How to Elope in Alaska: The Ultimate Guide
Updated: Jul 14, 2022
The Ultimate Alaska Elopement Planning Guide
There's something about Alaska that's just magnetic. It has a magical quality in the air and the ability to make you feel truly alive. The first time I ever visited Alaska I was completely entranced- I fell in love at first sight. I remember texting my husband "I wish I could bottle up this feeling so you could feel it too"- it was like my heart was glowing. Maybe it sounds cheesy and it's hard for me to put a feeling like that accurately into words, but being in Alaska was nothing like I'd ever experienced before (even in Washington!). Being in Alaska, you just feel free- there's so much space to think, explore, breathe and just be. My jaw dropped quite literally several times and the beauty of the mountains, the ocean, and the glaciers took my breath away more than once. Alaska is hands down the most breathtakingly beautiful place I have ever been to in my entire life and if you're looking for an incredible place to elope I can promise that you won't be disappointed with Alaska!
Massive, seemingly endless mountain ranges, jagged peaks, places where mountains touch the sea, the tallest mountain peak in North America, breathtaking icy blue glaciers waiting to be explored, glacier lagoons filled with icebergs, fjords, stunning valleys and overlooks, waterfalls, lakes, incredible wildlife, wildflowers or dazzling fall colors depending on the season- Alaska truly has all the best places to elope.
Convinced yet? I could wax poetic all day long about how much I love Alaska, but that's not what you're here for! I'm here to help you plan your perfect Alaska elopement adventure, step by step. So whether you imagine saying your vows surrounded by mountain peaks, or taking a helicopter tour and walking on a glacier, or kayaking near icebergs, or something in between- there's the perfect Alaskan adventure for you. So... if you're looking to elope in Alaska, I've got you covered! I'll help you along the way in giving you tons of advice so you can have your Alaska elopement of your dreams.
***Leave No Trace Disclaimer***
We have a massive privilege in being able to access such amazing public lands in general and for your elopement day. Instead of paying thousands of dollars for a wedding venue, public lands are able to be used for nearly free. With that comes great responsibility- not only to care for the land, but to ensure it's protection and longevity.
Leave No Trace is a set of outdoor ethics and best practices that we should all follow to not only enjoy our public lands, but to protect them as well. Simply put, leave it better than you found it!
Why should you care?
If you're getting married outside, it's probably because you're drawn to nature's beauty and love being outdoors. To keep nature beautiful, we must ensure that we enjoy it sustainably and responsibly. We're all in this together.
The seven principles of Leave No Trace are:
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
Dispose of Waste Properly
Leave What You Find
Minimize Campfire Impacts
Be Considerate of Other Visitors
I encourage you to learn more about how to keep our outdoors safe and best practices for recreating outdoors at https://lnt.org/.
Alright, now into the good stuff...
Planning Checklist for Your Alaska Elopement:
Find an Alaska Elopement Photographer
Hands down, one of the most important decisions you can make when planning your adventure elopement is choosing your elopement photographer. It's SO important to find someone that you both truly connect with, get along with, and feel comfortable being yourselves around. You're going to be spending your entire wedding day with them and elopements are a lot more of an intimate experience, so a good fit with your photographer, both personally and professionally, can really make or break your day.
I would highly recommend hiring a photographer that only specializes in elopements instead of a photographer who doesn't and only does them occasionally. Elopement photographers are much more involved in the planning process than a typical photographer is, and a lot more is expected of an elopement photographer versus a traditional wedding photographer! Find someone that is experienced in both photography and in the type of adventure you wish to have. Your photographer should know the area you're eloping in, give you helpful advice, and help with location scouting and figuring out logistics.
Lastly, your photographer's images will most likely be the only photos you have of your elopement- especially if you are eloping just the two of you. Find someone who takes that honor and responsibility seriously and who is experienced with photographing in different sceneries, weather, and lighting conditions. Trust me, photography is something that you want to invest in- these images will be your living memories of your wedding day for years to come. Luckily, I know a pretty great Alaska elopement photographer and I'd love to connect with you and help you get started planning your elopement. Contact me and we can get started!
Pick a Date for Your Alaskan Elopement
After you choose a photographer that's the perfect fit for you, it's time to choose a date! The best time of the year to elope in Alaska is May through September. The summer brings longer days with plenty of daylight (full of time for lots of fun activities), warmer weather, and no snow!
The absolute *peak* season with the "best" weather is mid-June through mid-August. With typical weather patterns in Alaska, the driest and sunniest months tends to be May through the end of July. However, May is still considered "shoulder season" and some higher elevation areas may be inaccessible due to snow. The rainiest months in Alaska tend to be at the very end of July through October.
While August may have a higher chance of rain than June or July, it also is the start of fall! Which means stunning fall foliage, no more mosquitos, and a possibility of seeing the Northern Lights (later in the month and sporadic). Plus, I personally love the moodier look that rain and fog can bring to Alaska.
If you want crisper weather, even more stunning autumn foliage, less crowds, and perhaps even a dusting of snow or a chance of seeing the aurora, then September may be the month for you. Just note that some mountain passes and roads close mid-September and some locations will be inaccessible later in the month. The shoulder seasons will have slightly more unpredictable weather, but can offer the chance of places being less crowded. Depending on what region of the state and scenery you want to elope in it is important to research past weather patterns and road closures to avoid any unwanted surprises on your day!
Best Places to Elope in Alaska
One of the biggest ways that I help my couples is through location scouting and helping them find their absolute perfect place to say their vows. Whenever I first begin speaking with a couple about their elopement, I always start by asking them how they envision their day and try and get a clear idea of what they want. Do you want to elope on top of a mountain, on a glacier, or by the beach? Do you want to do a multi-day backpack, pull up right off the road to incredible beauty, or something in between? Alaska has endless places to elope at. There are so many different adventures to be had and countless beautiful locations that you could say your vows at.
Location scouting for my couples is one of my biggest passions, I truly believe that there is a perfectly unique spot for everybody. Which is why I don't give the same, standard, curated list of 5 spots to every couple that comes my way. I really work to get to know YOU- your needs, desires, wants and expectations. From there, I build a customized location list with options that I believe fit everything you're looking for and more. But, I only do this and give away my very best locations to my couples, so get in contact with me if you want to become one of them!
Alaska is hands down one of the most incredible, breathtaking states (and elopement destinations) out there. There's so much beauty to be discovered, adventures to be had, and endless places to explore! Filled with the best and prettiest scenery that nature has to offer, Alaska is full of wonderful places to elope.
If it isn't obvious, I love Alaska and could talk about why, for hours on end (which is why I'm so stoked to share these epic locations with you!). Here are just a few of many places to consider for your Alaska elopement:
Hatcher's Pass Area
Thompson's Pass Area
Denali National Park and Preserve
Kenai Fjords Area
Gates of the Arctic National Park & Preserve
Chugach National Forest
Also- if you're down for even more adventure, consider having a backpacking elopement or a helicopter elopement!! There are SO many areas in Alaska that you can reach by helicopter- taking you into some of the most stunningly gorgeous wilderness areas around.
Hire Other Vendors for Your Alaska Elopement
Now it's time to decide what other vendors you want to hire to help you with your elopement and what you want to DIY. The vendors you choose are completely up to you- one of the best parts of eloping is that you can do whatever you want. Common vendors you can consider include: an officiant, hair & makeup artist, florist, a videographer, private chef, elopement announcements, and any additional adventure activities. Pick and choose whomever you'd like- it's your day!
Permits for Your Alaska Elopement
Depending on where you want to elope, you may or may not need a permit for your elopement day. The permitting process can be incredibly confusing and overwhelming- let your photographer help you! Permits are SO important to get and are a necessary part of the experience. Permits help protect the lands we love and recreate in. They are not very expensive- especially when you compare the price of a permit to the price of a traditional wedding venue. Additionally, if you don't get the required permits you are risking your elopement day. If you run into a Ranger patrolling, they WILL ask to see your permit. Failure to have a permit can result in fines and you getting kicked out of the park- essentially ruining your elopement day. Trust me, it's not worth it. Additionally, if your photographer is not from Alaska, they will still need an Alaskan Business License!
The two most common types of permits are a Special Use Permit (required for the actual wedding ceremony and submitted by the couple getting married) and a Photography Permit (covering professional photography, may be covered under Special Use Permit or may be separate). The cost of permits range greatly (from $0-$800) but in my experience the vast majority range around $100-$200.
Making Your Alaska Elopement Legal
If you decide to sign your paperwork on the day of your elopement, you want to ensure it's legal! An Alaskan marriage license fee is $60 and it must be paid when the license is issued. The marriage license application must be completed and submitted to a local Alaska Court to get a marriage license issued. Each party must be present to fill out part of the application. If you're out of state, you can contact the court for further instructions. You do not have to be a resident of Alaska. There is a 3 day waiting period in Alaska- meaning you have to get your license at minimum 3 full days before your elopement date or it is invalid. Alaska marriage licenses are valid for 90 days after the 3 day waiting period ends.
An ordained officiant must perform a ceremony for you to be legally married. All marriage licenses must be signed by the officiant and two witnesses. If you're eloping with just the two of you, witnesses can be fellow hikers or visitors (most people will be more than happy to be a witness for you!). We can do the legal ceremony with witnesses, and then you two can exchange your vows privately.
And remember- don't let paperwork stop you from having your dream day! If this is stressing you out and you're coming in from out of state, you can always sign the paperwork at home and say your vows on your elopement day. Your wedding day is the day you commit the rest of your life to your partner, not when you sign paperwork. If that's all that's standing in your way- it doesn't have to be that way.
Logistics: Arriving, Getting Transportation, and Booking Your Lodging
If you're flying into Alaska, I'd hold off on buying a ticket until you know the general area you want to elope in so you know the best airport to fly into. Pro-tip: check Google Flights for flight deals, they have a feature that allows you to see flight prices based on the day and you can easily choose the cheapest dates to fly. For renting a car, I suggest checking out Turo! I've had pleasant experiences in the past and it is usually much cheaper than a standard rental company- think of it as Airbnb but with vehicles.
I highly recommend holding off on booking your lodging prior to choosing your location, especially if you haven't narrowed down what area or region of Alaska you want to elope at! Alaska is a huge state, with many different regions that would make incredible elopement destinations! In order to reduce the amount of travel time on your elopement day, I highly encourage that you stay somewhere close to your location (especially if you want getting ready photos). When you're ready to book your lodging, I suggest viewing it as part of your whole elopement experience. Stay somewhere that you'll really enjoy spending time together and having fun at, it is your wedding day after all! I love Airbnb's, cabins, treehouses- just to name a few. Think about any special amenities or splurges you may want to have (hot tub, pool table, firepit, nice bathtub) and take that into consideration when choosing a spot!
Choose Your Activities and other Details
Alright, now that you've handled all of the biggest decisions and settled on the main things, its time to get to work on some of the smaller details. Do you want to elope with guests, or just the two of you? If you decide to have an elopement just the two of you, but want to include family and friends who aren't physically present, consider having your closest loved ones write you letters to read sometime during your elopement or Facetime them when you're getting ready.
Start thinking about what traditions you want to include in your ceremony, how you want it to be structured, and ideas to make your ceremony extra special. What do you want to say in your vows (and on that note whether or not you want to write them in vow books as keepsakes from the day). Go shopping for your elopement attire (if you need inspiration, check out this Best Elopement Wedding Dress Guide). Consider if you want to have a first look or if you want to get ready together. What would you like to drink and eat throughout your day? Do you want to do a first dance? Consider planning a special surprise for your partner or think of any special, sentimental details that are unique to you and your relationship that you want to include in your experience.
What activities do you want to include on your elopement? I always suggest to do something that makes you feel the most alive, happy, excited, and in love! It's your wedding day after all- you should enjoy it to it's fullest. Do something that feels right TO YOU, not what you feel like you *should* do. Whatever you want to do, whatever fills you up the most- is 100% valid. There's SO much to do and explore in Alaska, so I wanted to provide a few ideas of what you could do during your elopement that are specifically unique to Alaska:
Take a helicopter tour to a glacier (or another destination!) and land on a glacier to explore the ice
Go on a dog-sledding adventure (even in summer!)
Try and chase the Northern Lights, aka the aurora (Fall-early spring)
Kayak in the fjords, a glacier fed lake, the sound, or an iceberg lagoon
Go whale watching and see how many different species you can see
Eat all the delicious fresh seafood (Salmon, halibut and crab are incredible!)
Visit Katmai National Park and Preserve to see the grizzly bears
See the tallest peak in North America and one of the most incredible National Parks- Denali
Do an epic backpacking adventure and do a multiday Hut to Hut Traverse
Visit the least visited National Park in America- the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve and explore without roads or trails
And that's just the beginning!
Create Your Alaska Elopement Timeline
You're getting so close, you're almost there! Now, with the help of your photographer, it's time to start putting together your timeline for your day. Leave lots of room for spontaneity and extra time so you don't feel rushed or stressed. Make sure you don't underestimate transition times or how long it takes to hike somewhere. Ultimately, it's important to leave ample time to celebrate and enjoy the moment! Let yourself soak in every last drop of the sunset and the breeze, take time to really live in the moment and experience every single second. I also recommend working with your photographer to decide the best time of day and lighting for your photos based on the location you choose. Some locations photograph better at sunset while others are best at sunrise. Still need help visualizing what a real elopement day timeline looks like? Check out these sample timelines for more inspiration! *Note: these are not based on a particular time of year and times and sunset/sunrises are completely made up for informational purposes*
Sample Timelines for Your Alaska Elopement:
Helicopter & Glacier Dogsled Tour for Two w/ Family Ceremony
10:00- Photographer arrives, getting ready & detail photos, making breakfast together and for loved ones to enjoy before your day
12:00-Arrive at Lodge, check in for trip
12:30-Leave Lodge in Helicopter
12:45-Arrive at dog sledding area- mush dog team, go on 2 mile ride through the snow and meet the husky puppies!
1:45-Leave dog sledding area
2:00-Land on glacier, explore around, take fun & relaxed couples photos
3:15-Land in helicopter at lodge
3:45-Leave Lodge, snack in car!
4:45- Arrive at trailhead, meet family and friends, get geared up and ready to go
5:45-Arrive at the top, explore around, get ready for ceremony
6:45-Ceremony finished, pop sparkling water to celebrate! First dance
7:00-Photos with family and friends
7:30- Fun, relaxed couples photos
8:20-Start hiking down
9:00- Arrive back at trailhead, head to Airbnb
9:30-Arrive at Airbnb, have dinner catered by private chef
10:30-Have campfire and smores, tell stories or play music or games all together
11:00- Photography coverage ends
Kayaking in an Iceberg Lagoon
6:00-Photographer arrives, getting ready & detail photos
6:45-First look outside Airbnb, few photos, get ready to go
7:30-Leave for guide shop
8:00-Arrive at guide shop
8:30-Board jetboat and head towards glacier lagoon, enjoying scenery and trying to spot wildlife
9:30-Arrive at lagoon, get in kayaks and spend the day kayaking around the glacier lagoon next to giant icebergs, next to a glacier face and exploring a beautiful beach surrounded by incredibly beautiful mountains. We'll stop for lunch, we can explore the beach and take photos with the mountains and the icebergs, as well as in the kayaks themselves. Then at some point in our adventure, when the time feels right to you both, you can say your vows and get married!!
4:45-Leave lagoon in a helicopter
5:00-Helicopter lands at airport, get out and everything settled, head over to Airbnb
5:15- Cook delicious meal, eat, celebrate, play a board game or have a campfire, read letters from loved ones
6:30- Head to beach to take fun and relaxed couples photos, have your first dance
7:30-Photo coverage ends for the day
Whale Watching Followed by Ceremony with Loved Ones
9:00-Photographer arrives, getting ready & detail photos
10:00-First look outside Airbnb, few photos, get ready to go
11:00-Check in for tour
11:30-Whale Watching Tour departs (small boat), explore waters, looking for wildlife, and enjoying scenery
3:00-Tour over, drive to ceremony location
3:30- Arrive at ceremony location, meet loved ones, get ready to go
4:15- Ceremony ends, sign paperwork, pop sparkling water to celebrate, first dance!
4:30- Photos with family and friends
5:15-Family heads to Airbnb, take fun & relaxed couples photos, explore beach
6:00-Leave for Airbnb to join family
6:15-Arrive at Airbnb, cook meal with family, eat, play games, hang out, toasts, celebrate, eat dessert
7:30- Photo coverage ends
2 Person Elopement w/ a 7 Mile Hike
11:00- Photographer arrives, getting ready & detail photos
12:00- First look outside Airbnb, few photos, get ready to go
1:45- Arrive at trailhead, gear up and get ready to go
5:30- Arrive at top, explore around, touch ups, some photos
6:30- Picnic and read letters from loved ones not present
7:30- Ceremony, handwritten vows
8:00- Ceremony ends, sign paperwork, pop sparkling water to celebrate, first dance!
8:15- Fun, relaxed couples photos, explore around
9:30-Start hiking down, take photos with the stars/aurora if possible
11:30- Arrive back at trailhead, photo coverage wraps up
What to Pack for Your Alaska Elopement
Wondering what to bring with you? I've got you covered with this packing list:
Wedding Permit (if applicable)
Marriage License (and pen!)
Parking Pass (if applicable)
Vows and any other sentimental details
Snacks and lots of water
Extra layers of clothing (the weather can change drastically very quickly! It gets pretty dang cold out in the dark so you want to be prepared!)
Bug spray!! (especially in the height of summer when the bugs are at their worst)
Headlamps (for hiking in the dark for sunrise or sunset elopements)
Trash bag (Leave no Trace!)
And that's it (well, unless you decide to go backpacking or on another adventure. Then you'll need a lot more supplies). I'll bring all the rest. I am a chronic over packer when it comes to elopements and will have everything that you need (including the stuff you didn't even think about!). I'll have lots and lots of snacks, energy/coffee shots, extra layers and blankets if you need to borrow them, a first aid kit, my elopement emergency kit (basically my Mary Poppins bag ranging from medicine, hair and makeup touch up supplies, to a Tide to go pen!).
Yay! It's finally here, the day you've been waiting for. You and your partner get to go and get married, say your vows and commit the rest of your lives to one another! I hope it's everything you've dreamed of. So relax, have fun and enjoy the absolute best day ever.
Pin It For Future Planning!
Want More Resources?
Get ideas for your ceremony and how to make your elopement ceremony extra special!
Struggling on what to wear on your elopement day? Check out these best elopement wedding dresses that are perfect for any adventure!
Get a budget breakdown and learn how much an elopement costs in comparison to a traditional wedding.
Hire a Photographer for Your Alaska Elopement
Hi! My name is Kathleen and I'm an adventure wedding and elopement photographer (and your new friend!). I'm here to help guide you to having the ultimate wedding day experience, and to document every single moment of it. I would love to help you plan your elopement and answer any questions you may have! Learn more about me or my Alaska Elopement Packages.
Get in touch with me and let's start planning your dream adventure.