If you are planning an adventure elopement or wedding, then you may want to consider getting married in a National Park. A National Park wedding is the perfect opportunity to experience and embrace the beautiful outdoors on one of the most important days of your life!
With over 63 national parks scattered across the country, the United States has so many different locations and sceneries to choose from. Each park offers something unique, depending on what you are looking for. But how do you know which park to choose? And how do you go about planning a wedding within the park?
As much as I wish it was consistent, each park is different when it comes to how you can get married and what you’re allowed to do. This blog includes some of the general information you’ll need to get married at any national park. Consider these tips when choosing to get married in a National Park:
1. Decide on Your Guest Count & Determine Location
Knowing how many guests you plan to invite to your wedding or elopement is important in deciding your ceremony location in a national park. Many parks have restrictions on how many guests you can have and, depending on the park and how many guests you plan to invite, you may be limited to where you can have your ceremony.
The first step will be to visit the NPS website. There you can select your desired park, and view the list of potential ceremony sites available. Some parks have a list of locations you’re allowed to use and may even specify sites available for smaller vs larger weddings.
If your guest count exceeds the park’s limit, you might want to consider booking a venue for your ceremony instead. Many national park wedding venues still showcase the beauty of the park while giving you a more convenient place to celebrate with guests. After your ceremony, we can always go into the park for an adventure session and more wedding portrait photos.
2. Obtain the Proper Permit
After you’ve chosen your National Park, the next step will be applying for a permit to get married within the park. When researching permits, look up the “Special Use Permit” page for your selected national park. That is where you’ll find information on applying for the proper permit as well as anything else you need to know to get married there.
You will likely need to apply for your permit months in advance. This is going to require some planning and should not be put off until the last minute. It’s also important to select two ceremony locations; your preferred ceremony location and a backup location. This will come in handy in the event that your first choice is full or there are circumstances that are out of your control (fires, floods, etc.)
Some parks also require you to obtain a photography permit. Unfortunately, this isn’t consistent through all of the national parks. It’s best to work with your photographer to see if a separate photographer permit is required. Grand Teton National Park, for example, has strict rules about how many permits are issued for each specific location. This is to ensure that all guests visiting the park can have a pleasant experience.
To help you get started, I’ve added wedding permit information links for some of my favorite national parks.
3. Be Okay with Less Decor
When getting married in a national park, there is so much epic scenery that you can use as your wedding backdrop. You may not be able to put that arch up that you were drooling over or even carry the flowers you were wanting and that’s ok. Many national parks want to keep outside plants to a minimum to protect the native plants that grow in the area. One tip is to work with a local florist who has knowledge of the local flora and get a bouquet that’s national-park-friendly!
You will also likely have to forego throwing rice, lavender, or using sparklers to protect the surrounding land. Some parks may also have restrictions on bringing in seating for your guests, so make sure your guests are aware that they may need to stand for your ceremony.
At the end of the day, it’s not about the details and decorations. It’s about celebrating your love in a way that is true to you!
4. Be Respectful
When you enter the park for your wedding, make sure to be respectful. If you have a permit for your location, display it, so that other visitors know that your space is reserved. If you’re getting married during a busy time of year, know that you might have to deal with a lot of tourists. In my experience, other park guests are usually very accommodating and friendly. Remember that it might be their first time visiting that park, so let them enjoy the surroundings before jumping in to take your portraits.
5. Leave No Trace
No matter where you get married, but especially in national parks, be sure to leave your location as you found it.
I encourage all my couples to follow the Leave No Trace principles. These 7 principles act as guidelines to help you protect nature and wildlife. By leaving the space as you found it, you help make it ready for more people to enjoy in the future.
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What You Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Need help deciding on your national park location? I personally love all of the information local blogger Renee Roaming has put together. She and her partner have visited every national park and have several location tips to share!