get married in a national park Yosemite

January 14, 2022

breeannakay

How to Get Married in a National Park – National Park Wedding Venues

As soon as you got engaged, you might have been several hours deep in Pinterest boards looking for the perfect venue… only to realize that the ballrooms, barns, hotels, and gardens weren’t really speaking to you. Your love story is unique and if a cookie cutter wedding day isn’t your jam, you’ve got options!

For couples looking for an adventure – a wedding day experience that’s unique and personal – what better place to get married than one of the most beautiful landscapes in the country?! Whether you want a tiny elopement or an intimate micro wedding, this guide will tell you all about how to get married in a national park. 

Can You Get Married in a National Park? – Rules and Requirements

One of the first things a lot of couples wonder is, “can we get married in a national park?”

The answer is definitely a big ‘ol yes! But, it’s not as simple as lacing up your hiking boots and taking off to your favorite park. There are a few logistics and things to think about, but don’t worry – I’ve got you covered!

Here are some of the things you’ll need to plan get married in a national park…

National Park Wedding Permits

National parks all have different rules, and different requirements. But, most of them do require a permit for any wedding ceremony. Some parks only require permits if your ceremony is over a certain size, some parks require them even for the tiniest elopements. In addition, some parks also have set ceremony locations for you to choose from

Once you have an idea of which national park you want to get married in, you can find permit info on NPS.gov.

Permits are super important because they let the park office know what’s happening and ensure that couples are following the rules and regulations to keep parks clean and beautiful.

Leave No Trace in National Parks

Leave No Trace (LNT) is really important when you get married in a national park. The outdoors are more fragile than we humans often realize, and while most people have good intentions, we often don’t understand the impact we have! The 7 principles of LNT were designed to educate people about exploring outside and minimizing damage, so take a minute to learn about them and how they relate to getting married in a national park.

Many locations close or stop allowing wedding ceremonies when LNT rules aren’t followed – so along with keeping the parks beautiful, following these principles ensures that couples can keep tying the knot in unique ways, and getting married in gorgeous places!

Here are the 7 principles of LNT, and what they mean for elopements. Once you decide on an elopement location, do some more research on your specific spot and any unique rules!

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare – Be ready for the weather and trail conditions, and be prepared with extra food, water, and safety equipment.
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces – Do not go off trail! A photo isn’t worth damaging wildflower fields or plant life.
  • Dispose of Waste Properly – Pack it out! Don’t leave behind trash, waste, or anything that wasn’t there to begin with.
  • Leave What You Find – Don’t take anything with you. If everyone took a rock, picked a flower, or broke a tree branch, the parks wouldn’t be nearly as beautiful.
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts – Check fire restrictions, and practice fire safety. Most national parks only allow campfires in fire pits at designated campgrounds.
  • Respect Wildlife – This is their home. Don’t approach wildlife, as it can be dangerous for you and for them.
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors – When you get married in a national park, you may have restrictions related to playing music, setting up decorations and likely aren’t allowed to block trails or walkways or disturb other park visitors in any way.

Entrance Fees for National Parks

When you get married in a national park, you are still responsible for entrance fees – even with a permit. There are a few national parks that don’t have entrance fees, but most do. The standard is about $30 per car, but if you visit national parks often, you might want to consider an America the Beautiful Pass. This costs $80, and will get you into every national park in the country for a whole year – a bargain if you visit at least three. You can get them at park entrances, or online.

The Best National Parks for Weddings

There are 63 national parks in the United States – that’s a lot to choose from! Deciding which national park you want to get married in can be one of the most exciting parts, but with so many options, it can also feel overwhelming to narrow it down.

I recommend starting by thinking about what kind of scenery you want to be surrounded by – mountains, forests, beaches, deserts…. Imagine the places you love, or places you’ve been that really stood out to you. Where do you feel most at home? Make a list of parks that fit your vision, to help you decide on a location.

National Park Wedding Venues

One thing to note about getting married in a national park is that they usually have different options for wedding venues.

Some parks will let you tie the knot anywhere (a hiking trail, an overlook), while others have pre-approved spots for you to choose from. Many parks also have bigger wedding venues for couples with more than 15 or so guests – these usually include amphitheaters and campgrounds that can accommodate a bigger ceremony!

When you’re deciding which national park works for you, look at the options for locations and decide how many guests you’ll be having.

The Best National Parks for Weddings in the Mountains

get married in a national park Yosemite

If you love mountain views, there are plenty of national parks where you can get married amongst the dramatic peaks! You don’t have to hike to find amazing scenery – most national parks have tons of short trails, roadside overlooks, and places that are easy to reach. 

Here are some of the best national parks for mountains:

  • Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  • Olympic National Park, Washington
  • Yosemite National Park, California
  • Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
  • North Cascades National Park, Washington
  • Glacier National Park, Montana

The Best National Parks for Weddings in the Desert

Deserts offer unique landscapes, with vast scenery and seemingly neverending views. The cactus gardens, boulders, and sandy formations found in the desert make for a stunning place to get married!

Here are some of the best national parks for desert views:

  • Zion National Park, Utah
  • Arches National Park, Utah
  • White Sands National Park, New Mexico
  • Joshua Tree National Park, California
  • Saguaro National Park, Arizona

The Best National Parks for Weddings on the Beach

Whether you’re looking for sandy beaches or dramatic cliffs over the ocean, there are spots on both coasts where you’ll find some of the most incredible seaside views!

Here are the best national parks to get married in if you want beaches:

  • Acadia National Park, Maine
  • Olympic National Park, Washington
  • Redwoods National and State Parks, California

The Best National Parks for Weddings in the Forest

There’s nothing more magical than trees surrounding you, towering high overhead. These places will make you feel like you stepped into a fairytale!

Here are the best national parks to get married in for forests and woodsy views:

  • Redwoods National and State Parks, California
  • Olympic National Park, Washington
  • North Cascades National Park, Washington
  • Sequoia National Park, California
  • Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee & North Carolina

Choosing a National Park Wedding Photographer

One of the most important parts of planning your national park wedding is hiring a photographer who’s experienced with working outdoors and in remote areas! There are extra logistics that come with tying the knot outside – weather, trail safety, Leave No Trace, and other considerations that might not be important if you get married in a traditional venue. 

That’s why it’s important to choose a photographer who can help guide you through the process – from helping you choose the perfect national park wedding venue to making sure you’ve got the right permits, I’ve got your back! Along with documenting the best day of your life, of course.

Contact me if you’re ready to get married in a national park!

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