When it comes to eloping, some of the most incredible destinations in the US are found in national parks. Whether you’re longing to roam the desert, say I do with the mountains in the background, or wander through the towering redwoods, there’s a national park for everyone. While some couples prefer to elope in an area that’s special to them, it’s also such a special experience to elope in an area brand new to both of you. So if you’re wondering how to elope in a national park, this one’s for you. Let’s get into it!

How to Elope in a National Park:

1. Pick Your Date 

National park ceremony locations book on a first-come, first-serve basis. Narrowing down even a season is a great start! If your heart is set on eloping in the snowfall, you probably won’t have much luck eloping in July 😂 When doing your research of all the different parks to choose from (see #2), try to avoid the park’s busiest season. The National Park Service website will be able to let you know when those busy seasons are.

2. Pick Your Location

Trust me, this is the hardest part! Almost all national parks allow for wedding ceremonies. Figure out what kind of elopement you’re dreaming of and go from there. Since you already know what season you’re planning for, you’ll be able to narrow down quite a few. As mentioned in #1, try to avoid the park’s busiest season. Not only will you have more privacy, but there will be abetter chance at getting the location you’re wanting. Some parks don’t allow weddings during certain times of the year, so be cognizant of that as well.

3. Book Your Photographer

While some couples book their elopement based on their dream photographer’s location or availability, I’d say it’s easiest to pick your date and park first if you don’t have a “must have” photographer in mind. When inquiring with photographers, you’ll be able to let them know exactly when and where your ceremony will be. Some photographers are very selective when it comes to elopements – maybe they want to be in the PNW during the Fall, but would love to be on an island in the Winter. 

4. Apply for a Permit

Yes, a permit is required! Believe it or not, you can’t just wander up to Half Dome and say “I do”. Even with a permit, there are some locations in the parks that do not allow weddings. The NPS website lists closures as well as specific locations, time limits, and guest limits. You can apply for your Special Use Permit nearly a year in advance! Once you have your date, get your application in. 

5. Book Your Campsite or Cabin

The vacations rentals around most national parks are incredible. Depending on how many people you’re planning to have for your elopement, you can book on Airbnb or VRBO. I recommend VRBO if you’re looking for accommodations for more than 10 people. 

6. Plan Your Activities

The best part of an elopement is not only getting to marry the love of your life, but also being able to do whatever you want to do! If you want to go kayaking around the lake on the morning of your elopement, do it. Dreaming of a romantic picnic in a meadow? Go for it! There are endless options of what you and your honey can do on your elopement day. Just like picking a location, the hardest part will be narrowing the activities down.

7. Apply for Your Marriage License

This is a big one. Do your research! Each state is different when it comes to the terms of applying for a marriage license. Not only should you visit the state’s website, but also double check the county’s website. Some states have a waiting period, so make sure to keep that in mind when applying. 

While some states require that you get married in the county you are getting married, others allow you to apply in any county. Research, research, research!

My biggest advice when it comes to how to elope in a national park is to visit nps.gov! The National Park Service is a great resource for closures, restrictions, permits, and more. Looking for the best locations to elope in Washington State?! CLICK HEREAnd as always, follow me over on Instagram (@sarareneephotography). 

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