Are you looking for THE ultimate backdrop to create a magazine-swoon-worthy wedding ceremony or reception? Look no further to our very own shared national treasure…the National Park Service (NPS).
While only 60 sites share the name “National Park,” did you know that there are actually over 400 sites protected and managed by the NPS? They span across more than 84 million acres in all 50 states and extend into the territories, including Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam.
Many couples I meet don’t realize that an outdoor wedding is far more accessible (and affordable) than the most conservatively planned banquet hall wedding. The following is your guide to taking advantage of the ecologically AND economically friendly NPS sites for your upcoming outdoor wedding event.
Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.
– William Wordsworth
To take some of the work out of your National Park journey, I’ve created this short guide of FIVE essential tips that you need!
Holly Hills Lane’s Five Essential Tips to National Park Shopping
- FIND YOUR PARK
Most magazines will provide you with THEIR favorite top 5-10 National Parks as possible venues for your wedding ceremony or reception. BUT…we both know there are SO many more sites available to you, so my advice is to break down your list into states or territories of interest FIRST, then use this handy-dandy tool to I <3 Parks Owners’ Guide” created by the National Park Service. I have it right here for your convenience!
- DETERMINE YOUR GUEST LIST
Two of the most-common restrictions on national park weddings involve the number of participants and the kinds of equipment allowed. This means you’ll probably need to keep the guest list lean. “The weddings tend to be a bit more relaxed—a laid back wedding,” says Victoria Stauffenberg, Public Affairs Officer for the National Park Service. “They are beautiful, but not extravagant weddings.”
But don’t fear the rules or get discouraged by the need to pay a few administrative fees. The National Park Service actually enjoys working with people on their special day. They just need to balance your needs with those of the actual park. The ultimate goal is to achieve a marriage (no pun intended) between Mother Nature and your event.
- HAVE A BACK-UP PLANIn-case you didn’t know this already, Mother Nature has a mind of her own. The last thing you want, or need, is a storm rolling in and needing to get grandma back down the side of a mountain. Be sure to check the weather 2 weeks, 1 week and then just days out leading up to your special day. But don’t wait until the last minute to call it. You and your guests deserve to be prepared for foul weather.And if you’re not worried about getting a little wet, you can always have quite a bit of fun with umbrellas. Just give yourself enough days in advance as to order them. Just remember…you can always return them to most online retailers if not purchased less than 30 days out;)
When in Rome, find their bakers and photographers. Most of the National Parks have had previous engagements with wedding craftspeople and service-oriented businesses. There’s no sense in trekking anything or anyone with you to get married in a National Park. A quick search of the area and/or searches of hashtags on Instagram will very quickly produce a visual list of vendors.
BREATHE IT ALL IN
In my book this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so breathe in that air. You’re getting married in the great outdoors for a reason. Embrace it!