Getting Married in a National Park
Updated: Aug 20, 2020
You're adventurous, you love the outdoors and being surrounded by epic creation lights your soul on fire. You want the moments you commit your lives to each other to be in a place of meaning, beauty and to focus on what the day is truly about. The U.S has sooo many parks to choose from- 62 gorgeous parks that have several places to tie the knot. You want a unique experience for you and the few guests you bring and to infuse your personalities into one of the biggest days of your life. Ditch the long, expensive process of wedding planning and say hello to a day all about you!
How do I find the spot?
There's a couple ways you could do this: If you go to the park often and have a favorite spot already, start there Contacting a park ranger, searching Pinterest are other great options. One of my favorite ways to search for trails and spots is a free app called All Trails! This is literally my favorite app for looking up locations- you can search by location, by activity, the difficulty level. Its a great free app that has everything you’d need to look up well known and less traveled trails and spots! Parks like Joshua Tree National Park and Great Smoky Mountains go a step further and give you a list of places they recommend for your ceremony listed on their website
Permits permits permits
Almost all National Parks allow for ceremonies on the grounds, but you’ll need to apply for a “special use” permit which can range from $50-$300. Prices will range form park to park due to popularity and type of environment. For example, Yosemite gets 5 million visitors each year, so a permit will be more expensive. Each park has its own set of rules (and they each have their own website!) so be sure to check the website for details on their special permits or call a park ranger. Your photographer will work closely with you on this to ensure you get your permit requirements in order for your requested location! Just be sure to factor these into your budget!
Get a permit AS SOON AS POSSIBLE- About 1 year to 3 weeks before your date. While you might think you can sneak in, if you get stopped by a park ranger and they ask for your permit and you dont have one you could either get a hefty fine or kicked out… what a biiiig mood killer. oof.
And just to keep in mind pretty much all the national parks have an entrance fee- it's small and it's not included in the permit
There are a few big no no’s when getting married in a National Park so if you’re looking for less restrictions and more flexibility look into state parks. We wont go into state parks because well… this is all about National Parks ;)
Less than 50 people so this makes National parks are ideal for elopements and very small, intimate weddings
Most props and rentals are not allowed
Sparklers are a biiigggg no no (you do not want to be responsible for a national park fire) BUT, organic materials like flower petals are fine.
Sunset or sunrise? How much time to allow?
Both sunrise and sunset have beautiful light! Sunrise is more white and the park won't be as busy making you feel like you're the only ones in the park. Sunset has a more yellow/orange glow, is a more popular time and will be more crowded. If sunset is more your thing consider having a weekday wedding since the weekends attract more visitors. Or, find more secluded spots if you’re wanting sunset during a weekend! If theres a lot of tree cover late morning is perfect. Expect to spend 4-6 hours to hike to the spot, get married, enjoy the space as a newlywed, photos with family, and then the hike back.
Leave no trace behind
There are a few things you can do to ensure our national parks stay beautiful so our future generations can enjoy them: leave what you find, respect the wildlife (they live there, not you) don’t walk where there isn’t a path and trample growth that takes years to regrow, dispose your trash properly. Basically, just like when your mama told you to clean up after yourselves and make it look like you were never there.
Things to bring
-Hiking shoes (a must)
-A change of shoes (if you don't want to be wearing your hiking shoes during your ceremony)
-Change of clothes (optional if you want to hike in your wedding attire)
-water/snacks/champange (to celebrate;))
-Sweater or jacket. (the higher your go, the colder it gets!)
-Umbrella in case of rain
-Makeup (to touch up if its a short hike, or if you plan to do your makeup at the destination)
-Thermos of tea or coffee
-Backpack (gotta carry it all somehow!)
-A rug, flower petals (optional for your ceremony location)
Park Permit Pricing (say that 3 times fast)
Shenandoah National Park- $150
Zion National Park- $100
Yosemite National Park- $150
Arches National Park- $185
Acadia National Park- $50
Olympic national park- Varies
Glacier National Park- $100
Sequoia National Park- $175