Ive been collecting those Jr Ranger pins from National Parks since I was 7.
The Jr. Ranger program was probably one of the highlights of my childhood, and every time I see it in action at parks I have to smile to myself. Now, when couples choose to elope in National Parks, I get so pumped! I mean, my Jet Boil doesn’t need an excuse to party.
I’ve spend a lot of time in National Parks- traveled to over 39 of them, some a multitude of times at different seasons. Some of my favorite places to photograph are Arches, Rocky Mountain, Death Valley, AK and anywhere in southern Utah! So when a couple approaches me about getting married in one, it’s literally my worlds colliding and I am reminded that my job is pretty awesome.
However, when couples are considering a National Park elopement, there are several things to keep in mind.
1- Permits. This is probably the biggest component of getting married at a National Park. Due to increased volume of visitors, the Parks Service has taken regulation to a high level. As your photographer I am familiar and confident at navigating these waters, and will help to interpret the nuances of these permits. If you’re flexible on the date, that’s even better. Keep in mind that getting a permit on a holiday weekend is out, and weekends sell out fast. Also keep in mind certain restrictions on possible vendors, as to what they can and cannot bring into the park (think Drones, sparklers, confetti, certain flowers etc)
2- Privacy. Depending on where and when you would like to elope, this can truly be a factor. Grandview Overlook at the Grand Canyon at sunset will have crowds, versus a tucked away road at sunrise in Death Valley on a Tuesday will likely result in excellent privacy. Consider how open you are to spectators, or if you want your elopement private. To that note, if you’re open for a sunrise wedding, you increase the odds of less crowds. Don’t worry, I bring the coffee.
3- Guests. If you’re planning to elope in a National Park, consider keeping any guests in the loop on weather, appropriate attire and fees to enter the park. Typically without the Annual National Parks pass (which can be purchased online ahead of time, or in person at the gate) entrance to parks is $35 a car. Also give any vendors a heads up if you’re going to be getting ready inside the park!
4- Accommodation. Unless you’re up for some epic glamping on your wedding day, I would highly suggest checking out local Airbnbs or lodges in the parks. Often the accommodation inside the park is luxurious and expensive- but on a wedding day it can be totally worth it. Be sure to check with any Airbnb hosts if you plan on having an ‘afterparty’ or reception there, as they need to know what’s going on too!
5- Attire. If you plan to do any hiking or maneuvering for your elopement, Ive got lots of suggestions on how to pack appropriately for it. Packing flowers, veils, dresses, granola bars, headlamps and shoes up in a pack is something I’ve done a time or two, so if you’re worried about how to pack for an elopement, Ive got you covered!
6- Lastly, but certainly not least, is the trickyness of Mother Nature. Eloping in a National Park means paying attention to the weather, and if necessary, making alternative and backup plans.