Glacier National Park is such a gorgeous place for an elopement or wedding. On a sunny day in July, Jake and I said “I do” in Glacier. It was truly such a rewarding and lovely experience that I wish for everyone. There are certain things we learned along the way about how to elope in Glacier National Park.
For those of you wanting an intimate wedding or elopement, Glacier is the place to be for the amazing mountains over in Many Glacier, the crystal blue waters of Lake McDonald, the crushing waterfalls of Saint Mary Falls or wildflowers at Logan Pass. We are here to help you with a guide on how to elope or have a wedding in Glacier National Park. We believe this place holds a little bit of magic and we’d love to share it with you!
1. choose your photographer & videographer
The most crucial aspect of the elopement planning process is getting the photography and videography teams you really want. Book your date after you know whether your dream team is available. I mean, “maybe” those epic and adventurous photos are really important to you? Maybe? it’s not like you’ve chosen to get married here JUST for that, is it?! Is it?! Your photographer can help you out with location, good seasons, knowing if it’ll be snowing in September (it totally will), tips, and all the little details to create your perfect day.
Having a videographer is so important to capture your adventure on your wedding day and your timeless vows that you’ll cherish forever. Videography tells your wedding day story in a way that no photograph can. It includes the movement and sound of the happiest day of your life. You can share your elopement video at your reception.
The experts book out a year or more in advance.
2. choose a date and time
Summer months between July and August are by far the busiest months for Glacier. The weather is more predictable. The long hours of daylight give you lots of time to explore the park. The wildflowers are blooming from late July through mid August. The shoulder summer shoulder season is May through early June. They aren’t given enough credit with how lush and green things are with things blooming. The Going to the Sun Road opens in July. You’ll see sunshine AND snowcapped mountains. The waterfalls are gushing and on point. The crowds are smaller between October and May. September and October are stunning with the fall colors. It does rain and snow in the fall. Winter is stunning in Glacier. Whitefish Mountain Resort is a great place to ski Grouse Mountain Lodge offers ski packages if you’re into that.
Glacier National Park had nearly 3 million (yes, million) visitors in 2019. That’s, like, three times the entire population of Montana. What?! If you’re serious about Glacier, we highly recommend a weekday. The crowds are much smaller. The best time for your ceremony is morning or evening if you’re looking for those gorgeously lit photos. The busiest time in the park is 8am-5pm.
3. choose a ceremony location
For more information on all this fun stuff, check out our article Top 5 Spots In Glacier National Park to Elope to help you choose the perfect place for you. Glacier National Park has over 1 million acres in the park with 131 named lakes, 157 mountains and 26 glaciers (sadly all shrinking in size. Insert us sobbing.). It’s named the “Crown of the Continent” for a reason with some of the most impressive scenery in North America. Buuut I digress. The epic photo spots are endless! There are entrances on two sides of the park and aligning that with how far you want to travel, where to stay, where you want to eat your husband and wife dinner (yes, husband!). Here’s a great site for location and drive times.
PRO TIP: FIND YOUR FAVORITE, EPIC PLACE AND PLAN EVERYTHING AROUND THAT.
I mean, that’s what you’ve probably flown thousands of miles to see, right?! Go big or go home!
We love helping our couples find their perfect ceremony spot. First, we ask our clients to reflect on what they want their ceremony to look like. The ceremony could be behind mountains, waterfalls, glacial lakes or a rumbling river. Second, we send our couples photos of ceremony spots that would fit their vision. The number of guests and vehicles can determine a certain ceremony location. Our favorite parts of Glacier are West Glacier (Lake McDonald), Logan Pass, Two Medicine, Many Glacier, and Polebridge.
In our opinion, the most epic ceremony backdrops are Two Medicine Lake, Running Eagle Falls, Sun Point, Sprague Creek Picnic Area, Logan Pass, Lake Josephine lakeshore, and spots along Lake McDonald. Glacier National Park is the most gorgeous place to elope.
If you’re thinking a reception is in your future, here’s where you can check out the Glacier National Park Wedding Venue Options.
4. apply for a glacier national park wedding permit
The link to apply to a permit is here. The permit is $100 (as of 2019, so this could change). Mail a check in to Glacier National Park Special Park Uses | PO Box 128 West Glacier, MT 59936. Justin, at the special park uses office is really nice and can walk you through all you need. Send in your application via snail mail and follow up with him with a call. You can reach him at 406-888-7832.
Decide on your top two ceremony spots. The permit will have you list your first and second ceremony location choices. You will need to include your ceremony time. An evening or morning ceremony is prefered to avoid a duplicate wedding ceremony. Be sure to bring your permit with you.
Caution: the park is cracking down on weddings and there are more restrictions to be aware of. You and everyone associated with your wedding are allowed only 5 vehicles into the park. You will need to pay for park entry and parking is not reserved for you. A good option for transportation option is Arrow Shuttle. Glacier National Park’s shuttle system offers tours and shuttles within the park with the Big Red Bus. We love the Big Red Bus shuttles and photos with them are a must.
Depending on the number of people at your ceremony, you may be assigned (and be paying for) park rangers to make sure your guests are respecting the rules of the park. Some of the rules that apply to weddings and elopements are: no decorations, playing of instruments or amplified sound or tossing anything (throwing rice/birdseed/other non-native seeds aren’t permitted, among others) for your processional. The only flowers allowed are your bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages.
5. get an officiant (or a friend or family member)
According to Montana marriage laws, anyone can be ordained to officiate your wedding. Here is the link to become ordained in the state of Montana. You will need two witnesses to sign your marriage license. If you are eloping solo, Jake and I would be happy to sign it for you. It’s that extra special bond between us aaaand we’re here for it!
If you don’t have a friend, family, or random person you sat next to on the airplane to officiate, here are a couple of people who do a great job with a personalized ceremony.
- Kate Berry with Elope Montana – she makes every wedding story come to life aaand she’s basically the coolest.
- Sarah Harding – here is a video of one of her ceremonies.
- Chrysta Bourne (she married Jake and I in Glacier in 2019 and it was magical) 406-890-3597
- Sally Hanger with Marry Me In Montana firstname.lastname@example.org
6. make your travel plans to Montana
If you want to get married in the most beautiful place on earth, you’ll elope in Glacier National Park. Not gonna lie, the park is a bit of a jaunt to get to. The most reasonable airport for you is the Glacier International Airport, about 30 minutes from West Glacier and an hour and a half from East Glacier. I know, right?! Woof. Eastern Glacier is where those big kahoona (yes, I just said “big kahoona”) mountains are and it’s worth it!
Our favorite places to stay outside the park is The Lodge at Whitefish Lake and Grouse Mountain Lodge. Both are in Whitefish and both so luxurious! Grouse Mountain offers a snow day ski special in the winter too if you’re into that sort of thing. Whitefish is where you’ll find your breweries, wineries, shopping, and the overall cuteness that is a Montana small town. Closer to the West Glacier entrance, you can find Glacier Outdoor Weddings (aka Glacier Raft Co.)., Great Norther Resort and the Belton Chalet. On the road between West Glacier and Two Medicine, you’ll find Izaak Walton Inn. It’s quaint and lodgey (if that’s even a word), and the food is great in the restaurant!
Don’t forget about AirBnBs close by! We stayed at an AirBnB for our wedding in Glacier National Park.
7. get a dress, flowers, and hair and makeup artist
Dress shops in the area: Mimi’s Bridal Boutique 406-257-4684 email@example.com
For hair and makeup, here’s the scoop:
- Beauty by Emily (makeup) 760-694-3498 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Foxtrot Salon – Stephanie (hair) 406-730-2113 email@example.com
- Ty Nycole (hair and makeup) 406-534-9055 firstname.lastname@example.org
- Flathead Farmworks 406-407-1009 email@example.com
- Rose Mountain Floral 406-752-7673
- Mums Weddings 406-862-2757 firstname.lastname@example.org
Booking a caterer for a sunset picnic or intimate meal with your loved ones.
- Cuisine Machine 406-270-7742 email@example.com
- Oso’s Catering 406-309-4439 firstname.lastname@example.org
8. get your marriage license
The Kalispell Courthouse (located 920 S Main, Kalispell, MT 59901) is the closest place to get your marriage license. You will go to the office within 180 days of your wedding date. The marriage license office is on the third floor. You just check in with the lovely secretary and you’re on your way. We suggest saving yourself some time and filling out the Marriage License Application. Bring your passport OR driver’s license and $53 for the fee. After you get married, you’ll need to deliver or mail your license back along with this form. You’ll need it if you’re changing your name. We recommend getting several certified copies as you’ll need to mail them out for your passport and social security card.
**what to bring with you to Glacier National Park
- Hiking shoes as well as ceremony shoes if they aren’t the same
- Sweater/jacket/wrap – mornings and evenings in Montana are chilly with the higher elevations.
- Water and snacks aaaaand…. BUBBLY!! We love to have that epic “pop the bubbly” photo on top of the mountain!
- Any easy, cute props, like a rug or blanket to stand on or to cuddle underneath
- Headlamp or flashlight for our epic hike up to the ceremony spot.
- An umbrella or heavier jacket for the rain/snow/sleet what might happen. Montana weather is a beast in itself. Embrace it.
- Sunscreen for those white girls like myself out there who burn to a crisp at even the whisper of sunshine.
- Bug screen because the state bird of Montana is arguably a mosquito.
- Bear spray. We have never encountered a bear close enough to warrant this, buuut it lets our heart rest easy
- Wedding permit from Glacier National Park
9. decide what wedding traditions are important for your elopement
Eloping gives you the freedom to chose what your wedding day will look like. You don’t have to worry about the wedding day events. If a huge wedding reception isn’t your thing, that’s ok! It doesn’t mean you have to cut out wedding traditions all together. Eloping is more emotionally fulfilling and meaningful as a big wedding because it allows you the time to be intentional.
You are soaking in the moment with just the two of you, and focusing on your marriage, not just the wedding day. From saying traditional vows or exchanging rings to having a first dance and cake cutting with your new spouse… we say “JUST DO IT!” We have 6 Sweet Wedding Traditions to Include in Your Elopement.
10. get married!
Do the dang thing! This is the best part! Glacier National Park is often named the “Alps of the United States.” It’ll be beautiful! Be sure to bring yourself snacks, sunscreen, and bug spray. At the end of the day, you will be married! You don’t have to abide by typical wedding day events. You can have the adventure you’ve always dreamed of.
If you’re wondering how to elope in Glacier National Park, just know that you can make the adventure your own. The photographs and video from your wedding day is something you will hold on to for the rest of your lives.
11. tell the world you were married in Glacier National Park
Share your photos and video with your loved ones. Send out tangible announcements using your amazing photos in the mail. Relatives love that stuff. Hey, they might even send you back a gift! Your wedding video Your wedding can be remembered Play your wedding video at your reception.