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How to Elope on the North Shore of Minnesota

Thinking about ditching the traditional wedding and opting for something a biiiit more intimate and adventurous? Sounds like a dream and I’m here to help. My name’s Morgan (AKA your go-to Minnesota Elopement Photographer). I specialize in photographing micro-weddings (the type that tend to take place in your neighbors backyard) and adventurous elopements (the one’s where we’re often off up the North Shore of Minnesota surrounded by Lake Superior). I eat, sleep, breath elopements and am here to help you feel more confident and comfortable going into the planning process. Here are 5 steps on how to elope on the North Shore of Minnesota 🤍

Step 1: Choosing a Time of Year for your Elopement

The North Shore of Minnesota has a lot to offer year round, however, there are pros and cons to every season.

SPRING (March – June). The ‘brownest’ and most unpredictable time of year. In fact, as I’m typing this, it’s the end of March and we just got 20+ inches of snow after having the most mild winter in history. If you’re open to taking a gamble on the weather and don’t really give a hoot on whether the trees are budding or you’re hiking through the snow, Spring can be a great option to elope.

SUMMER/FALL (June – December). The most popular time for couples to elope up the North Shore of Minnesota (and busy tourist season). If you are leaning towards a summer/fall date for your elopement, I highly recommend a mid-week date (verses a weekend). One of the more popular (free) locations to elope is at Black Beach in Silver Bay, MN. This location gets so busy on weekends that will be shuttles transporting people back and forth between parking lots.

WINTER (December – March). If you like snow and the cold, eloping up the North Shore during winter will be *chef’s kiss*. It gets quite chilly up here and the sun sets early, so plan accordingly and hand hand warmers.

Once you know which season/month you want to elope, narrow down a week, and pick your day. If there’s a day or two you’re going between, reach out to vendors to see if they’re available (AirBnb, Photographer, etc.). This can always help you narrow down your dates!

Step 2: Start Dreaming up your Elopement

This day is all about you and your partner! Now that you’ve narrowed down you want to elope on the North Shore of Minnesota, here are a few questions to help you start dreaming up your day:

  • What type of location inspires you?
  • Where on the North Shore do you want to say ‘I do’?
  • Do you want friends or family their to witness? If so, how many?
  • Where do you want to get ready the day of (a hotel, AirBnb, family members house, etc.)? Tip: AirBnb’s and hotels book out months in advance, so get your reservation booked early!
  • What are some must-have vendors you want for your day (photographer, hair/makeup, florals, rentals, etc.)
  • How do you want to celebrate after your elopement? Hike, crack a beer with your closet friends, have a BBQ with your family at a pavilion nearby, etc.

The opportunities to make your day truly yours is endless. 🚨 ACTION STEP: Create a Pinterest board. Pinterest can be your best friend throughout this process. Pin anything that you find inspiring! Locations, hair styles, activities for the day of, floral arrangements, hikes, seasons, colors… anything and everything.

Step 3: Determine your Elopement Location & Secure your Date

Love to hike and can’t get enough of nature? Strap on your hiking boots and hike the Bean and Bear Lakes Loop (7-miles), and say ‘I do’ overlooking one of the iconic lakes. Obsessed with Lake Superior? You and me both lol. Hop on a sailboat and sail Lake Superior while you say your vows. Talk about ROMANTIC. Love the beach? Black Beach is accessible and has stunning views, perfect for an intimate elopement up the North Shore of Minnesota. Want something simple and ‘all at one location’? An AirBnb couple be a perfect fit. Get ready, get married, and celebrate with your loved ones all at one spot.

The best locations to elope on the North Shore, from Duluth to Grand Marais:

Dream big. Opportunities are endless. Choose a location that inspires you and your partner. Once you have a vision of what you’re looking for, reach out to the park or vendor to see if there’s a fee or permit required to reserve that location for a specific day/time.

NOTE: There are plenty of beaches up the North Shore of MN that are free to elope and do not require reservations/permits. However, do your research beforehand. There are a variety of private beaches that don’t allow weddings or locations that require a permit application to be submitted prior to your event.

4. Booking Vendors

Once your location and date are secured, it’s time to start booking your dream-team of vendors. Many vendors book months in advance, so if there’s someone’s work or service you’ve been eyeing up, get in touch and introduce yourself sooner than later!

  • Photographer
  • Hair & Makeup Artist
  • Florist
  • Videographer
  • Rentals (The Vault is my favorite rental company in Duluth, MN)
  • Officiant (My hubs is ordained 🤌🏼 If you book me as your Elopement Photographer, he can come with and officiate or sign off on your license!)

Looking for Vendor Recommendations? Keep your eyes peeled for a new blog post coming soon! Otherwise, if you book me as your elopement photographer, you will receive an 80+ page guide filled to the brim with planning resources, vendor recommendations, activities to do on your day, timeline assistance, must-know tips, AirBnb/hotel recommendations, etc.

5. Activities to do on your Elopement Day

Your elopement day is a once in a lifetime opportunity. My goal is to help create an experience that will be fun and memorable, reflecting exactly who you two are as a couple. Here’s a list of activities past clients have done during their elopements:

  • Hiking
  • Visit a Local Brewery
  • Kayaking
  • Swimming
  • Camping
  • BBQ
  • Campfire + Smore’s
  • Swimming
  • Backyard Games
  • Paddle Boarding
  • Biking
  • Cliff Jumping

And just like that, you’ll have your elopement date, location, vendors, and activities planned. It’s that easy! A few final notes:

  • ⚡️ Once you narrow down a location for your elopement, don’t forget to research/apply for permits
  • ⚡️ Apply for your marriage license 3-4 months before your elopement date and don’t forget to bring it with you the day of!

I’m so proud of you for paving your own way choosing to elope on the North Shore of Minnesota. Interested in booking me for your Elopement? Clue me in on your day here! Or, pop on over to Instagram and introduce yourself. PS – I speak solely in voice memos, GIFs, and emojis, so hopefully you don’t hate that lol. I’m in your corner cheering you on. Happy planning!

Morgan (Your coffee-reheating, FRIENDS watching, pizza roll-eating, adventure-seeking, Carhartt-wearing, elopement-day bestie 🤍)

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