Do you want to have your marriage in Iceland? What do you need to do before throwing a wedding in Iceland? Are you planning on an elopement wedding or searching for Icelandic wedding packages? Will COVID-19 influence your planning? Read on to find out all the information about why Iceland is the perfect country for a destination wedding.
Landscapes out of this world, black sandy beaches, cute wooden churches, green fields next to towering volcanoes and glaciers, long summer nights, or dancing Northern Lights - Iceland truly sells itself as a fun, different place for a destination wedding.
Not only that, but it's also a good location for a marriage proposal or a honeymoon. Many people choose to have their wedding ceremony in Iceland and then spend their honeymoon exploring the countryside.
Photo by Dmitry Schemelev
Reasons to get married in Iceland? Iceland's wedding requirements are very straightforward; you can get married within every religion or lack thereof, same-sex marriages are legal, and your wedding photographs will look stunning!
We at Guide to Iceland would, of course, recommend hiring local photographers, as they will know about all the best locations in each area. A few local photographers were kind enough to permit us to use some of their stunning wedding photos in this article.
Of course, if you’re planning to wed in the near future, it’s important to note that COVID-19 will play into your preparations. So, before learning everything about tying the knot in Iceland, here is some information about how COVID-19 could affect your Icelandic wedding.
Photo by Stephane YAICH
If Iceland is your dream place for a destination wedding, you’ll be happy to know that the country has remained open to travelers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Iceland has been a leader in testing and contact tracing and has consistently kept infection rates low. Now, with people being vaccinated around the world, the risk is becoming lower each day.
Here are answers to some common questions you might be wondering about while planning your Iceland wedding during the pandemic.
Can I still get married in Iceland during COVID-19?
Yes, you can still get married in the land of fire and ice. As long as you have either completed your quarantine or have verified you have COVID-19 antibodies, the country will be yours to explore as you see fit. This freedom includes having an unforgettable wedding with your significant other.
It will be important for you to stay aware of the current health guidelines while you’re here and to respect the social-distancing and mask-wearing requirements when you are around others who are not in your party. However, the Icelandic countryside has ample room for you and your beloved to be wed in front of a spectacular natural background.
Will I be able to have my wedding at the destination of my choice?
Because you can find so many of Iceland’s most essential attractions in nature, there is an excellent chance that you will be able to be married at your dream destination. However, because of the limitations that all sites must follow to keep the virus’s risk low, you may find that access to some places is temporarily unavailable.
We recommend that you or your wedding planner call ahead to the administrators of the sites you’re considering to find out the details about if and when you can hold a ceremony. This way, you can take some of the guesswork out of your special day and keep everyone involved safe.
How does COVID-19 impact wedding planning and partying?
Even though there are currently some restrictions regarding the size of crowds, you should still be able to plan and enjoy a perfect wedding party in Iceland.
If you choose to use a local wedding planner to coordinate your event, they will be communicating with you in a way that is safe and within the local health authorities’ guidelines. The same goes for any caterers or photographers you might be using. Social distancing and wearing masks are the norms in Iceland, so everyone involved can be safe.
There is currently a limit on how many people may gather at one time in a particular location. This limit has changed over the past year in response to the infection rate, so we recommend you frequently check our COVID-19 information page. It’s updated daily and will give you all of the details on the current government-mandated guidelines you’ll need to follow while you’re here.
Now that you know more about keeping healthy on this momentous occasion, here is what Iceland has to offer your dream wedding.
Photo by Beatriz Pérez Moya
Iceland makes it easy for foreigners to get married within the country. However, there are some laws around it, and you will always need to fill out some paperwork.
Both parties need to be at least 18 years old and not already married. If one or both have been married before then, they will need to provide proof of divorce. All documents you send in will need to be original and need to have a simultaneous translation if they are not in English or any of the Scandinavian languages. You must submit all the documents at least three weeks before the date of the wedding. Still, to make things easier, it's possible to e-mail the documents first and hand over the original documents in person, no later than five days before the wedding date. If you hire a wedding planner, they can do this for you.
If documents do not arrive within this timeframe, the marriage is considered canceled.
Photo by Michael Cox
After the ceremony has taken place, it is possible to obtain a wedding certificate in English from the National Registry, Þjóðskrá. Find out further details at the National Registry's website.
Onto the fun stuff. Where should you have the wedding ceremony in Iceland?
You don't need a church to get married in Iceland if you're adventurous; you can choose to get married anywhere within the stunning nature. That includes on top of a mountain, inside an ice cave, right by an impressive waterfall, in a meadow, in one of Iceland's National Parks, or on one of the country's iconic beaches.
Iceland is covered with stunning waterfalls - too many to count - so many people choose to have their wedding photos taken by an impressive waterfall or even hold the ceremony there. Just consider that the grander the waterfall is, the noisier it is as well, so for the ceremony, you might want to be at a little distance away to hear the vows of your loved one.
Photo by Styrmir Kári & Heiðdís, by Dynjandi waterfall
The sky isn't even your limit when it comes to tying the knot in Iceland - as it's probably also possible to have the wedding ceremony conducted within a helicopter! Or at least you can rent one to take you from one mind-bogglingly beautiful location to another, such as into the Icelandic highlands, for some truly impressive wedding photos.
Or if you want a mix between a church and nature, you can combine the two - why not have an ice cave wedding? There's a chapel made out of ice inside Langjökull glacier, accessible all year round.
For an outdoor wedding, be aware that the weather may not always want to collaborate, so it's useful to either have a house nearby or erect a tent for some shelter from the elements. Always have a Plan B for an outdoor wedding in Iceland. And if it isn't just the two of you eloping and you're having your wedding ceremony outdoors, you will most definitely want to have your wedding reception sheltered (otherwise, you'll end up with cold and weather-battered guests!).
Iceland is full of stunning locations to choose from, both popular tourist tick-off destinations, as well as hidden and more intimate getaways.
Iceland is predominantly a Lutheran country but still caters to people of every religion as well as atheists. If you have your eyes set on a church wedding, then you can choose between dozens of churches. There are big ones, tiny ones, picturesque ones, old ones, traditional ones, and even one that moves from location to location.
The churches are mostly Lutheran Christian, but there are also a handful of Catholic ones to choose from. Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and Paganism also exist within Iceland to a small extent (and Hinduism to a very small extent). However, currently, there are no impressive Mosques, Synagogues, Buddhist temples, or Pagan temples within the country, only smaller venues. There are plans to erect both a Mosque and Pagan temple within Reykjavík in the upcoming years.
The most iconic church in Iceland, and the country's tallest one, is Hallgrímskirkja, which fits around 750 people sitting. In contrast, some of the smallest churches in Iceland may only sit around ten people. So you're sure to find one that fits your party, no matter the size!
Perhaps the most popular churches in Reykjavík for wedding ceremonies are Dómkirkjan and Fríkirkjan, situated right in the city center, and close by is one of the most popular venues to throw the wedding reception, IÐNÓ, overlooking the city pond Tjörnin.
If you're Catholic, then no need to despair; there's a gorgeous Catholic church right in Reykjavík city center. There are other smaller ones in several locations around the country, including in Akureyri and Ísafjörður in the Westfjords.
You can take your pick of cute little churches in the countryside, such as Hofskirkja church in southeast Iceland. The church is ideally located close to the glacier lagoon Jökulsárlón where you can get some truly magnificent wedding photos.
The iconic black church by Búðir is, however, one of the most popular ones. Right next to it is a boutique hotel, perfect for a small or large wedding reception, and the surroundings are stunning.
For the wedding reception, you can choose several venues, including charming or sophisticated countryside hotels, museums, theatres, music halls, or concert venues as large as Harpa Concert Hall. Alternatively, you can rent a large tent and set up your wedding reception out in nature, but sheltered from the weather.
So no matter if you're looking for a giant but sophisticated hoo-ha, a romantic getaway elopement, an adventure wedding, or a small countryside charming reception, Iceland caters for it all.
Indicated in the name, Iceland can be a bit on the chilly side. Of course, that is especially the case during winter, but also something to keep in mind for a summer wedding.
Be sure to dress warmly for a winter wedding outdoors in Iceland. Even if you choose to wear a beautiful white gown, make sure you've got a warm coat to put on top, and remember that no-one will see the thermal leg warmers underneath (and you'll be happy to wear them!). The same goes for the men, of course.
Summers are mild, with temperatures hovering around 15°C (59°F), and you might have some wind or rain. Note that the daylight is endless in the summer, with the constant midnight sun lighting up the nights between May and August.
Summer is the high season and can be pricier for weddings than the winter season.
Photo by Styrmir Kári & Heiðdís
It's also good to keep in mind that if you are doing an outdoor ceremony and looking to get some spectacular photos on top of mountains or behind waterfalls, it's very likely that your shoes and the bottom of your dress will get muddy and dirty. Many of Iceland's most spectacular attractions take a little effort to get to, with earth trails that can get muddy after rain (and the trails around the waterfalls are almost always muddy due to the constant spray).
Bringing an extra pair of shoes is a good idea, or simply wear a sensible pair of shoes for the ceremony.
Above, you can see the Icelandic national dress, worn by Iceland's former Lady of the Mountain (an incarnation of the nation's identity). The dress is traditionally black with gold trimmings, but it's also possible to find bright blue or white versions of it, with gold or silver trimmings.
You can rent the Icelandic national dress if you feel like going for a very traditional Icelandic wedding. Another touch of Icelandic authenticity is to wear the woolen jumpers called lopapeysa. These can be custom-made into a design, pattern, and colors of your choosing (perhaps to match a pattern on the wedding dress or the suit) if you contact a knitter in Iceland.
Someone will need to officiate the wedding, but that someone does not need to be a priest. There are priests available from all belief systems, including a Nordic religion Goði (chieftain) and a humanist or a judge overseer if you would like to have a completely non-religious ceremony.
There has been a large increase in following the Nordic Pagan religion Ásatrú in recent years. It's possible to have a traditional Pagan ceremony for those who want to do something different. Only in Iceland, Denmark, and Norway does the Pagan religion have the same rights as other religions. A certified Pagan chieftain can lawfully wed you in these countries.
It's up to you to choose where a Pagan wedding ceremony takes place. It can be either indoors or outdoors, and you have some say in the style of the wedding by consulting with your chieftain in advance. Each wedding ceremony is influenced by its surroundings, and no two Pagan wedding ceremonies are the same.
At the start of each ceremony, the area is blessed, and then selected verses from the Edda Prose are read before the chieftain gives a ceremonial speech. The Earth's primary powers hold a significant role in the ceremony, often with a circle of fire surrounding the ceremonial location. The couple will also drink mead (or a drink of your own choice, such as champagne) from a Viking horn and say their vows while holding a brass ring.
You can even decide to style your wedding in a Game of Thrones-style, drinking from horns and making it take place in one of the settings where the famous TV series was filmed.
Photo by Alvin Mahmudov
Iceland does not discriminate against sexualities, and same-sex marriages have been allowed since 2010 when the Icelandic parliament unanimously agreed to the new law. Shortly after that, Iceland's prime minister at the time, the openly lesbian Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, was the first head of government in the world to take advantage of the new law and married her longtime partner.
Iceland is regarded as one of the world's best countries for gay marriages, and the LGBTQ+ culture in Iceland is thriving.
Photo by Joseph Pearson
Yearly there's the Reykjavík Pride festival in August, with about a third of the nation attending. This festival is a huge celebration, one of the largest in the country, and very family-friendly. Iceland is a very queer welcoming destination, and many gay and lesbian couples have opted to travel to Iceland to wed in the past years. Some choose to do so because same-sex marriages are not allowed in their home countries. Still, others simply want to have a stunning destination wedding in a very welcoming and including society.
All wedding planners in Iceland welcome queer people with open arms, whether they have a special focus on LGBTQ+ or not.
Iceland is full of exciting choices when it comes to things to do around the wedding. So if you decide to come for a few days or have a large guest party joining you, you won't run out of things to do.
Some activities are seasonal, such as ice caving, which is only possible between either mid-October or November and March, depending on your operator. Northern Lights hunting is only possible when it gets dark at night (it never gets dark between mid-May and mid-August). Activities such as river rafting, however, are only done during the warmer months of the year.
The Icelandic Highlands are also only accessible during the summer months (unless you take a helicopter in wintertime).
There are also year-round activities, such as horseback riding, snorkeling, ice climbing, snowmobiling, ATV biking, caving, flying in helicopters, and whale watching. Sightseeing, of course, is not limited by season.
One of the most popular options is to rent a car and go on a self-drive tour of the country, where you drive between stunning locations - including driving the famous Golden Circle, Iceland's South Coast, up north to Lake Mývatn or along Snæfellsnes peninsula.
Last but not least, you and your guests won't be disappointed with pampering yourself in the Blue Lagoon Spa or numerous other hot springs or spas found within Iceland.