7 Steps to Planning Your Elopement in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park Elopement Planning Step #1

Reflect on why you two decided to elope

 Although this step may seem silly to some, I highly recommend taking the time to think and be conscious about the answers to the following questions before starting the next steps of planning your Glacier National Park elopement. The answers may feel super obvious to you, it helps so much to have thought more consciously about them – or even better, have written down these answers on paper or on the notes app on your phone. It will also help you stay grounded throughout the planning process and help you create an elopement day that’s true to you!

  • AWhat aspects of eloping make you feel most excited?
  • AWhat about a more traditional wedding didn’t feel true to the two of you and your relationship?
  • AWhat drew you in on choosing Glacier National Park as the location for your elopement?
  • AWhen you initially think of your Glacier National Park elopement day, what words come to mind? What do you picture the two of you doing? What kind of landscapes were you drawn to when researching this location online?

Answering these questions will help you enter the next steps of planning with a clear mindset of what led you to choose to elope in Glacier National Park and the values that the two of you have.

Glacier National Park Elopement Planning Step #2

Find a Photographer You Connect With

When planning your elopement day in Glacier National Park, I cannot emphasize enough how much of a game-changer it is to find a photographer that not only knows extensive information about the area but that you connect with, too.

Think about it – this person just isn’t another vendor at your wedding where 100+ other people will be in attendance. They’re essentially third-wheeling one of the most important days of your life, helping you plan an experience that dreams are made of, and capturing it all for you to treasure for years to come.

When helping couples plan their elopement in Glacier National Park, it’s really important for me to get on the phone with them from the start so that they understand who I am, what I offer, and how I am here to serve them on such a special and intimate day. It also really means a lot for me to ask them questions and better understand what they envision for their elopement day to create something that’s unique to who they are as a couple, rather than a cookie-cutter day that could be anyone’s!

Glacier National Park Elopement Planning Step #3

Decide on a Date and Location

I’d say that nearly 100% of the couples that I help plan their Glacier National Park elopement day have never even visited the park or Montana before! So if you fit into that category, don’t sweat it – you’re not alone. This is where hiring a photographer who has experience photographing elopements and recreating in Glacier National Park comes into play.

Something I do for all of my clients after they decide that I’m the photographer for them is send them a document filled with questions to help them start thinking more their elopement day to look like. This document includes questions that help me understand the types of landscapes they’re drawn to, what their relationship is like, their favorite things to do together, and what their initial vision is for their elopement day! 

From there I send a custom list of my favorite locations and secret spots, but I have a blog post below to help you start to better understand the different areas of Glacier National Park:

Glacier National Park Elopement Planning Step #4

book the lodging for your trip

A photo of Many Glacier Lodge in Glacier National Park at sunrise with pink and blue colored clouds in the sky and the water of Swiftcurrent Lake completely still.

Prior to your elopement day, I can provide guidance on lodging based on what your interests are, activities you want to do, what type of trip experience you want, and more!

On top of helping you plan a better trip overall, this prevents you from securing a permit for an elopement location only to realize the lodging you’ve already booked is 2+ hours from there and you want photos at sunrise.

For example, the Many Glacier region (pictured above) is 3 hours from Kalispell, and many don’t realize how vast and large the park is when planning their trip.

My favorite places to stay in the park for lodging are the Rising Sun Motor Inn in the Saint Mary area of Glacier National Park and the Lake McDonald Lodge Cabins that are located within walking distance from Lake McDonald itself! They’re not the most glamorous places I’ve ever stayed, but with Glacier National Park right outside my room, I have absolutely no complaints! I’ve always dreamed of spending the night at the Many Glacier Hotel (pictured above) or pitching a tent at Bowman Lake but haven’t had the chance to, yet! 

Outside of the park, I really love staying in the more rustic cabins (or tent camping) at the West Glacier KOA and the Saint Mary KOAIf you prefer to stay in hotels and have more modern amenities and access to a variety of restaurants and shopping, the Lodge at Whitefish Lake and the Firebrand Hotel in Whitefish, Montana are located about 40 minutes from the west entrance of Glacier National Park and are both beautiful lodging options located close to many shops and restaurants!

Glacier National Park Elopement Planning Step #5

apply for your park wedding permit

A special use permit is required for anyone looking to have their wedding or elopement ceremony in Glacier National Park. At only $100, obtaining your permit is inexpensive and a super-easy process overall. The people at the permit office are always so friendly and willing to help answer any and all questions you might have about the permitting process.

Follow this link to visit the park’s website page that contains more information about obtaining a permit in Glacier National Park as well as the form you need to fill out and mail in.

Glacier National Park Elopement Planning Step #6

Decide who will help you become “officially” married

Another bonus to eloping and tossing out tradition and what your wedding day is “supposed” to look like is that there’s no right or wrong answer to this question!

I’ve had couples who will hire a local vendor to officiate their wedding day or who will have a close friend or family member officiate for them. Like choosing a photographer, I think when choosing an officiate it’s important to find someone you connect with and who will really listen to your love story and who you are as a couple to craft a ceremony that reflects the relationship you have.

Some couples I’ve worked with also opt to exchange handwritten vows on their elopement day but make it legal either before or after the day they elope! There’s absolutely nothing wrong with heading to the courthouse to make it official and it doesn’t make your day less special, either.

Two other important things to note is that you will obtain your marriage license for your Glacier National Park elopement at the Flathead County Clerk of Court and the state of Montana is same-sex marriage friendly! 

Glacier National Park Elopement Planning Step #7

Plan the little details to bring your day to life

The important stuff is taken care of – now it’s time to plan the fun details! Depending on what different couples have expressed interest in on their elopement day, I’ll recommend local vendors that will help make their dream day come to life even more.

If you are interested in getting a bouquet for your elopement day, I highly recommend Mum’s Flowers in Whitefish, Montana. Their à la carte menu is filled with simply stunning floral arrangements and makes finding the perfect flowers for your wedding day such a breeze. My favorite arrangement on their website for elopements is the wildflower style bouquet, flower crown, and boutonniere. The boho dreams style or the amber dusk style are two super close second favorites of mine! You really can’t go wrong with any of these – they’ll all be such gorgeous accessories for your Glacier National Park elopement day.

Although most elopement clients have opted to do their hair and makeup themselves, there are so many wonderful hair and makeup vendors available in the area that I have experience working with. I offer all of my clients a list of vendors that they can reach out to for these services based on the experiences of my clients. There are also vendors that can help with a mini cake or cupcakes for your elopement day as well as a Krispy Kreme if you’re wanting to celebrate with donuts!

Thinking of hiking? Hit up your local outdoor recreation store and get fitted for the perfect (and most comfortable) hiking boots, socks, and backpack to wear on your elopement day! It’s so important to find something supportive and comfortable that fits you best, so don’t be afraid to ask the store associate lots of questions. It’s also a huge necessity to stay hydrated, so I recommend getting a pack that can hold a water bladder to make sure you have plenty!

So what are ya waiting for?! Let’s get to chatting!

I hope these tips helped you to feel even more excited and confident about the process of eloping in Glacier National Park! I’d love the opportunity to chat more with you about the potential of being your photographer for your elopement in the Crown of the Continent surrounded by mountains, wildlife, and pure magic.