Ultimate Guide on How to Elope in Iceland
You’re planning your epic adventure elopement. Maybe you have sticky notes on your wall with a list of all the places you can envision you and your fiancé saying “I Do.” A couple of them are nearby—maybe just a few hours drive away. Others are a plane ride away but still in the U.S. While you can imagine yourself eloping there, your heart doesn’t skip a beat like you want it to when you think of your elopement destination.
But there’s one that gives you that flutter.
The sticky note in the center of the wall, with a circle around it, says “Elope in Iceland.”
If this is you, well, the two of us were cut from the same cloth. I have the same adventurous spirit as you, and I want to be the first one to tell you—do it! Elope in Iceland!
First thing’s first: If you want to elope in Iceland it is attainable. I know you may be wondering a million things—how to get legally married in Iceland, how to travel around the island, the best time of year to go, and how to choose a photographer willing to hop on a plane with you to document it all. You might be worried that it’s too rainy, or too cold, or just too hard to figure out.
This guide is meant to ease all those worries.
Come along on your Ultimate Guide on How to Elope in Iceland, and let’s make some real magic happen with your elopement in this mystical, mountain-covered island!
Best time of year to elope in Iceland
Iceland is located in the far north of the Atlantic ocean, between the Labrador Sea on the southwest and the Norwegian Sea on the northeast. Greenland—basically a massive sheet of ice—looms to the northwest. If you swim due east, you’ll hit Norway. Long story short—Iceland is in a cold, dark, snowy part of the planet.
But a magical thing happens every summer: the midnight sun.
June through August is the best time to elope in Iceland because of the midnight sun, which is when the sun stays up for most hours of the day (except for about three or four in the middle of the night, it might set for a bit, but not get fully dark). For the longest day possible, elope around the solstice at the end of June! How romantic would that be, eloping on the longest day of the year with the most sun you can possibly have to soak in the day?
With the long days comes warmer weather, up to the 60s and occasionally the low 70s. These are also the least rainy months, with most precipitation happening the rest of the year. You’ll have your best chance to get out and explore the unique corners of Iceland when all the mountain passes are safe and accessible in the summer, and have less rain on the forecast to worry about.
Eloping in the winter months will mean a dark, snowy, harder-to-navigate elopement, and is generally not recommended unless you’re determined to see the northern lights! These take tons of patience to see and are very unpredictable, so don’t expect an easy viewing opportunity. But if you’re down, you know I am! A winter elopement in Iceland with a northern lights spotting would be one of the most unique adventures around. September through March is your window to see these lights. If you do decide to elope in the winter, just be prepared for that December and January sun not rising until almost noon!
How to get to Iceland (and how to travel around it once you’re there)
You’ll fly into Keflavík International Airport, which is about 30 miles from the main city of Reykajvík. You can take a direct flight from many major U.S. airports, such as Newark (New York City), JFK (New York City), D.C., Baltimore, Chicago, Tampa, and even as far west as Denver, Portland, and Seattle! In many ways, getting to Iceland is just as easy as getting to any adventurous elopement destination you can think of—like Hawaii, Paris, or the Alps.
As with any international flight, booking early is the best way to get a good deal. As a U.S. citizen, no visa is required to enter Iceland—just your passport, ready to get stamped!
Once you arrive in Iceland, you’ll need a way to get around the island. I highly recommend renting a car. There’s not much good public transportation on the island outside of the main city, and you’ll want to explore off the beaten path.
Renting a car in a foreign country can feel intimidating, so here are my top tips for driving around the island:
- Check that it has automatic transmission, unless you’re a pro at driving stick. Many cars in Iceland are manual, so you’ll need to double-check you have the right transmission.
- Splurge a bit for the 4×4 you’re eyeing—you’ll thank me later. The roads around Iceland can get rough. For most of the year they’re covered in fall and winter snow or sunken in spring mud, so they won’t be easy driving even in the summer. A vehicle with four wheel drive and a bit of extra clearance can go a long way.
- Get additional insurance to cover your rental car. Sometimes, you can pay a little extra when you book to cover any accidents that may happen. Or, your insurance company may have travelers insurance you can purchase. Even little things—like rocks hitting the windshield or a bumper getting scraped on a steep grade—can damage your car and dampen your trip when the bill comes back.
- Consider in-car wifi. This can come in handy when navigating around the island, especially if you don’t have a good international data plan with your phone provider. The in-car wifi can make it easy to just navigate from your car’s map screen and not worry about burning through your phone’s data plan.
- Do a quick review of the traffic signs. While they won’t be much different from what you’re used to, it never hurts to be prepared for what you’ll see on the road. You can find a gallery of signage here.
- Bring your debit card (with a pin number). Many of the gas stations in the countryside are unnamed and only take cash or debit cards with a pin. I recommend calling your bank to let them know you’ll be traveling in Iceland, and making sure you have your card’s pin memorized so you’re never stranded with no place to fill your tank.
- Keep snacks in the car. Once you get past Reykjavík, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a well-equipped grocery store again. Stock up on snacks and food while in the main city, so you’re never stuck hungry out in the wilderness.
What to pack when you elope in Iceland
Icelandic weather can be tough to navigate. If you pack lots of layers and rain gear, you’ll be good to go!
Here’s your packing list for your Iceland elopement:
- Warm layers, scarves, hats, and gloves
- Rain jacket
- Swimsuit. Hot springs, yes please!
- Hiking boots or trail runners, preferably ones that have been already broken in!
- Casual tops and pants. It probably won’t be shorts weather while you’re there, even in the summer.
- Wedding day finery—dress, sports coat, etc.
- Vow books
- Washcloth or makeup remover. Many of the airbnbs I stayed in didn’t have face towels available. If you need something to take your makeup off, I recommend checking out PackTowl face, hand, body, and beach towels, sold at REI.
- Basic medicines such as pain relievers, allergy meds, and a small First Aid Kit. There aren’t many pharmacies outside the main city, so I recommend bringing your own medical supplies. The CDC has a list of medical supplies recommended to travelers.
Preparing for a potentially rainy and windy (read: drama-filled in the best way!) elopement day
With the dramatic, mystical surroundings of Iceland comes dramatic and unpredictable weather. The rain and wind can be fierce! But, in my opinion, that’s all part of the adventure. I recommend downloading the Veður Weather App and turning on notifications so you are always aware of whatever storm is brewing on the horizon.
I know that sometimes the weather is just too much for an elopement—even if you love those dramatic and moody skies in the background of your photos. I always build a buffer around the elopement day, usually one day on each end. This is so we can pick the best day for your elopement and not worry about getting rained out.
How to get legally married in Iceland
Now it’s time to say I Do! When it comes to the logistics of how to legally elope in Iceland, you have two options:
- Handle the legal side of things—particularly getting legally married at your local courthouse and signing all the necessary documents—back home before celebrating your elopement in Iceland.
- Bring the necessary paperwork and hire an officiant to get married in Iceland itself.
For the smoothest process, I recommend getting legally married back home in the U.S. rather than navigating the Icelandic legal system for your elopement day. I promise that signing the documents back home won’t damper your elopement day in the slightest! It will just make the whole process much simpler.
But, if you’re certain you want to get officially married in Iceland, here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Fill out the marriage notification form, called a Hjónavígsluskýrsla, 8 weeks or fewer before your wedding day. You can find that form here.
- Prepare these documents to bring to Iceland:
- Certificate of marital status. Instructions to obtain that are here.
- If either of you are divorced, you’ll need a divorce decree.
- If either of you are widowed, you’ll need documentation that the former spouse’s estate has been settled.
What to look for in a photographer when you elope in Iceland
Of course you need someone to document it! Not every photographer is going to be willing to hop on a plane and fly to a foreign country to photograph your wedding. So, I recommend being picky about who you choose!
Here are a few qualities to look out for in a photographer when you elope in Iceland.
Look for someone who…
- Has been to Iceland before: Especially if this is your first visit to the island, it can be incredibly helpful and reassuring to have someone guide you through every step.
- Is down for adventure and all that comes with it: The last thing you want is a cranky photographer complaining that the lighting isn’t exactly perfect for the photos, or that it’s too cold or too windy. You want someone who celebrates all the beautiful imperfections that come with elopements in dramatic landscapes. You want someone who gets excited about the challenge of photographing in crazy places with crazy conditions, and of course someone who is stoked that you’ve chosen to elope in Iceland, one of the most beautiful places in the world!
- Has a personality you vibe with: Your photographer is quite possibly the most important vendor you’ll hire for your elopement day (but hey, I’m a little biased!). You should look for someone you’re excited to hang out with and who has a personality that meshes with yours! You and your photographer will spend the most time together out of any other wedding vendors, so think about this choice carefully.
Now, does planning to elope in Iceland feel much more attainable?
I hope it does! You’ll be so happy you decided to elope here, because the memories will be absolutely unmatched.
If you’re looking for a photographer to document it all, and someone who’s traveled to Iceland and knows the ropes of navigating the island, I’d love to hear from you! Check out my Iceland elopement packages and pricing and reach out at my contact page today, and I’ll be back in touch soon!