As you may know by know, I specialize in Adventure Elopements and Intimate Weddings. And a lot of these elopements and intimate weddings (and even adventure sessions and vow renewals) happen in our beautiful national parks! And I will always be down to photograph your national park elopement!
Before I even got into photography, I made a goal for myself to visit all of the national parks. So it was a no brainer for me when I decided what kind of photography I wanted to specialize in. And really become an expert on!
I have had the privilege of visiting 12 of the national parks. So I still have a ways to go, but I’ll get there! Especially as I get to adventure with more of you!!
I am super fortunate to live in Utah, where we have 5 of the national parks!! We also have so many state parks that are beautiful as well! And other parks like the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and Great Basin, are all within 5 hours of where I am based.
If you have decided you want to elope in a national park, the first thing you need to do after figuring out which park and hiring me (of course), is to figure out if you will need a permit! Most national parks do require a special use permit for a wedding ceremony to take place within the park. You’ll want to get this as soon as possible. The parks only allow so many of these special use permits a year, and it can take a few weeks to get everything processed. When searching for permit information, Google wedding permit and whatever park you are wanting to elope in. You can also Google special use permit with the park of your choice.
You don’t always need a permit, though! You usually don’t need one for bridals or engagements. But it is always good to be safe and just call or email and check!
The special use permits can range anywhere from $50-$500 dollars, but would still be cheaper than renting a wedding venue! This money goes towards maintaining the land, and preserving it for many years to come. So, not only are you getting epic views for your ceremony, but you are contributing to the upkeep and maintenance of these special and unique places! That’s a win win in my book!
When looking into having a national park elopement, you’ll want to keep in mind the restrictions that every park has. And you’ll be able to find this information on each national park’s website when you’re applying for the permit!
There are certain places within each park, where you’re allowed to have your ceremony. And not every spot in the park has open access for ceremonies. But that’s okay! We can still do some quick photos there! We just have to be respectful of other visitors.
Speaking of time, you will also be required to decide on a time that you want to do your ceremony. Once approved, you will have 10 minutes where we will be allowed to reserve the space for your ceremony.
In my experience, those that pass by are respectful of this, and love seeing a wedding happening! It’s always so funny how excited random strangers get for weddings happening in the national parks. You’ll get tons of congratulations and compliments throughout the day! Just embrace it! Most are still unfamiliar with being able to elope in such a beautiful place like a national park!
Most parks also won’t let you bring in props like arches or real flowers that aren’t native to the land. So just keep that in mind when you are envisioning your day. They usually don’t allow arches or decorations due to respecting others that are enjoying the park. The set up and take down can take some time, and you only have 10 minutes!
With the flowers, it’s so important that we don’t accidently introduce a new flower into the already existing ecosystem. Often times when new or strange flowers and plants are introduced, they can become invasive. And they kill the plants and flowers that are natural to the land there. And we don’t want to do that!
This can become a huge problem with the ecosystem. It affects the food supply for the local animals, and therefore changing everything within that area. So let’s just agree to do fake flowers or to only bring native flowers. There are literally SO many beautiful options.
Lastly, if you’re wanting your fur babies to be apart of your day, a national park elopement probably won’t be the best option for you. Dogs are typically not allowed within the national parks. So if this is something you want, I would look into the state parks and national forests. They do usually allow dogs! Plus you’ll likely have less of a crowd with a state park or national forest.
When thinking about what time of day you would like to do your ceremony, there’s a few things to keep in mind.
1. Elopements during the busy season for a national park (usually summer time), will want to highly consider having a sunrise or sunset ceremony. These are times during the day when there are less people in the parks. They’re either still sleeping or just leaving to go have dinner. Plus, these times are the BEST times of day for lighting!
2. How do you want your timeline to look? Do you want to do an activity during the day? Bridal photos and then have your ceremony and a small reception or dinner right after? Or would you rather have your ceremony early? And then go on an adventure with just the two of you. And do something with your guest after? If you’re not really sure, I can help you plan your timeline to fit your needs! So don’t stress 🙂
3. We don’t want to rush things on your wedding day. My number one priority, outside of capturing your day, is to make this a memorable experience for the two of you. And make it as stress free as possible!
So allowing for time in between everything so we don’t rush, is important! We don’t want to potentially not capture certain aspects of the day that you’ll want. And we’ll want to plan for to allow for random things that may happen along the way.
Thinking about the time of year where you want to elope or have an intimate wedding, is so important!
I’ve had couples do their weddings in the desert during the summer, leaving all of us sweating and uncomfortable. And we don’t need anyone’s makeup sweating off their face! Or having anyone be self conscious of their pits being a faucet and being able to see it in photos.
On the other hand, I’ve had couples get married in the dead of winter. We stood outside in the snow doing photos while shivering. Which is totally fine, and I love me some good snowy elopements! But it’s definitely something to keep in mind! And make sure you prepare ahead of time when it comes to what you want to wear.
So I would highly suggest looking into the temperatures of where you’re wanting to get married. Figure out a time of the year where it’ll be pretty mild, and not one extreme or the other. This is also important if you’re going to have younger or older guests in attendance.
A few things to remember for your elopement day!
1. Special Use Permit
2. Money for the Entrance Fee or your National Parks Pass. If we ride together, I have a pass!
3. Marriage License
6. Hiking shoes or boots
7. Water and snacks. Or if it’s colder, a thermos of your favorite hot drink would be fun as well!
8. Jacket and/or umbrella just in case of some rain or cold weather
Hopefully these tips on how to elope in a national park, will help you plan your own national park elopement!
If you have any questions or concerns while planning, please reach out. I’m always happy to help!