How to Get Married or Have an Elopement in Shenandoah National Park.
A Quick break-down of Legalities :
A special use permit is required for any wedding ceremony or special ceremony involving more than 15 participants.
Please note that ceremonies with less than 15 participants and no set-up do not require a permit.
For all other weddings or ceremonies in the Park, contact the permits office by emailing : email@example.com
Things to Plan :
Where to stay. Will it just be the two of you? Are you bringing your pets? Will your family or friends be along, and will they stay with you? How close do you want to be to your ceremony location?
What your entire day will look like. How do you want your day to look? What sort of hikes do you want to do? What other adventures will you have? Do you want your food for the day catered, or do you want to make the food yourself?
Where to have your ceremony. Do you want your ceremony to be easy to get to? Do you want a big set up, or will the natural backdrop be enough? Do you want to hike to your ceremony? Do you want it at sunrise or sunset?
Find a photographer. Not only can I help you with all of the things above to plan, and be someone to bounce all your ideas off of, I can also photograph your epic day because there may not be anyone else there to do it for it.
How much time should I plan for the day?
An adventurous wedding or elopement can take a full day just like a traditional wedding day - but instead of a strict timeline and traditional “must-do’s” you can have a day full of casual and exciting fun.
So, make sure you leave plenty of time to take it slow and enjoy yourself.
I want to be there to capture you getting ready in the morning, the hike to your ceremony spot, your beers and barbecue, and your camp-side dance at the end of the day.
Getting ready together & drinking your coffee in your cabin.
Seeing the sunrise (or sunset).
Saying your vows.
Photos together as you explore and play in the mountains, rivers, or valleys.
Going back to your cabin to cook together, enjoying coffee, jumping in the water, and dancing by the river.
Whatever you imagine for your wedding day, whether it’s just the two of you or you have guests.
Photos at sunrise or sunset?
- Sunset gives you the whole day to anticipate the moment, but for really popular parks or lookout points, it’s going to be very crowded. Sunset light is usually very yellow and warm, making everything glow.
- Sunrise is my favorite for the light and calm and quiet. It is a very early start, and you will do a lot of the hike in the dark, but it’s so quiet and calm, the crowds aren’t awake yet, and it feels like you have the whole place to yourself. Sunrise light can be very unpredictable - sometimes blue and sometimes an intense orange.
Things To Bring:
• Shoes to hike in are a must.
• If you are hiking, you might want to bring a change of clothes and get ready at the location (photo here is of Megan getting ready at her location in Washington State!)
• Sweater/jacket – if you are up in the mountains or at a lookout point it can get unexpectedly chilly! Shenandoah National Park is typically 10 degrees colder than the towns down in the valley.
• Water/snacks or maybe whiskey (for energy & morale, of course).
• Headlamp or flashlight : if you are shooting at sunset and need to hike down in the dark, or if you are shooting at sunrise and need to hike up in the dark.
• If there is a chance of rain, bring a jacket & umbrella. Sometimes you just need to embrace it all and running around in the rain can be the most romantic thing, just bring a jacket and blanket to keep warm afterwards.
• It’s also not a bad idea to have a backup location like a lookout tower or cabin to run to after saying your vows for some more photos and sweet moments together.
Things you need to know
information directly from Shenandoah National Park :
Entry fees apply, as appropriate to the method of entry into the park.
The NPS shall not monitor this Permit.
All vehicles shall park correctly in legal parking spaces on a first-come, first served basis (no reservation of parking spaces).
Do not park on roads, road shoulders, or block any access.
Vehicles shall not impede road traffic or visitor access in any way.
Commercial transportation is not authorized within the boundaries of the park, unless specifically approved, in advance.
The Permittee and/or employees/associates, and/or participants, and/or guests is/are expressly prohibited from entering any closed/out-of-bounds areas or from leaving established trails, walkways and visitor areas. Vehicle or foot travel off designated roadways, walkways, sidewalks, or trails is not permitted.
Permittee and/or employees/associates, and/or participants, and/or guests may bring plants or flowers for use during the ceremony but shall, by the end of the permit, remove all such materials to include petals, leaves, stems, pieces and/or plant parts from the park at the conclusion of the permitted activity, due to the potential for non-native and invasive species to be left behind.
Decorations may be considered and shall be approved in advance. This permit authorizes the use of a temporary, pre-constructed (built outside park boundaries) freestanding arch. The Permittee and/or employees/associates, and/or participants, and/or guests shall not stake/fasten the arch to the ground in any manner whatsoever. Weights for stability of the arch may be used; however, the Permittee shall not use sandbags due to the possible introduction of non-native sand in the resource. Should the Permittee engage a provider (associate) for this service, the Permittee shall ensure the provider shows a copy of this permit for entry into the park, at no charge. Any exchange of payment for the service shall take place outside park boundaries. The Permittee shall ensure removal of the decoration by the end of the permit.
Banners, Chairs, Memorials, Photos, Plaques, Signs, etc.
Shenandoah National Park specifically prohibits placement of the following:
Memorials, photos, and/or plaques
Note: This permit authorizes the use of chairs. Should the Permittee engage a provider (associate) for this service, the Permittee shall ensure the provider shows a copy of this permit for entry into the park, at no charge. Any exchange of payment for the service shall take place outside park boundaries. The Permittee shall ensure removal of the chairs by the end of the permit.
Authorized equipment is limited to hand-carried cameras and tripods. All equipment cannot interfere with the experience of other visitors. The Permittee is not authorized the use of stand-alone lighting systems.
Electrical power is not furnished. The Permittee shall not connect to any power sources located anywhere within park boundaries. Generators are not authorized.
Audio devices (e.g. electrified musical instruments, P.A. systems, tape players, etc.) are prohibited.
Non-amplified musical instruments (e.g. flute, guitar) that do not impact the experience of other visitors may be considered and shall be approved in advance.
Use of Native Materials
Native materials shall not be disturbed and/or used for props except, as a natural backdrop. Off-trail is not permitted.
Attachments and Coverings
Permittee employees/associates, and/or participants, and/or guests under this Permit shall not attach anything to any NPS facility, structure, rock, ground, or vegetation. Permittee and/or participants under this Permit shall not cover or remove signs, fences, or posts, natural features, etc.
Ground Disturbing Activities
The Permittee employees/associates, and/or participants, and/or guests under this Permit shall not engage in any ground disturbing activities, whatsoever.
Disturbance of Natural Features
Permittee employees/associates, and/or participants, and/or guests under this Permit shall not dig, scrape, remove, or otherwise disturb any natural features.
Leave No Trace Policy
The Permittee and/or employees/associates, and/or participants, and/or guests under this Permit shall follow a leave-no-trace policy and restore the area of use to the same condition prior to use, or better.
Waste Disposal (Pack-in, Pack-out)
The Permittee and/or employees/associates, and/or participants, and/or guests under this Permit shall dispose of all such waste and debris associated with activities authorized within this Permit outside the park boundaries. The Permittee and/or participants under this Permit shall not use garbage collection facilities provided for the public within the park, for the disposal of refuse associated with this Permit.