An A-Z Guide to Planning a National Park Wedding

National parks are among the most sought-after venues for a wedding. However, planning weddings in and of itself can be an intimidating task. With the addition of an outside venue, more time and energy need to go into planning.

National parks require a special event permit and a few additional fees for a wedding. Furthermore, they have concessionaires that you may rent for a reception. Each venue has its own restrictions set in place to protect the environment.

Before the wedding, make sure you have acquired a marriage license for your union to be recognized. In choosing a date, you need to take into account the weather in that area and at that time.

Knowing where to start and what things to consider can make planning a national park wedding easier. There are resources available that can help you make an informed decision as to which national park you can get married.

Planning a National Park Wedding: Things to Consider

couple hills

1. Wedding Permits

Special Event Permits: These are essential to ensure the protection of the park’s natural and cultural resources and to guarantee a smooth ceremony without unintended interruptions from park visitors. Depending on the park, guest count, and event complexity, permits can range from $50 to $200 or more.

Photography Permits: Separate from event permits, these typically last for an hour but can be extended upon request. Prices vary depending on the number of guests.

Application Timeline: It’s prudent to apply as early as possible. Some parks require applications to be submitted at least a month in advance, while others may allow for a two-week window.

2. Cost Considerations

Entrance Fees: National parks have entry fees, which means you’ll need to plan the transportation of your guests accordingly. Bundling transportation, like using a shuttle service, can be both efficient and cost-saving.

3. Ceremonies and Receptions

Choosing the Setting: You can choose to have both the wedding ceremony and the reception at a national park. You can also choose to host the reception at a different venue.

If you plan to have both the ceremony and the reception at a national park, many sites have a concessionaire, which are private resorts and hotels which can accommodate a wedding reception. They may offer catering, equipment rentals, and other services you may need.

4. Time and Date

time and date

Seasonal Considerations: National parks have peak tourist seasons, which often coincide with spring and summer. To avoid crowds, considering weekday weddings could be beneficial.

Weather Watch: Since parks are open environments, monitoring weather patterns and predictions around your chosen date is crucial. Whether it’s preparing for rain or ensuring guest comfort in varying temperatures, being prepared will make the day run more smoothly.

7. Marriage License

The regulations regarding marriage licenses vary across states. However, the requirements remain constant: you and your partner must both be present at the time of getting the marriage license, be of legal age or otherwise have parental consent, present a valid ID, and not be currently married.

During the ceremony, an ordained officiant and two witnesses are also necessary for the marriage to be recognized.

8. The Nitty-Gritty Details

Marriage License: Ensure you and your partner meet the requirements to obtain one: present together, of legal age (or with parental consent), and with valid IDs. An officiant and two witnesses are imperative for the ceremony.

Venue Restrictions: National parks are protected spaces with specific guidelines to ensure environmental conservation. Restrictions may include:

  • No outside food or drink
  • Prohibited items (like drones or certain decorations)
  • Limitations on audio equipment volume

Communication is key. Engage with park personnel to fully understand and abide by these restrictions.

Deciding Your Location and Planning

national park sunlight

With over 60 national parks and 400+ National Park Service sites, choosing the ideal park for your wedding can be daunting. Resources such as the National Park Owner’s Guide and I Heart Parks guides by the National Park Foundation offer insights on the best parks for weddings.

Furthermore, consider the following:

  • Designated Areas: National parks often have specific areas earmarked for events. Utilize available resources to identify these spots.
  • Restroom Facilities: Outdoor settings may lack restroom amenities. Some parks might allow portable restroom rentals.
  • Natural Aesthetics: National parks’ beauty can negate the need for elaborate decorations. The natural landscape offers a breathtaking setting.

Keep your guests informed through personal wedding websites, social media, or group chats to ensure clarity on all event details.

National Park Wedding Locations

Acadia National Park

acadia national park

Location: Maine

Peak season: May to October

Closed: November to April (facilities and roads)

Permit fee: $50

More information:

Glacier Bay National Park & Preserve

glacier bay national park

Location: Alaska

Peak season: June to August

Closed: N/A; at full service only from May to September

Permit fee: $50

More information:

Haleakalā National Park

haleakala national park

Location: Hawaii

Peak season: Year-round

Closed: N/A; always ask about current conditions at the visitor center; unpredictable weather

Permit fee: $150

More information:

Olympic National Park

olympic national park

Location: Washington

Peak season: Spring to fall

Closed: N/A; winter and wet season may be unpredictable

Permit fee: $50

More information:

Rocky Mountain National Park

rocky mountain national park

Location: Colorado

Peak season: Spring and summer

Closed: N/A

Permit fee: $350

More information:

Final Thoughts

National parks provide a beautiful backdrop for wedding ceremonies. In planning a national park wedding, you need to consider wedding permits and marriage licenses, fees, the location, the time and date, the weather, and other venue restrictions.

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