Saying “I do” in an igloo: Finland’s frozen wedding boom

Pictures were also central to Deborah and Michael Ballinger’s wedding day in Kittilä. A photographer and videographer captured the day’s events. (Elina Ervasti/Yle)

Money is no obstacle for some romantic holidaymakers in Finnish Lapland.

Lapland is becoming a wedding destination, particularly for British couples.

Rue Niemi, a Finnish-British wedding coordinator in Lapland, told Yle that demand for her services has been rising for several years.

A total of 73 non-resident foreign couples tied the knot in the country in 2022, according to Finland’s official population register. This number was exceeded last year, the Digital and Population Data Services Agency said, but added that it’s still working on the exact figure.

The majority of foreign nuptials take place in the town of Kittilä, in Finnish Lapland.

Niemi’s wedding business is near Levi, not far from Kittilä. Over the past 15 years she said she has organised over 700 weddings — and claims demand has grown by a third in the past five years. Most of her customers are British, and some are already booked in with her for 2026.

Niemi’s job is to help make people’s dreams come true, but sometimes customers’ expectations can be unrealistic.

“One bride wanted a polar bear at her wedding reception. She was concerned about the potential danger, so she wanted the animal chained and its claws trimmed. I politely explained that, unfortunately, we couldn’t provide a real polar bear for the occasion,” Niemi explained.

Instead of an Arctic predator, Niemi brought in an ice sculpture of a bear.

“That worked,” she said.

Other growing trends

Proposals are another growing trend in Lapland’s romance holiday segment.

Sometimes there’s no limit to how much people are willing to invest when popping the big question, according to Annekreet Heinloo-Korteniemi of Rovaniemi-based Lapland Romance.

She said money was not an obstacle, particularly among Asian “proposal” tourists.

“Finns can’t even imagine how much money people spend on proposing,” said Heinloo-Korteniemi.

During Christmas week she said she helped put together a proposal event where the red rose petals alone cost thousands of euros.

Some pop the question in the middle of a husky or reindeer safari, or hide the ring in an ice cube. Proposing while gliding through the frozen wilderness on a private husky ride costs upwards of 1,700 euros. Flowers and a photographer can be tacked on for an additional price.

For those in need of extra encouragement, Santa Claus can also turn up for the ride.

“Those moments are naturally captured in photos and videos, and then shared on social media,” she said.

Driven by social media 

Social media has played a major role in Lapland’s winter wedding boom.

People see the fairytale-like images and decide they want to experience something similar, Heinloo-Korteniemi explained.

Sometimes the images are even more important than the actual ceremony.

“A Malaysian couple dressed in wedding clothes wanted to take pictures inside our chapel. They didn’t want to have the actual ceremony,” said Heidi Haavikko of Arctic Snowhotel and Glass Igloos.

The most affordable Lapland wedding costs around 1,000 euros. This price includes assistance with the necessary documents, a simple wedding ceremony, a registrar to officiate at the desired location, decorations and some sparkling beverages.

There is, however, no limit for how much the special day can cost. The Lapland event planners Yle spoke to said the pricetag including travel can climb to 100,000 euros.

The Ballingers told Yle that the week’s holiday and Levi wedding was probably a more affordable option than a traditional wedding back home.

“Organising a wedding there [in the UK] is really expensive. Unexpected costs always come up. Now we know exactly what we’re paying for and what we’re getting,” Michael Ballinger said.

Rue Niemi told Yle that in the UK couples can expect to pay £40,000-£60,000 to get married.

The Ballingers’ weeklong trip to Levi also served as a family holiday for the couple’s adult and soon-to-be adult children.

“This was a true dream wedding for us,” Deborah Ballinger said.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Southern Canadian couple has perfect wedding on Arctic Ocean’s shores, CBC News

Finland: Tourism in the Instagram era: How Finland is harnessing aurora power, Yle News

Iceland: Study touts domestic tourism potential in Nordics, custom approach needed for Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Old icebreakers eye upgrades for Murmansk-Vladivostok tourism, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Reindeer herding affected by increased tourism in Swedish mountains, Radio Sweden

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