Elopement Photography, Tips and Advice

How to Elope in a National Park [in 2021-2022]

boho bride and groom dancing in joshua tree national park

This is for the adventurous and outdoorsy couples who love nature and want to elope in a national park! Wedding planning can be overwhelming and it can get even more confusing if you want to go a more untraditional route to get married. But don’t worry, if you want to elope in your favorite national park, keep reading and I’ll tell you how.

Make sure you start planning far in advance! The permits you need can take weeks to months (or even over a year) to obtain. But don’t worry, I’ll tell you all about those and where to get them!

1. Deciding on a National Park to Elope in

Most National Parks allow weddings so you and your partner have so many beautiful places to choose from! Is there a park that is special to you two? Or maybe you have a few ideas, that’s ok, I know there are just so many amazing parks!

Check out the National Parks website to learn about all the parks. At Arastasia Photography, some of our favorite National Parks are Zion, Arches, Dry Tortugas, Mount Rainier, and Joshua Tree (although we love so many of the national parks!)

boho bride and groom in colorado sand dunes national park

Things to Consider

There’s a lot of amazing national parks to continue your beautiful love story in. So, here are some things to consider that will hopefully help you narrow down your ideal location.

boho bride and groom dancing holding hands and leaning against a tree in joshua tree national park

Plan for the weather

Consider the time of year you want to get married.

Joshua Tree National Park and other desert parks will be unbearably hot during the summer months.

Hurricane season is June-November so planning a wedding it may be risky to plan a wedding at Dry Tortugas, Biscayne Bay, or the Everglades during this time, especially in peak season (August-September).

National Parks in Alaska and the Northern United States will be very cold during the winter months so summer and fall weddings are ideal for those parks.

Wildfire season in California and the Pacific Northwest is August-November so parks like Crater Lake, Mount Rainier, and parks throughout the Sierra Nevada Mountains are at risk during this time.

boho bride and groom dancing in arches national park

Where do you want the ceremony?

Decide whether or not you want to have the ceremony at the park. If you want to have a ceremony at a venue near a national park, you can get a photography permit and visit the park just for pictures. This is great if you want to have more than 50 people at your ceremony since most national parks ceremony locations host >50 people.

If you want to do a small in park ceremony, do you have a specific location in mind? Maybe there’s a beautiful waterfall or overlook that’s special to you and your partner. That might be the perfect place for you and the love of your life to elope.

Maybe you don’t have a specific location in mind for the ceremony and/or pictures. Finding potential locations will make some great dates! Find some potential locations and make some trips to visit them. National Parks may also list their ceremony locations on the National Parks website.

You can also contact me and I can give you some suggestions at my favorite parks!

bride saying vows to groom at elopement in joshua tree national park

Think about restrictions

Since national parks are meant to protect the land and ecosystem, there are some restrictions on what you can do in them. Every park is different but here is a general list of restrictions.

  1. No decorations or structures can be secured in the ground
  2. Most parks only allow >50 people at a ceremony
  3. No sparklers/fires
  4. No confetti- but some parks will let you throw native flower petals and leaves
  5. Parking might be limited
  6. All car loads must pay park entrance fee!
  7. Pets usually are not allowed
  8. Leave no trace- no littering, no harming ecosystem. Pack in pack out all trash.
boho bride and groom holding hands adventuring elopement in joshua tree national park

2. Contact the National Park and Park Rangers

The parks will be able to tell you exactly when and where you can get married. You may be able to book everything on the national parks website. However, contacting a park ranger can be a big help.

The Park Rangers will be your go to for what is or isn’t allowed at your ceremony. They can help you pick a ceremony and portrait location within the park (they know all the restrictions and best spots! trust them!).

3. Get a Special Use Permit to elope in a national park

To elope in a national park you must obtain a special use permit from the park. Permits can take anywhere from a few weeks to a year to obtain so it’s important to look into this in advance. You can find the links to reserve these under the reservation tab of that specific national park’s page on the national park website.

National Parks Special Use Permits usually costs $200 or less

boho bride and groom holding hands in colorado sand dunes national park

4. Get a Permit for the Photographer

National Parks require you to have a permit for your photographer when having your wedding photos done in a national park. Even if you’re only going for photos, and not having your ceremony in the park, you still need to get a permit for the photographer.

National Parks Photography Permits usually costs $100-$300

boho bride and groom holding hands running down road in joshua tree national park after eloping

5. Get Park Passes for Your Special Day

On your big day you’ll have to have park entrance passes for every car load if the park requires them. These can be reserved ahead of time (check the national parks website). If you have an America the Beautiful Pass (some form of National parks pass) that may get your 1 car load in if the park gives pass discounts. So I’d definitely recommend car pooling as much as possible whether you only have a few people involved or a bigger guest list.

National Parks Entrance fees vary by park

America The Beautiful Park Annual Passes cost $80 per year

bride and groom running towards sand dunes after eloping at colorado sand dunes national park

6. Don’t forget to reserve a place to stay

Book places for you and your guests to stay near the national park. If you and your partner enjoy camping, reserve a campground in the national park for you two to stay at, this could make a great honeymoon! Or if you’re near many national parks you could do a national parks road trip for your honeymoon.

boho bride and groom eloping in joshua tree national park

Things To Bring

  • Hiking clothes and shoes to get to locations
  • your beautiful wedding clothes (of course!)
  • Snacks and water
  • flashlight
  • bouquet and native flower petals
  • blanket/rug
  • jackets and umbrellas in case of cold or rain
  • an arch that doesn’t need secured into the ground
  • hiking and camping gear
  • At some parks you might want a swimsuit and towel! (and maybe even snorkel gear)

I hope this helps you plan your magical elopement in your favorite national park! I’d love to road trip or fly somewhere beautiful with you to photography your love story! Click here so we can start planning together!

Arastasia Photography is a national parks and travel elopement photographer specializing in adventurous weddings. We are located out of Cleveland, Ohio but will travel to any destination.

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