I was never the girl who planned every detail of her dream wedding. Or any detail, for that matter. I didn’t have a dream wedding. But somewhere in the back of my mind, I always envisioned getting married in the mountains. So when Pat and I first started planning our wedding – which was supposed to be in July 2021 but ultimately got postponed to July 2022 (thanks, Covid) – it didn’t take us long to decide on a small, immediate-family-only gathering in my favorite national park.
I’m not one to share much of my personal life online or plaster photos of everything all over social media. While I enjoy sharing details of my travels here on WordPress, I prefer to keep the rest of my life private. But I do want to share a few of my favorite photos from our wedding weekend. And for anyone interested in getting married in a national park, I wanted to give an overview of the process. Because parks are federal land, a permit is required for any type of wedding ceremony… even if it’s just the two of you quietly exchanging vows. The specific rules for each park are outlined on its website. Here’s how it worked for us:
Step 1: Submit permit application and application fee one year in advance of desired wedding date and wait three months to receive confirmation of date, time, and location.
Step 2: Begin planning details of the wedding.
Step 3: Postpone wedding due to Covid-related border closures (Pat’s brother lives in Canada).
Step 4: Call park and ask to change permit due to these extenuating circumstances. Request for permit change is denied.
Step 5: Cancel existing permit and forfeit application fee.
Step 6: Submit new permit application one year in advance of new wedding date.
Step 7: Wait six months for confirmation while constantly being asked by family members if we have a date yet.
Step 8: Finally receive an email from the park outlining changes to their wedding guidelines and stating that previously-submitted applications would be subject to these new rules.
Step 9: Lose our preferred and backup wedding locations due to these changes. Search through limited list of allowable locations and settle on the best (but much less scenic) option and backup option.
Step 10: Continue to wait for permit confirmation as wedding date inches ever closer (and I become more and more anxious about still not having a confirmed date and location).
Step 11: Contact park for information on when we can expect to receive our permit. Receive a reply that they are backlogged and we can expect to hear from them one month before our wedding (are you freaking kidding me?), at which point they will inform us if our desired date, time, and location are even available anymore.
Step 12: Cry in frustration.
Step 13: Cancel this plan entirely and scramble to find a new wedding location that’s in our budget and still has availability four months from now.
Step 14: Call a local(ish) national park and immediately get through to the chief ranger, who kindly answers all my questions and assures me that they have availability for the date we want and will have our permit to us within 2-3 weeks.
Step 15: Submit permit application, pay application fee (again, ugh, thank goodness it’s relatively inexpensive), and receive permit in the promised timeframe.
Step 16: Inform our families and photographer that plans have changed yet again (I think we’re at about Plan G at this point); fortunately, everyone is able to find flights, lodging, rental cars, etc.
Step 17: Get exposed to Covid three weeks before our wedding, thanks to Pat’s coworker who selfishly came to work while sick; luckily, both of us had “mild” cases and were fully recovered by our wedding day.
Step 18: Finally actually get married.
After the wedding, everyone stuck around for a couple days to spend some time exploring the area and hanging out… it basically turned into a family vacation. The weather was perfect and we all had so much fun! Here are a few photos from our non-wedding adventures.