How to Elope along the Minnesota North Shore

North Shore Elopement Guide

Tali      February 24th, 2023

The North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota is, in my humble opinion, one of the best places to elope. The Minnesota North Shore has a little bit of everything… beautiful views of Lake Superior, enchanted paths through the forest, and of course, incredible waterfalls! To top it all off, you can also find unique places to stay, affordable rental shelters for getting married with your closest family and friends, and plenty of options for food and entertainment. A North Shore elopement is the perfect way to celebrate the start of our lives together!

HOW TO ELOPE ALONG MINNESOTA'S NORTH SHORE

1. WHEN TO HAVE YOUR NORTH SHORE ELOPEMENT

It’s no secret that seasons are a serious thing in Minnesota (I am writing this blog as the news warns of a historic snow storm that could dump up to two feet of snow in central MN). With that in mind, when you decide to elope is going to play a big role in what your day looks like. Winter is going to bring colder temps with beautiful snow and ice (frozen waterfalls anyone?!)Spring boasts milder temps with smaller crowds and rushing waterfalls, Summer is stunning with warm, sunny weather, and Fall brings an incredible display of colors with crisp, autumn air. 

Here’s a look at how the seasons can affect the waterfalls levels. The first image shows Gooseberry Falls in early May… the water is absolutely pouring over those falls! The second image is early July. By the middle of summer, things have calmed down and the waterfall is at a more typical level. Both are stunning, but give very different waterfall vibes. 

A bride and groom stand in front of Gooseberry falls during their elopement.
A couple kiss in front of a rushing waterfall during their July North Shore elopement in Minnesota with Forever and Evergreens Photography.

Seasons aren’t the only thing to consider when it comes to when to elope. Crowds in northern Minnesota are going to be larger on the weekends (especially during the summer) than they are during a weekday. Sunrise is typically going to offer that intimate “just us” experience while midday and sunset are going to have more people around.

Gooseberry Falls State Park is one of the best places in the Midwest to elope. With the recent snow melt filling the rivers, spring brings rushing waterfalls making it one of the best times of year to elope in Minnesota, particularly at Gooseberry Falls State Park!
A couple in their wedding clothes hold hands and kiss on the rocky North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota during their elopement. In front of them, a large puddle reflects their image perfectly, acting as a large mirror.
A bride and groom kiss in front of a rocky river during their elopement along the North Shore of Lake Superior.
Gooseberry Falls State Park is one of the best places in the Midwest to elope. With the recent snow melt filling the rivers, spring brings rushing waterfalls making it one of the best times of year to elope in Minnesota, particularly at Gooseberry Falls State Park!
A bride and groom kiss in front of a rocky river during their elopement along the North Shore of Lake Superior.
A couple in their wedding clothes hold hands and kiss on the rocky North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota during their elopement. In front of them, a large puddle reflects their image perfectly, acting as a large mirror.

2. FIND THE PERFECT NORTH SHORE ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER (psst, hi!)

We might be biased (okay, we probably almost certainly are…), but truthfully, hiring an elopement photographer is one of the best first steps for planning. Elopement photographers are typically more than just camera button pushers. Besides being the takers of epic pictures, elopement photographers are great at helping navigate the planning process. (We have done it a time or two.) Finding an expert who is experienced in the outdoors and elopements will help take the stress out of the whole process. Need someone to help put a timeline together so you take advantage of the best light and avoid the crowds, an unexpected family reunion occupying your perfect vow location and need someone who can suggest an even better backup location on the spot, need help picking the best hike for epic views…? Your elopement photographer is there for you!

Here at Forever and Evergreens, we are there for you every step of the way. We’ll help you put together the perfect day and are armed with an arsenal of tips and tricks to help with everything from location recommendations to timelines, activities, packing lists, permits, and more! We both grew up exploring the shores of Lake Superior and have spent more nights camping along the North Shore than we can count. We know all the best spots and would be thrilled to be a part of your Minnesota North Shore elopement.

A bridge and groom stand together on their elopement day on a rocky cliff edge overlooking one of the many rivers flowing into Lake Superior along the North Shore.
Standing in front of one of the many waterfalls that line the north shore of lake superior, a bride and groom kiss on their elopement day. The bride holds a cascading bouquet of wedding flowers in her hand.
A bride and groom sit on the branch of a large Minnesota birch tree during their north shore elopement.

3. RESERVATIONS AND PLANNING FOR GUESTS

Thinking about reservations is something to consider early on to make sure everything is available for your elopement day. If you are considering having guests at your elopement, you will likely want to rent a shelter to make sure that you all have a space to be together. (And many of the parks will require you either have a shelter rental or special permit for elopements with guests.) One of our favorite places along the shore for elopements with guests is Gooseberry Falls State Park. For Gooseberry elopements, there are two different shelters that can be rented for very affordable prices,  the Lakeview Shelter and the Lady Slipper Lodge. The Lakeview Shelter is the perfect spot for an intimate dinner, whether just the two of you or with a small group of family and friends. The shelter has a couple of large picnic tables, a place to set up food (and even to plug in crock pots!), attached bathrooms, and a large wood burning fireplace. A great backup option for a cozy dinner cuddled in front of the fireplace if it rains or the perfect home base for gathering with family and friends. The Lady Slipper Lodge is set up with benches on either side of an aisle facing the front of the lodge, making it a great ceremony spot! We love this option for an intimate wedding with family and friends. It’s a great backup for rainy weather (it even has a fireplace for colder days!) or even as a Plan A if you want a space you can decorate, somewhere easy for family and friends to sit down, and don’t have to worry about bystanders.

If you are planning on camping at a State Park along the North Shore of Lake Superior during your elopement, keep in mind that camping reservations open six months in advance and typically sell out quickly for the peak season. There are also lots of private campgrounds along Lake Superior as well as unique cabin rentals, hotels, resorts, and Airbnb’s. These will all have different reservation windows, so it is best to reach out right away once you have settled on your date and location. 

A number of the resorts along the North Shore have beautiful wedding options. If you are planning a larger intimate North Shore wedding with guests, we recommend looking into this option as the areas in State Parks and other public lands along the North Shore of Lake Superior that can accommodate large groups are limited. The facilities such as parking, bathrooms, and seating in many areas will limit your options for larger gatherings.

Gooseberry Falls State Park Lady Slipper Lodge Wedding Ceremony
Lady Slipper Lodge Wedding Ceremony at Gooseberry Falls State Park
Wedding reception in Gooseberry Falls State Park Lakeview Shelter

4. MARRIAGE LICENSES AND LAWS

In Minnesota, you may apply for a marriage license in any county, regardless of where in the state you decide to get married (you must be married in the state of Minnesota though). It is not necessary for either individual to be a resident of the state of Minnesota (or even the US). You will need to apply for your marriage license in person and both of the people getting married must be present (there are some special forms that can be completed and notarized if one of you is unable to make it). It is definitely a good idea to make an appointment for this to ensure that everything goes smoothly. When you are there, be prepared to provide a valid ID (such as a driver’s license or passport), your full legal name, address, telephone numbers, documentation on any prior marriages, and social security numbers (if you have one) as well as your after-marriage name(s) and address. At the time of writing this blog, marriage licenses in Minnesota cost $115 or $40 after completing 12 hours of valid premarital counseling. Your marriage license will be issued at your appointment (there are no waiting period or blood test requirements… making it a perfect state for a destination wedding) and is good for six months.

Your marriage license will need to be signed by the applicants, two witnesses, and the officiant. Within five days after the ceremony, the officiant who performed the marriage will need to file the marriage license with the county in which the license was obtained. After your license is returned, you will be able to get your marriage certificate to prove things are official!

A bride and groom fish in Lake Superior on their wedding day at Gooseberry Falls State Park. Up for adventure, the bride wore her wedding dress while hiking along the rocky shore. Spring is a magical time in Minnesota and one of the best times to elope in Minnesota.

5. FIND AN OFFICIANT

Since you need a licensed officiant to get legally married in Minnesota, you will need to find one for your North Shore elopement. We are happy to offer some recommendations, or, if you are looking for something simple (a two birds with one stone sorta deal), Dom is ordained and can step in to act as the officiant during your ceremony!

6. PERMITS

The permit situation along the North Shore has been changing a lot lately, so it is always best to check with the park you plan to elope at. Weddings with guests will typically require a permit or shelter rental if they are taking place at a state park or other public lands along the North Shore. We always recommend calling the park or relevant land management to confirm before getting too far into your planning. As professional elopement photographers, navigating permits is a normal part of our business. We are always happy to help our couples figuring out what permits they need and where allowed, can even take care of applying for and obtaining photography permits for your elopement. 

Minnesota state parks  do require entrance permits. Entrance permits are needed for each vehicle entering the park, not each individual. A daily pass can be purchased online or at the park for $7 per day or an annual pass can be purchased for $35.

A bride and groom stand on some rocks in the river in front of Gooseberry Falls during their North Shore adventure elopement.

7. TRAVEL & LODGING

When putting together your plan of how to elope at along the North Shore of Lake Superior, figuring out how you are going to get there and where you are going to stay once you are there are two important things to add to your to-do list. The first state park along the north shore (when headed south to north) is about a 3 hour drive from the Twin Cities. MSP is the major airport in Minnesota, located in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area or Duluth (about 30 minutes from Gooseberry Falls State Park) has a smaller airport as well. If you are flying in, we strongly recommend renting a car.

The North Shore of Lake Superior is full of options for unique stays. There are plenty of campsites, cabin rentals, and resorts. If you decide to book a stay through Airbnb, be sure to look into policies around events and parties. We recommend messaging the host to make sure that there won’t be any issues with your stay. (A good practice for any rental service to avoid hiccups on your big day.) If you are looking for a more conventional hotel stay, the towns of Two Harbors and Duluth both have a variety of lodging options that might be a good fit for your Lake Superior elopement. If you are looking for something further north along the lake (a great option for something a bit more remote with smaller crowds) Grand Marais, MN has lodging, dining, and entertainment options. We love this cute little town.

A couple kiss during sunrise on their wedding day during their Gooseberry elopement.

8. ELOPE!

The easiest step… have the time of your life and marry your best friend!

A couple hold hands and grasp their lanterns during sunrise on their elopement day. They stand on a rocky peninsula jutting out into Lake Superior as the first light of day hits the North Shore.
A couple kisses on the North Shore of Lake Superior during their elopement in Minnesota. It's a chilly morning and the brides elopement wedding dress was a bit too thin to keep her warm. The groom has draped his coat over the shoulders of his bride to warm her up.
A newly married couple fish on the shore of Lake Superior during their Gooseberry elopement at Gooseberry Falls State Park in Minnesota.
A bride and groom fish on the edge of Lake Superior during their Gooseberry elopement.
Gooseberry elopement along the shore of Lake Superior.
A groom kissing his bride's forehead on the rocky shore of lake superior during their Gooseberry State Park Intimate Wedding.
A just married couple celebrate their wedding with an elopement at Gooseberry Falls State Park.
Gooseberry elopement along the shore of Lake Superior.
A just married couple celebrate their wedding with an elopement at Gooseberry Falls State Park.
A groom kissing his bride's forehead on the rocky shore of lake superior during their Gooseberry State Park Intimate Wedding.

If you are dreaming up your own North Shore elopement and are looking for the perfect photographer to photograph those precious memories, we would love to tag along and capture your story. Get in touch and let’s get rolling!

10 thoughts on “North Shore Elopement Guide | How to Elope along the Minnesota North Shore”

  1. Pingback: How to Elope in Minnesota - Forever and Evergreens

  2. I had no idea Minnesota was so beautiful! Stunning imagery and very helpful information. You might’ve just convinced me to elope there!

  3. What a wonderful resource for how to elope at Gooseberry Falls State Park along Lake Superior. Your photos are incredibly beautiful and show why this is one of the most gorgeous places to elope in the Midwest.

  4. How fun to have some fishing included in their wedding day. I love it. The photos are gorgeous and the location looks perfect for them!

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