Is your dream to have an intimate Scandinavian wedding? Rolling, lush landscapes, bright blue skies, colorful wildflowers, and a fresh breeze through your hair; what’s not to love? Eloping in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, or Finland (yes, we’ve included Finland as an extra treat) could be one of the most special moments of your life. But how do you decide if an elopement in Scandinavia is right for you?
Elopement photographer Jaakko Perala has some thoughts on this decision. He asks, “do you feel excited to plan a big wedding, or do you think you have to make too many compromises with all the guests and traditions? Do you want to throw a party for your friends and family, or are you dreaming of an intimate wedding experience just between the two of you? How do you feel being the center of attention? Only you can know if eloping is the right choice for you. It’s good to remember that you can do both: you can have a small wedding at the perfect destination, then throw a party for your loved ones.”
Here’s everything to know about Scandinavian elopement, including how to elope legally and finding the right photographer:
What is elopement?
Elopement is all about letting go of the pressures and traditions of typical weddings. It’s usually an intimate ceremony – often just the couple getting married, a witness or two, and an officiant – that can be planned quickly, easily, and with minimal trappings. That doesn’t mean your elopement has to be thoughtless or boring; it just means that you can do exactly as you like without having to worry about catering to the needs and desires of others.
Why elope in Scandinavia?
Each Scandinavian country has elements that could make an elopement extra special. The backdrop of the fjords in Norway, the Northern Lights in Iceland, berry-filled forests of Sweden, castles and towers of Denmark, and island life of Finland. How to choose? Think about the landscape that suits you best, the time of year you’d like to get married, and of course elements such as the cost of flights and accommodation.
Elopement photographer Jaako Perala explains that the unique weather and landscape are his top reasons for recommending couples elope in the Nordic region:
“Places like Lofoten Islands or Lapland are entirely at the mercy of the elements. There, nature’s force sets the rhythm, and we humans are only a tiny piece of it all. And you can feel this deep in your soul when you stand by the wild sea or at one of the silent lakes when you travel through vast open spaces and explore nature’s barren, raw beauty in the north.”
Is it possible for LGTBQ+ couples to elope in the Nordics?
Yes! If you’re in an LGBTQ+ relationship, Scandinavia is a great choice for an elopement as all the Nordic countries (and Finland) are safe and LGBTQ+-friendly. We wish safety and access to services wasn’t a consideration for anyone, but being realistic: of course it is.
How can you elope legally Scandinavia?
For all the countries listed below, you must make sure that you can legally be in the country. This means that you are a citizen, resident, or have the appropriate visa (tourist visas count!). You cannot get legally married in a country in which you are not visiting legally.
Certain standards apply across the board for all Nordic countries, including that both parties must not be currently married, both parties must be at least 18 years old, and the marrying couple cannot be close relatives.
In terms of the license, there are two ways to legally elope (meaning your marriage will be internationally legal) in the Nordics:
by getting married with a marriage license from the Nordic country of your choice or
getting a marriage license in your home country that can be signed abroad – please note that not all countries offer this option.
How to have an elopement wedding in Sweden
Ready for your Sweden is known as one of the easiest countries in which to elope. All you need is a certificate of no impediment or an affidavit stating that you have never been married, or if you were previously married, that your marriage is legally terminated (this can usually be obtained at your local courthouse), passports, birth certificate, and some form of government issued IDs. Then you’ll go to the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket), where they will issue you a marriage license.
For the most up-to-date information on getting married in Sweden, please check Skatteverket’s website.
How to have an elopement wedding in Denmark
It’s quite easy to elope in Denmark! Getting Married in Denmark provides a free and easy documentation checklist, which you can find here. The basics are that you’ll need picture ID, any documents related to previous marriages (e.g. divorce or death certificates), documents relating to any children you have with your partner, and possibly your birth certificates. You will request a marriage certificate from the specific kommune (e.g. Københavns Kommune in Copenhagen) in which you are getting married, and then you will need to have that document Apostilled for the marriage to be internationally legal.
For all the most up-to-date information on getting married in Denmark when you are not a Danish citizen or resident, please see the information provided by the Danish Family Court.
How to have an elopement wedding in Norway
In order to legally get married in Norway, you must get a document from the Norwegian Tax Administration, which must then be signed by the person officiating the marriage.
You can find all up-to-date information and the link to the document here.
How to have an elopement wedding in Iceland
It’s quite straightforward to have your Iceland wedding. If you have an Icelandic ID number, you can apply online. If not, you must gather all the necessary documentation and send it to an administrative email; you will then be contacted with further steps. See this link and click the section titled “what if I don’t have electronic ID” to get a list of supporting documentation plus all the most up-to-date information.
How to have an elopement wedding in Finland
While it’s not exactly hard to elope in Finland, there is a longer lead-time than in any of the other Nordic countries. In order to get married in Finland, you’ll need to apply for a marriage certificate through Digital and Population Data Services Agency at least eight weeks before your elopement. Then you must send affidavits noting no impediment (stating that you have not been married, or if you have, that you are no longer married) obtained from your local courthouse, as well as scanned copies of your passports and birth certificates at least four weeks before the marriage.
For up-to-date information on getting married in Finland, please check the agency website here.
Your elopement checklist
Choose your country, specific location, and date
Check on visa and documentation needs (keep in mind that for Finland, this is at least eight weeks)
Make sure your passport is up to date
Book a photographer and any other vendors you require
Book flights and accommodation
Book any special meals or extra events you desire in order to celebrate!
Hire the best elopement photographer for your Scandinavian wedding
Elopement photography is a special skill: the photographer must capture the intimacy of the moment without being obtrusive. These photographers work specifically with elopements, so they know exactly how the approach it:
Finnish elopement and wedding photographer Jaakko Perala has photographed plenty of traditional weddings, as well as elopements. His love of the Nordic region has led him to specialise in this particular area. As a photographer, he’s all about the experience rather than finding the right poses:
“I want you to be yourselves and focus on the experience, the moments, the memories in the making. We can still climb that mountain together or find a spot by the lake. But they aren’t backdrops for a photo, they are the settings for your story. So, I promise that we won’t do anything just for a photo. We will do it for the experience.”
If you’re looking for an elopement photographer for a less traditional outdoor space, such as Lapland, northern Norway, or somewhere that might be a bit hard to reach, Jaakko is the man to talk to.
Here is one of Jaakko’s favorite Nordic elopement memories: “In 2019, I photographed a multi-day road-trip elopement in Norway. On the third day, we spontaneously drove to an island to explore Europe’s deepest canyon, which was almost four hours away. Because it was October, the days were getting shorter and we weren’t sure we had enough time to drive there before sunset.”
“When we finally got there, it was getting dark. We parked next to a fjord and started to run towards the canyon. After running for a while we understood that we took a wrong turn and the canyon was elsewhere. But when we began to look around us, we noticed that the environment was also really cool. So I photographed the couple running, laughing, and enjoying the intimacy between the two of them.
“At the time, I was bummed because I was looking forward to seeing the canyon, but the couple I was photographing was over the moon. For them, the journey itself was worth it, not the destination.”
Steph is a traveling wedding photographer who has captured traditional weddings, elopements, and just about everything in between. Her blend of digital and film shots make for an incredibly special collage of work that captures not just the location, but the connection between the marrying couple in such a loving way.
She thinks of every session as a collaboration, and that dynamic is clear in her imagery.
Ready for an adventure elopement photographer? That’s what photograoher Amber of Zephyr + Luna offers, ensuring that your love is captured in the most fun and joyful way possible. Her work is all about ensuring that your wedding is marked by what feels most authentic and intimate.
Zephyr + Luna supports a number of important causes as part of its business model, including women’s rights and eco-travel, so in addition to your photos, you know that your money goes towards what’s important to you.
Zephyr + Luna offers great resources about elopement, checklists, and information for other photographers!
Not sure what to wear to your elopement, or your friend’s upcoming wedding? Find out all about wedding dress codes!
All images in this article, other than those underneath additional photographers, are provided by Jaakko Perala.