Do you love going on adventures, and spending time in the great outdoors? Are you stressed about a big wedding, and truly just wish you could have something more intimate, held in a place few others wander into? If this sounds even remotely like you, then perhaps you should consider an elopement in one of our amazingly beautiful National Parks! We will go over a few questions about how to elope in a National Park in today’s blog. Continue on to learn more!
Verb: To run off secretly to be married, usually without the consent or knowledge of one’s parents.
Everyone knows that when you go to elope, you typically do so in secret, right? Well, today’s wedding industry is drastically changing just how elopements are being carried out. They’re starting to represent, a small, intimate wedding ceremony, usually with under 20 people in attendance. It is then typically followed by a small dinner party to finish out the night with those whom you cherish the most. This has become one of the many ways that today’s brides are not only saving money, but also enjoying a profoundly confidential and stress free wedding.
Bringing Your Dreams to a National Park
Thankfully, nearly each of the United States National Parks grant smaller wedding ceremonies within their borders. They typically do require a “special use” permit that costs roughly between $50-$300. And, before you think about skipping out on the permit acquisition, think about this: If by some chance, you’re in the middle of the park, and you’re about to say your vows, a park ranger pulls up and asks for your permit. Talk about a mood killer, am I right? Definitely don’t skip out on the permit, for at least that reason alone. We also like to support our National Parks (and State Parks too) as much as we can. And permits such as these, help in that endeavor.
Planning in Advance: How much notice do the parks need for my permit?
Individual National Parks may be different in their rules and regulations, so always ask a Park Warden/Ranger, or other Park Staff Member, for more information about their permits, and any other rules they have for elopements. However, you should always try to obtain your permit as soon as possible. Some parks will have allocated areas specifically set aside for ceremonies, and can be reserved within a year from your date. However, even these parks may allow you to host your small wedding elsewhere, if you simply talk to and explain that your will have a limited gathering.
Who buys the permit? Me, or my photographer?
The couple always purchases the permit for their elopement to take place in a certain area. These permits are your ticket to the ultimate beautiful wedding, and you wouldn’t want anyone else to take care of obtaining this much needed item. As much as you may have told your photographer or even your best friend; only you truly understand the needs of your wedding day, who will be attending, when, and where.
Okay, lay it on me… What are the restrictions?
Some of the common restrictions you will find while choosing the National Park for your elopement is as follows: The maximum amount of guests are typically restricted to below 50 individuals. There may be some restrictions on certain props or rental items allowed on the grounds. (The parks are established to preserve the natural beauty after all!) Dogs are typically not allowed. (Trust me, this makes Jeff and I sad too.) A huge no-no would be to bring sparklers or other fire hazards. There may be others, but the best person to ask, would be the Park Rangers working inside of the park itself. They are typically friendly people who simply love the parks, and love helping other people, love the parks too. Park Rangers can be quite knowledgeable about a lot of different things too, so talk to one today! 🙂
P.S. If you feel that the National Parks are a bit too confining to your elopement dreams, then look into your local State Parks, or even a National Forest! The scenery is typically breathtaking, not overflowing with people, and usually your dog can come along as well. 🙂
Okay, that wasn’t too bad… But what about the timeline for my special day?
Hiking to your location? You will want to plan ample time for everyone who is attending, to be able to arrive at the location on time, and without rushing. Also, make sure to bring a pair of hiking boots. You can always change them later for the actual ceremony and portraits, but don’t risk injury for fashion. We also recommend planning your portraits around either Sunset, or if you’re truly adventurous, Sunrise. The parks at Sunrise aren’t busy, and full of tourists yet, and you can be there when this natural beauty around you starts to wake up. Or, plan for a more casual day, and aim for Sunset. The colors and lighting around Sunset can be the most flattering of all.
Great, but what should I bring?
We recommend bringing the Hiking Boots, as mentioned before. But we also recommend possibly bringing a change of clothes. (You don’t want to sweat in your dress while hiking to the location, do you?) If you choose a National Park that has mountains, always bring a thick and warm sweater or jacket. Trust me when I say it can be 70 degrees in the valley and 38 degrees at higher altitudes on the same day. Make sure to bring some water and snacks for the hike to and from your location. If you’re wanting some props to be used in your photos, bring something simple, like a blanket or some (real) flower petals. Jeff and I always have a flashlight on hand while hiking through National Parks, and so we highly recommend one, especially if your portraits are being taken at sunrise or sunset. And finally, bring an umbrella in case of rain. Embrace what comes your way, even rain, because sometimes, the rain helps to make the most beautiful pictures of all time.
P.S. We also highly recommend planning a fall-back location, in case of severe weather.
How do we find the location?
If your significant other and you frequently visit the National Park of your choice, then plan a date around scouting for the ideal location for your nuptials to take place. If the National Park of you choice happens to be a far-off destination, then look around on Pinterest, while simultaneously contacting a Park Ranger. If you’re hoping for a more tourist friendly area, please note that the National Park will not have the means to reserve that section for you – chiefly during peak season. (For Example: Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park.) However, after connecting with a Park Ranger, they should be able to expertly navigate you to some truly fantastic secluded areas throughout the park!
But what about inclement elements?
If you bring the proper gear (such as hiking boots, jackets and sweaters, a change of clothes, etc) and the proper attitude, then your adventure will have no issues, no matter what the weather is like! Of course, it could be a major factor in your decision making, depending upon the park you choose. We wouldn’t recommend eloping in Denali National Park during the winter after all. Simply take all of these tidbits into your discussions and deliberations, and expect the weather to transform at any given moment. And if you follow all of our advice, you truly won’t have anything to worry about. It is a major element of the journey and adventure after all! 🙂
Check out these fantastic National Parks for Eloping:
Arches National Park – Approximate Cost: $55
Bryce Canyon National Park – Approximate Cost: $100
Everglades National Park – Approximate Cost: $100
Glacier National Park – Approximate Cost: $100
The Grand Canyon – Approximate Cost: $175
Grand Tetons National Park – Approximate Cost: $100
Great Smokey Mountains National Park – Approximate Cost: $50
Joshua Tree National Park – Approximate Cost: Varies
Painted Rocks National Lakeshore – Approximate Cost: Varies
Olympic National Park – Approximate Cost: Varies
Rocky Mountain National Park – Approximate Cost: $150
Seney National Wildlife Refuge (Michigan) – Approximate Cost: Varies
Sequoia National Park – Approximate Cost: $175
Shenandoah National Park – Approximate Cost: $200
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore – Approximate Cost: Varies
Yellowstone National Park – Approximate Cost: $50
Yosemite National Park – Approximate Cost: $150
Zion National Park – Approximate Cost: $100
Check out these fantastic Michigan State Parks for Eloping:
Belle Isle State Park
Bond Falls Scenic Site
Brighton Recreation Area
Laughing Whitefish Falls State Park
Leelanau State Park
Ludington State Park
Mackinac Island and Fort Mackinac Historic Park
Maybury State Park
Petoskey State Park
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (Our FAVORITE!!!!)
Tahquamenon Falls State Park
Wagner Falls Scenic Site (Another Favorite of Ours!)
Waterloo Recreation Area
Wilderness State Park
Yankee Springs Recreation Area
We hope that you choose to host your elopement at a National Park (or State Park) that truly speaks to you and who you are as a couple. Of course, if you are wanting a more traditional wedding, but are still hoping to incorporate a National or State Park adventure into your wedding journey somehow; consider having your engagement portraits taken there instead! We truly cannot wait to capture some amazing and breathtaking memories at your elopement in your favorite National Park!