From Iceland — Side Hustle: Licensed To Wed

Side Hustle: Licensed To Wed

Published June 24, 2024

Side Hustle: Licensed To Wed
Photo by
Juliette Rowland

Erla Sigurlaug Sigurðardóttir can take you on a tour of Iceland and marry along the way

Whether you affiliate with any religion or not, would you agree that the idea of getting married in a church feels a bit last century? What about eloping on the edge of the world — on an empty beach or beside a cascading waterfall, of which Iceland has plenty to offer? Meet Erla Sigurlaug Sigurðardóttir, tour guide by day and wedding officiant by occasion. Through the non-religious organisation Siðmennt, Erla orchestrates wedding ceremonies in the most unique locations of Iceland for couples from all over the world. Her approach is always personal, no matter the weather.

Erla Sigurlaug Sigurðardóttir, 48, a driver guide

I work as a driver guide. That means that I both drive the bus and I guide a group of tourists around Iceland. I take both day tours and multi-day tours — two-day tours, three-day tours and of course, the Ring Road tours. I work as a contractor for a few different travel operators. I’m driving, guiding and entertaining tourists. My goal is to let the people on my bus have the best experience ever. It’s a lot of fun!

I don’t know if I can call it a side hustle, because it’s not a “hustle,” but I also work as a wedding officiant or wedding celebrant for the Icelandic Ethical Humanist Organisation Siðmennt. I marry people. Mostly outside, in nature by a beautiful waterfall on a lava field, black beach or wherever they choose.

Celebrating love

I think at one point I said a wrong name for the groom. But it didn’t matter.”

I’ve been officiating weddings for two years now and recently I became a board member of Siðmennt. This side job is primarily driven by the happiness and the humanist aspect from the people that I meet and marry, not really the money. Although, sometimes when I have a wedding, it takes a whole day to drive a long distance to the south coast, do the ceremony and then drive back. It’s amazing to get to experience and share the happiness and the adrenaline of happy people eloping in Iceland. It’s unique to be part of that.

Sometimes I get the question, “Oh, you’re a priest.” No, I’m not a priest. I’m a legal wedding officiant. I have a stamp from the district council to make legal weddings on behalf of Siðmennt. What we do is non-religious. We believe in humanist aspects of life. 

I do legal ceremonies and symbolic ceremonies, mostly for people from other countries like tourists coming to Iceland to experience Icelandic nature and do something unique for their wedding. Usually they come alone, without guests, but sometimes with a few relatives. Of course, I also officiate for Icelanders. They are getting to know about this option more and more often.

Between tours and vows

Since I work as a driver guide, I contract for different companies and I can choose my own schedule — I’m in control of my calendar. I can move tours around and when I have a wedding, I just keep that day free. There’s a lot of freedom for me to be able to control my work life like that. I always say yes to people that want me to marry them. If I’m in the country, I just move my main job around.

The best thing about my job is that I work with and talk to happy people who are in love. For me, that’s very rewarding. I get to be part of their emotions, part of their most significant moment — getting married — and get to know people from other countries. 

First, we always have an interview online. We talk about their story, how they met their love, why they really want to get married to each other. It’s really personal. I write a ceremony for each couple with a personal angle. During the ceremony, the best thing is when you bring out tears of joy and laughter. It’s supposed to be fun and also beautiful and emotional. I want to make each ceremony perfect for that couple.

I do, rain or snow

The couples that I marry mainly want to be outside, but Icelandic nature and weather can be challenging. Sometimes, due to the weather, we must move from, for example, a black beach into some shelter, find some forest or even go inside. But usually, people go with it and just wing it, no matter the weather. They know that Icelandic weather is uncertain and they are ready for everything.

It’s common for gay couples to get married in Iceland. Sometimes it’s very special for them as sometimes the family doesn’t even know. These are very emotional moments. No couple is the same — each story is personal and different. I try my best to contribute to their big moment to make it unique every time.

To stand on top of Dyrhólaey in the beginning of July at 11:00 o’clock in the evening and marry a couple with a backdrop of a sunset in unique, perfect light for Icelandic summer is very memorable.

Once I was officiating a wedding by Þórufoss in Hvalfjörður in October. The weather was just crazy. So bad. It was raining and the wind was blowing so hard we barely could get out of the car. I thought the photographer would cancel and try to find some other place, but no, we fought our way down to the waterfall. Everybody was soaking wet. The bride was wearing white, no jacket, nothing. It was freezing cold. My script was all wet. I couldn’t see anything, so I had to improvise. I had to scream for the couple to hear me because my words would blow out with the wind. But they got married in this awful weather, smiling and laughing. They were not cold because of the adrenaline. The photographer got these amazing photos and everything was perfect. I was so proud and happy that I managed to make the ceremony fun and personal, despite these horrible conditions. I think at one point I said a wrong name for the groom. But it didn’t matter.

If after reading this article you decide to get married, book Erla to officiate your ceremony: perlaicelandcelebrant.com

Want to share how you’re making ends meet? Email us at grapevine@grapevine.is with the subject line “Side Hustle.” We’ll happily keep your identity anonymous.


Follow along with the Side Hustle series right here.

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