For a bride and groom who love the outdoors, nothing could be more romantic than a wedding site that overlooks a majestic waterfall or a mountain meadow full of wildflowers in Jackson Hole. A destination wedding in Grand Teton or Yellowstone National is the perfect setting for couples who prefer the big sky over a big ball room, but don’t be fooled into thinking an outdoor wedding is a simple affair. Celebrating your nuptials in one of America’s picturesque national parks takes almost as much planning as a trip to any other destination.
The Guest List
Each national park has its own set of rules, regulations and accommodations, but both Grand Teton and Yellowstone Parks are better suited to small gatherings. Special regulations from the parks’ websites state that no event may interfere with normal activities of park visitors or disturb the natural setting, so forget about setting up 200 folding chairs in the parking lot at Schwabacher’s Landing or Artist Point. To make a park wedding work, keep the guest list to a minimum.
You’ve asked guests to come to a place of such amazing natural beauty to witness your vows, the least you can do is make sure they enjoy the natural wonders that surround them. Arrange for a Teton Float tour and give your wedding guests the gift of a sunset river float or a guided tour through Yellowstone Park. Or, arrive to the park a few days early with your wedding party and treat them to a family lunch float. Paying for guests to visit either of the parks is also a nice touch, but entrance fees can’t be paid in advance, they must be paid per vehicle at one of the gates as guests enter the park.
Know Before You Go
Unless you’re reserving one the chapels within Grand Teton or Yellowstone Park, permits are required to host a wedding in either of the parks. Applications must be received at least two weeks before the event and the permit fee is non-refundable. Each park allows weddings only in the specific location for which the permit has been granted. Don’t forget the wedding license! For weddings in Yellowstone Park, a license from either the state of Wyoming or Montana is permissible. Couples marrying in Grand Teton Park need a license from the state of Wyoming.
Making a “Plan B” is always important when organizing an outdoor wedding, but it’s even more crucial for a park wedding. The historic inns and lodges within the park are not available for hosting private gatherings and no tents or other temporary structures are allowed. Your Plan B may consist of umbrellas and warm blankets for guests or you might make arrangements with a hotel outside of the park if severe weather threatens your day.
A little research is needed for any wedding venue and the same is true for a national park. Make sure you know the dos and don’ts of a park wedding, and plan your ceremony and reception accordingly. Saying “I do” within view of the Teton Mountains or one of the Yellowstone Falls can be a magical experience, but a lack of planning could make your special day memorable for all the wrong reasons.