An all-inclusive guide
Congratulations for choosing to elope on the north shore of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota!! You two have decided to create an experience unique to your relationship and love story, and I know the north shore will provide you with so much adventure, intimacy and awe while being surrounded by our amazing natural wonders!! I hope my guide gives you a great jumpstart to planning the most adventurous day of your lives. Within this guide you will find tips on when to elope, places to consider for your elopement, activities to include on your elopement day, recommended vendors, and how to Leave No Trace in our beautiful north shore.
Table of Contents
2. Sunrise vs. Sunset elopements on the north shore
3. Why you should elope on a weekday
4. The 8 state parks to elope in along Lake Superior’s north shore
5. Lodging on the north shore
6. Activities to do during your adventure elopement
7. Recommended Florists in Northern Minnesota
8. How to get married in Northern Minnesota
9. Accessibility along the north shore
10. Leave No Trace on Lake Superior’s north shore
Eloping in northern Minnesota can be absolutely breathtaking, when immersed in our over 3 million acres of woods and waters within the Superior National Forest. However, it’s important to keep in mind that being so far up north, there is a significant fluctuation in temperature and weather depending on the month you elope. The temperature differential can be well over 80 degrees from one day to the next!!
You’ll also want to keep in mind what kind of flora you would like to have during your adventure elopement, as the changing of the seasons include differing species of blooming wildflowers. The autumn leaves even have a significantly different schedule, be it they are further inland (late September) or right on the shoreline (early October)!
Wildflower Season on the north shore of Lake Superior for a summer elopement
If you want to enjoy a variety of bright colors during your adventure elopement, consider eloping late May through September! Northern Minnesota is home to over 100 species of wildflowers, flowering bushes and berries. The summer months bring an extra sense of wonder with pops of color sprouting all around us.
Some of the most common wildflowers seen up on the north shore are:
Black Eyed Susans
You can see a full list of north shore wildflowers and when they are in bloom here.
Eloping on the north shore of Lake Superior during Fall
If you are hoping to catch the fall colors in northern Minnesota for your elopement, you will need to plan your elopement between late September and mid-October. Keep in mind that there are two time points that the leaves change up here. The closer you are to the shoreline, the later the leaves will change color. While the first wave of fall colors arrive in late September, the second wave can last up to mid-October. If you are planning an elopement further inland, consider choosing the Gunflint Trail or the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in late September- it will be the perfect time to have a fall elopement. Along the shores, you have a bounty of choices between the 8 state parks and hundreds of miles of shoreline through mid-October for your fall elopement.
Winter elopements on the north shore of Lake Superior
What is so beautiful about northern Minnesota in the winter time is the complete stillness and serenity it offers. Winter is the season when our conifer trees get donned in white, creating a whimsical winter wonderland. Eloping on the north shore during the winter months is also exceptionally quiet. It is the slow season for tourism, so it is almost a guarantee that your elopement location will be all to yourselves!
The best months to elope during the winter months on the north shore of Lake Superior is December or late February. I say this because these are the most moderate months for temperatures. Up in northern Minnesota it can easily be 30 degrees below freezing during the winter and that is just dangerous, with the ability of frostbite to occur within minutes. During the months of December and February, average temperatures are in the 20s-30s range, so although it is still cold, the temperatures are absolutely bearable.
Preparing for the weather for your northern Minnesota elopement
Day to day weather on the north shore of Lake Superior can be a dramatic hit or miss because with one wind switch, we can have a difference of 30 degrees either way! Winds coming off of the lake during the summertime will bring cooler temperatures that can really bite, however when winds come off the lake in the winter, it can create a warm pocket around the lake. You’ll want to be watching the weather days leading up to your elopement to get a good idea of how warm it will be! Granted, June through September, the weather will be very comfortable on more days than not.
I always say to dress in layers during the spring and fall months- which may be hard to do for an elopement, but I have some great suggestions for what to pack and what to wear underneath your wedding attire here!
It is important to consider your lighting conditions when you are planning your elopement on the north shore of Lake Superior. Our lake is located to the east of the shoreline, so the sun will rise directly above the water and set amongst the ridgeline to the west. This means that for sunset, your golden hour will be slightly earlier than expected because it will set higher than areas with lower altitude. For a sunrise elopement, you will have backlit conditions when your backs are towards the water, which for some locations can be exceptionally beautiful. If your elopement location ends up facing towards the lake, you’ll need to take into consideration that the lighting will be directly on your face. Either way, both times will create amazing imagery for your elopement and allow for a more intimate experience!!
Here are some examples of back-lit versus front-lit images during some north shore elopements:
Pros of Sunrise Elopements on the north shore of Lake Superior
Pros of Sunset Elopements on the north shore of Lake Superior
More Privacy during your elopement
If you’re wondering when is the best time to elope on the north shore of Lake Superior, I would highly suggest eloping during the week. I suggest eloping during the week because there is a significant influx of tourists that come up for either weekend hiking trips, explore the lakeshore cities, or go up to their cabins. The north shore on average gets over 1 million visitors between May and October, and the most traffic is on the weekends. So not only will you miss the extra hour in traffic, you’ll also gain so much privacy during your elopement- almost as if the space was just for the two of you with all of the peace, quiet and serenity around you!
Easier to Book your amenities
With the amount of tourists that make their way up on the weekends, logistically it makes more sense to elope during the week on the north shore. During weekends, almost every resort, hotel, Airbnb and campground will be booked- if not booked months in advance. The silver lining is that during the week, it is almost barren on the north shore- so lodging should be much easier to book!
More Vendors will be available
Chances are that your favorite florist, hair and makeup artist or baker will also have a pretty packed schedule during the months of May through October- so if you are really wanting a specific vendor, their availability will be more open during the weekdays!! With elopements, a simple bouquet of flowers, a small cake, and a smaller group for hair and makeup, it will be much easier to book on a weekday rather than a weekend because most weekends are blocked out for larger weddings as well.
Each state park is filled with miles and miles of beautiful trails that could be the backdrop to your wondrous adventure elopement. You’ll have the opportunity to pick between cliff sides, hundred-foot waterfalls, the shorelines made up of Lake Superior bedrock and forests composed of spruce, balsam fir, cedar, and birch trees within our Superior National Forest. Our north shore is truly a gem of the Midwest. Below are the 9 state parks from the southern border of Lake Superior up to the Canadian border:
If you are looking for almost an entirely remote and more adventurous elopement in the backcountry, I HIGHLY suggest looking into Isle Royale National Park (situated on an island inside Lake Superior!!) or the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area (further inland in northern Minnesota). I will have another blog post dedicated to the unique aspects of all of our natural lands in northern Minnesota coming soon!
Because the north shore of Lake Superior is a tourist destination, there are many resorts, cabins, airbnb’s and a couple hotels that are sprinkled up and down the coast! Here are the bigger resorts available with the most amenities:
Caribou Highlands Resort (Lutsen)
Superior Shores Resort (Two Harbors)
Lutsen Resort (Lutsen)
The Larsmont Cottages (Two Harbors)
Bluefin Bay Resort (Tofte)
Grand Superior Lodge (Two Harbors)
Grand Portage Lodge & Outpost (Grand Portage)
The Naniboujou Lodge (Grand Portage)
Camping is always an option in any of the state parks as well!
The north shore of Lake Superior is iconic for outdoor adventures, so it makes sense to have your adventure elopement here. A lot of folks wonder what else happens during an adventure elopement or confuse it as one large photoshoot. As an adventure elopement photographer, I’m not only here to document your elopement day, but I’m also here to be your expert in creating your dream elopement experience.
If you are already considering the north shore of Lake Superior, I’m assuming you love the outdoors- and with the outdoors, there are a plethora of activities you can do during your adventure elopement! Some examples are:
If you are looking for less of a challenge and want to focus more on the serenity of your elopement, here are some less strenuous activities available on the north shore of Lake Superior:
If you are looking for a bouquet for your Lake Superior elopement, I highly recommend these two florists that are local to northern Minnesota:
There are a lot of misconceptions about elopements- one being that bouquets aren’t a thing- but let’s crush that myth right now because florals are a perfect addition to your adventure elopement on the north shore of Lake Superior! They add just the right amount of whimsy elegance to your adventurous day.
If you are unable to get a bouquet from a florist, I have several alternative ideas for elopement bouquets here!
My all time favorite recommended officiant company is Marry Me in the Northland. I have a great relationship with the officiants from Marry Me in the Northland- they have officiated numerous elopements of mine over the past several years! They travel all across the north shore of Lake Superior and even come hike with me for my adventure elopements, which is so rad! You get to choose which officiant you’d like to work with and create your own personalized vows or choose from scripts they have pre-made. They customize your ceremony to fit your unique love story! You can reach out to Annette here.
If you are looking for the ultimate privacy, I am ordained! Therefore we can create an elopement ceremony that includes only the two of you, while I can sign your license as the officiant.
How to get your marriage license in northern Minnesota
You want to make sure your paperwork is squared away before you head out on the trails for your elopement. I always suggest picking up your paperwork the day before your elopement at the county courthouse. Remember that these are government buildings, so they will be closed on the weekends! So if you are marrying on a Monday, you’ll have to pick up your license on the previous Friday.
Because the north shore of Lake Superior stretches hundreds of miles, there are three counties you can get your paperwork from: St. Louis, Lake, and Cook county. You can call the respective county to ask the exact steps on securing your marriage license.
In the state of Minnesota, you will need two witnesses for your elopement. I am more than happy to be one of your witnesses if I am not signing as your officiant! If you aren’t inviting a couple loved ones into your intimate moment, we can always snag a couple of hikers or sight-seers to sign your papers!! Marry Me in the Northland also offers a witness in their officiant packages as well, so you both will have plenty of options for your Lake Superior elopement.
With a bounty of frontcountry trails made available by our 8 state parks that skirt along Lake Superior, there are plenty of locations that are easily accessible for people who aren’t able to hike long distances or are wheelchair bound! Some of my favorite locations you can drive right up to as well!
As an adventure elopement photographer, it is my priority to meet the needs of my couples and their loved ones- so that everyone can enjoy our shared spaces in the outdoors during your adventurous day!
It is integral to my business that we practice the Leave No Trace principles while we are enjoying and recreating on the north shore of Lake Superior. Leave No Trace is for the benefit of all of us and those who will enjoy these spaces for the many years after us- and in order to keep our outdoors thriving, it is so important that we respect the land and really become stewards of our natural resources that are right in our backyards!
Each of my couples receive a guide on how to Leave No Trace after booking that is centered around our activities during their adventure elopement. With the mindset of Leave No Trace, our experiences become so much more cherished and these natural wonders are appreciated on a whole new, magical level.
1. Plan ahead and prepare
2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
3. Dispose of waste properly
4. Leave what you find
5. Minimize campfire impacts
6. Respect wildlife
7. Be considerate of other visitors
I go more in depth about Leave No Trace here.
Now that you’ve gotten some direction on when, where and how to plan your adventure elopement on Lake Superior’s north shore- I’d love to hear from you! You can reach out for a free chat with me here!
Can’t wait to connect and learn about your dream adventures!
Kayla from Northern Voyages Co.
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