Did you know that the United States has 63 National Parks? And did you know that California has more National Parks than any other state? Yes, 9 of them! Each National Park has its own character, and they all got this title for a reason: they’re freaking amazing. So it’s no wonder eloping in a National Park is a pretty common idea. In this blog post, I wanted to give you tips and things you need to know to plan your National Park wedding.
Tip #1 – First Things First… Permits!
After you’ve chosen which National Park you want to get married in, it’s time to start planning. The first thing you’ll need to do is check what kind of permit you’ll need, and what’s the application process like. Most National Parks will require that you apply for the Permit at least 30 days prior to your wedding date, so if you’re planning a very last-minute elopement, you might need to consider another location.
This is important: every National Park has its own set of rules and regulations. So make sure that you pick your location first before starting this process.
Another important thing to note is that every National Park has a different Permit Fee and it varies from $50 to $250 or more (depending on if you need any type of ranger assisting during your day).
Here’s an example of how different the process can look:
Permit Fee: $150 +
How to apply: fill out the application, print it, and mail it through the post office or FedEx along with a non-refundable check in the amount of $150. Your application needs to be submitted a minimum of 21 days prior to your desired date.
Permit Fee: $120 +
How to apply: fill out the application online and send it via email. Once it’s approved, you’ll receive instructions to make a payment online.
Permit Fee: $150 +
How to apply: fill out the application and send it via email with proof of a nonrefundable $150 payment (your payment will be done online). Your application needs to be submitted a minimum of 90 days prior to your desired date.
These are just 3 examples of National Parks in California, and things change even more from state to state. With 63 National Parks to choose from, and 63 different permit application processes, you understand now why my advice is to pick your Park before starting the planning process, right?
Tip #2 – Picking Your Ceremony Location
This is another important thing to factor into planning your National Park wedding – picking your ceremony location. Most National Parks will have a list on their website of the permitted locations for your ceremony.
With Yosemite, for example, if your total wedding party (including vendors) does not exceed 11 people, you are not limited to those specific locations, and you’ll have more freedom around the Park. With Sequoia National Park, it doesn’t matter if it’s just the 2 of you, or 20 people, you must use one of the locations listed on the website.
This is often an element that you must decide on before applying for your permit. Most permit applications will ask for your primary location choice, and then two others, in case your location has already been given to another couple. Most permits are granted on a first come, first serve basis. Which means – the earlier you apply for your permit, the better.
Tip #3 – Choose Your Vendors Wisely
If you are not super familiar with the Park of your choice, my advice is to choose a photographer/ videographer that knows the location incredibly well and/or is willing to scout the location prior to the wedding. The reason I say this is because, when you elope, chances are your photographers will also act as your guides. They’ll know the best spots in the Park, the best times to shoot, and the secret spots to get away from the tourist crowds.
We get a LOT of couples from out of state that never been to Yosemite before and they are counting on us to create a day full of experiences and epic views. And even though we have been to other National Parks around the country and around California, we specialize in weddings in Yosemite and Sequoia. The fact that we live so close to these Parks allows us to take day trips and explore different hikes and locations, creating a day that our couples won’t forget! We will not pretend to know the best spots in Joshua Tree, for example, since we’ve only been there once!
When it comes to other vendors, it’s important to communicate with them your wedding day plans. If you’re planning an adventurous sunrise elopement, for example, you’ll need a makeup artist and a hairstylist that are super willing to get you ready at 3 am. If you’re getting flowers, the florist needs to familiarize themselves with the Park rules. National Parks are super strict with the type of bouquets they allow, as they should. Some flowers can be detrimental to the natural environment of the Park.
We are always happy to send our recommendations list to our clients! It includes some amazing elopement vendors we have worked with before.
Tip #4 – Preparing For Your Day
It goes without saying that planning a wedding or an elopement can be a little overwhelming. So here are a couple of key tips to make your life easier:
- Places to Stay – once you’ve decided your location and the number of guests attending your wedding, start looking into accommodations. Some National Parks are so popular that it can be hard to find good places to stay, especially during the high season. Airbnbs are always our top choice! Especially if you want to gather with some close family and friends after adventuring all day!
- Weather – having a National Park wedding means having some of the most beautiful places in the US as your wedding venue. But it also means you’ll need to deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at you. Think about what kind of weather you like, do your research on average temperatures and THEN pick your wedding date! For all of our weather research, we use the AccuWeather app.
- Time of the Year – choosing to get married in the low season is one of the best decisions you’ll make! Summer tends to be a busy season for National Parks, so avoiding that is not a bad idea! If you can’t do that, consider getting married on a weekday. Most tourists flood the Parks on the weekends.
- Packing – if you’re flying to your destination, it’s especially important that you make a solid packing list! You don’t want important things like your rings, your veil, or your vow books to get left behind, right? Don’t leave packing for the very last minute, and double-check that everything that’s important has made it into your suitcase.
- Hiking – if your day includes some hikes, make sure to do your research. We love to use the AllTrails app! It gives us the duration of the hike, the elevation gain, the difficulty level, and more. This is especially important if you have guests, or you’re planning to bring a little one along. Make sure the hike of your choice is suitable for all your guests (and yourself)!
Tip #5 – Finding Your National Park Wedding Dress
When you have a National Park wedding, chances are you’ll be walking quite a bit. Even if you aren’t backpacking for 10 miles, most epic views do take some effort to get to. So it’s really important that you think about how comfortable your dress needs to feel! That way, you’ll be able to walk all day long in it!
Another thing to think about is to try to complement your dress with the landscape that you’re in. The deserts in Death Valley and the giant granite mountains in Yosemite are drastically different.
I wrote a post with tips to pick your elopement dress – and I think you should check it out! Traditional weddings and elopements are different in so many ways, and one of them involves what you’ll be wearing. Make sure to check out this post before you start your wedding dress shopping!
That’s a wrap!
I really hope this blog post was useful and that you’re now ready to start planning your National Park wedding! Please don’t hesitate and contact us if you have any questions!