How to Officiate Weddings in Des Moines
A guide to officiating weddings and planning ceremonies in Des Moines, Iowa
Take a drive through Iowa’s rolling hills, and you’ll find serenity in the creeks and rivers woven through the vast, peaceful farm land and majestic state parks. Beyond the beauty of Iowa’s landscape, the culture is all its own. Locals have a reputation for their kindness and over-the-top hospitality. And the major cities, Des Moines and Iowa City, have thriving populations of writers, artists and musicians.
Yes, if you’re getting married in the Des Moines area, you probably already appreciate all the good things that this well kept secret-of-a-town has to offer. If not, do your research and you’ll see what we’re talking about. For now, we’re here to help you with the process of getting your marriage license and wedding officiant lined up so that you can focus on planning your special day.
STEP 1: Get ordained with American Marriage Ministries
Let’s start with the ordainment process. According to Iowa State Legislature, the following persons may perform wedding ceremonies:
“A judge of the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, or district court, including a district associate judge, an associate juvenile judge, a judicial magistrate, or a senior judge, or by a person ordained or designated as a leader of the person's religious faith.”
If you do not fall into any of these categories, no sweat. You can get ordained with AMM to fall within the priest or minister category. The process is free and takes just a few minutes.
When it comes time to perform your duties as the officiant, Polk County may ask you to present documentation, which AMM provides for a fee. (You can call the county clerk’s office before you perform the ceremony to ask if they will require you to bring the certificate in person, or just order your credentials in advance from our store for peace of mind.)
STEP 2: Prepare for the Ceremony in Polk County
Now that the easy part is out of the way, we can help you prepare for the wedding ceremony itself. Being asked to officiate a ceremony is an honor, but can feel like a lot of pressure. You will appreciate our wedding training pages, which are a library of information to help you prepare for your first ceremony and ensure that it goes smoothly.
Here you can find everything from sample wedding ceremony scripts, to brainstorming prompts, tips for ceremony preparation, and more.
STEP 3: Officiate the Wedding and Complete the Marriage License
When it comes time to sign the marriage license, it’s the couple’s responsibility to obtain and complete the marriage license, but just be sure to double check that they have a valid marriage license before the ceremony.
In Des Moines, once you have performed the ceremony and signed the marriage license, you have successfully performed all of your functions as the wedding officiant. The couple will take care of the rest.
To obtain your marriage license, both members of the couple should visit the marriage license bureau at 111 Court Ave # 245, Des Moines, IA. If the applicants are unable to come in to our office in person, the office can mail the application to you, or you can print it here. The form must be completed and signed before an authorized notary public.
But if both members of the couple are able to go to the office, it simplifies the process. When you go, just remember to bring:
- You and your partner and one witness
- Photo identification for all three (both members of the couple and witness)
- A $35 fee (cash, credit card or money order)
Below is the fast info pertaining to marriage licenses issued in Polk County for reference.
Issuance Office: 111 Court Ave # 245, Des Moines
Waiting Period: 3 days
Expiration: 6 months
Return: by Couple
The Basics -- When planning your wedding in Des Moines, be sure to check your wedding date against the handful of annual events that draw in major crowds. For example, more than one million people gravitate to the city every August for the Iowa State Fair to indulge in food-on-sticks that the fair is known for, namely apple pie on a stick, funnel cake on a stick, Caprese salad on a stick, hot bologna on a stick… the list goes on. Around this time, hotel accommodations and traffic are at their peak. Bring your stick...
If you haven’t started researching wedding venues already, you may be surprised at the many diverse options that Des Moines has to offer, from highly elegant to charmingly quaint.
The Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden is a stand-out option, for its impressive facilities and gorgeous photo-ops of the meticulously manicured gardens, as well as the Des Moines river and downtown view.
If you are planning a more traditional event, you can’t miss the Tea Room, a more than 100 year old venue that exudes elegance and extravagance. Or, for a more down-home vibe, you’ll find there is no shortage of historic houses, tap rooms, wineries and farms that host weddings for a lower price-point.
Transportation -- Iowa is truly a driving state. Public transportation is ok if you don’t plan to go outside of Des Moines or Iowa City, but most of the towns outside of the population centers have of less than 5,000 residents and are spread 10-20 miles apart, so commuting by car to other towns for work and shopping is the standard mode of transportation. If you’re coming in from out of town, the best option is to rent a car, but Lyft and Uber are also available throughout Iowa.
Weather -- Iowans will tell you that their state has not four seasons, but five. Contrary to popular belief that Iowa is a frozen wasteland, Iowa has pleasant weather for about 9 months of the year. The worst months are January and February, when temperatures dip below freezing, and snow and ice storms are a regular occurence. But spring, summer and fall are all lovely seasons for wedding in Des Moines.