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Getting Married In a National Park


January 17, 2022
Words by Kinsley Brown
Photos courtesy of Tiffany J Photography

When they met in 2020, one of Jillian and Lorenzo’s first conversations was about their mutual love of desert landscapes. After getting engaged, the couple looked forward to a traditional wedding with loved ones included, but first, they made plans to commemorate their union with just the two of them surrounded by the awe of the desert environment. Jillian envisioned Sahara-style dunes, while Lorenzo pictured something more like Joshua Tree, so they compromised on the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park.

For those of you dreaming of having a destination wedding or elopement in a U.S. national park, we thought it might be helpful to gather some tips from the couple themselves! In addition, we’ve curated a list of Four Must-Ask Questions for Getting Married in a National Park for you to use in your planning journey. (See below.)

Q: Were there any restrictions for getting married in the park? If so, how did you find out about them and what did you have to do to prepare?
A: “Definitely visit to find out any and all information about the locations in the parks such as alerts, rules and regulations, annual weather patterns, and pass fees. Call the visitor center to make sure anything particular you are planning to do is allowed. I also watched some videos of photoshoots in the park to understand how far we’d have to trek and what the terrain would be like. Originally, we had wanted to have a larger set-up with an arch, dried florals, pillows, etc. – things we had seen on Pinterest. In reality that was not going to work because we had to make a significant hike into the dunes by foot and didn’t plan on hiring a team. We had initially considered off-road vehicles to help transport decor but then found out that they aren’t allowed in that area. That was a crucial piece of information, along with understanding the “leave nothing behind” rule. In the end, we just settled on bringing a rug, which Lorenzo had to carry, along with our bag of water and necessities. (The pictures of Lorenzo and me while he was carrying our things are some of my favorites.)”

Q: Is there any advice you’d like to share with couples considering or planning a wedding/elopement in a national park?
A: “Be as prepared as possible for what to expect in whichever location you choose. Pack light. Find a comfortable dress and suit – I was so happy I chose the style I did when we were on the inclines and hills and feeling the desert heat (even in December!). Consider appropriate footwear based on your location. I wore sandals and Lorenzo wore dress shoes, but we both ended up going barefoot most of the time at the dunes. Bring a flashlight. If you plan to shoot until sunset, it can get very dark, so make sure you have enough light to find your way back. Lastly, make sure you have directions printed out or saved on your phone. Cell reception can be very patchy when you’re in the middle of nowhere, so make sure you know how to get to and from each location.”

Below you’ll find four questions we suggest you ask of the U.S. National Park you choose before heading off to say “I do!”

What is the earliest and latest you can enter and leave the park?

What restrictions will you face when bringing in décor elements?

Will a park ranger need to be on-site at your ceremony location?

Will you need to use the park shuttle system for the transport of your guests and vendors?

Vendors: Photography: Tiffany J Photography; Hair + Makeup: Emily Lynn + Co.; Dress Designer: Tara Lauren; Dress Shop: The Bridal Room; Suit: Riccardi Clothier; Accommodations: The Inn at Death Valley

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