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Perfects locations for small ceremonies in MN

Locations for Elopement and small intimate ceremony in MN

There are multiple reasons for a couple to decide for an intimate ceremony, and the result can be nothing but amazing. It can be a personal taste, a legal duty, or a hygienic measures that restrain you from doing a large event (think covid-19 for instance).

If your wedding had been canceled on postpone, I am sorry. I know how much work it is to plan everything and how frustrating it is to see all your dreams go away (at least for a few months).
Anyway, now you need a location to get married, for an elopement of a small ceremony.

There is also different level of intimacy; from a small group of 20 guests (inner circle of family + best friends), to a small group of 10, and no guests at all (called an elopement).

Of course you could rent a very beautiful and expensive wedding venue which would work great for pictures. But it might not make sense from an economic point of view. What’s more, much of couples who voluntarily decided to have a small wedding in order to save money.

So here, we will focus on free or (affordable) locations to host an intimate or elopement ceremony.

Before jumping in a new planning process…

Keep in mind that wedding is about you, your beloved, and an engagement for life. Emotions, more than a backdrop, is what needs photographers to do good pictures.
In a way, small intimate ceremonies, help to reconnect with the core of what a wedding is really about!
So, focus on what really matters, your ceremony, your vows (if you exchange some), you guest (if you have a few members of your family), and most of all, to enjoy!

renaissance hotel minneapolis mn wedding photography

What parameters to take in consideration in the choice of the location (to have nice pictures)

Disclaimer: Most of those places can also work for engagement session. Nevertheless, for engagement session we prefer locations offering a multitude of options, while here, we are just looking for one good point of view.


Landscape is dramatically impacted by the seasons. For instance, falls colors in the tree can turn an ordinary wood into wonderland. In consequence, if you know that a location is more beautiful during one specific month of the year, you might want to wait this month.


Sun can completely change the aspect of a location. As you probably know, the time of day offering the better light is or early in the morning or late in the afternoon (just before sunset).
But that’s not all; photographers need the sun to come from the officiant’s back, or from the guests’ back (if there is any).

The first solution is the best one for portraits, allowing some artistic effect with sun rays.
The second solution is the best if you have an amazing background that you want perfectly lightened.
In consequence, you might schedule your ceremony time regarding the sun position.

Enough Space For your photographer

Photographers would appreciate if there is enough room to turn around the bride, the groom and other people. If you get married on the top of the bluff, near water, or in front of a wall, then always let some space so your photographer can pass behind you and catch different points of view.

when the wedding band is stocked

Ritual Duration

Of course, you won’t have a 1 hour 30 ceremony. Nevertheless, we would recommend that you have at least 15 min ceremony.
First of all it’s time for the bride and the groom to experience the ritual and take measure of what is happening (and to cry a bit).
But also, it’s only the time needed for your photographer to catch some good pictures.

A good officiant would speak about half of the time (maybe reading a text, and improvising), and the bride and groom would speak the other half.
You can write some vows, read a poem, or read each other in a letter. It does not have to be religious. It can be traditional, emotional, fun, or completely inappropriate.


You might decide to have your guests seated or not (depending on their age, and the location).
Seating guests give a solemn side to your event.
If the chosen location doesn’t have any bench of chairs, you can bring some white foldable chairs.
Like an ordinary outdoor event, consider weather conditions: bottles of water, fans, blankets, bug repellant (most important).

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Rain, rain, go away…

Like always in Minnesota, you can never predict of the forecast. So you might need a back-up plan.
Think of a small restaurant that can be great decors for your small event.

Different kinds of backdrops

Now let’s go deeper into the backdrop question. What would be the best location for such a moment? 

Should you prefer and natural backdrop or a modern one?
If some spot in the city can work amazingly well for such a small event, such as rooftops, we will first focus on the natural backdrop. Indeed, those the ones chosen most of the time.Secondly will see that cities can also offer some good spots in some precise condition.

bride and groom in a landscape picture of desert dune during sunset time

Wild Nature and preserved sceneries

Contrary to some state that offers amazing landscapes (such as Colorado State), The 10,000 States is not especially famous for the beauty of its landscapes (except maybe the winter landscape).

But don’t worry, there are some options!

Check the regional park and state park. If you are brave, why not choosing a national park and going to the Boundary Waters!

elopement locations


First with 10,000 Lakes and a bunch of rivers, you might find a few ones that you like and that can actually be used.
Why not stand on the shore of a river or on a dock during the sunset time? For instance, take advantage of a rocky beach on the superior lake (if you are ready to drive a bit). Closer, think of all the beach on the Mississippi River and the St Croix River.

Speaking of rivers and lakes, you don’t have to say on the shore.


Classic and romantic beach would work all the time (even in case of bad weather).



If you, or your best friend, is the lucky owner of a watch, boat can work great as well! It’s elegant, adventurous and inspires a feeling of liberty.

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Step into the water

If you are bold, you can make it official with the foot of the water. Get inspired by South American culture who get baptism in the water, for instance.

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Dock and Rock

A simple rock formation, or a dock over a lake or a raging sea would bring nice images!

water front great lake


Hills covered by meadows would work perfectly. Nevertheless, you would then reserve them for a fall event when the high grass start to dry and turn yellow.
And, if the location is yours (our your grandpa), you can play with your lawnmower, delimiting clean alley and area to stand.

Most of regional and state park have some wild area with high grass that would work great!

bruce vento nature sancutary

Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary

  • Address: 4th St E, St Paul, MN 55106
  • Accessibility: Easy by trail
  • Best time: End of the day, Summer and Fall
  • Cost: free
  • remark: Located on the Mississippi Shore, it offers a sublime view on St Paul cityscape at the sunset.
    Check at Emily & Dustin engagement.It also provides photographers with a railway, and a highway bridge to play with!


Dense woodlands are usually not suitable for pictures. Not only is the viewer’s eyes obstruct but also distract by close vegetation. 

Conversely, some scattered forest with tall trees can be nothing but just majestic. Let’s think of the Sequoia National Forest, for instance. Closer to us, let’s think to pine forest.When the trees are big and tall enough, they allow the light to enter, and an open view on the open understory.

You might know a few spots near the cities that have some nice pines area. To find some pines forest, you would need to drive up north, beyond Duluth, or think to old pines farms.

hansen pines farm

Hansen Tree Farm

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Hok-Si-La Municipal Park

Mountain and bluff

When we mentioned astonishing point of view, we often think of mountains & hills.
Luckily, contrary to Iowa, the North Star State is not completely flat. Indeed, it features some hills and even some mountains.

If miles are not an issue for you, then drive north above Duluth to find some pine forest, and panoramic view on the lake.

If you don’t want to go so far, you could just try the Taylors Falls (which are one of our favorite locations).

Finally, if you prefer to stay local, think of parks that offer ski service (such as Theodore Wirth Park, or Hyland Hills in Bloomington). Indeed, such park usually offers a panoramic point of view on the adjacent hills, and or city.

monument st paul

The Monument in Saint Paul

  • Address: West End of Summit Avenue St Paul, MN 55105
  • Accessibility: Top easy, but rock formation difficult
  • Best time: End of the day
  • Cost: free
  • Remark: Nice rock formation with a great point of view. Can be crowded. Next to the Shadows Falls.
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Taylors Falls Interstate State Park

frontenac state park

Frontenac State Park

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Indian mounds

  • Address: Indian Mounds Regional Park
  • Accessibility: easy
  • Best time: Sun Set
  • Cost: free
  • Remark: Clean Lawn, with a view on the St Paul City.

A simple majestic tree

Some trees are nothing but impressive. That’s especially applied for a century-old oak trees standing in the middle of a lawn.

Chose one whom foliage goes relatively close to the ground, and pick a time when the sun comes from behind the tree.

Water Falls

Nice falls, such as the Goosberry falls (north Duluth) can work great. The fall needs to be tall enough to be impressive.

And you would need to be far enough of the falls so we can frame as an element of big background. Indeed, if it’s just water falling in a chaotic way, it might just be “messy” or distracting.

Thus, please forget the Hidden Falls, or the Novelty Falls. They can work for a few engagement pics, but not a ceremony.

goosebery falls

Gooseberry Falls State Park

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Minnehaha Falls

  • Address: Minneapolis, MN 55417
  • Accessibility: Slippery stairs
  • Cost: Minneapolis Park
  • Best time: Depending on the Sun
  • Remark: Nice location, can be crowded. Despite we can see some picture on the net, I am not 100% ceremonies are allowed down there.
    Check at this engagement session.

Not wild nature

Keep it easy: your backyard

The simpler and cheaper option is probably your backyard (if you are lucky enough to live in a home). It might not be the most photogenic location, but it’s yours, and it’s convenient.

You can easily decorate it: flowers, arch, candles, big sign, letters, helium balloons.

backyard wedding
a simple brick wall

Minimalist: A wall

A nice brick wall, and a nice stone wall, or a wall covered in Virginia creeper.

Of course it’s maybe not the more aesthetic option, but it’s pretty simple, free and it would help to focus on you.


A little stone bridge, a charming wood bridge, or even a dock can be a romantic location. You can be standing on it, or include it in the background.

father hannepin

Father Hennepin Bluff Park

water front park and hannepin bridge

Water Power Park

  • Address: 204 SE Main St, Minneapolis, MN 55414
  • Accessibility: a few stairs, but not difficult
  • cost: free
  • Best time: Sunset
  • Remark: Pretty Simple and Minimalist. Offer only one good angle. Close to St Anthony’s Main area.

Gazebo, Pergola, amphitheater

You can find them in a lot of location (including public park, houses gardens).

Do you need them? No.

Would they work fine for pictures? If they are well designed, surely, but they are clearly not mandatory.
Sometimes, they bring something more “official” to your rituals. Some religions even include them if the official ritual (for instance: Jewish use a “chuppah”).

In other circumstances, their main purpose is to decorate a place that presents a deep lack of soul (public park, garden).
That being said, when they are well made, the result is usually pleasant and photogenic.

It won’t make an exhausting list of all the parks that offer such gazebo or pergola.

About Arch?

A nice arch can turn a regular (dull) place into an inspiring location. For instance, take a simple river shore, add an arch, you have a wedding venue! That’s what Leopold Mississippi Gardens did, for instance.

They really reveal all their potential in 2 circumstances by framing the couple, helping them to pop out of the backdrop:

  • A flat field: they bring some material in the blue sky, helping the couple to contrast with an empty sky. 
  • In front of a wall (such as a brick wall).

Can or should you make one yourself? If you are a handy creative woman (or man), or if your best friend is a florist, and you then you might consider building one yourself. They are usually made of wood or copper, but there is no rule. It’s pretty simple, but required time and, of course, a bunch of flowers.

One advice if you’re starting your own project; think transportation and sun-proof flowers.

Gardens, Cottages, Arboretums

Of course, beautiful gardens, the result of a landscaper’s hard work, is usually perfect for photos. Big and beautiful parks have understood that and usually offer wedding services in exchange for money.

And that’s also what has understood wedding venues that don’t have any sublime historic house to offer and don’t have any astonishing natural place for ceremonies.

Thus they created gardens instead! And that’s a smart thing, because nature is always beautiful!

Let think of:

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Trellis Outdoor Garden


Panola Valley Gardens

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Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

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Como Park and Conservatory

  • Address: 1225 Estabrook Dr, St Paul, MN 55103
  • Accessibility: stairs
  • cost: yes, wedding venue
  • Best time: All day
  • remark: Have some outdoor option (Japanese garden, Pergola) indoor and indoor (Sunken Garden).
    You can also use the park for free. Check past weddings.
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Lyndale Rose Garden

intimate wedding

Irvine Park

Other “fancy” parks:

  • Muriel Sahlin Arboretum
    2525 Dale St N, Roseville, MN 55113
    It is pretty modern, with a fountain, a pergola.
  • Longfellow Gardens
    3933 E Minnehaha Pkwy, Minneapolis, MN 55417
    It features Pergola and trees
  • Arneson Acres
    4711 W 70th St, Edina, MN 55424
    It has a large gazebo + large Fontaine + Big alley with flowers bordered by pine trees
  • Noerenberg Gardens
    2854-2992 N Shore Dr, Orono, MN 55356
    It offers more than a regular garden. It has a nice Japanese-style gazebo built on the lakeshore and a pergola.
  • Normandale Japanese Garden
    West Lot, 9700 France Ave S, Bloomington, MN 55431
    If you like Japanese Style, check at the Minnesota Arboretum and the Como park
  • The Gardens of Castle Rock
    26601 Chippendale Ave, Northfield, MN 55057

Finally, if you need more parks, then you can have a look on this website. It gathers parks all around the State.

Barns, Farms and Ranchs

Wood barns and farms are photogenic. But it’s true that a lot of barns are now offering wedding services at a cost.

If you don’t need any reception, you might just use a piece of lawn with a nice tree.

That applies for farms and ranches. Animals are always fun in photography.

If they don’t offer event’s service, feel free to call them and ask them if it’s possible to rent/use a piece of the field for one hour. I am sure that I you are polite they would be pleased to help you.

Check at Nat & Steph’s wedding at the Barn.

Vineyards, Orchards

Some vineyards and orchards offer restoration services and, in consequence, have developed an entire event alongside their primary business.

Other locations focus only on the core of their production.
But both usually offer a nice background for pictures.

You would probably prefer old locations that have tall trees and tall vines and avoid young fields with small trees.

Check at this amazing wedding at the Four Daughters.

City Landscape

Urban Parks

If you just need some clean lawn and a nice view on the city, find here two parks that should please you.
Let’s think of famous parks such:

harriet island engagement 5

Harriet Island Park

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Boom Island

Almost everything old is photogenic.

As a result, the biggest house (manor mansion) is the most expensive wedding venue. Given we focus on intimate wedding, we won’t list them here.

But let’s take in consideration all the “forgotten” but “remarkable” constructions, heritage of history. It could be a nice wood home, a building, a simple cabin or even little log house.

For the charming little home, Airbnb will be your best friend. For instance, look for Bed and Break first house in Victorian style.

You can check at Emily and Darren who used tow Victorian Houses during their wedding day in Lanesboro.

Buildings with red brick work great.

Post-industrial installations and machines are photogenic. That’s why you can choose a disaffected building or another post industrial installation. Why not use a train station, for instance?

Let’s go deeper. You could rent a vintage a locomotive, vintage bus.


Most couples forget that they can get married at the Courthouse.

That’s probably because modern courthouses in little town are usually charmless. But did you know that Saint Paul courthouse and Minneapolis are two photogenic locations?

They would just work great for a mini-ceremony! What’s more they are located in the center of the town, which means you can go to a restaurant after that.
Check at Sam & Ben courthouse wedding in St Paul.


Restaurants are closed by the Stay-at-home Order during the Covid-19 pendemic.

Most people having an intimate ceremony with their immediate family member would go to a restaurant after that.

Some restaurant has a garden, rooftops or immediate park to accommodate a small celebration. Otherwise, for indoor ritual, it’s quite easy to move some table a set-up a ceremony spot.

One Obvious advantage compare to outdoor spot, is that they are covered location.

We won’t make a long list of restaurants here (you can find plenty on the web). Let just list a few restaurants where we have been and which are charming:

marjorie mc nelly conservatory nadine 4

Nicollet Island Inn

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Harriett Brasserie

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The Lurcat

aster cafe wedding photos 2

Aster Café

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The University Club of Saint Paul


Rooftops is one of our favorite places to shoot pictures, and can also be a perfect location for a ceremony. Nevertheless, all rooftops are not equal and don’t offer the same quality.

Check for our entire article on rooftop to lean more.

Add Something More

If elopement means bare necessities for you, then you can stop here.
Conversely, if you want to add extra glitter to this moment, here is a list of things that are easy to set up.

Before the ceremony:

  • music: bring a portative speaker on batteries.
  • Alley: you can easily create a rose petal alley.
  • Or if you are brave, roll out a red carpet!
  • Smokes bomb alley: Some would even light a few smoke bombs on the grounds.

During the ceremony:

  • Alternative ritual: If you want to make it different, you can add an alternative ceremony. Check on the internet, there are tons of ideas (sand, ribbons, etc.).
  • Candles: if you are planning to get married at the sunset, you can light one hundred candles in your background.

After the ceremony:

  • If you have some guests, they might have fun throwing a few petals on you, or rice, or even soap bubbles.
  • Sparklers: If your ceremony ends at dusk, you can have fun with sparklers.

Think out of the Box

Finally, you can also be creative and use the opportunity for a kind of ceremony that won’t be possible otherwise!

The options are endless. You can include them or hobby that you like.

  • get married on board of an air balloon
  • make it official at small airport, in a marina, or why not in front of your job (if you really like it)
  • travel to national parks or to other cities in the world —as far as it’s permitted— (such as Paris)
  • tie the knot under the water
  • get married standing on a canoe, paddle boat

Black and White Portrait of Alexandre Mayeur, photographer at French-Touch-Photography

Born and raised in Paris, I am now a proud Wedding Photographer in Rochester, MN, serving MPLS.

I don’t only capture emotions in candid pictures, I also create timeless images and artful photographs.
Recognized as one of the best photographers in the Twin Cities.

I serve Duluth and also far beyond the 10,000 Lakes State (Wisconsin, Iowa, and destination). I am more than happy to discover beautiful landscapes and new horizons.

Have a look at my previous publications to learn more. As an experienced professional photographer, I don’t limit my field to lifestyle, family, or event photography! I invite you to visit my portfolio and discover my photography and work out of the studio.