Plan Your National Park Elopement Wedding

how to elope in a national park wedding planning tips

Planning your national park elopement? As a former Park Service employee and big national park geek, it makes me so excited when I hear about a couple planning their wedding in a national park! Read on for information on how to get married in a national park, and other planning tips. And if you’re looking for an off-the-beaten-path national park elopement, read about The Best Underrated National Parks to Elope At!

how to elope at bryce canyon national park utah

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

How to Get Married in a National Park

While getting married in a national park is pretty different from your typical wedding, it’s really not too difficult! As you plan, you’ll follow the basic steps for how to elope (read more on that!) and then just add a few park-specific considerations. You’ll need to pick which national park you want to get married in (I’ve got some recommendations below!) and where in the park you’d like to have your ceremony. Once you have the location, date, and time set: apply for a wedding permit with the park (more on that below). Plan your elopement or wedding festivities around the rules and guidelines of the park, and then enjoy your awesome day!

how to elope at muir woods national park in california

Muir Woods National Monument, California.

National Park Wedding Venues

Most national parks don’t have wedding venues, and some of the more remote ones don’t have any privately owned venues nearby. But of course, nature is always the most beautiful wedding venue! National parks and National Park Service sites that allow weddings and elopements have beautiful land and the most beautiful backdrops. Some parks have predesignated ceremony locations and don’t allow weddings anywhere else in order to protect the land and ecosystem. However, other parks will let you find a ceremony spot yourself – just note that any location has to be approved by the permit ranger before you can officially use it. And be sure to check on the number of guests allowed at each location.

 

Some national parks like Joshua Tree and Grand Teton have privately owned wedding venues just outside the park. If you want a little more freedom with your plans or a more luxurious experience, this might be the best option for you. Often, these wedding venues still have amazing views of the park and can offer more options like a reception area, lodging, and catering options.

 

 A few of my favorite private national park wedding venues are:

 

Grand Teton National Park Wedding Venue – Amangani

Zion National Park Wedding Venue – Under Canvas

Yosemite National Park Wedding Venue – Autocamp

Sequoia National Park Wedding Venue – The Sequoia High Sierra Camp

Yellowstone National Park Wedding Venue – Bar N Ranch

how to elope at rocky mountain national park wedding

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

National Park Wedding Permits

Getting a national park permit for your wedding or elopement can sound a little daunting, but it’s generally pretty easy! First, check the park’s website to find out their guidelines and what the permit application process is like. It’s important to know this before you start planning your wedding, just in case some of the park rules don’t align with what you’re envisioning. If anything seems confusing or you need more information, don’t hesitate to call the permits ranger! Having a conversation with the person in charge of permits can be super helpful, and you often learn more than what’s listed on the website. 

How do permits work? Not all national parks and NPS sites require a permit, but it’s really important to check on that. If a permit is required, you’ll need to fill out an application that generally includes the date, time frame, guest count, and location in the park where you want to get married. I recommend sending in your application as soon as possible, but no later than 2 weeks before your elopement date, as it takes a couple of weeks for the paperwork to be processed. After sending in the application and fee, you’ll need to wait for it to be approved and the permit to be issued.

If you’re nervous about your elopement location or date not being approved, call the park office ahead of time and talk to them about your plans. They’ll be able to tell you if a particular area is closed or a special event is taking place on your date. Also make sure you read through the park’s special use regulations online to find out what is allowed or not permitted. Certain equipment and props may be banned (like sparklers or huge ceremony backdrops).

One last note on permits: remember that permits are different from park passes! A wedding permit allows you to have a ceremony in the park, but your guests may still need to pay to get in the park (unless it’s a free park). But don’t worry, that small fee will go to protecting and preserving such a special place!

how to elope at grand canyon national park arizona

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

National Park Wedding Locations

With 63 national parks and over 400 National Park Service sites throughout the country, the perfect park is out there for your elopement wedding! Saying your wedding vows in one of “America’s National Treasures” is definitely special, and I promise it will be an unforgettable experience. Check out this list of some of the best national parks for elopements:

 

Best National Parks to Elope In:

Acadia National Park – rocky coasts and wooded mountains

Badlands National Park – layered rock formations

Big Bend National Park – giant boulders, canyons, and desert landscape

Capitol Reef National Park – spectacular red rocks

Denali National Park – snowy peaks and rugged wilderness

Glacier National Park – glacier-carved peaks and valleys

Grand Canyon National Park – incredible canyon views

Great Smoky Mountains National Park – grassy meadows and lush mountains

Redwood National Park – ancient towering trees

Saguaro National Park – cactus-dotted desert

Shenandoah National Park – easily accessible forested mountain views

White Sands National Park – endless pure white dunes

Yellowstone National Park – rolling grasslands with tree-studded mountains

Yosemite National Park – waterfalls and iconic gray rock formations

how to elope at great sand dunes national park colorado

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve, Colorado

National Park Wedding Cost

Permit fees for national park weddings vary from park to park based on the park’s size, popularity, and environmental concerns. For instance, a Yosemite wedding permit cost is $150 or more, but for White Sands it can be free. But no matter how much you need to pay for your national park wedding permit, I guarantee it will be a whole lot less than a traditional wedding venue!

And as for the remaining costs for your national park wedding, it’s pretty much just a standard budget for an intimate wedding or elopement. If you’re traveling to the area, you’ll need to take into consideration travel and accommodations in addition to the regular wedding costs. One great thing about getting married in a national park is that you don’t have to worry too much about decorations and rentals! It’s pretty easy to keep your wedding/elopement expenses to a minimum because in a national park, less is more.

I hope these tips for your national park elopement wedding have been helpful! If you are looking for photography and planning help for your amazing day, get in touch with me, and let’s make it happen!

 

  1. Brandi says:

    THANK YOU for writing this up! I know a lot of couples are confused about how to go about having a national park wedding, and this was so helpful!

    • Julie Haider says:

      That is so true Brandi! I love that National Parks and adventurous weddings are becoming popular, but there’s still a lot of lack of knowledge about the right way to do it. Hopefully I can help some adventurous couples out!

  2. Traci says:

    Fantastic information! Thank you Julie for sharing these elopement tips with couples and for other photographers! The national parks are beautiful and we should all be so thankful that they allow elopements <3

  3. isabell says:

    Ya girl!!!! Such an important guide!!! Love that you included leave no trace!!! Hope your couples have a wonderful national park elopement!

  4. Kayla Illies says:

    I love that you’ve shared the steps for how to elope in a National Park! Eloping at a National Park would be SO beautiful and so perfect for the adventure + travel loving couples!

  5. Abbi says:

    Awesome!! This guide would be so helpful for someone wondering how to elope in a national park!

  6. Afton Flynn says:

    This is a super useful guide Julie! Definitely helpful for any couple looking for tips to elope in a national park. Can you make a Canadian version for us canucks please? 😉

    • Julie Haider says:

      I honestly know very little about Canadian National Parks, but from what I’ve seen they are amazing! Sounds like I need to start writing a guide for that soon! 🙂

  7. Zoe Steindl says:

    You can’t go wrong eloping in a national park this guide will be so helpful to all the brides who have questions about it!

  8. Such a good idea and many awesome points I would’ve never thought of!

  9. My fiance and I are planning to have our wedding in the park; that’s why we’re looking for ways on how to make this event successful. I’m glad you shared this; well make sure to research the state marriage laws first, because according to you, most states consist of standard regulations. One more thing, I wonder where could we rent portable toilets that’ll be used for the said outdoor event.

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