Marriage in Iowa
On April 3, 2009 the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that laws banning gay and lesbian couples the right to marry violated their constitutional right to equality. Several weeks later, gay and lesbian couples from Iowa or anywhere in the United States were able to legally marry in Iowa.
Please make sure you understand Iowa's marriage laws before you plan your wedding in Decorah. The material on this page is just an overview. Please click here for a document with extended information which you must read before applying for a marriage license. Winneshiek County is not the only place in Iowa where you can get married (we just happen to think it's the loveliest!). If you are traveling from a distance and your primary concerns are money or time, Decorah may not be the best choice. We are located in a very rural part of the state, far from major airports. You will want at least two days in town or you may feel it was a wasted trip! Make sure you understand where we are located and understand the 3-day waiting period prior to making your wedding plans.
STEP ONE: If you wedding is less than 6 months away, apply for your marriage license. You can apply in person or through the mail for your license. (There is a $35 fee to apply for a marriage license in Winneshiek County and a 3-day waiting period after receiving your license before you can get married). Once approved it is good for up to 6 months. What about that "3 day waiting period?" If you are coming from out of town, apply through the mail, wait at least 3 days, and then you'll have up to 6 months to perform the ceremony. Even if you apply through Winneshiek County, you can get married in any county in Iowa (and vice versa).
STEP TWO: Plan your wedding. This website will give you all the tools you need to plan your own wedding in Decorah. You can have a simple outdoor service or an elaborate hotel or dream wedding on a farm. If you wish to work with a wedding planner, please look at the "Other" tab for suggestions. Welcome in Decorah is not a business and does not offer wedding planning services. If you want an all-in-one type of package, check out options on the Venues page.
STEP THREE: Unless you want a specific religious ceremony, locating an officiant is usually the easiest step, so you can save this for last. Also, because many people can perform your ceremony, it's actually better to pick an officiant closer to your date rather than far in advance. Don't expect to find one with only a day or so's notice, however! We live the simple life in Decorah, but we do have lives! Most officiant fees are $100 for a basic ceremony. You can contact the Courthouse to arrange for a free Courthouse wedding,but they have very limited hours and it can be hard to reach the Magistrates.
More Info and download link for the License Application
- Iowa Marriage Instructions
- Iowa Marriage License Application (2013)
- Lambda Legal FAQ About Marriage in Iowa
You can also apply in person or request a marriage license application be mailed to you. To do this, contact the Winneshiek County Court Recorder’s office at 563-382-3486. The mailing address for the Winneshiek County Courthouse is: Attn: County Recorder, 201 W. Main St., Decorah, IA 52101
This website is independently run by volunteers. It is not sponsored by Winneshiek County or the state of Iowa.
PLEASE NOTE: Marriage between same-sex persons in Iowa is a legally binding contract. This is not a symbolic ceremony. Once finalized, you will be legally married. In the unfortunate event of a divorce, you will need to seek out legal help for your individual situation. Welcome in Decorah does not provide any information about divorce. We strongly suggest you review Lambda Legal's FAQ about marriage prior to marrying in Iowa. Divorce between same-sex couples is very ambiguous in the current U.S. legal system. You may also want to consult your own attorney to see how marriage would affect you. Your home state may not recognize your marriage and in some cases will not grant a divorce to same-sex couples. Iowa has a 12-month residency requirement for anyone wishing to file for divorce.
Support Marriage Equality
To support marriage equality and other LGBT rights efforts in Iowa, contact One Iowa, the statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender advocacy organization.