Iceland's surreal landscapes have made it one of the hottest travel destinations in the world. Located halfway between North America and Europe, it's easily accessible from either continent but looks like no place else on Earth. It's a sparsely populated, wild, and rugged island where volcanoes erupt, hot springs bubble, and there are waterfalls around every corner. Much of what lures millions of tourists also lures couples who see Iceland's beautiful, dramatic scenery as the perfect backdrop for a unique wedding. If you're interested in having a destination wedding in Iceland, here's what you need to know.
The Legal Requirements
To get married in Iceland, you and your partner must be at least 18 years old and not related by blood, marriage, or adoption. Marriage paperwork needs to be sent to the National Registry Office in Reykjavik at least two weeks prior to the wedding date, though it's recommended to send it closer to six weeks in advance if you can, in case there are any problems or delays. The paperwork includes your passports, birth certificates, certificate of Marital Status, witness forms (signed by two witnesses), flight tickets, confirmation from the Directorate of Immigration that you are legally residing or staying in Iceland, and divorce papers (if divorced) or death certificate of previous spouse (if a widow).
Of course, if you don't want to deal with the red tape, a popular option is to get legally married locally and then have the ceremony and celebration in Iceland.
You need to be in Iceland at least two business days before your wedding date to obtain your Iceland marriage license, but you'll need to send hard copies of the documents at least two weeks before you arrive in Iceland. And if you plan on booking a church for your venue, or hiring a local photographer or caterer, you'll want to start looking at least six months out to ensure availability at the place of your choice. Additionally, if you're visiting during peak time (June-August) you should book your accommodation as far in advance as you can.
Unlike a wedding in the tropics, a wedding in Iceland requires more than an off-the-shoulder dress and some heels. Even if your wedding takes place in a church, chances are you'll want some photos with the beautiful Icelandic landscape, and that means proper footwear and outerwear. At the very least, bring some flats you can change into—walking over craggy moss-covered lava rock is impossible in stilettos—though depending on the weather, calf-high boots are much better. You'll also want a stylish coat or shawl; even in July temperatures can hover in the 50s.
Where to Get Married
Iceland has no shortage of adorable one-room churches to host a small ceremony. There's the striking black church at Hótel Búðir on the Snaefellsnes Peninsula (conveniently located next to a luxury hotel so guests don't have to travel far), the futuristic-looking church in the colorful town of Stykkisholmur, or the much-photographed red-roofed white church set on a hill above the seaside town of Vik along Iceland's south coast. There are more than 200 churches in Iceland, and nearly every town has one, so no matter where you want to go in the country you can find a cute little church nearby.
If you have a larger wedding party, consider a country hotel such as Hotel Vatnsholt, which has a large central dining room and comfortable accommodation spread throughout several cozy buildings, or Hotel Husafell, a stylish boutique hotel surrounded by mountains and hiking trails and close to a golf course and swimming pool. In Reykjavik, there are dozens of restaurants with private rooms, or you can go all out with a lavish banquet at the stunning waterfront Harpa concert hall.
Another option is to have an informal ceremony at one of Iceland's incredible natural wonders. There's no permit required to get married at these sites, such as Seljalandsfoss waterfall, Reynisfjara black sand beach, or the basalt cliffs of Arnarstapi. However, consider that Icelandic weather is volatile so you should have a backup plan in case of severe winds or rain. Some locations are also more popular than others, so consider that if you pick a location on the Golden Circle or a destination easily accessed along the popular south coast, you likely won't have it all to yourself. The same incredible beauty that makes Iceland a fairytale location for a wedding also brings lots of tourists.