The Ins-and-Outs of Eloping in Minnesota

How to Elope in MN

Let me guess: when you picture eloping, it’s probably not in Minnesota, right?! And hey, I get it! But as a Minnesota wedding and lifestyle photographer, I can truly say that the Land of 10,000 Lakes is one of the most underrated places in the US to elope. With a diverse ecosystem, 4 seasons, endless outdoor activities, and some of the most picturesque views, I couldn’t recommend eloping in Minnesota enough. Although I might be biased, I’m here to share the ins-and-outs of eloping in Minnesota (and why it should definitely be on your list of elopement locations to consider).

Reasons to Elope in Minnesota

When most couples start thinking of eloping, Minnesota isn’t likely on the list of locations. After all, Minnesota isn’t located in the mountains or somewhere tropical – which are typical elopement destinations. But don’t let that fool you, friend! Minnesota has tons to offer. 

Underrated, Natural Beauty

While Minnesota is most known as “The Land of 10,000 Lakes”, this beautiful state offers over 11,000 lakes to enjoy. Whether you’re more of a “peaceful and tranquil” kinda lake-lover, or you love the sound of dramatic waves crashing to shore, there’s a lake for you. Some of the most popular lakes include:

  • Lake Superior
  • Mille Lacs Lake
  • Lake Winnibigoshish
  • Cass Lake
  • Leech Lake

But believe it or not, Minnesota doesn’t just have lakes to offer. From the picturesque, dramatic cliffs dropping off into Lake Superior, to endless views of towering pine and birch trees, it’s hard to take it all in. 

Four Seasons to Enjoy

There’s something so special about a place that has all 4 seasons. While it’s no secret that winters in Minnesota can be brutal at times, the magic of a winter wonderland is hard to beat. 

  • Spring in Minnesota brings blooming flowers, new wildlife, sunshine (with showers, of course), and warming temperatures. I highly recommend spending some time researching what area you’re considering eloping in to better track the weather. Weather in Grand Marais is vastly different than Minneapolis. 
Unique elopement in Minnesota by Alyssa Ashley Photography
  • Summer in Minnesota is definitely a favorite. Be prepared for some hot summer days, cool nights, and good ole humidity. 
  • Fall in Minnesota is a dream. The changing colors, crisp temperatures, bonfires, and hiking is unmatched (especially in Northern Minnesota). 
Minnesota wedding and lifestyle photographer
  • Winter in Minnesota leaves many locals with mixed feelings. If you are a big “winter sports” kinda person, eloping in the Winter in Minnesota is for you. There is skiing throughout the state, endless trails to snowshoe, and the cutest cabins to snuggle up in.
Winter elopement in Minnesota by Alyssa Ashley Photography

When planning your Minnesota elopement, remember that weather in Northern Minnesota will be completely different than in Southern Minnesota. Weather along Lake Superior is also vastly different than just a few miles away from the shore. The Weather App will be your best friend for your Minnesota elopement! 

Easily Accessible

Eloping in Minnesota is easier than you might think! With four international airports located throughout the state, it’s pretty dang easy to get around. 

  • Falls International Airport – This is the best airport to easily access Voyageurs National Park. Located in International Falls, you could also head up to Canada if it’s on your bucket list!
  • Duluth International Airport – Duluth’s airport is perfect to fly into for a North Shore elopement. 
  • Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport – Not only is MSP one of the best airports in the US, but it is centrally located in Minnesota. If you’re planning on eloping near the Twin Cities Metro area, this is a great option. 
  • Rochester International Airport – While Rochester isn’t a typical “elopement” destination in Minnesota, it’s a great location to fly into if you’d like to make a roadtrip out of your nuptials. 

Because many of the best elopement locations (and hidden gems) in Minnesota take some time to travel to, you definitely need a car to have the best experience. 

Year-Round Elopement Activities

With four seasons to enjoy, there’s endless opportunities to elevate your elopement. Here are a few Minnesota-favorites:

  • Hiking
  • Snowshoeing
  • Snowboarding
  • Skiing
  • Kayaking
  • Canoeing
  • Camping
  • Summit Express Gondola (Lutsen, MN)
  • Gondola Cruise (Stillwater, MN)
  • Sailboating
  • Pontooning 
  • ATV riding
  • Hammock-ing 
  • Brewery hopping 
  • Beaching
  • Fishing
  • Biking
  • Fat Biking
  • Sight-Seeing

Honestly, there aren’t many things you can’t enjoy in Minnesota. When searching for elopement activities, thinking about activities that you two would normally enjoy together. If you’re not typically big hiking people, maybe don’t plan to elope in an area where hiking is the main activity. 

Where to Elope in Minnesota

It goes without saying, but Minnesota’s North Shore is definitely a favorite of both locals, MN natives, and visitors alike. For the most “out of this world” views, I highly recommend eloping along the North Shore. However, Minnesota has many other underrated elopement locations. Check out the list below for some inspiration!

Black Beach, Silver Bay elopement in Northern Minnesota

North Shore:

Located along Lake Superior, the North Shore boasts dramatic cliffs dropping off into the frigid water below. But it is also one of the most wild, peaceful locations in Minnesota. Boasting towering pines, quaint small towns, and the most immaculate views, it’s hard to beat.

  • Duluth
  • Two Harbors
  • Grand Marais
  • Gooseberry Falls State Park
  • Temperance River State Park
  • Jay Cooke State Park
  • Split Rock Lighthouse State Park
  • Tettegouche State Park
  • Black Beach
  • Palisade Head

Northern Minnesota:

Northern Minnesota is definitely an “off the beaten path” kinda place to elope. Believe it or not, most Minnesotans never end up seeing the only national park in our state! Voyageurs is definitely best enjoyed by boat, but it is possible to get to the visitors’ center via car. Other Northern Minnesota favorites are the Boundary Waters and Ely! 

  • Voyageurs National Park
  • Boundary Waters
  • Ely

Central Minnesota:

Central Minnesota is a great “in-between” for adventurers and low-key couples alike. Not only can you experience the beautiful wilderness in Central Minnesota, but you can also enjoy some city vibes if you stay close to the Twin Cities Metro area. Central MN is a great elopement location if you’d like to have the best of both worlds!

  • North Central Lakes (Brainerd, Nisswa, Crosby)
  • Stillwater
  • Interstate State Park
  • Minnehaha Falls

Southwestern Minnesota:

If you’re planning on eloping in Southwestern Minnesota, I highly recommend flying into Sioux Falls, South Dakota. But the border between South Dakota and Minnesota is stunning. Beloved by many, this area is where you start to enter “the West”. Dramatic cliffsides, roaming bison, and vast views as far as the eye can see. 

  • Split Rock Creek State Park
  • Blue Mounds State Park

Southeastern Minnesota:

Another underrated elopement location is Southeastern Minnesota! Here, you’ll find the cutest little towns, Amish communities, rural landscape, and some beautiful state parks. As you travel East, you’ll come to the Mississippi River! 

  • Lanesboro
  • Whitewater State Park
  • Frontenac State Park
Tips for eloping in MN

How to Elope in Minnesota

Research, research, research. Good news: you’re already in a great place to start the research process! When planning your Minnesota elopement, I highly recommend utilizing your elopement photographer for permit assistance. Personally, I love helping my couples plan their elopement – especially if it means taking some stress off their plates. 

Permits + Reservations

Luckily, Minnesota only has one national park (which does require a Special Use Permit for all weddings). You can find permitting information for Voyageurs National Park here

Most Minnesota state parks require a permit to reserve your park location and date. However, it depends from park to park. Again, this is a super helpful task for your elopement photographer to help with! 

I want to encourage you to do your research and be aware that if a permit is required, it may take a month or more to process! 

Leave No Trace

I can’t stress this enough. Minnesota is a beautiful, tranquil, wild place loved by many. We are only able to continue to enjoy this state if we all commit to taking care of it. As a Minnesota wedding and lifestyle photographer, I am committed to practicing Leave No Trace principles to ensure that this land is protected to ensure future generations are able to enjoy it as well. Interested in doing your part? It’s pretty easy!

  • Plan ahead. It is your responsibility (and your guests/vendors) to be aware of regulations, weather, hazards, etc. 
  • Stay on marked trails + only camp at established campsites to avoid damaging the delicate ecosystems.
  • Pack in + pack out. If you bring something, it leaves with you. Have questions? Let’s chat!
  • Take nothing but pictures. It’s true! As tempting as it may be to snag some flowers to press, or a jar of sand, leave it there. 

Making it Legal

Minnesota is not a self-solemnizing sate — which means that you need both a marriage license and an officiant. To obtain your marriage license, you and your partner will need to apply in person at a county office. The license application fee is $115, and there’s no waiting period! I’d recommend making an appointment online before showing up to a county office. 

The Ins-and-Outs of Eloping in Minnesota | Alyssa Ashley Photography

Alright, sweet friend – there ya have it: the ins and outs of eloping in Minnesota (from a Minnesota wedding photographer)! While there are still several things to consider when elopement planning, I hope the above information helped you get started. If you’re searching for more elopement or wedding planning tips, you can head to the blog

Elopement planning is such an exciting chapter in your love story, and I truly hope you have the opportunity to soak it up. 

Be sure to follow along on the ‘Gram (@alyssaashley_photography) for more tips, recent travel, and inspo for your engagement photos + big day. Catch ya later, friend! 



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