How To Elope in a National Park - National Park Elopement Photographer
How to Elope In A National Park
Are you guys the couple that spends all of their free time outside? Hiking, skiing, rock climbing, anything that gets you out in the great outdoors? Today is all about you. You love spending so much time in nature, why wouldn’t you want to incorporate that into your special day? And where are the most beautiful landscapes in the US found? Our National Parks! I get so many people asking me so many questions about eloping in national parks such as “Do I need a permit? Are there fees involved? How do I go about planning my elopement in the park?” So I’m here to share my answers to all of your questions about eloping in National Parks!
Almost ALL of the National Parks in the US allow for elopements to take place within the park, but usually “special use” permits are required with a fee. Usually that fee is between $50-$300, depending on the park. Even if it is just going to be you, your partner, an officient and a photographer, its a good idea to get a permit. If you got stopped by a ranger during your ceremony, it would be crushing to have to leave the park without getting to celebrate your special day the way you planned. AND our National Parks are such a great service and definitely a good cause to support! If you’re wanting to elope in a park, you should submit your application several months in advance. The quickest you can get it is about 3 weeks, but I’d suggest staying on the safe side and give yourself plenty of time!
How much time do you need to get a permit?
Each park have their own time frame of when you can get your permits. Yosemite National Park allows you to schedule permits 1 year and and up to 21 days before your wedding. Give yourself plenty of time though, big parks, especially Yosemite gets tons of applications and you want to give yourself ample time to get permission! Some parks also have designated areas for ceremonies and these places can book out up to a year in advance. Don’t risk getting kicked out or being given a fine for not going through the proper channels!
Who is responsible for getting the permit?
Usually the couple will apply and purchase the permit, and usually its about $50-$300.
What restrictions are there?
Usually the restrictions apply to the number of people that can attend. Usually its less than 50 guests that are allowed. There are restrictions on what you can bring i.e. props, rentals, chairs, dogs. Fire is never allowed, and though you can toss flower petals or any organic material, you are not allowed to throw confetti or glitter around. If you think that a National Park has too many restrictions, you can check out a state park or a national forest nearby for more lax restrictions. Plus you can usually bring your dog!
What amount of time should be planned for the day?
So I always encourage my couples to leave plenty of time to enjoy the day and not feel rushed. I always say to wear comfy shoes to hike in, and usually carry your dress until we get to the location we want to shoot at. I love planning elopements for sunset so you have plenty of time to get ready, and you have the whole day to anticipate the ceremony. For extremely popular parks though, sometimes you have more chance of having a private ceremony if you plan it for sunrise. If sunrise IS a possibility, its usually really quiet and peaceful and you can have the place mostly to yourself. I tell couples that you will usually need at the LEAST 4 hours of coverage. Prep time, Hike time, ceremony time, family photo time and bride and groom portrait time all takes a certain amount of time, and 4 hours is usually the smallest window that we can fit that in!
I dream of one day shooting a wedding at Rocky Mountain National Park or Glacier National park, so if you are planning your day there, don’t hesitate to hit me up!
Photo of me and my bf by Diana Gula
What should I bring?
Okay, you want to be prepared for all of the elements that you might come across in a National Park. Its important to bring a jacket or raincoat if you’re eloping in the later months, and also a change of clothes. Hiking shoes or shoes that you feel comfortable enough to hike in is a must! Water and snacks are important and I always tell my couples to bring champagne!! An easy way to dress up your ceremony location is a rug or a cute blanket to stand on! Also bring a headlamp or a flashlight if you will be hiking up or back in the dark. Its also a good idea to have a backup location in mind just in case there is a torrential downpour or you need to escape the elements.
I usually tell clients that they should either choose a location that is entirely new to the both of you OR a place that you guys both love that is special to you. To find the specific ceremony location, I suggest the two of you going to the actual location and picturing where you see yourselves saying your vows. You can scour instagram or pinterest for inspiration or contact a park ranger for a suggestion from them. Most national parks don’t let you restrict any areas or block off your ceremony site, especially in peak season, but they can definitely suggest some secluded locations that may have worked in the past.
Consider the weather
So depending on which park you chose, the weather can be a big factor. Its not the wisest to choose a desert location in the dead of summer or somewhere up in the north during the winter. Take the wether into consideration when planning the date and be aware that the weather in unpredictable and can change at any minute so always be prepared! Embrace the adventure!
Here is a list of Great National Parks for eloping at!