Erika and Ryan (the duo behind The Greatest Adventure Weddings & Elopements) were supposed to get married in Scotland back in March 2020 but their wedding was canceled 3 days before they were supposed to fly out (we’ll give you one guess why). They ended up pivoting and getting married in the PNW on their original date! But fast forward a year, the itch to travel was real and they heard that Iceland was opening up to vaccinated Americans. It was the perfect location for a belated honeymoon, and these self-proclaimed “geology nerds” knew of the once-in-a-lifetime phenom happening just 45 minutes outside Reykjavik…the Fagradalsfjall volcano was (and is!) actively erupting. AND, it was open to visitors. Iceland wedding photos were a MUST.
Pause here to say, if you have any questions about Fagradalsfjall and safety, this fascinating article is a great deep dive into the history of the volcano, how long it might continue to erupt, and what it’s like to visit with the current precautions in place.
When Erika + Ryan found out that Maggie Grace Photography was going to be visiting at the same time, they planned a last-minute shoot because how could you not?! We asked Erika and Maggie to both share more about this incredible experience. Here’s Maggie:
As a wedding photographer struggling through 2020 in an industry that was upended, finally standing in front of the volcano after a vertical climb up a mountain with other enthusiastic tourists and local Icelanders felt like I’d reached some end of a marathon. Honestly, these photos and the experience of taking them were the most emotional moments in my career as a photographer.
Ready for some seriously wild jaw-dropping moments? LET’S GO.
The Journey from Reykjavik
So, how do you get to an active volcano and still look smokin’? Erika gave us a peek into the day:
The day of, I did my hair and makeup at our Airbnb in Reykjavik and we all headed for the trail, just outside of the small fishing village of Grindavik. My husband and I had visited the volcano a few days before, so we knew what we were getting ourselves into. The Icelandic government was on it! They had created parking lots and a relatively well-maintained trail (although that particular trail is now buried in lava), there were bathrooms at the trailhead and even a concession stand. Plus, they had people keeping an eye on the gas levels so they could move people or close the trail if needed.
Maggie, Ryan, and I hiked the short but steep trail over a ridge from the parking lot. Before you could see it, you could hear the WHOOOOSH from the volcano. Ahh, it was so cool! This particular day was freezing. It was snowing and the wind was blowing like crazy but luckily, you could warm up over the slow-moving lava flows that sounded like breaking pottery as it moved through the cooled layers. We helped each other get dressed on a surrounding hill, took photos, and roasted a marshmallow over the lava.
UNREAL, we tell you!!
The Perfect Iceland Wedding Dress (For a Volcano Hike!)
Erika didn’t hike in her wedding dress (or those shoes!) of course, but it still needed to be just right when it came to packing and romping about on uneven ground! She picked up this CUTE midi-length dress by Sarah Seven at The Dress Theory in Seattle.
What it’s Really Like to Photograph an Active Volcano Elopement
Maggie’s experience was monumental, to say the least. The photos were taken from about one hour before sunset until just after sunset and here’s her recount of the day:
My favorite moment will forever be when Erika and Ryan were walking out to the volcano on a lava field. I heard whispers around me from the other tourists asking what on earth these two were wearing and excited murmurs as they realized what we were doing. Snow had started to fall. Although it was cold, I had never been so happy to be shivering. Adrenaline coursed through my body.
Behind Erika and Ryan, the Geiser bubbled slowly until it erupted straight into the sky. The gray sky turned flamboyant red. I felt heat on my face and around me, I saw hundreds of faces turned towards the volcano taking in the eruption at once. After 13 months of feeling isolated without concerts, going to the movies, dancing at wedding receptions, and community, experiencing something so raw and powerful that came from Earth while surrounded by so many people flooded me with a powerful sense of community and belonging. I had forgotten how it felt to feel something with a group of people in the same physical proximity. It was magical. It was everything.
Snow and lava all at once! Genuinely MIND-BLOWING.
How to Plan a Wedding or Elopement Shoot at the Volcano
Wondering if there’s a chance you might be able to experience the same thing? Or maybe you planning an Iceland wedding and want to hike over for some epic photos? We asked Erika + Ryan to share their tips to make it happen. Keeping in mind the local rules and regulations, here’s what you need to know:
- Set realistic expectations. It’s a volcano, it’s going to do what it’s going to do. (At one point this summer, the lava completely stopped flowing and then started up again.) The lava flow has grown so much since we were there and you can’t get to the same area we were. That being said, anywhere near the volcano makes for a truly one-of-kind location!
- Have backup locations in mind. It feels rude to even call them back-up locations because the whole island is INCREDIBLE
- Do your research before you visit/check conditions. Reference the live stream, the weather and road conditions, and eruption updates.
- Keep it minimal. Don’t plan for a big setup, etc. This is an active volcano. Conditions can change quickly on you!
- Take a heli-tour. We ran out of time to do this but we highly recommend a heli tour that can land near the lava flows!
We made it to the end with only a single pun, so it’s only fair to leave you with this: THAT’S HOT. Thank you to Erika, Ryan, and Maggie for sharing your memories, tips, and photos from this stunning day!
photography: Maggie Grace Photography // venue name: The Fagradalsfjall Volcano, Grindavik, Iceland // event design: The Greatest Adventure Weddings & Elopements // planning: The Greatest Adventure Weddings & Elopements // florals: Rusted Vase Floral Co // wedding dress: Sarah Seven // wedding dress boutique: The Dress Theory, Seattle // bride's shoes: ASOS