowa is one of the few states that recognizes common law marriage. This means that you can be legally wed without a traditional wedding ceremony or a marriage license. As long as you and your partner live together, are both interested in being married to one another, and have publicly declared or presented yourself as a married couple, congratulations! You can be married in the state of Iowa. Unfortunately, if you choose to move, most other states will not recognize your partnership as a legal marriage.

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Iowa Marriage License 101

You are well on your way to planning the wedding of your dreams and the next step is ensuring that everything goes off without a hitch. For those interested in tying the knot in Iowa, you have to get a marriage license to make everything official. To kickstart the marriage application process, you first must submit your paperwork to a county recorder's office or county registrar's office. It doesn't matter which county you get your marriage license in as long as you use it in Iowa.

What do you need to get a marriage license in Iowa?

Perhaps the most difficult part about the marriage license application process is that it requires an adult who knows both parties of the relationship to witness the application and sign off on it. The witness does not have to be present, but their paperwork must be notarized by a notary public if they can't personally be there. If applying by mail, the entire application must be notarized and include payment. All three of you (the couple and the witness) must bring a valid government-issued photo I.D. or driver's license when submitting your completed application form. The intended couple do not need to bring their birth certificate or their social security card, but should know their social security number.

What does an Iowa marriage license cost?

It costs $35 for both Iowa residents and out-of-state residents to apply for a marriage license, and depending on the county, can be done both in person and by mail. Many county offices do not accept credit card, only cash, so beware to bring enough money when completing your application.

How long does it take to get a marriage license in Iowa?

While your marriage license will be issued immediately, you will still have to wait the required waiting period before walking down the aisle.

Can you apply for a marriage license online in Iowa?

You can apply for a marriage license both in person and by mail. However, you must pick up your marriage license in person after the allotted time since it is unable to be mailed.

How do you get a copy of your Iowa marriage license?

If you are interested in getting an additional copy of your marriage certificate, you can apply for it from the same county you received your original marriage application from, and it will cost a small additional fee.

How to Plan an Iowa Wedding

Now that you've got all of the nitty gritty out of the way, it's time for the fun stuff! When planning your Iowa wedding, you have a bunch of different atmospheres to choose from, and The Knot has plenty of tips to lead you in the right direction. Depending on whether you are more interested in hosting an outdoorsy wedding or chic event, you will certainly be able to find the right venue.

The Different Cities and Areas to Consider for an Iowa Wedding

The most popular cities for weddings in Iowa are:

  • Des Moines
  • Cedar Rapids

Des Moines is home to a gorgeous skyline and a bustling city center. It's perfect for those fast-paced couples who are interested in modern and edgy venues. For couples who are interested in a backdrop that is a little more artsy, Cedar Rapids has you covered with tons of historic and cultural buildings that will take your breath away.

What to Look For in an Iowa Wedding Venue

With venues like vineyards, country clubs, resorts, and even a heritage center, no matter your wedding theme, Iowa will have the perfect place to solemnize your union.

Although it is known for corn, agriculture, and hosting one of the biggest state fairs in the country, that doesn't mean your special day has to be casual or rustic. While Iowa has some great countrified locations, you can just as easily find a chic and sophisticated venue if you are looking for something a little more black-tie.

How to Find Iowa Wedding Vendors

Once you've nabbed the venue of your dreams, take a look at our wedding vendor marketplace to plan your perfect day. When it comes to jewelers, cakes, caterers and decor, Iowa's got you covered, even if you're planning a unique wedding with a strict theme. With elegant, fun, casual and quirky options, you won't have any trouble securing the perfect vendors for your trip down the aisle.

The Best Times of Year to Have an Iowa Wedding for Good Weather

Iowa can experience some extreme seasons, so tying the knot in the winter or summer is not for the faint of heart. Spring and fall are the most popular seasons for happy couples to walk down the aisle, since winter can see heavy snowfall and summer often experiences serious rain showers. Depending on whether you are hoping for an indoor or outdoor wedding, it is important to schedule around the seasons to make sure your dream summer garden soirée won't turn into a huddled wedding party under a single umbrella in a thunderstorm.

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