The Ultimate Guide to Getting Married in Iceland

The Ultimate Guide to Getting Married in Iceland

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Do you want to have your wedding in Iceland? What do you need to do before tying the knot in Iceland? Are you planning on a private elopement or searching for Icelandic wedding packages? 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 is it perfect for the wedding itself, but it's also a memorable location for a proposal or your honeymoon. It is not uncommon for visitors to come to Iceland for their wedding ceremony and then spend their honeymoon exploring the countryside.

Whether you want to have a private elopement or a grand ceremony with all your friends and family, Iceland is the perfect location for your destination wedding!

Iceland is conveniently situated between North America and Europe, with the country's largest airline, Icelandair, offering a free stopover package for up to a week when flying between the continents. That makes Iceland a great location if the couple has guests from both continents who want to attend the wedding, or if they coming from North America and planning on spending the honeymoon in Europe, or vice versa. Taking advantage of the free stopover means you can get married during your layover on the way to your honeymoon destination! 

A couple get married on Reynisfjara beach.

Photo by Dmitry Schemelev

Why choose Iceland for your wedding ceremony? Iceland has already established itself as one of the best vacation destinations in the world, so it follows that it would be one of the best wedding destinations as well! If you need more reasons to choose Iceland for your ceremony:

  • Iceland’s marriage requirements for foreign visitors are very straightforward

  • Ceremonies can be performed for every religion, or lack thereof

  • Same-sex marriages are legal

  • Your wedding photographs will be out of this world!

Hiring a local photographer is the best way to get the most unique and amazing pictures of your special day. They will know the perfect locations, including some that you won’t find in any guidebook. The pictures in this article are just a few examples of the magic these local photographers can create by working with Iceland’s natural beauty!

A stunning wedding photo at Jokulsarlon.Photo by Stephane YAICH

Marriage Laws in Iceland

Iceland is great for a destination wedding.Photo by Beatriz Pérez Moya

It is easy for foreign couples to get married in Iceland. However, there are of course some legal details to be sorted out and you will need to fill out some paperwork. This process has to be done correctly or you run the risk of your marriage being cancelled (legally, at least!), so carefully read all the rules and requirements and make a checklist to ensure all steps are completed at the right time. 

For a legal marriage to be approved in Iceland, 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 submitted will need to be original, and if it not in English or any of the Scandinavian languages, must have a simultaneous translation. 

Another option for couples who don't want to deal with paperwork is to have a symbolic wedding in Iceland. This means you will legally get married in your home country and simply use Iceland as the backdrop for your vows and photographs. 

There are two ways to submit the required documents:

- Submit the original documents at least 3 weeks before the wedding, or 

-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 local wedding planner, they can do this for you.

If documents do not arrive within this timeframe, the marriage is considered canceled.

Iceland is a perfect wedding destination.

Photo by Michael Cox

Required Documents to Get Married in Iceland:

  1. Marriage notification (Hjónavígsluskýrsla)
  2. Birth certificates of both parties. Originals will be returned after the wedding ceremony.
  3. Certificate of marital status, issued within eight weeks prior to the wedding date.
  4. A divorce decree if either party is divorced.
  5. If the bride/groom is a widower, a document detailing that the deceased's estate has been divided/finalized.
  6. Valid passports of both parties.

After the ceremony has taken place, it is possible to obtain a wedding certificate in English from the National Registry, Þjóðskrá.

Wedding Venues in Iceland

Now that the nitty gritty details have been sorted out, it’s time to plan the fun stuff! Choosing a venue is one of the most exciting parts of planning a wedding or elopement, and Iceland has so many incredible locations to offer. 

If you are looking for a more traditional venue, Iceland has countless stunning churches sprinkled all around the country that would be an amazing place to tie the knot. For couples looking to combine adventure with their wedding, you pretty much have your pick of awe-inspiring locations! The top of a mountain, inside an ice cave, next to a roaring waterfall, in a meadow of lupine flowers, on a black sand beach, or even under the dancing northern lights; all of these could be the background for your ceremony.

Why not marry on a glacier?

When you are in Iceland you are never far from a waterfall. Truly, there are too many to count and each of them is unique, stunning, and immensely photogenic. Whether you use a waterfall as a backdrop for your photos or choose to hold your ceremony itself next to one of these roaring beauties, you will cherish the memory forever. But remember, the grander the waterfall the noisier it will be, so make sure you stand at a far enough distance to be able to hear your vows.

Photo by Styrmir Kári & Heiðdís, by Dynjandi waterfall

The sky isn’t the limit when it comes to an Icelandic elopement; you can book a helicopter (pilot included!) to take you from each mind-bogglingly beautiful location to the next, allowing you to reach some of the most remote locations in places like the Icelandic highlands. The photos captured during these flights and at the locations the helicopter takes you to would truly be unparalleled!

It's possible to get married inside an ice cave in Iceland!

Can’t decide between a church wedding or a nature wedding? Get the best of both worlds with a ceremony in the chapel made of ice inside the Langjokull glacier, accessible all year round!  

The Ice Tunnel has a chapel for weddings.

Photo from 3 in 1 Bundle Discount Tours | Ice & Fire with Golden Circle, Ice Tunnel & Inside a Volcano

Iceland is well known to have very unpredictable weather. For outdoor weddings, be aware that the weather might not cooperate with your plans and it’s always recommended to have a Plan B in case of inclement weather. Even if your ceremony is rain or shine (rainy wedding photographs are stunning!), some sort of shelter from the elements is a good idea for your reception; nobody wants a soggy dinner!

Stunning landscapes in Iceland for your wedding photos.

Though Iceland is a predominantly Lutheran country it is open to people and wedding ceremonies of all religions, as well as non-religious ceremonies. If your heart is set on a church wedding, you will have no problem finding a beautiful venue. Iceland has hundreds of churches; big, tiny, old, new, and everything in between.

Iceland has more Lutheran churches than anything else.

These churches are mostly Lutheran, but there are a handful of Catholic churches available as well. Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Paganism, and Hinduism exist in Iceland, all to various extents, but there are very few venues specific to these religions in the country.

Hallgrímskirkja church is Iceland's most iconic church, and a fantastic wedding venue

The most iconic church in Iceland, located in Reykjavik, is Hallgrimskirkja. This towering structure seats around 750 people. Conversely, there are many churches in Iceland that only seat around 10 people. No matter the size of your wedding party you will find the perfect church to accommodate it!

Some of the most popular churches in Iceland for wedding ceremonies are Domkirkjan and Frikirkjan, conveniently situated in Reykjavik city center and only a short distance from IÐNÓ, a popular reception venue that overlooks the city pond, Tjornin.

For couples looking for Catholic churches, there is a beautiful church right in Reykjavik city center that would be a stunning location for your ceremony. Outside of Reykjavik there are small Catholic churches in a few locations, including Akureyri and Isafjordur in the Westfjords.

'Hobbit' like Hofskirkja church in Iceland is a very cute wedding venue

For a quaint countryside church a great option is the Hofskirkja church in southeast Iceland. The adorable fairytale facade and close proximity to the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon make it a perfect wedding or elopement location.

Búðir black church is popular for wedding ceremonies

One of the most popular churches outside of Reykjavik is the iconic black church of Budir. The contrast between the dark building and the surrounding grass and snow-capped mountains in the background create a stunning spot for your wedding. Conveniently, there is a boutique hotel nearby that would be perfect for your reception.

There are as many beautiful options for your reception as there are for your ceremony. From charming countryside hotels, to museums, theaters, music halls, and concert venues as large as Harpa Concert Hall, you will have no problem finding a venue that fits your style and needs. If you aren’t ready to go indoors yet, it is possible to rent a tent and have an outdoor reception that is sheltered from the elements, though we would only recommend doing this in the summertime!

Whether you are looking for a large and elegant celebration, a completely private elopement, or small and intimate event with only your closest friends and family, Iceland has the perfect location for you. 

What to Wear for an Icelandic Wedding

Make sure you wear something warm for a winter wedding in Iceland!

As the name indicates, Iceland can be a bit on the chilly side. This is to be expected in the winter, of course, but even the summers in Iceland can be cool.

Be sure to dress warmly for a winter wedding, especially if you’ll be outdoors. Thermal tights can easily be hidden under suits and gowns alike, and wear your winter coat up until the minute your photographer is ready! In winter you will also have to be very thoughtful of daylight hours; in December, you might only have around 5 hours of light. The good news is this gives you a chance of wedding photographs with the northern lights! 

Icelandic summer weddings can be mild and sunny

Photo from Wikimedia, Creative Commons, by Helgi Halldórsson. No edits made.

Summers in Iceland are fairly mild, with average temperatures between 50-59°F, though you still might have some wind and rain. On the flipside to the long nights of Iceland’s winters, summer has long days and the famous midnight sun. 

Note that these mild temperatures and endless hours of daylight make summer Iceland’s high season, so you may have more crowds and higher prices.

Iceland's nature is perfect for weddings.

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 shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty for the ceremony. 

Weddings can be conducted across Iceland.

Want to take the traditional route? It is possible to rent the Icelandic national dress for your wedding day! The dress is traditionally black with gold trimmings, but it is also possible to find bright blue or white versions of it, with either gold or silver trimmings. 

Another touch of Icelandic authenticity is to wear woolen jumpers called lopapeysa. These can be custom-made in the pattern and colors of your choosing if you contact a knitter in Iceland

Is a Priest Needed for a Wedding in Iceland?

Háteigskirkja Church in Reykjavík

If you want to have a legal ceremony in Iceland, as opposed to symbolic, you must have a legal officiant for the ceremony. However, this officiant doesn’t have to be a Lutheran priest, or any sort of religious figure; your options include a humanist or judge overseer.

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 unique. 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.

Iceland's land is primordial and ancient.

If you choose to have a Pagan wedding ceremony you can choose where it takes place (indoors or outdoors) and have freedom with pretty much all the details of the event; consult with your chieftain in advance to discuss how you want the ceremony to proceed. Each wedding ceremony is influenced by its surroundings, and no two Pagan ceremonies are the same.

Iceland is the perfect destination for a Game of Thrones themed wedding

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.

For fans of Game of Thrones this might be the best way to fulfill your dreams of a GoT styled wedding (minus the Rains of Castamere); you can even set your ceremony at one of the many GoT filming locations in Iceland!

Same-Sex Marriages in Iceland

Beautiful wedding ceremony by one of Iceland's stunning waterfalls

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 when she 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.

Two brides prepare for a wedding in Iceland.

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 festivals in the country, and is 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, while 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.

Activities Before or After the Wedding

Ice caving is possible in winter months in Iceland

Iceland has no shortage of exciting and fun activities to do before and after your wedding. You and your guests can take your pick of things to do to stay entertained when it isn’t the day of the wedding!

Some activities are seasonal, such as ice caving, which is only possible between either mid-October or November to 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 are only done during the warmer months of the year, for obvious reasons.

Horse riding in East Iceland

The Icelandic Highlands are also only accessible during the summer months (unless you take a helicopter in wintertime) because the roads become nearly impossible to traverse. 

There are plenty of year-round activities, however, 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.

Kerlingarfjöll is an area of stunning beauty in the Icelandic highlands

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.

Blue Lagoon Spa in Iceland is a romantic destination for honeymooners

Last but not least, you and your guests won't be disappointed with spending a day pampering yourself in the Blue Lagoon Spa or by visiting one of the numerous other hot springs or spas found within Iceland.

Contact Guide to Icelandfor help planning your wedding in Iceland!

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