August 26, 2022


How to Plan an Intimate Northern Wisconsin Wedding

Table of Contents:

If you’re looking to get married in Wisconsin and are an avid outdoor adventure-lovin’ couple, then the Northwoods are the place for you! Enjoy this guide to having an intimate Northern Wisconsin wedding, in which you’ll learn about where to go, where to stay, what to do, & more. 

body of water in northern wisconsin

Get to Know Northern Wisconsin/the Northwoods

First, we’ll get to know the area a little bit so you’re familiar with what I’m talking about in this blog post!

Where are the Northwoods? 

The Northwoods of Wisconsin are located in, well, the northernmost area of Wisconsin. They border the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and boast an insane collection of over 3,000 lakes, streams, and rivers, and offer some of the most amazing outdoor adventure opportunities in the whole state!

What is considered the “Northwoods” of Wisconsin?

There are five counties that are considered to be a part of the Northwoods: Vilas, Lincoln, Langlade, Forest, & Oneida. Some of the towns you may hear about when researching the Northwoods include Conover, Eagle River, Manitowish Waters, & Presque Isle!

Are the Northwoods and Northern Wisconsin the same thing?

Kind of! “Northern Wisconsin” generally just refers to the northern section of the state as a whole, whereas the Northwoods are a part of that northern area. So yes, the Northwoods are part of Northern Wisconsin, but the entirety of Northern Wisconsin isn’t necessarily the Northwoods! 

For the sake of simplicity, I’ll be using “the Northwoods” and “Northern Wisconsin” fairly interchangeably throughout this blog post – because generally, I’ll be talking specifically about the Northwoods area of  the northern part of the state! (If you had a dollar for every time I say “north” in this blog post, you’d be rich by the end of it) 😉

What is Northern Wisconsin known for?

Northern Wisconsin is very well-known for its endless opportunities for outdoor adventure and exploration, including (but not limited to) fishing, boating, hunting, hiking, camping, biking, canoeing, skiing, snowmobiling, aaaand more. The half a million acres that the Northwoods encompass are truly a DREAM come true for outdoor lovers, especially couples who are looking for the perfect place to get married in the area where they can incorporate their favorite activities out in nature.

Why get married in the Northwoods of Wisconsin?

Here are a few ways to know if the Northwoods of Wisconsin might be the right intimate wedding destination for you:

  • You love spending time exploring the outdoors, either through low-level adventures or more challenging expeditions
  • You want access to tons of hiking + biking trails to choose from
  • You want to spend time with your loved ones out on the water somewhere, boating, swimming, kayaking, or stand-up paddleboarding
  • You want a large variety of great campgrounds to choose from
  • You love being by the water & want to experience incredible scenery of the many freshwater lakes 
wedding in the northwoods of  wisconsin

Where to Get Married in Northern Wisconsin

Ready to find out all of the best places to have your Northern Wisconsin intimate wedding? I’ve got a quick list below to help get you started – click the link for each one to find out more! The list of activities further down in this blog post also goes through some additional info about more of the best locations.

  • Manitowish Waters: a fantastic location no matter the season, with endless miles of trails and woods to enjoy
  • Presque Isle: a stunning sandy peninsula full of tons of lakes + trails
  • Eagle River: home to a chain of 28 lakes and known as the “snowmobile capital of the world”
  • Minocqua: located in the heart of the Northwoods with plenty of outdoor opportunities throughout all four seasons
  • Rhinelander: filled with pine + hemlock trees and plenty of fishing, skiing, trails, & more
  • Tomahawk: located at the southern end of the Northwoods, and packed with hidden gems like small local restaurants + shops
  • Land O’ Lakes: endless things to do, from outdoor adventures to peaceful relaxation to eating at local pubs
  • At a family cabin
  • At an Airbnb

Check out these Woodsy Engagement Photos in the Northwoods, Wisconsin for some Manitowish Waters photo inspo!

BONUS IDEA: Have your reception at a local restaurant or brewery

If you have your ceremony at an Airbnb or park, it can be super fun to have your reception or afterparty at a yummy local restaurant or brewery – especially if you rent out a room to have to yourselves!

house in the northwoods of wisconsin

Best Time of Year to Get Married in Northern Wisconsin

The best time of year to visit or get married in Northern Wisconsin definitely depends on the vibe you’re going for, for your intimate wedding. To be honest, it’s an amazing wedding destination year-round!

If you want to witness the phenomenal shades of orange, yellow, and red that the forests transition to in the fall, I’d recommend getting married between mid-September & late October. Fall is also one of the best seasons to go stargazing!

If you want to go skiing, snowboarding, or participate in any number of your favorite outdoor winter activities, get married sometime between January and March. You could even go ice fishing, dog sledding, and explore ice caves!

Spring is an amazing time to get married in Northern Wisconsin for those of you who want mild temperatures while you go hiking, biking, or fishing – especially from late April to early June. 

And if you want to stay warm, spend time out on the water, and experience longer days + have more daylight, then summertime is for you!

bride and groom kissing and getting married in northern wisconsin

Northern Wisconsin Wedding Laws + Permits

This is the not-so-fun part, but the very-important, do-not-forget part of wedding planning: getting your marriage license. Here’s what you need to know about getting a Wisconsin marriage license, as well as what Wisconsin wedding permits you may need depending on the location of your elopement ceremony.

Wisconsin Marriage Licenses + Laws

To get married in Wisconsin, you must be at least 18 years old, and you do not have to be a Wisconsin resident. 

If you are a Wisconsin resident, you’ll need to apply for your marriage license at a County Clerk’s office in the county where one of you has resided for at least 30 days before you apply. And if you’re not a Wisconsin resident, you’ll have to apply in the county that you’ll be getting married in.

Wisconsin requires you to have two witnesses present at your ceremony in addition to your officiant. The cost of your Wisconsin marriage license varies by county.

Finally, there’s a 6-day waiting period before you can use your marriage license, and your license will be valid for 30 days, after which you’ll have to get a new license. 

Northern Wisconsin Wedding Permits

Now if you’re planning to get married at one of Northern Wisconsin’s State Parks, you will need to check to see if your desired park/location offers reservations in advance. Certain park shelters and amphitheaters can be reserved ahead of time (usually up to 11 months in advance), and you can see a list here.

If your ceremony is going to be fairly small and simple, without large equipment, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website states that you can have your wedding at pretty much any public place in any park! Couples holding larger weddings or who require equipment, or a shelter, need to contact the park manager for specific details.

Any vendors you hire who will be present at your ceremony (e.g. your photographer and videographer) will need to fill out & submit an application & permit for Commercial Use of State Park Properties.

bride and groom standing over water

Northwoods, Wisconsin Cabin Rentals

Now it’s time to find a place to stay – which is actually one of the most key parts in bringing your dream intimate wedding together! You want to find a place you vibe with and that will help create the atmosphere you’re looking for, whether you want to relax in a luxury resort, get cozy in a lakefront cottage, or stay in a huge cabin in the woods with your closest loved ones. Below, I’ve created a list of some of the best Northwoods, Wisconsin cabin rentals + Airbnb’s in different areas, depending on where you want to stay!

Airbnb’s/Cabins in Manitowish Waters:

Airbnb’s/Cabins in Presque Isle:

Airbnb’s/Cabins in Eagle River:

Airbnb’s/Cabins in Minocqua:

Airbnb’s/Cabins in Rhinelander:

Airbnb’s/Cabins in Tomahawk:

Airbnb’s/Cabins in Land O’ Lakes:

cabin in northern wisconsin

Best Resorts in Northern Wisconsin

Now for some lovely Northern Wisconsin resorts for those of you looking for a bit more of a luxe experience during your time up north:

chairs surrounding a fire pit in northern wisconsin

6 Fun Things to Do in Northern Wisconsin for Your Intimate Wedding

I believe that planning intentional, special activities is one of the BEST ways to personalize your wedding, and make it truly yours. By incorporating things you love to do into your wedding celebration, you’ll get to do the things you love most, with the people you love most, whether that’s relaxing in a luxury resort and reading by the pool with your friends, or exploring one of the many beautiful state parks via kayak the day after your wedding.

Here are 6 fun things to do during your time in Northern Wisconsin, either in private with just the two of you or with a group of your closest family members & friends.

1. Rent a kayak at Big Bay State Park

Big Bay State Park is a fantastic spot to visit on the eastern side of Madeline Island, in the Apostle Islands. The scenery is incredibly picturesque, with massive sandstone bluffs, stunning views of Lake Superior, and a great sandy beach for swimming! Taking a kayak out on the lake at the park is a super easy way to get some sunshine in the summertime or even early fall/late spring, and is something you can do with all of your friends. Wouldn’t it be so fun to go kayaking on the morning of your wedding and enjoy some peaceful, quiet time on the water?!

bride and groom on boat at big bay state park

2. Take the ferry to Madeline Island

Speaking of Madeline Island (where Big Bay State Park is located), it’s a great place on its own to take the ferry to & explore, whether you go kayaking or not! Walk along the beach, visit art galleries, spend an afternoon golfing out on the green, even attend the Bayfield Apple Festival if you’re getting married in the fall. Madeline Island is very walkable, with 45 miles of both paved & non-paved roads to explore in total.

3. Explore the sandstone sea caves of the Apostle Islands

And once again speaking of the Apostle Islands, they’re home to some incredibly cool + iconic red sandstone sea caves that you will NOT want to miss. These caves were formed when the islands were a site for logging, fishing, and shipping, and have turned into a popular tourist attraction! Whether you want to walk along the tops of the caves or trails nearby or kayak through them (which is such a beautiful way to experience them), they’re a must-visit during your time in Northern Wisconsin.

4. Go hiking in the Escanaba River State Forest

This one’s for all you hikers out there: you absolutely don’t want to miss out on hiking on the many trails that are part of the vast Escanaba River State Forest. From easy walking trails to more challenging hikes or mountain bike rides, this forest has plenty for hikers of all skill & ability levels – check out some of the best ones on AllTrails here!

5. Take a trek through the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

Don’t let the hard-to-pronounce name stop you – the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest is a beautiful forest that encompasses more than 1.5 million acres of the Northwoods. Spend the afternoon hiking through the forest, paddling on the water, or making s’mores by a campfire at one of the many designated campsites. 

6. Sleep under the stars in the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest

Finally, the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest is one of the best places to go camping in Northern Wisconsin. This is because it has such a variety of camping opportunities, from modern campgrounds with paved roadways, flushable toilets, and showers all the way to good old-fashioned primitive campgrounds that are much more remote + require some backpacking. The huge range of campgrounds is sure to accommodate you and all of your guests, no matter what level of outdoorsy you feel like being!

bride and groom standing on dock overlooking water in northern wisconsin

Yummy Food Ideas for Your Northern Wisconsin Intimate Wedding

Don’t forget to plan this one thing for your intimate wedding in Northern Wisconsin: FOOD. Below, I’ve listed some of my favorite Northern Wisconsin wedding vendors that you can hire to provide delicious food for your wedding day, whether you’d like simple charcuterie board appetizers (created by me!), you want to hire a private chef to cook breakfast for just the two of you, or you want to book a food truck to deliver all sorts of yummy food to your guests. Happy dining!

Julie Kay’s Kitchen | Hazelhurst, WI

CT’s Deli | Rhinelander, WI

Jessica’s Cucina 

The RBA Food Truck

Chef Luke | Eagle River, WI

Charcuterie Boards (by yours truly)

And because I love food SO much and think it is such an important part of your wedding day, I published a blog post recently dedicated to solely elopement food! Trust me – you won’t want to miss out on these 5 Fun Wedding & Elopement Diner Ideas for Your Big Day.

plates during wedding reception

Northern Wisconsin Intimate Wedding Packages

Hi friend, I’m Madison – a Northwoods intimate wedding photographer who is so dang ready to document your special day. I believe in connection, authenticity, and intentional + detailed planning, which allows me to work with couples on a very personal, authentic basis. I’m here not just to photograph you in your natural element, as your most natural selves, but also to guide you through the entire wedding planning process, be there to support you in curating your dream wedding, and sharing my expertise + knowledge with you to help your day go as smoothly as possible.

My Northern Wisconsin intimate wedding packages start at $3,500, and I would be so honored to help you craft the perfect package for your unique celebration. Reach out to me here, and let’s chat details!

Wisconsin Wedding Inspiration + Resources

Don’t stop now – I’ve got even more Wisconsin wedding inspiration and resources that I know you’ll love!

Woodsy Engagement Photos in the Northwoods, Wisconsin

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

Intimate Summer Backyard Wedding in Downtown Madison, WI

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