Planning a National Park Wedding - What you need to know
The mountains are calling you and you decided to have a National Park Wedding! Congrats and GREAT choice. I love National Park Weddings not only because they are always in a picturesque location but also because you're donating back to the park itself. Today I'm sharing everything you need to know about hosting an event or wedding in a National Park in the US.
What events can you host in a National Park?
The types of events that can take place in US National Parks vary greatly on the Park itself. For example, we often host wedding ceremonies in Joshua Tree National Park and they allow us to have an arch, cake and even champagne! But that's not the case for every park. Some parks will allow you to host sporting events, family reunions and even a fair! Each type of event will require its own type of permit as well. You can find out more about the events that are allowed on the National Park Service website.
What decor am I allowed to bring to a National Park?
Since every Park has its own rules, it's important to read your permit application thoroughly. That being said, if you're having a National Park wedding, we know you're an adventurous eco-friendly couple already. We always encourage our couples to nix anything plastic, confetti (which usually is forbidden) or wasteful. We believe in leaving the Parks in even better shape than when we found them. You can count on us to pick up pieces of trash left by other visitors if we see it!
How much does it cost to have a National Park wedding?
I'm glad you asked! Like I mentioned earlier, every Park will have it's own requirements as well as fee structure. In order to give you some actual numbers, let's take a look at 3 of our favorite National Parks to host weddings at.
Joshua Tree National Park, CA
Photo by Meg Brook Photography
This Park is near and dear to our hearts and we're lucky enough to plan weddings there every year. The great thing about this Park is that you're allowed to bring in a wedding arch, florals, a cake and champagne! Alcohol isn't permitted everywhere so we thought this was pretty special.
You are required to have an event permit as well as a photography permit for your wedding. Each permit is about $120. On top of the permit fees, you'll be required to pay an entry fee of $30 per car but this ticket is valid for 7 days. As Wedding Planners who do a lot of events in National Parks, we carry an Annual Park Pass so that we can come and go as we please in most National Parks. When possible, we'll gladly take guests in our cars to help save on costs but sometimes we have decor in the back seat so it's not always possible! If Joshua Tree sounds like you're type of wedding venue, we do offer an Elopement Package for this location!
Bonus: your furry friends are allowed at your ceremony as long as they stay on the marked paths!
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN
Our next favorite wedding location is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Now, this one is amazing because there is no park entrance fee! That being said, you are required to get an event permit and the application fee is $50. They have over 40 wedding spots within the Park which is amazing! Not just that but the Great Smoky Mountains National Park also has a couple rustic cabins such as the Appalachian Club House that can be used as a reception space with rental fees as low as $250/day! We'll plan a wedding in the Smokies anytime!
Acadia National Park, ME
Photo by Katelyn Mallett
This little gem is not as popular but equally as beautiful as the last two National Parks. If you're wanting to get married on the East Coast, you MUST check out Acadia National Park in Maine. A permit is required for most events and has a $50 application fee as well. However, if you're simply having a ceremony with 10 guests or less (officiant included), no permit is required! Sadly you're not allowed any chairs, arches or decor for these smaller weddings. Out of the 12 main event locations, it seems that the maximum number of guests would be 50. Still, I would definitely consider this incredible location for any adventurous wedding! Did you know we have a team based in Maine? Check out our Maine Elopement Collective that can help you plan this gorgeous small wedding!
So what will it be? A celebration in the desert, vows in the mountains or saying your I Do's overlooking the ocean?