How to Elope in Svalbard
How to Have a Destination Wedding in Svalbard
Up in the Arctic, close to the North Pole, lies one of the most remote and jaw-droppingly beautiful places on the planet. Untouched, rugged wilderness, beautiful mountains, tundra, glaciers, the Northern Lights, a colorful town, and a spattering of fascinating wildlife (including polar bears!)- Svalbard is one of the most incredible places on earth.
If you're looking for the adventure of a lifetime, consider having your elopement or destination wedding in Svalbard!
I'm an adventure wedding & elopement photographer and avid traveler who loves helping couples plan & documenting their day. I would love to document your elopement in Svalbard! Keep reading for some of top tips for planning a Svalbard destination wedding.
The Best Time of Year to Elope in Svalbard
Are you wondering "When should I go to Svalbard?" and "What is the best time to elope in Svalbard?". Truly, there are no wrong answers- it just depends on what type of experience you're looking for and what you want your elopement day and trip to look like. There are three main seasons in Svalbard, each with their own unique advantages!
Polar Summer (May 17th-September 30th)
This is the most popular season to visit Svalbard. May to the middle of August is the best time to see most of the wildlife in Svalbard. However, you'll want to do some research depending on what activities you'd like to include because some experiences such as kayaking don't generally start until June. In high summer (July/early August) expect 24 hours of sunlight! September has beautiful light & sunsets as Polar Night is approaching and you can still do some summer activities. There are also some fall colors in certain areas!
Northern Light Winter/Polar Night (October 1st-February 28th)
While this is an amazing time to visit in general due to all of the winter activities, the Northern Lights, and all of the fun festivals, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it for an elopement. A portion of this time is in 24 hour darkness, so it's a bit harder to take all day elopement photos as long exposures take time & patience to execute. If you want to incorporate nighttime photos into your day, I suggest visiting during sunny winter!
Sunny Winter (March 1st-May 16th)
This time of year is a great time to visit if you're looking to experience snow activities in Svalbard yet don't want to be in 24 hour darkness. It's the best of both worlds with the beautiful artic winter and beautiful sunlight. The lighting and sunsets are also magnificent during March & April! There is still a slight chance to witness the Northern Lights at the beginning of March if that is something you're looking for.
Things to Do During Your Svalbard Elopement
There are SO many unbelievably fun, unique activities you can experience in Svalbard. Your wedding day is only going to happen once, so why not celebrate it with a once in a lifetime experience?! Take some time to brainstorm together and really reflect on what's most important to you and what elements & experiences you want to include in your day. I recommend doing 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 the fullest and do whatever you truly want to do.
Here are a few ideas of activities you could include on your elopement day that are unique to Svalbard:
Polar Summer/Late Sunny Winter Activities
Get up close to glaciers on a boat (you'll have a great opportunity to see wildlife here as well!)
Go kayaking & get close to icebergs and glaciers
Hike on a glacier
Explore the wilderness via ATVs
See Svalbard by air via a helicopter tour
Go hiking and experience some of Svalbard's magnificent views
Whale Watching (Svalbard is the perfect place to see a wide range of whales like blue whales, beluga whales, & humpback whales!)
Polar Night/Sunny Winter Activities
When everything is snow covered, travel to remote areas by going snowmobiling
Have a wildly fun adventure by going dog sledding!
Chase the magical Northern Lights (best from mid-September to mid-March)
Explore ice caves
Adventure on foot and go snowshoeing!
Take a brewery tour at Svalbard Brewery
Get coffee and polar bear shaped chocolates from Fruene (the northernmost chocolatier!).
Have a first dance or listen to music
Enjoy a picnic
Play board games
Write your vows together while getting ready
Read letters from friends & family not present
Sit in a hot tub & sip your favorite drinks
*Important Note*: For all of these activities, INCLUDING hiking you will need a guide. Polar bears are prevalent in this area and guides are both armed and knowledgeable in the event of an encounter. You don't want to walk outside the city limits of Longyearbyen without someone who is in possession of a firearm & the knowledge of how to use it due to polar bears.
*Note Two*: It is illegal to purposefully seek polar bears out. However, you can go on other tours and hope you get lucky enough to see one!
How to Legally Elope in Svalbard
Svalbard is a Norwegian archipelago in the Artic Ocean. Therefore, you'll need to follow Norway's marriage laws. You don't have to be citizens of Norway to get legally married there, but you do need to have legal stay. This can be accomplished through a residence permit, visitor's visa, or visa free stay.
With the process being a bit complicated, if you are not a Norwegian resident, I recommend doing the legal paperwork in your home country to make everything easier. In fact, many couples choose to complete the legal stuff in their home country/state before or after their actual elopement date for ease of mind or other reasons (buying a house, healthcare, etc.).
The day you say your vows and commit the rest of your life to your partner is your wedding day! I promise that even if you do the paperwork a different day that it will be just as special and meaningful.
How to Get to Svalbard for Your Elopement
The best way to reach Svalbard is to fly there. You will most likely have a connecting flight from Oslo, Norway to Longyearbyen (~3 hour flight). It's then best to take the bus into town. There's really no need to rent a car as you can walk easily through town and need a guide to leave town.
Fun fact: Longyearbyen airport is the world's most northerly airport that receives regularly scheduled flights!
Pro-tip: Flights can fill up quickly to Svalbard, especially during the summer months. So, it is best to book as soon as possible!
Lodging for Your Elopement in Svalbard
While lodging may be a bit more limited in Svalbard than in other locations, there are still several wonderful options to choose from! Definitely make sure to book early as lodging can book up a year in advance during the busy season. Here are a few of my favorite options:
Your Svalbard Elopement Checklist
1. Find an elopement photographer
Find someone you connect with personally, someone who's work you LOVE, and someone who has experience with elopements
2. Pick a date
After you decide what experiences are most important to you, what season you want to visit in, and connect with a photographer- choose a date for your ceremony!
3. Book your flights & accommodation
While remote, lodging can book up a year in advance (especially in busy season) so it is best to plan and book as early as possible!
4. Decide if you want to invite anyone
Do you want to elope just the two of you, or bring a few close family and friends along?
5. Choose a specific location and book any elopement day activities
You'll want to book any big experiences (like a boat tour or dog sledding tour) as soon as possible so those don't book out on your date! Work with your photographer to figure out a plan for the day, create a timeline, and get a general idea of where you'd like to say your vows.
6. Plan your ceremony and write your vows
Start thinking about what you want your vows to say, how you want the ceremony structured, and ideas to make your ceremony extra special.
7. Make sure your passports & travel documents are up to date
8. Plan any last minute details
Consider if you want to have a first look or get ready together. What do you want to eat & drink during the day? Consider planning a special surprise for your partner or think of any special, sentimental details unique to your relationship that you want to include in your day.
9. Read up on sustainability tips from Svalbard's website
You can help leave the least impact possible
10. Do the legal paperwork in your home country (if applicable)
Get married and have the best day! Yay!
Hire a Svalbard Elopement Photographer for Your Svalbard Wedding
Hi! My name is Kathleen and I'm an adventure wedding and elopement photographer (and your new friend!). I'm also an avid hiker & backpacker who loves adventure of any kind (most of the time with my dog Ranger!). I'm here to help you to have the ultimate wedding day experience, and to document every single moment of it.
I would love to help you plan & document your Svalbard elopement or Svalbard destination wedding!
Check out my Info + Pricing page for more information on my process, my Svalbard elopement packages, and my pricing.
Get in touch with me and let's start planning your dream adventure.