Getting married in a national park has skyrocketed in popularity over the past decade, and it’s easy to see why. There’s something about celebrating your special day surrounded by some of the most dramatic and awe-inspiring landscapes in the world. But before you hop into saying ‘I do’ in a national park, there are some important things to know first, such as permit regulations and ceremony restrictions.
Each national park has its own set of rules and regulations when it comes to weddings & elopements. This guide aims to help guide those planning a national park ceremony on what to look for and research before finalizing details. Let’s hop into it!
1. Decide Which National Park is Right For You
When it comes to getting married in a national park, the options are endless! There are 63 national parks in the United States and 37 national parks in Canada. Narrowing down which one to get married in can sometimes be the toughest decision.
One of the best ways to decide which national park to choose is by looking at your goals for the wedding. Do you love boho deserts weddings surrounded by stunning orange & red rock? If so, Canyonlands, Zion, or Bryce might be a good fit! In love with glacial alpine lakes and towering mountains? Then Glacier, Grand Teton, or Rocky Mountain National Parks are probably more your style!
It’s also essential to research weather, permits, and openings at each national park during the time of your wedding. For example, an early May wedding in Yellowstone National Park is probably not the best idea, given that the park typically doesn’t open for the year until the second or third week of May. If you plan a desert celebration in July, consider how hot the days could be.
Many national parks also have permit systems in place during the summer months. If you do not have a permit or permits are already sold out, it would be best to look at alternative wedding dates or destinations. Here is a list of all the national parks that require permits in 2022.
2. Look Up Wedding Permit Regulations
Every National Park has specific areas that are permitted for weddings. Once you decide which national park you’d like to get married in, the next step is going to their specific NPS website and looking at their weddings/special events page. Below are links to some of the most popular national parks with their wedding information:
From there, they will outline the locations where you can apply for a permit to be married in the park. Permits to get married in national parks typically range around $100. Comparing that to paying for a wedding venue, you’ll soon realize how budget-efficient getting married in a national park is!
3. Decide on Accommodations/Lodging
Once you’ve decided on your National Park and location, it’s time to decide where to stay! Accommodations in certain National Parks book out a year in advance, which means it’s not always the easiest option for those who decide to get married there. Many times, nearby towns offer the best solutions when getting married in a national park. Before deciding to get married in a national park, it’s always best to research lodging and accommodation options, especially if you plan to bring guests along for your ceremony.
4. Book a Photographer With Knowledge of The National Park
Hiring a wedding or elopement photographer with knowledge of your specific national park can provide helpful insight into your overall vision. Especially if you have never been to the park, a photographer with expertise can outline the best spots to take photos.
Ceremonies are restricted to certain areas of the park, but photos can be taken in many more areas! The photographer will already know the rules and regulations for photography and help ensure you get the best awe-inspiring images without breaking any rules or accidentally harming fragile ecosystems.
5. Remember, Leave No Trace!
If you get married in a national park, remember that these are protected lands. Our responsibility is to keep them accessible for future generations to continue exploring. As national park weddings have increased, so have impacts on the lands.
We have an entire article that details best leave no trace principles when getting married in a national park, which you can read here. The most important aspect is to leave the land as you found it and respect all rules of the National Park Service.
Getting married in a national park requires some additional regulations and rules, but overall can require less planning and details than a traditional wedding. No matter which park you choose, the backdrops to your big day are sure to be a stunner!