Elopements in National Parks have surged in popularity in recent years, so much so that it’s not uncommon to come across elegantly dressed couples waiting in line for the money shot along with hikers and visitors. If your adventurous spirit is set on marrying in a National Park, here’s your ultimate guide, including essential to-dos, what to pack, a note on etiquette, and the top 10 parks for elopements.
Essential To-Dos Before Eloping in a National Park
- Visit the National Park Service website for the specific park you’re planning to elope in and fill out an application for a “special use permit.” These permits can range from $50 to $200.
- Research the locations within the park where wedding ceremonies and wedding photography are permitted depending on your guest count—most National Parks offer a wider variety of locations for small parties.
- Check if your photographer already has the proper permit to shoot there (if applicable—some parks only require a photography permit if the photos will be used commercially). If not, it’s good form to cover the cost of the photography permit.
- Know the vehicle limit for your location and carpool when possible.
- Be prepared to also pay admissions or parking fees—another reason carpooling is a good idea if you’re bringing guests.
- Bring your permit with you the day of your ceremony.
- Do not disturb the natural ecology of the area: Only use flowers that are native to the environment or are hardy and will not drop seeds; don’t throw bird seed or release butterflies; and stay on the trail.
- And finally, sorry, no flower crown for the pooch: Pets are not permitted in most parks. Better to know sooner than later!
What to Pack
- All permits
- Hiking boots if necessary
- Change of clothes
- Extra hoodie or sweater
- Rain jacket
- Snacks/water/bubbly/beer (don’t forget a bottle opener or corkscrew and cups, plates, napkins, etc.)
- A blanket for the above picnic you’ll be having
- Headlamp or flashlight
- Paper map of the park (in case you lose cell service)
- Waterproof matches or a lighter, just in case
- First aid kit
- The rings
- Your photographer
A Note on Etiquette
Some parks have seen such high volumes of weddings that popular spots have become destroyed. Please, please respect Mother Nature, and do not venture off trail for the sake of an epic shot. Look for less popular but just-as-epic spots for photos instead, and definitely consider donating to the National Park Service to show your gratitude for being able to use the land for your personal use.
The 10 Most Popular National Parks for Elopements
1. Yosemite National Park, California
2. Joshua Tree National Park, California
3. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
4. Zion National Park, Utah
5. Glacier National Park, Montana
6. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
7. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
8. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
9. Olympic National Park, Washington
10. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia