How to elope under the Northern Lights in Norway

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The idea of eloping under the northern lights might sound like something out of a Disney movie, but for some adventurous couples, that’s their dream.

In this article, local Norwegian photographer Tanja Skoglund of TS Foto Design shares her top tips from many years of capturing elopements under this incredible natural phenomenon.

Want to connect with Tanja?

Website: tsfotodesign.no
Instagram: @tsfotodesign.weddings

Why is Norway a great location for a northern lights elopement?

Let’s specify a bit here. One can’t see the northern lights anywhere in Norway, but mainly in Northern Norway (the part of the country that lies beyond the Arctic Circle). Northern Norway is not heavily populated, and the distance between towns and the wilderness is small. Towns and cities create light pollution, and the smaller the town/village is, the less light pollution it creates in the area around it. If you want to see and capture the Northern lights, it is best to find a place that is close to complete darkness. Thus, in small towns of Northern Norway, you only need about 20-60 minutes drive before you find a spot like that.

Reason number two: Northern Norway is spectacular! It’s really great to have some beautiful landscapes you can see here in addition to the northern lights (especially if you are unlucky with the aurora borealis hunting). Reason number three: the climate here is a bit milder compared to some other arctic countries, for example, Iceland. 

Bride and groom kissing under the northern lights
Photo by TS Foto Design

Planning Your Trip To Norway

Where are the best locations in Norway for a northern lights elopement?

I am a bit biased here, but I’m convinced that Alta (this is where I live) is the best place for the Northern Lights elopement. Winters in Alta are milder compared to other places along the coastline. And although the winter temperatures go quite low, we don’t experience too much wind or humidity. 

Northern lights elopements aren’t just about the northern lights. I want my couples to have an overall great experience (also during the daytime before we go northern lights chasing), and Alta offers many great winter experiences such as dog sledding, reindeer sledding, igloo hotel, etc. At the same time, it remains less touristy than for example Tromsø, so people who choose to elope here experience the coziness and charm of small Norwegian towns. 

Other awesome places for northern lights elopements would be Tromsø, Lyngen Alps, Senja, and Lofoten. 

When is the best time of year to visit?

While you can see and capture the northern lights between mid-September and the end of March, I recommend aiming for October-November or from mid-January till March. I recommend avoiding December and January due to the darkness of the polar night. Sure, the more darkness, the more odds to see the northern lights. But besides that it will be hard to see anything else when there are only a few hours a day with some daylight. In February and March, you still have more than enough dark hours, but in the daytime, you can do so many fun activities and enjoy the sun (and hopefully good winter weather). 

Dog sledding for your winter wedding in Norway
Photo by TS Foto Design

Elopement under the northern lights – top planning tips and advice

How difficult is it to capture photos of couples under the northern lights?

It is not an easy task, and it requires a lot of practice. Many factors are playing a role in how successful the northern lights hunt will be. Usually, it is very cold, and both the couple would freeze as well as the photographer’s fingers. My biggest lifesaver is heated gloves. Without them, my fingers wouldn’t manage to survive through the cold polar nights during northern lights elopements. 

There is a lot of extra gear needed for northern lights portraits: sturdy tripod, speedlight, other light sources, sand bag etc. And you need to move it from place to place, because Aurora borealis is dynamic, and moves as it wants across the whole sky. 

The couple needs to stand completely still for several minutes in a row, and it is difficult when the temperature is far below freezing. 

How do you plan an elopement schedule to capture the northern lights?

I always tell my couples to have some flexibility around their elopement day and to stay in the place they’ll be eloping at for at least 3 consecutive days (5 days are even better). We’d typically plan the ceremony as well as some fun winter activities during the daytime and will chase the northern lights in the evening. If we’re unlucky the first night, we would still have a couple more evenings for the Aurora hunting. And yes, it basically means that I’m blocking 3 to 5 days in my calendar for one Northern Lights elopement.

You can’t guarantee northern lights – how do you plan for that?

During the initial meeting, I’d tell my couple not to put ALL their hopes on the northern lights only. But at the same time, I assure them that we will do everything we can in order to see and capture them. Sometimes it means driving for 2 hours through a crazy winter storm to a place where the sky is clear. Sometimes it means three cold nights in a row with us waiting in the car for the Aurora Borealis to show. 

I also recommend planning some fun stuff during the daytime (like dog sledding or snowmobile driving etc.), so that the couple would have some awesome memories from their stay in Northern Norway regardless of the Aurora borealis. 

Bride and groom kiss under northern lights in Norway
Photo by TS Foto Design

What do couples need to know about planning an elopement under the northern lights?

It is definitely easier to have the ceremony during the daytime and NOT under the northern lights. For the northern lights photos, you can’t move much, otherwise, the photos would be blurry. And during the ceremony people are emotional and they are moving! They are reading vows, crying, hugging, and kissing. Therefore it is much more convenient to capture all these moments while we have some daylight. 

Photo by TS Foto Design

It will save you quite a bit of time and stress if you do a symbolic ceremony instead of a legally binding one. While it is easy to get married basically anywhere you want in Norway (we have a “freedom to roam” law that applies in most places outside in nature, so no permits are needed), having an officiant can lead to less flexibility, in case you need to do some changes in the elopement timeline last minute. Therefore most of my couples choose to do a symbolic ceremony without a celebrant. But nothing is impossible, and those who decide to get legally married in Norway are typically able to proceed if they start the planning process early enough! 

It is going to be colder than you think. So bring some really warm layers! Wool longs are highly recommended as well as warm winter boots (the warmest you can find). Wool sweaters and coats would look nice in photos and keep you warm! Bring a beanie, scarf, and a pair of mittens. When choosing a wedding gown, keep in mind that dresses with long sleeves feel a tiny bit better than dresses with open backs and shoulders. 

Any big mistakes you see people making?

Nothing critical, but not taking warm enough clothes for the trip to Northern Norway is something I see a lot of times. 

Some couples order personalized items like mugs, napkins, rings etc. with their names and their wedding date. And here I’d recommend only writing the month when they’re eloping because sometimes we move the date a little bit and people may end up eloping on another date than what the mug or ring suggests. 

Are there any other locations outside of Norway that are great for northern lights elopements?

Iceland, Finland, Greenland, Canada, and Alaska.

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