****UPDATED NOVEMBER 2023 (REFLECTS 2024 CHANGES)****
Just Got Engaged? Here are the 11 Steps to Have a Wedding in Glacier National Park!
Are you wondering how to have a wedding in Glacier National Park? The park is the perfect place for a magical mountain wedding or an adventure elopement spent exploring some of the most beautiful lands you can find. But getting married in a national park can be a bit tricky and if you aren’t from Montana, it may feel impossible to know where to start.
Luckily for you, I know a thing or two about how to have a wedding in Glacier National Park! And I’m sharing 11 steps you’ll need to do to make your dream a reality.
ONE: Choose a Wedding or Elopement Photographer!
Hey hi hello, how ya doing? I’m Jenn! Not only am I a wedding and elopement photographer, but I’ve also called Montana my home for almost twenty years. And when planning a wedding in Glacier National Park, there might be nothing more valuable than local knowledge. Little bits of local input can make a world of a difference – like the nooks and crannies of GNP that you’ll want to spend time in, how the light and seasons change in the mountainscape, the rules and regulations you’ll face, and connection to other vendors who will make your day beyond special. As a bonus, I’m already located near the park, so there is no such thing as a travel fee for capturing your day. If you’re looking for a fun-loving gal who delivers timeless wedding photos, you should absolutely say hello.
TWO: Elopement or Intimate Wedding? It’s time to define your wedding size!
After choosing your photographer, you’ll need to decide just how many guests will be coming along to experience all that GNP has to offer. I personally define elopements as up to 15 people (including you and your partner) and intimate weddings as 16-50 people.
Okay, sooo why does it really matter? I’m glad you asked. It’s about more than how much food to bring to the reception. To have a wedding in Glacier National Park, there are various rules we have to follow, including permitted ceremony locations and their maximum capacity as determined by the park.
Most ceremony locations during Peak Season, which starts the second Friday in May and ends the second Sunday in October, allow between 8-30 people. In non-Peak Season, most locations allow between 8-50 people. These counts include any vendors present as well.
Glacier National Park has provided a handy-dandy list of wedding locations and the regulations that come with them during each season. Keep in mind GNP is a big…no, no it’s a HUGE place. So if you’ve got specific photos in mind, have a chat with your wedding photographer about views you are looking for or areas that interest you.
These are non-negotiables and yes, the rangers will check! So if you want to get married in Glacier, it’s important to sit down with your partner and consider just how many guests should get an invite.
PRO TIP: Keep the guest list short! There are plenty of perks for reducing your wedding size when you have a wedding in Glacier National Park. It lets you...
- Create a more intimate experience
- Spend more time with your closest loved ones
- Customize your day to include experience-based activities
- Choose from more ceremony locations
And here is your reminder that it’s absolutely okay to skip bringing any family and friends at all. Eloping in the mountains with just you and your partner can be intimate, romantic, and will allow for you to be absolutely present throughout your day.
THREE: Pick a date! But maybe more importantly in GNP, pick a season...
If you aren’t from around here, you may not know much about how our seasons work. This is why it’s important to really think about your wedding date and whether it is the best option for you and your wedding day! Here are some details about seasons in GNP to help you choose a date that is right for you.
Summer - Late June through mid-September
The good things about summer in GNP:
- Nicest, consistent weather in the park
- Most locations will be accessible for your ceremony and portraits
- Countless activities from hiking to boating to fly fishing to swimming
- The Going to the Sun Road will be open and allow you to fully explore the beauty of GNP
The not-so-great things about summer:
- The busiest time of the year
- CROWDS and everything they bring with them
- Including difficulting finding accommodation, vendors, and rental cars
- Ticket entry is enforced for the rest of your visit outside of your wedding day
- Can be quite hot with temperatures into the 90s
Fall - Mid-September through early October
What to love about fall in GNP:
- Fewer crowds than the peak summer season
- The Going to the Sun Road is usually still partially open (dependent on other weather conditions)
- Insanely beautiful fall foliage
- No reservation tickets are required for entry
Some cons to GNP in the fall:
- Unpredictable weather, progressively colder and often with rain
- The Going to the Sun Road is only open until Avalanche Campground
Winter - mid-November to April
Magical things about winter in GNP:
- Least busy time in the park
- Accommodation and rental cars are much cheaper
- Snow!!!!! And lots of it.
- Winter activities like skiing at Blacktail and Whitefish Mountain Resort
- No reservation tickets to explore the park
Why winter can be a difficult time to visit:
- Cold weather sometimes dips into the negative temperatures
- Many stores and activity providers close up shop for the season
- The Going to the Sun Road is not open past Lake Mcdonald Lodge
- Very limited ceremony locations
Spring - April to into late-June
The pros to GNP in the spring:
- Considered off-season so fewer crowds
- The landscape starts to turn green again
- No ticketing or reservations are required to explore
- Higher water levels
The meh things about spring:
- Less available options for ceremonies
- High chances of rain on your wedding day (cue Alanis Morissette)
- The Going to the Sun Road still is not fully open so some spots are inaccessible
When choosing a date, consider thinking first about what activities you want to do and what locations you love and then work backward from there. When are those locations accessible? What views are we looking for? When are those activities possible?
Here are some helpful links to help in choosing a date and season!
FOUR: It’s time to pick a location!
You’ve got your guest count and a season selected! Now it’s time to pick your ceremony locations. Ceremonies can only take place at specified locations and a permit is needed! However, you can explore more of the park before or after your ceremony for portraits!
Ceremony locations are found in five districts across the park: Lake Mcdonald, North Fork, Two Medicine/Walton, Triple Divide (St. Mary), and Chief Mountain (Many Glacier)! You can find all of the information in the Wedding Location PDF provided by GNP!
In case you are curious about what these locations look like, check out Glacier National Park’s Flickr Site of Ceremony Location Images!
Additionally, here are some of my favorite spots for wedding portraits include the West Glacier area and Lake McDonald, Hidden Lake Overlook at Logan’s Pass, Avalanche lake and Avalanche Gorge, Trail of the Cedars, Oberlin Overlook, Big Bend, and Sun Point!
FIVE: Make it official and apply for a Glacier National Park ceremony permit!
A permit is required for a ceremony in the park! Once your date is set and your vendors are on board, it’s time to apply! It’s easy-peasy.
All you do is...
- Fill out the application at least 30 days prior (but the sooner, the better!)
- Choose your top three ceremony locations and specific times of day
- Helpful tip: On the application, the “Individual in Charge” section should be a Bride or Groom or another person in charge (i.e. NOT the photographer)
- Include all guests, the couple, and vendors in the people and vehicle count
- Pay the $125 non-refundable permit fee
- Sign the permit once the park services send it to you and send it back to make it official!
You can do this via…
- Snail mail with a check and application sent to Glacier National Park Attn: Special Park Uses PO Box 128 West Glacier, MT 59936 (for a credit card payment, they’ll call you to process your payment)
- Email at email@example.com!
Everything you need to apply can be found on GNP’s website!
SIX: Find your other vendors!
Your wedding vendors are the difference between a wedding day and a dang good wedding day! From florals to hair and makeup to snacks and cake! Choose wisely.
Curious about what vendors I personally recommend? Here are people who I trust to bring your dream wedding in Glacier National Park to life!
SEVEN: Book your accommodation, cars, flights, and activities!
Depending on the time of year for your wedding, accommodation and travel can be a bit difficult to book because they fill up quickly.
If you are booking a flight, the closest airport is Glacier Park International (FCA). But you could also fly into Great Falls, MT, or Missoula, MT, and drive to the park. You’ll definitely need a car while you’re here, whether you fly directly into FCA or not. You can rent your cars through Hertz, Enterprise, or Budget. Turo is also a great affordable option!
Luckily I’ve already got a few blogs ready to help you out when looking into lodging, activities, and even timelines for your day!
For accommodation: Top 7 Places to Stay In and Around Glacier National Park
For activities: Top 7 Things to Do in Glacier National Park
For a sample itinerary to help you plan: 3-Day Itinerary for A Glacier Elopement Wedding
EIGHT: Buy your wedding attire!!
When buying your wedding attire, there are a few things to keep in mind when you have a wedding in Glacier National Park! First, make sure you are wearing the proper footwear! Heels are pretty much a no-go. If you’re hiking, make sure you have something with grip! Also, think about the weather! If you are having a winter wonderland wedding, you’ll want attire with layers and maybe some fun outwear!
And just in general, make sure to account for shipping and alteration times in your overall timeline. Plus I couldn’t resist a chance to share some of my favorite shops and brands for your wedding attire!
Mimi’s Bridal (local shop)
SUITS + TUXES
J Scott Couture (local shop)
NINE: Claim your reservations for Glacier National Park and your pass!
Just like many of the American national parks, you’ll need a pass to enter Glacier! You can choose to buy a single entry for $20, an annual pass for $70, or if you plan on adventuring to more than a few national parks this year, you can get the America the Beautiful Pass for $80 and entry to ALL national parks!
And in 2021, Glacier National Park introduced the Entry Ticket Reservation system. I know, I know, another ticket?! But don’t worry too much, these tickets are only $2 for a 1-day entry reservation and can be claimed online. All reservation entry tickets and passes are obtained through Recreation.gov. This is in effect from May 24th, 2024- to September 8th, 2024. Your wedding ceremony permit will act as your entry ticket for the day of your ceremony to the area you were permitted, but if you plan to explore the park any other days, you will also need to purchase an entry ticket.
Some common questions I might hear;
So each entry has different tickets? I'm confused!!
Correct! This helps alleviate traffic and congestion. See each entrances details below.
One reservation per vehicle will be required to travel Going-to-the-Sun Road beyond the Apgar Village area from May 24 through Sept. 8, 2024, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Visitors can enter before 6 a.m. or after 3 p.m. without a vehicle reservation.
One reservation per vehicle will be required at the entrance station May 24 through Sept. 8, 2024, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations are good for one day. Visitors can enter before 6 a.m. or after 3 p.m. without a vehicle reservation.
Many Glacier Valley
One reservation per vehicle will be required at the entrance station July 1 through Sept. 8, 2024, from 6 a.m. to 3 p.m. Reservations are good for one day. Visitors can enter the valley before 6 a.m. or after 3 p.m. without a vehicle reservation.
No reservation ticket needed in 2024.
St. Marys Entrance
No reservation ticket needed in 2024.
When should I buy my ticket in advance?
- A portion of reservations will be available 120 days or approximately four months advance, starting on Jan. 25, 2024, at 8 a.m. MST on a rolling basis on Recreation.gov.
- The remaining vehicle reservations will be available at 7 p.m. MDT for next-day entry starting on May 23, 2024.
Here’s a neat little infographic for where an entry ticket is required, for how long, and the dates the ticketing is in effect.
TEN: Travel to Montana and pick up your marriage license. Let the fun begin!
You will apply for your marriage license online before you travel, but you’ll have to pick it up in person at the Flathead County Courthouse when you arrive! Here are some quick facts to help make your marriage license process a smooth one!
- Flathead County Courthouse
- Address: 920 South Main, Suite 300 Kalispell, MT 59901
- Hours to pick up: Monday-Friday 8 am-4:30 pm
- The marriage license fee is $53
- You must show proof of age and must be a single person (duh!)
- The application must be done PRIOR to your wedding
- Your marriage license is active for 180 days
- After your ceremony, the license must be submitted at the courthouse
- Need an extra copy of your marriage license? Use this form.
- Want to contact the Clerk of Court? Call (406)758-5659 or visit their website.
- It is legal to self-solemnize!
ELEVEN: Have the BEST DAY EVER!!!!
The wait is over. It’s time to freakin’ marry the love of your life!!!! And you get to have a wedding in Glacier National Park!! WAHOO!