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Destination I Do
Monday, June 17, 2019

How to Get Married in a National Park

Words by Courtney Kellar

Destination wedding couples are inherently adventurous, so it isn’t a stretch to imagine some of you might be considering saying, “I do” in a U.S. National Park. These massive expanses of Mother Nature are designated for a reason – they make amazing backdrops for life’s most meaningful moments. Choosing to host your event in a federally managed park certainly comes with strings attached, but the benefits outweigh the risks. You’re committing your lives to each other, while supporting the National Park Service. If you really want to go the extra mile, you might consider a charitable donation to your chosen park. Below you will discover four firsthand, industry experts’ advice for hosting your event in a U.S. National Park.

 National Park destination wedding
National Park destination wedding
National Park destination wedding
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Expert #1: Marianne WiestGlacier National Park Wedding Photographer

Choose a Photographer: It may seem too early to pick your photographer before your wedding date, but what if the photographer of your dreams already has the date taken? If epic, stunning, one-of-a-kind photos are important to you, then get talking with your photographer first thing.

Choose a Location: With over one million acres, Glacier National Park has endless possibilities for beautiful photos. What’s difficult is choosing how far you want to travel from where you’re staying, where you’re saying ‘I do,” etc.. Pick the spot you think is prettiest and plan everything else around it! You only have one chance at this, so I always say, ‘Go epic or go home!’

Choose Your Time of Day: If you want breathtaking photos, you’ll want to have your ceremony in the morning or in the early evening. Whatever you do, don’t plan on photos from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. as the light can be harsh. It can be difficult to plan around these times, but you didn’t choose to get married in a national park for convenience, you’re getting married there because it’s one of the most beautiful spots in the world. Don’t you want the photos to reflect that beauty?

Expert #2: Kimberly Bothwell – Yosemite National Park Real-Life Bride & Former Wedding Planner

Make it a Vacation for All: For example, rent luxury cabins in Yosemite and invite all your guests to spend the weekend with you. Have activities planned like hiking, a BBQ rehearsal dinner and, of course, the wedding celebration.

Create a Detailed Itinerary: With your wedding being held in a national park, cell service is limited. Make sure to provide each guest with a detailed itinerary including directions, activity start times and estimated travel times (one-way, windy roads take time!).

Hire a Planner: I cannot stress this enough. Most, if not all of us, don’t plan weddings on a regular basis. A professional planner will help find the right vendors that not only fit within your budget, but know how to travel for a unique destination wedding. They plan all the details, communicate your vision and execute the day-of.

Expert #3: Lindsay LongacreFounder of LVL Weddings & Events

Keep it Intimate: National park weddings work really well for an intimate, casual vibe. Planning and logistics can start to get a bit more difficult as you creep-up in your guest count.

Educate Yourselves: Ensure you know the permitting rules and regulations. Most parks require a permit and have certain rules when it comes to weddings specifically, so it’s important you fully understand them.

Research Restrooms and Electricity: Make sure you research all of the facilities available to you. You will most likely need to rent a generator – especially if your reception is located in the heart of the park. Additionally, restroom access is a must. If there aren’t any nearby, you will need to rent them.

Expert #4: Kristy Rice – Stationer Extraordinaire & Zion National Park Vow Renewal Bride

Don’t Skip Your Docs: National parks take their lands very seriously, so if you’re thinking of skipping the permit office – don’t! We renewed our vows in Zion National Park with only 12 guests and the park rangers asked us for our permit before we even boarded the shuttle.

Build-in Extra Time: Timing can be unpredictable in a national park. We once saw a shuttle bus come to a complete stop and then creep along the road for over 20 minutes. We discovered there was a tiny tarantula in the road that was preventing the shuttle from getting through. In a national park, anything can slow you down, so build extra time into your schedule for the unexpected.

4 Must-Ask Questions for Getting Married in a National Park:

By Kristy Rice

  1. What is the earliest and latest you can enter and leave the park?
  2. What restrictions will you face when bringing in décor elements?
  3. Will a park ranger need to be on-site at your ceremony location?
  4. Will you need to use the park shuttle system for transport of your guests and vendors?
This article can be found on page 68 of the Fall/Winter 2018 issue of Destination I Do magazine.

Photos courtesey of (in order of appearance): Lindsey Stewart Photography (1st), Elle Jae Photography (2nd & 6th) & Marianne Wiest Photography (3rd-5th)

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