August 26, 2022

Couples

How to Elope in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

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couple in the upper peninsula of michigan

How to Elope in the Upper Peninsula

Before anything else, it’s good to get an overview of the steps you’ll need to follow to plan your elopement! To help you out, I wrote a whole guide to planning your Upper Peninsula elopement, from choosing your vendors to picking your location and so much more. Check it out below before you dive into any more of this blog post! 

What is an Intimate Wedding? A Simple Guide to Planning One

couple at the upper peninsula of michigan overlooking the great lakes

All About the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Where is the Upper Peninsula?

The U.P. is the northernmost region of Michigan that borders 3 of the Great Lakes, separate from the Lower Peninsula (which is, you guessed it, the lower/southern part of Michigan!), and actually extends into Wisconsin a little bit. It encompasses little under ⅓ of Michigan’s land area, so it makes up a large part of the state – and is very well-loved by both residents & tourists alike!

What cities are considered part of the Upper Peninsula?

There are many cities that are considered to be part of the U.P. but for the sake of time (and because I doubt you really want the entire long list), here are the largest cities that make up the U.P.:

Marquette is the biggest of all the cities in the U.P. and is probably the one you’ve actually heard of if you’re not native to Michigan!

What is the Upper Peninsula known for?

Ohhh man the list could be so long. The U.P. is famous for so many reasons and is a popular destination for tourists who love exploring the great outdoors, as it’s absolutely packed with a variety of hiking opportunities, state parks, stunning shoreline + water views, incredible waterfalls, and sooo much more. 

Here are a few ways to know if eloping in the Upper Peninsula might be right for you:

  • You want to visit some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the country
  • You love cliff jumping/diving & want to incorporate it into your adventure elopement by visiting the cliffs of Presque Isle State Park
  • You want the chance to explore one of the only four National Lakeshores in the U.S.
  • You love hiking and/or mountain biking, and want to find some awesome forested trails to explore
  • You want to go kayaking on the gorgeous waters of Lake Superior
  • You want to enjoy amazing sunsets from the beaches of the U.P.

What airport do you fly into to visit the Upper Peninsula?

To get to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, you can fly into Sawyer International Airport (SAW), which is about 16 miles south of downtown Marquette.

tide of water coming on to beach

Best Upper Peninsula Elopement Locations

Let’s dive into what you probably came here for: the BEST locations for your Upper Peninsula elopement. In my opinion, these are some of the most beautiful places in the U.P. where you could hold your ceremony, or even just take some elopement portraits of the two of you. Look through them all & pick the one(s) that feel right for your big day!

1. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a must-visit during your time in the U.P. Boasting massive, multicolored sandstone cliffs, stunning views along the south shore of Lake Superior, sandy beaches and dunes, waterfalls, and even lush green forests, the lakeshore is chock-full of incredible opportunities for exploration. There are nearly 100 miles of trails to check out, and you really get to enjoy the entire U.P. experience just by visiting here. You can even bring a kayak, stand-up paddleboard, or book a boat tour to see the Pictured Rocks in their full beauty!

2. Munising Waterfalls

The U.P. is well known for its MANY waterfalls, especially the four major waterfalls in Munising: Munising Falls, Tannery Falls, Horseshoe Falls, and Memorial Falls, plus manyyy more nearby. I can’t recommend eloping at a waterfall enough – it is such a magical experience getting to exchange your vows so close to a stunning, majestic body of water flowing behind you, or even just taking some dramatic elopement portraits after your ceremony! From smaller waterfalls to large, cascading flows over cliffs, you won’t want to miss out on exploring the Munising waterfalls.

3. Grand Sable Dunes

Michingan’s Grand Sable Dunes are the highest portion of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, sitting at more than 300 feet above Lake Superior. These dunes overlooking the bright blue water are absolutely stunning, and make for such an awesome elopement location – picture yourselves saying your vows with your toes in the sand, Lake Superior shining behind you, or setting up a little charcuterie board picnic as the sun sets! Getting to spend time in the sand dunes and explore the Pictured Rocks all in the same day is seriously an amazing experience that would be such a memorable addition to your elopement.

4. Marquette

Marquette is a fantastic part of the U.P. to elope in, because there are SO many options for elopement spots super close together! And because of just how many great places there are for a Marquette elopement, I went ahead and created a separate blog post about it. Check out these 5 Best Places to Elope in Marquette to find out all of my fave spots!

5. Black River Scenic Harbor

The Black River Harbor Recreation Area, part of the Ottawa National Forest, offers some absolutely stunning beaches, waterfalls, hiking trails, and even a great campground if you’d like to spend the night under the stars for your elopement. The forested areas along the river make for absolutely gorgeous places to explore, plus there’s a great access point to Lake Superior if you want to spend time out on the water! 

6. Lake of the Clouds

Lake of the Clouds is a beautiful lake in Ontonagon County, part of the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness. It’s one of the best places to witness the stunning fall foliage of the U.P., showing off incredible shades of oranges, reds, & yellows among the lush forests! Plus, with an easily-accessible overlook and multiple hiking trails, Lake of the Clouds is a no-brainer when it comes to locations to visit for your Upper Peninsula adventure elopement.

7. Copper Harbor

Finally, Copper Harbor, known as the gateway to Isle Royale National Park, is the largest island within Lake Superior, accessible only by ferry. It’s an absolutely amazing place for all sorts of outdoor adventure, from mountain biking to fishing to golfing to kayaking, with sooo many beautiful beach spots and natural wonders to explore. The views will take your breath away, and you + your guests will love spending an afternoon or evening on the harbor, having fun adventuring together and celebrating your elopement!

Best Time of Year to Elope in the Upper Peninsula

Now that you know more about some of the best Upper Peninsula elopement locations you have available to you, it’s time to choose your date! If you’re wondering what the best time of year is to elope in the Upper Peninsula, keep on reading.

My suggestion for when to elope in the Upper Peninsula is typically summer or fall, in order to make the most of the beautiful landscape, the blue waters of Lake Superior, and all the outdoor activities available to you. However, spring or winter can also be super beautiful options.

Summer offers gorgeous sandy beaches, amazing sunsets, great spots for cliff jumping, outdoor music, and tons of awesome hiking trails. Then, fall gives way to stunning colors covering the trees everywhere you look, which make for a really gorgeous backdrop to any elopement (hello, incredible fall foliage views from Sugarloaf Mountain!). The weather is a little cooler, yes, but is still pretty perfect for most summer activities!

couple standing together and holding hands at upper peninsula

Legalities of Eloping in the Upper Peninsula

Michigan Marriage Licenses + Laws

One thing you’ll have to do no matter where you elope in Michigan or what your elopement looks like, is get your Michigan marriage license! Every state has different requirements and rules for getting a marriage license, so I wanted to go through the Michigan-specific laws to make sure you’re familiar with them, especially if you’ll be visiting from out of state.

To get married in Michigan, you need to be at least 18 years old, and you do not have to be a Michigan resident! The rules & fees for getting a marriage license differs by county, so keep in mind that the county you apply in may look different than other parts of the state. However, the average fee to get a marriage license in Michigan is $20 for residents, and $30 for non-residents.

You also need to have two witnesses over the age of 18 in order to make your ceremony legal, as well as have a licensed officiant solemnizing the ceremony.

Keep in mind that Michigan has a required 3-day waiting period before you can use your license, and that your license will only be valid for 33 days! After those 33 days, you’ll have to get a brand new license and repeat the process all over again. 

When it comes time for you to apply for your license, you’ll need to visit a Michigan County Clerk office together and bring valid photo ID for verification. No blood test is required to get a marriage license in Michigan! 

couple kissing overlooking water

Upper Peninsula Elopement Permits

Along with obtaining your Michigan marriage license, you will also need to get the appropriate permits for the location you choose for your elopement! It depends on the location, but many public lands or recreation areas require some sort of special use/special activity permit in order to hold a wedding ceremony. Sometimes, though, these permits aren’t required unless you have over a certain amount of people in your group! Be sure to do your research ahead of time so you know what permits you’ll need, and what’s allowed + not allowed at your desired ceremony location.

If you choose to get married at one of the U.P.’s 21 state parks, an Event Use Permit will be required – you can find the application here! You have to apply for your permit at least 60 days before your desired date, and you’ll have to follow this event fee schedule + pay any additional fees required by the specific park.

If you want to get married on state forest land rather than state park land, here’s the Event Use Permit application specific to state forest land!

couple walking together at upper peninsula

Where to Stay in the Upper Peninsula

Airbnb’s

Because there are SO many incredible Airbnb’s to choose from along the U.P. (including A-frame cabins in the forest, adorable bungalows, uniquely-designed houses, and even cozy waterfront cottages), I decided to write a whole separate blog post about them!! It was just too much to fit into this one without overloading you with info – so pause real quick, and hop on over to my blog post featuring the 8 Best Cabins in the Upper Peninsula for an Airbnb Elopement!

Campgrounds

This is a hard one to narrow down, too, because there are sooo many campgrounds in the U.P. that would be awesome to stay at after your elopement ceremony. So I narrowed it down to just a few for you to start with – below are some of the best places to go camping in the Upper Peninsula!

Hotels + Resorts

couple holding each other in cabin

Upper Peninsula, Michigan Elopement Packages

Looking for the right Upper Peninsula elopement photographer for you? Let me introduce myself 😉

I’m Madison, a Wisconsin-based + Northern Michigan elopement photographer who is ready to focus on your love, document your big day the way it deserves to be documented, and capture you in your natural element. Whether you’re eloping in private on Lake Superior or holding an intimate wedding with your closest loved ones in an A-frame cabin in the U.P., I’m ready to photograph it all. Life is so dang precious, and I’d be so honored to help you preserve those memories for the rest of your lives.

My Upper Peninsula elopement & wedding packages start at $3,275, and you can inquire with me here to start chatting about your big day + let me help you figure out the best package for your needs. I can’t wait to help bring all of your biggest U.P. elopement dreams to life!


My Favorite Upper Peninsula Elopement Vendors

Hiring the right vendors for your elopement is crucial in making your day smooth, effortless, and beautiful. It’s important to hire people you vibe with both personally and professionally, and who you trust to put their talent into your elopement! Below are some of my favorite local vendors that I recommend considering to be a part of your elopement in the Upper Peninsula.

Florist: Samara Floral Co.

Tacos: Dia De Los Tacos

Burgers: The Burger Bus

Coffee: Contrast Coffee Co., Camp Coffee Co.

Jewelry: Superior Diamond Co.

Seamstress: Sakara Atelier

Bakery: Jamsen’s Fish Market & Bakery

Brewery: Blackrocks Brewery

Need some help figuring out what to eat on your elopement day?! Check out my recent blog post with 5 Fun Wedding or Elopement Dinner Ideas for Your Big Day, which even includes more of my favorite local food vendors that you can hire!


You’ve made it through my Upper Peninsula elopement guide! I hope you’re feeling way more confident now about how to elope in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and feel ready to bring all your biggest elopement dreams to life. I can’t wait to see what your big day ends up looking like! And if you need even more inspiration or additional elopement/engagement-related resources, I’ve got more ready for ya below 🙂

5 of the Best Places to Elope in Marquette, Michigan

Casual Beach Engagement Photos on Lake Michigan

Adventurous Fall Engagement Photos in Marquette, Michigan

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