How to Elope in a National Park
Today it’s all about the adventurous couple, the ones who love the outdoors so much — they want to incorporate it into their wedding day in a BIG WAY. Over the past few years, we’ve been featuring more and more rad elopements, with many of them taking place in national parks, and that’s sparked the interest of many readers… We’ve received countless questions of, “So, if I want to elope in a national park — how do I go about that? Are there fees involved? Who do I contact? Do I have to get a permit? Help! What do I do?” Well, we’ve done our research + are here to divulge all the answers. We’re even sharing some expert advice from two all-star ‘adventure/wandering photographers’: Anni Graham + Dawn Photo.
To start off, almost all of the U.S. National Parks allow for ceremonies to take place within their grounds — though “special use” permits are required, with an upfront fee (usually between $50-$200, depending on the park). Some people have asked, “Well, what if it is just us, the officiant + the photographer — do we really need a permit?” Our best advice, is absolutely YES. Why? If by chance you get stopped by a ranger that asks for the permit, how crushing would it be to have to put your wedding day to a halt? And two, the national parks are such a great service + a definite cause for supporting. Fair? We think so. 🙂 If you’re wanting to elope in such a place, applications should be submitted several months in advance (though you can sometimes get away with three weeks, however, we would just err on the side of having ample time!).
Anni Graham, the photographer of the above photo from Olympic National Park, shares: Each land management organization will have different rules, National Parks as definitely the most restrictive at the top of the list. Each national park will have contact information on nps.gov and I have never had difficulty getting in touch with a Park Ranger to ask about specific permits + rules. Each park also has their own website with information on wedding permits that are easily accessible. Permit fees vary from park to park, generally depending on the popularity of the park (Yosemite gets about 4 million visitors every year) and the type of environment it has (Rocky Mountain is an Alpine environment and very fragile, and they have really expensive permits).
How much time do I need to get a permit?
Each park usually has a time frame of when you can get your permits — for example, Yosemite allows you to schedule permits 1 year – 21 days before your wedding. Regardless it’s smart to plan with plenty of time in advance to ensure you get the permits, etc. Some parks also have designated areas for weddings and they can book out up to a year in advance. I know a lot of people will just avoid getting permits and try to sneak around, but what is worse than getting asked to leave or getting a fine for not going through the proper channels?
Do I get the permit or does my photographer?
Typically the couple will purchase the permit and they usually range from $100 – $300.