Choosing to elope is both exhilarating and scary to some couples. Choosing to elope to Alaska is even more exhilarating!! More often than not the decision came because they started planning a large wedding and immediately decided against it. Often some couples just know that they want their wedding day to be private as well. Whatever the case is for you, I’m so excited that you are choosing Alaska as your destination! If you’re eloping to another destination, some of this (minus exact locations) will still apply, so read on!
If you and your Fiancé/Fianceé are the adventurous outdoorsy type, it makes sense that Alaska would call you! Alaska is packed with endless amounts of gorgeous scenery and loads of adventure. Does that sound about right? Well, you probably have questions weighing in your mind about how to elope in Alaska like how, where, what, who, when, all the things! Often planning an elopement from afar is intimidating as you’re not sure what to expect or who to talk to. That’s where I come in! This blog is full of everything you need to know about how to elope in Alaska. From locations, weather guidance, clothing suggestions, best times of the year, you name it! I’m also open to any questions you may have so you can drop those in the comments, or reach out to me directly. Without further ado…
When to Elope in Alaska
Before we can dive into exact locations, we should talk a little bit about the seasons, weather, and sun situation. If you have a specific idea or ‘look’ for your elopement photos it’s important to think about how the weather and locations affect that.
Land of the Midnight Sun
Summertime: During the summer is when we experience our longest days, and the further South or North will determine just how much longer or shorter the days are. It could be a full hour difference for sunset or sunrise at any given time between Fairbanks and Anchorage. If you’re wanting soft and romantic sunset light, then it’s good to know that it might be closer to midnight rather than 5 or 6 like most other places. Thinking of a sunrise ceremony? It will likely be closer to 4am rather than 6 or 7.
Wintertime: During the winter our days are much shorter and the sun is at a more extreme angle than during the summer. Usually, we end up working with around 4 hours of good light in a day. This often lends itself to very romantic golden hour imagery mid-afternoon(unheard of!). If you’re having a winter elopement be sure to keep sunset times in mind when planning your ceremony time.
Weather + Seasons when planning to Elope to Alaska
In Alaska there are some ‘prime times’ weather-wise. Usually, summertime is a wonderful, warm, green and inviting time of year. There is sunshine around the clock and the weather is usually pretty stable, I’m not going to guarantee this though because Alaska always makes me look bad, hah!. Check out some weather data here for a more in-depth look at this.
Between late-May to mid-August is what I consider ‘summer’ in Alaska. Into August is when the rainy season starts, but it’s not quite fall yet since the leaves haven’t turned colors. There are wildflowers in abundance, usually Lupine, during earlier months and then towards August the Fireweed starts sprouting up!
Fall in Alaska usually starts becoming more apparent mid-August when leaves tinge yellow and the rainy season kicks in. Don’t let that scare you, this time of year is GORGEOUS. The colors between Mid-August into September(sometimes early October) are stunning. If you’re really wanting to get some rich fall colors, September is your best bet. Being okay with the possibility of rain is also recommended. This time of year is usually best for catching Fireweed as it is blooming everywhere. Towards the end when it’s dying it turns red and makes just as awesome of a backdrop as when it’s blooming.
Winter in Alaska likes to play hide and seek sometimes. We’ve had first snowfall as early as before Halloween, and as late as early December. My recommendation is to aim for the dead of winter though, as the outskirts are sometimes a little iffier. January and February tend to be safe months, but one time we had rain on New Year’s Eve… Which leads us into backup plans.
Tying into talking about the sunlight situation in summer vs. winter, we also need to consider all weather situations. Alaska is a whirlwind of weather patterns, that sometimes have no rhyme or reason, that can affect your wedding day.
I’m 100% game to photograph in all forms of weather, so long as it isn’t detrimental to anyone’s safety! Rain, shine or snow, all weather is beautiful weather and can lend itself to gorgeous backdrops to your special day.
It was windy and hailing sideways during this session below, but it was so very worth it!
Fly out Elopements: If you have your heart set on a mountain peak or glacier that involves flying, then thinking about the weather is especially important. Inclement weather, such as a blizzard,s rainstorms, lightning, etc. can affect and postpone plane and helicopter flights. Having a black up location on the ground is never a bad idea. Which, when planning flyout elopements the transportation companies will provide a couple of back-up dates due to weather as well. I’m more than happy to accommodate date changes so long as I know the backup date options in advance.
Non-Fly out Elopements: If you’re planning on staying firmly on the ground then that lends itself to more flexibility due to weather. If the roads are slick with ice and it’s blizzarding (or raining) in the winter, I may recommend rescheduling if the trek involves a long drive. Especially if you aren’t comfortable with winter driving and are in a rental car you’re unfamiliar with. If it’s raining and windy that usually is more workable and just makes for moodier/dramatic imagery. We may be more inclined to try and find a location that helps shield us from the weather a bit. For example, we probably wouldn’t want to be along the Turnagain Arm on the coast and would be more shielded in a forest setting or somewhere that isn’t a wind tunnel.
Where to Elope
Now that we’ve talked about seasons, weather, and back up plans, etc. now we can talk about different areas around Alaska! First off, I HIGHLY recommend thinking about areas that mean something to you. If you’re from Alaska and have any sentimental locations think about what those would be like to get married at. If you aren’t from Alaska or don’t have a preferred spot, then I’ll list a few below for ya! I’ll start from further North then work to Southern areas. If you’re down for some location scouting I usually use Instagram hashtags and location tag searches for specific areas to get an idea of what they look like. Google Earth is also a great tool that I use often to get a feel for certain areas.
Denali National Park
No matter the time of year this area is magical. The sprawling mountains as far as you can see covered in greens, yellows or snow-covered trees is magnificent to look at. I have camped out in Denali before in the spring and while it was still chilly, it was quite beautiful.
My favorite experience in Denali is when this lovely couple from Florida chose to elope in Ruth Glacier near the Sheldon Chalet. It was early May one year and we flew in by prop plane. You can see more of that here. They flew out of Talkeetna instead of driving further into the mountains North. It was a quick trip and super seamless.
If you want to drive into Denali for your elopement, flying into Fairbanks would be the closest airport. Otherwise, the drive from Anchorage is stunning as well!
As mentioned, Ruth Glacier is in the area of Sheldon Chalet, which in and of itself is a gorgeous place to elope as well. They have a gorgeous remote luxury hotel deep in the mountains fo Denali only accessible by private helicopter. How epic is that?!
The Mat-Su Valley encompasses many places that would make for a gorgeous elopement location. Hatcher Pass is the most popular as well as Matanuska and Knik Glaciers. Hatcher pass is accessible by car and is a very mountainous location that is stunning year-round. If you want to be able to drive or hike further in, I’d recommend this area for elopements between July-September as that’s when the main gate to Summit Lake is open. There are also some great off-roading trails if you want to get off the beaten path. Around the lodge is great year-round and would be the perfect setting for an intimate wedding.
Matanuska Glacier is a further drive out past Palmer and involves a bit of a hike in ad usually costs around $30 a person for general hiking. If you’re wanting to plan an intimate wedding with more people, call in advance! You can also fly to this glacier no problem.
Knik Glacier is more safely accessed by helicopter, there are options to drive out but it’s a very long and sometimes sketchy trek. Taking off from the Knik River Lodge is always the closest option and is a very scenic place to return for a meal or ‘reception’ of sorts.
Anchorage & Chugiak & Girdwood
This area is often the most common choice when couples elope to Alaska. Anchorage is a very central city with a main hub airport. Most people often fly into Anchorage and travel South or North from there either by plane or driving.
Anchorage has lots of pretty wooded areas, mountain access at Flattop and is just a short drive from Girdwood. Girdwood is a gorgeous little ski-town that during the winter is home to many activities, and during the summer is a destination for many hikers. The lush green forests and easy access to many gorgeous locations make it super appealing to couples. There are also plenty of areas along the Turnagain Arm (between Anchorage and Girdwood) that are rocky and beautiful with ocean and mountain overlooks. Popular places on the way to and within Girdwood include Beluga Point, Bird Point, Moose Meadow, Virgin Creek Falls, and Alyeska (contact Alyeska Hotel for booking information on their mountain top). In Chugiak, you have Eklutna Lake, Eagle River Nature Center and a couple of water fall options as well!
The Kenai peninsula has a sweet place in my heart because I grew up in Homer through highschool. The quaint fishing town on the ocean was the perfect setting with mountains, beaches and vast fields of Lupine and Fireweed. The Homer Spit is a very popular destination and is gorgeous for a seaside elopement.
Juneau & Southcentral Area
Juneau has quickly become one of my favorite locations to photograph elopements. The lush rainforests, towering mountains, and vast ocean make it the perfect little getaway city. Juneau is the Capital of Alaska and is where a lot of Alaska’s tourism occurs in the summer with up to 7 cruise ships docking daily. It gets crazy!
If you’re eloping to Juneau chance are you’ve heard about Mendenhall Glacier, which is stunning for sure! But there are lots of other gorgeous areas around there in addition to that. Mt. Roberts, Brotherhood Bridge Trail, Treadwell Mine, Auke Bay, etc.
What to Wear When you Elope in Alaska
As mentioned, Alaska can be pretty iffy with the weather sometimes and coming prepared is NEVER a bad idea!
Layers: On the big day you can wear your usual wedding attire, obviously, but under and over layers are good to bring. Better to have and not need, than need and not have, is what I always say.
In the summer it is usually pretty warm, but it can get cool on occasion. Bring a light coat or windbreaker along with maybe some nude leggings(so they don’t show!) to wear under your dress. If you’re used to warmer temps and 50 degrees is chilly for you, bring a sweater or thicker jackets. In the fall it gets ranier and chillier, so having a rain jacket and rain boots on hand is recommended in addition to warmer layers. During the wintertime bring long johns to wear under a suit, nude leggings under gowns, and functional accessories that you can incorporate into your photos, scarves, hats, winter jackets, gloves, sweaters, fur coats, etc. is all recommended. Layers over your wedding attire are okay too, hats and gloves, nice jackets, all add to the experience!
Don’t forget about your feet! If you want a wedding adventure, having the right footwear is required! During the summer anything from flats, birks, chacos, hiking boots, rain boots + are doable. Having a pair of durable shoes to wear when we are making our way out to a specific location is recommended and then you can change into something more summery if the location allows. The same applies for fall, but good hiking boots or rain boots are more so recommended so that you keep your feet warm and dry if it rains. In the winter having good and warm winter boots is the best option! If you want something on the cuter side rather than ugly winter boots, check into Sorels, they have cute options! Depending on the footwear consider the type of sock or lack thereof.
Marriage Laws & Special Use Permits to Elope in Alaska
Now to the nitty-gritty of the legalities of getting married in Alaska. It’s pretty straight forward, you need an officiant and two witnesses for your Alaska elopement. You have the option of hiring an officiant to come for your ceremony, a family member or friend can apply for a one-time license to marry you in the state of Alaska. For more marriage license information, visit this Alaska Gov website. For your witnesses, if you don’t have friends or family along you can have your trusted vendors sign your license as witnesses! I have signed many a license and it’s always so exciting! If you need a second witness it’s likely your officiant will offer to bring one, or if I have a second shooter or assistant they can, or an elopement planner or pilot can as well!
Many parks and recreation areas will require a permit, such as Denali National Park, Eklutna Lake, and areas of Hatcher Pass. If you’re wanting to get married in a specific area I highly recommend looking it up ahead of time and seeing if a permit is required for ‘events’. If you aren’t sure or can’t find anything on it, I’m always happy to help!
I have an extensive list of vendors I looooove to work with! This includes florists, helicopter companies, officiants, planners, hair and makeup, you name it! I want to make sure I connect you with the best team possible to make your elopement dreams come true.
If you weren’t sold on an Alaska elopement before, but you are now, I would absolutely LOVE to help you put this together! Reach out so we can go over all the fun details!