Whether you were born and raised in Alaska or have only heard of the splendor of Alaska’s mountains, oceans, glaciers and tundra, there is a major allure to getting married in the Last Frontier. There is a laid back, anything goes vibe paired with stunning scenery and a feeling of wide open wilderness that few other locations in the world can match. Grab your honey’s hand, invite a few friends if you like and walk, run, fly to the great north for an experience like no other.
This is an up-to-date, 2021 guide on how to plan an Alaska Elopement. We’ve put together answers from the questions we’re most frequently asked, from where and when to elope in Alaska to how to get the marriage license and where to stay. Let’s dig in!
How to Elope in Alaska
To elope in Alaska you’ll need to choose a date and location, hire a planner and photographer, and book your flights, lodging, and rental car. An experience planner can guide you through the remaining decisions and logistics. Depending on the level of service provided, they can also facilitate booking any additional vendors needed for the day. You’ll also need to apply for a marriage license at least three days before your ceremony, and an officiant and two witnesses are required for an Alaska elopement. Alternatively, some couples choose to have a symbolic ceremony in Alaska and complete the paperwork either before or after their trip at their local courthouse. If you don’t know when or where to get married in Alaska, a planner can help with this!
A note of caution: It’s also important to hire vendors who are experienced with Alaska elopements specifically. A lot of out-of-state photographers and planners dream of working in Alaska and offer discounts and free advice to do so. We strongly caution couples to make sure they’re getting their information from reputable sources. Alaska is an amazing place full of epic adventure, but it needs to be approached with respect and understanding of the all the risks and unique challenges that come with specific activities, areas, and terrain. Both Cori and Erin have spent decades living an active Alaskan lifestyle and exploring the state. They’ve spent time in remote Alaska (Cori grew up on a floating lodge in rural Southeast Alaska) and with that experience are able to anticipate and calmly navigate any issues that may come our way. You can relax knowing you’re in good hands and fully enjoy your planning process and the experience of your elopement day.
When to Elope in Alaska
What time of year should we elope in Alaska is the question we get most often, and there’s not just a single good answer. It’s possible to have an elopement any time of year, although some planners and photographers choose to only take elopements that are within summer months due to ease of planning in warmer weather. We plan and photograph elopements year round and think that each time of year brings something really special in it’s own unique way. We’ll break it down by season below.
Winter: Alaska’s seasons don’t typically mirror the lower 48’s season schedule. We have a long winter, prime time for snuggling in a hotel or private cabin and then venturing out for snowy adventures in beautiful golden light. Alyeska Resort in Girdwood offers world class downhill skiing and snowboarding, nordic skiing trails and heli skiing. Early March is the perfect time to see the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race ceremonial start in Anchorage, where mushers and their dog teams start the 1,100 mile (1,770km) trek to Nome. The best time for viewing the Northern lights is in the darkness of a winter night, in a place far from city lights. Winter elopements are possible for couples who want to experience this version of Alaska, just bring warm layers, mittens, and boots!
Winter temperatures range from 0°F / -18°C to -30°F / -35°C from November to March.
Spring: Wintry landscapes are still available in spring and bring a dreamy light. Temperatures warm a bit so capturing some glacier landing photos in your ceremony outfit is doable without a warm coat. There are more daytime hours than wintertime so there’s more time to enjoy outside activities. Downhill and nordic skiing are popular activities during spring, and couples can even ice skate on Anchorage’s city-maintained pond near downtown.
Summer: Alaska’s summer is brief and glorious, and includes June, July and August. Alaska is known as “the land of the midnight sun” in summer, where the sun barely dips behind the mountains at night. You’ll find locals hiking, hanging out with friends and mowing their lawn late into the night. If you and your partner are night owls or are feeling the energy from extended daylight hours, you could exchange vows on a peak or by a campfire near midnight. A glacier elopement in summer is stunning for photos because warmth will melt the ice enough to create brilliant blue pools of water. It’s more common to see glaciers calving during summer, which if you are lucky to see makes an amazing sound and dramatic view from a boat or helicopter. Summer is the best time to go out on the ocean, where you’ll have the chance to see wildlife like whales, sea otters, sea lions, orcas and more.
Fall: Temperatures cool down a bit in fall and rain falls more frequently which creates a burst of color in the mountains that is stunning. Tourist season slows, bringing less traffic and easier access to private moments as well as lower prices on lodging and rental cars. The daylight hours begin decreasing again in this shoulder season which allows for the coveted “golden hour” for photography earlier in the day. The fireweed comes out in August, and when most stalks have bloomed all the way to the top, it signals to Alaskans and visitors that winter is on it’s way.
You’re in Alaska, now what? Where to Elope in Alaska
There are myriad locations in Alaska to choose from. Would you like a forested lush, green ceremony location? A stark, fresh icy blue millenia old ice field atop a glacier? Or perhaps a springy tundra covered hill on a mountainside? A cruise across a sparkling ocean? Options abound and exploring your own likes and dislikes can help guide your decision for your ideal Alaskan wedding spot. Think about your interests- hiking, fishing, skiing, driving, photography, climbing, or maybe you want a place to relax while viewing some gorgeous scenery and let that steer your choice of location. Alaska’s panoramas and wildlife offer options for every curious traveler. We were both raised in Alaska and are always exploring, so we’re familiar with locations and love helping our couples find the perfect spot.
The Paperwork– Alaska Marriage License
Submit your marriage license application (if not in person, then by mail or fax works, too) to the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services and wait at least 3 full business days before you can pick up the license and the marriage ceremony can be performed. An officiant plus two witnesses are required to be present. Anyone can officiate in Alaska, just have your chosen friend become ordained– there are online services that can ordain to provide full legal authority to conduct your wedding ceremony. An officiant can also be hired for your ceremony, and many of Alaska’s pilots are able to officiate, which we think is a fun solution if you opt to elope by plane or helicopter! We assist with this decision and coordinate the necessary vendors, because it’s never a one-size-fits-all situation. To simplify, some couples choose to obtain their marriage license in their home state, then have a symbolic Alaskan wedding ceremony.
Some parks require special permits for weddings so be sure to do your research (or hire someone to, like us!) before you go to get hitched.
Photography, hair, makeup, florals, officiant, tablescapes– this is where we shine as a planning and design team! We can pull all the details together so all you have to do is focus on your partner and enjoy your day. We work with you and the most skilled vendors in Alaska to enhance your natural beauty and individuality so you look and feel your best on your special day. Then reminisce and look back on your memories documented by our Alaska elopement photographer Corinne Graves after returning home.
Interested in having us plan, style, and photograph your Alaskan celebration? Get in touch and tell us about yourselves through our contact form. We can’t wait to hear from you!