I must admit that it took me a bit to understand the process of getting married or planning on eloping in the Grand Teton National Park and the Jackson Hole area. Grand Teton National Park is a large area, spanning 310,000 acres. The loop is 42 miles long, and depending on how many points of interest you chose to explore, it can take 1-2 hours to drive. With all that space how do you plan where to get married? Let’s talk some specifics on how to plan an elopement in Grand Teton.
So if you are new here, my name is Kendra Handy. I’m the photographer behind Kendra Sue Photography and based out of Idaho Falls, Idaho. Luckily enough, I live two hours away from this park and have had the opportunity to explore the park more than the average person. I grew up here in Idaho and have been doing photography here for 10 years. In the last three years, I’ve tried to get over there and photograph those beautiful majestic peaks as much as I can. I believe you can not go wrong with Grand Teton National Park as the background to your epic elopement or micro wedding. I’ve shot there when its sunny and hot and when it rainy and foggy, and I’m still so impressed by the beauty and wild nature of the area. I would love to take you on an adventure and provide you with photos that are just as stunning as you are.
Wild, rugged, huge, the Grand Teton National Park is an amazing place for elopements. Because it’s a national park, it’s got it’s own set of rules though. Props and chairs are not allowed to be set up for traditional weddings. This makes it ideal for people who are looking for the intimate.
Special wedding permits are required for all weddings inside the park and must be obtained through an application on the national website. Any kind of commitment ceremony requires a special use permit on the official park website. These even include reading your vows or having a vow renewal ceremony. Legal and Spiritual wedding ceremonies, as well as commitment ceremonies of any kind need to apply for a permit.
Note: Grand Teton National Park does NOT allow weddings or elopements to take place at any location outside of the six designated ceremony sites listed below if you have more than 12 people included in your elopement (this includes your photographer, officiants, etc.). However, you are free to take portraits around other areas of the park. If you have less than 12 people, you can elope almost anywhere in the park aside from off-limits areas that we’ll touch on in just a second.
I’ve gone many times with local and out-of-state couples who just want to get photos with the Tetons and these do not require permits. But this leads me to my next talking point: there is no exclusive use of an area. If you do receive a permit for your wedding ceremony, it specifies that you can not ask other visitors to leave the area. I’ve witnessed people handling this in different ways, but most people are pretty respectful and allow you and your party to enjoy the time in peace. However, sometimes distractions, noise, and irritation are unavoidable as it is a public place.
Wanna hike a mountain? I’m game. Wanna be a bit more on the secluded side and find a place just for the two of you (plus little ol’ me and the person marrying you)? Let’s do it.
Small Dispersed Ceremony Permits are for groups of 12 and under. Group size includes the ‘wedding party’, wedding guests including children, officiant, and photographer. They are available during the winter months for reserved site-specific locations. For peak season (May-Oct.), Dispersed Ceremony Permits are not granted for the site specific locations, which I go into in a different post.
If you have less than 12 people, you can elope anywhere in the park aside from the locations listed below:
The Special Use Permit must be applied for by the individuals getting married and not a third party.
In the application, you will have to have a list of equipment your photographer or videographer will have, as well as contact information. So it’s best to pick your photographer beforehand.
You can check out all the rules and conditions on the website here. But I’ll do a quick rundown:
Chairs are not allowed, with the exception of a few portable chairs for members of the party who cannot stand. All decorations, signs, and flowers must be hand held. There is no throwing of flower petals, confetti, birdseed, rice, ect. Small food and drink items are allowed like a champagne toast, but must follow safety protocol. Picking flowers is prohibited.
No rugs, altars, tables, or other structures or decorations. No drones. Quiet Music is allowed. Pets are generally not allowed. Pets may not be on trails or beaches. They may go “where a car may go” and stay within 30 feet of the roadway, and on a leash. Everyone must stay on trails and follow site regulations. Entry fee has to be paid by all cars who pass through the entrance. Equipment must be carried at all times, except for small tripods used to hold cameras.
Something I think may be overlooked is that you must have two witnesses other than your officiant. Nothing brings me more joy than to be one of those, but for the other you may need to take that into consideration. In many cases, your officiant may be able to bring along a witness for a small fee.
Pro tip: A friend or family member can officiate your ceremony for FREE by becoming ordained online through the Universal Life Church. The process is completely free and takes less than 5 minutes.
There is one location close to Grand Teton National Park that doesn’t require a permit but a reservation. Let me tell you about The Wedding Tree, WY. The tree is a 5-minute walk towards the Tetons from the small parking lot, which can accommodate 5-7 cars. The Wedding Tree has my heart as it provides a spectacular view of the Teton Range and usually more private than the other site specific ceremony sites found within Grand Teton. The parking lot is located off of Gros Ventre Road, past the Gros Ventre River Ranch and before reaching Lower Slide Lake, on the right-hand side. Anyone wishing to use the site is required to sign a detailed operating plan, agree to abide by all rules and regulations, and pay a processing fee of $200. There is a 5 hour maximum time you are allowed to reserve the area, and like all other areas of the park, this doesn’t give you exclusive use of the area. There are no bathroom facilities.
Here is a highlight of a true 30 minute elopement that I did at The Wedding Tree. The officiant was T. Hamish with Secular Ceremonies and he was marvelous. Kathy and James’s driver and I were the witnesses. It was so sweet and intimate. Kathy and James have been together for 18 years.
If you are planning on having a bigger wedding, with more than 12 guests, be sure to check out my blog when I post about Ceremony Sites for Weddings within Grand Teton National Park. I hope this will help you plan your small micro wedding or elopement in Grand Teton.
I’ll to see you in the mountains!