The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Glacier National Park Wedding or Elopement in 7 Easy Steps
Updated October 2021
Choosing to get married in Glacier National Park is the easy part, from the rugged peaks of Many Glacier to the clear blue waters of Lake McDonald, the possibilities are endless! As an elopement photographer who spends a big chunk of their summer helping couples say “I do” in the park, I know a thing or two to help making your elopement planning as effortless as possible!
1. Reflect on why you two decided to elope in Glacier
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 elopement in Montana. 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 a Glacier National Park wedding 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 Montana 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.
2. Find a glacier elopement photographer you connect with
When planning your Montana elopement day, I cannot emphasize enough how much of a game-changer it is for you two to find a photographer that not only knows extensive information about the area but that you connect with, too.
Think about it – on a day as intimate as your elopement, a photographer 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 so far, helping you plan an experience that dreams are made of, and capturing it all for you to treasure for years to come.
From the moment you decide to elope in Glacier National Park and reach out to me until the day you’re viewing your gallery for the first time – I’m here for you to help bring all of your hopes for your day to life. I don’t strive to book elopements every day of the week, my goal is to be intentional about how many couples I work with so that you have an experience with someone who is able to invest time in getting to know you and crafting a unique experience for your day.
This is a photo of me at Bowman Lake at sunrise – you may not be able to tell but it was 12 degrees! Before I was an elopement photographer, I fell in love with Glacier through hikes with my husbands and trips to watch the sunrise with friends. I love this park through and through and believe that cherishing it and protecting it so that generations after us can enjoy it, too, is so important.
3. Decide on a date and location for your ceremony
So you’ve never been to Glacier National Park before, right?! You probably saw photos online of couples with windblown hair in this epic place and knew this was where you needed to say “I do,” and I can’t blame you! But how in the world do you plan an elopement in a place you’ve never even visited before?!
No worries, I’ve got you! Nearly all of the couples that decide to elope in Glacier have never even visited the park or Montana before! After living in Montana for over 4 years and taking countless trips both for work and for fun, I know this park like the back of my hand (maybe even better) and can help you navigate all of the approved ceremony sites and find the most epic backdrops for your elopement photos.
I want you to be able to start dreaming before we chat though, so here is the link to a post all about where to elope in Glacier National Park!
4. Book your rental car, flights, and lodging
I put rental car first for a reason…
A word from someone who has experienced many summers in Montana, be sure that there are rental cars available at Glacier Park International Airport before booking your flights for your elopement day. During peak tourist season, typically early June through late September, rental cars can be hard to come by due to a limited inventory at the airport and surrounding areas.
There is also the option to fly into some of the other Montana airports in Missoula, Great Falls, or Bozeman. And hey, if you flew into Bozeman you could extend your trip and explore Yellowstone National Park for your honeymoon!
where to stay in glacier national park
Something that most couples don’t realize if they haven’t visited Glacier before is that the park is huge and has so many different regions and options when it comes to where you can book lodging in and around the park. Based on where you choose to have your ceremony (and what you’re interested in doing during your trip) I can provide guidance on the best areas to stay in to make the most of your time during your trip without driving taking up a huge portion of It!
On top of helping you plan a better experience 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 although the Many Glacier region is breathtaking and filled with so many hikes, it is a 3 hour drive from Kalispell, which would get old fast if all of. the hikes that you wanted to do took that long to get to… especially since getting to the trailhead early for parking is a must.
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 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 KOA. If 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!
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 $125, 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. Although the process is easy, I reccomend submiting your permit as early as possible due to the increasing popularity of weddings in Glacier.
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.
6. Decide who will officiate your ceremony
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 celebrant to officiate their wedding day or who will have a close friend or family member officiate for them. It’s really easy for loved ones to get ordained online at Universal Life Church completely free! Like choosing a photographer, I think when searching for 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.
I actually got ordained in early 2021 so I’ve also had numerous couples throughout the 2021 elopement season opt out of formally hiring an officiant or having a friend perform the ceremony and just have me formally pronounce their marriage! I don’t perform any sort of ceremony and essentially couples will just exchange their vows and rings followed by the pronouncement. No witnesses are required in Montana but up to two witnesses can sign on the marriage certificate if you chose to have loved ones present.
You will obtain your marriage license for your Glacier National Park wedding at the Flathead County Clerk of Court. Be sure to call beforehand to make sure that you don’t need to set up an appointment as rules and how they issue licenses is ever changing. Some couples I’ve worked with also opt out of the legalities all together and will formalize their marriage either before or after their day back home. There’s no right or wrong when it comes to making it official!
7. Plan the fun details of your elopement day
The important stuff is taken care of – now it’s time for you 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 couples 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.