There are a lot of reasons why couples choose to elope, but one of the most common ones is that they want to get married in nature, surrounded by fresh air and scenery, rather than the walls of a venue. And when it comes to scenery, you can’t beat our country’s national parks!
A national park elopement is perfect for couples who want to have an epic adventure, but it’s also perfect for couples who want to elope somewhere easily accessible! The parks are designed to have something for everyone, so no matter what kind of elopement day you’re dreaming of, you can get married in a national park. But, there are some things you’ll need to think about before you start planning – and this guide will tell you everything you need to know for your national park elopement!
Before you really dig into planning, you’ll need to decide which national park is right for your elopement! I recommend starting by thinking about what kind of scenery you envision around you – snow capped mountains? Sandy beaches? Lush green forests? From there, make a list of parks that fit the vibe! To get you inspired, here are some of my favorite places for a national park elopement.
I love Glacier National Park so much that it has its own guide! The views are incredible, from the peaceful blue lakes to the peaks of the glaciers, and you might even spot some mountain goats. Glacier is best in the summer, when the snow has melted and you can enjoy all the trails!
Joshua Tree is located in Southern California, and named after the bristled, twisted Joshua Trees that call this region home. The desert landscape makes this the perfect place to elope in the winter, because unlike most national parks, it stays pretty warm and sunny year round.
Located on the coast of Maine, Acadia National Park is one of the best places to elope on the east coast. The park offers mountains, alpine lakes, and a rugged shoreline with rocky beaches! The best time to elope in Acadia is summer, but spring and fall can be great at lower elevations, and less crowded.
After you’ve decided on a national park, you’ll need to narrow down your ceremony location! In a lot of parks, there are restrictions on where you can have your elopement ceremony, and how many people can be present. NPS.gov is a great resource to find each park’s rules and regulations!
Usually (but not always, so make sure to double check), if your ceremony is just the two of you, you can get married anywhere! If you have a few guests, there may be restrictions on where you can elope, and different locations within the park can have different limits. And if your guest list is a little longer, or you’re having an intimate wedding, many national parks offer wedding venues specifically for larger gatherings – these can range from picnic pavilions to large amphitheaters, so after you have your guest list, make sure to check where you can have your elopement ceremony.
Having a national park elopement doesn’t mean you can walk in and have a ceremony anywhere! You will likely need a wedding permit to make sure your ceremony doesn’t get busted by park rangers. This varies by park, and NPS.gov will be your best resource to find permit info for the national park you’re getting married in. Some parks may not require a permit for smaller elopement ceremonies, while others have stricter rules!
These permits usually range from $50 to $400, but that’s a lot cheaper than a traditional wedding venue! Keep in mind that you will still need to pay the entrance fee – which is usually about $35 per car, but you can also get an annual pass for $80 that will allow you to visit any national park.
Leave No Trace, or LNT, is a set of principles that everyone should follow to take care of our parks! This is important for the conservation of the environment, but it’s also vital for the future of national park elopements – as they get more popular, many places have started to restrict, or even ban, elopement ceremonies because of the harmful impact they can have.
However, you can definitely elope in an eco conscious way (and compared to big weddings, you’re already doing so much to reduce the carbon footprint of your wedding day) by familiarizing yourself with these 7 principles:
When you elope outdoors, there are a lot of things to think about! Here are some tips and things to keep in mind for your national park elopement.
National parks are some of the most visited outdoor recreation areas, and while people getting outside to enjoy nature isn’t a bad thing, it can be frustrating to have your elopement ceremony interrupted by crowds of people. I recommend staying away from the popular spots, and choosing somewhere more off the beaten path for the ceremony – you can always take photos in different places after, but it’s nice to have some privacy when you read your vows.
During your national park elopement, you’ll be doing a lot more walking around than you would at a traditional wedding. So it’s important that your wedding dress or suit lets you move freely. For dresses, opt for loose skirts, and for suits, make sure you can squat, walk, and lift your arms! Shoes are especially important – I recommend hiking boots if you plan to hike, and if you don’t plan to hike, make sure you wear something comfortable, like sneakers or sandals. And if you get new shoes, break them in before the big day!
Anytime you’re out in the wilderness, you need to be prepared. This means always carrying extra food and water, a first aid kit, and a headlamp! You should also wear layers – the temperature can change quickly, especially if you’re hiking, so be sure to bring jackets and extra socks to keep you warm.
For your national park elopement, make sure your photographer is knowledgeable not just about photography, but also about being outdoors! Everything from keeping their gear safe if the weather turns sour, to safely hiking through the backcountry will be super important for your elopement day.
And, someone who specializes in elopements will be able to help you navigate permits, choosing ceremony locations, and planning the most epic day. Contact me if you’re ready to start planning your national park elopement!