Big Sky Elopement Planning Guide [Updated for 2020!]
Are you considering an elopement in Big Sky, Montana? If so, you've chosen one of the most majestic places in Montana to get married. Big Sky is home to the "biggest skiing in America" with over 150 miles of ski runs. Big Sky is comprised of the Meadow Village, Big Sky Resort, Moonlight Basin, and the private clubs of Spanish Peaks and the Yellowstone Club. Big Sky offers close access to Yellowstone Park, which is just an hour away via West Yellowstone. It also borders the world famous trout and rafting waters of the Gallatin River.
What Time of Year to Get Married in Big Sky?
If you're not from the Northern Rockies you might not know which seasons are best for your Big Sky elopement. The season you choose will have a significant impact on your clothing choices and the activities you do during the rest of your trip. Being that Big Sky is a ski town, a winter elopement is perfectly within reason, which is not the case for most of Montana. Roads are plowed so you can even get the best peaks in the background of your photos!
A summer elopement will give you access to hiking and mountain biking trails as well as make a visit to nearby Yellowstone easy. the days will be longer and warmer, too. There may be a lot of visitors, but unlike the rest of Montana, summer will be Big Sky's off-season.
For more information on Big Sky, please visit their Visitor's Center page: https://www.visitbigsky.com/
Sunrise or Sunset?
It will be best to avoid holding your Big Sky elopement during the middle of the day, so you'll have to decide whether to have your ceremony at dawn or dusk. They are both great options. It can be nice to have an afternoon ceremony then work towards sunset as you go to different portrait locations with your photographer. The afternoon could also present some dramatic thunderstorms for your photos. A sunrise ceremony will be cooler temperature-wise and it's easier to avoid hikers or visitors if you're getting married in a public place.
There is only one legal requirement to get married in Big Sky: a marriage license. In Montana marriage licenses can be purchased in any county and used anywhere in the state, the only requirement is that you return your signed license back to the county where you purchased it. This can be done via mail. Marriage licenses are $53 in Montana and must be paid for in cash. Both partners will need to be present to verify their age and identity. A special exception may be possible if one partner is in the military, I would suggest calling ahead for that. Also, you must sign an affidavit that you are not related! No blood tests are necessary anymore.
The closest county seat to Big Sky is in Bozeman. To get your marriage license in Bozeman please visit the Law and Justice Center at 615 South 16th, Room 302. Their phone number is 406-582-2165. If you will be driving through Montana to reach Big Sky and would prefer to pick up your marriage license along the way, here is the list of Montana county seats.
Big Sky Wedding Locations
Big Sky offers myriad elopement location possibilities. Popular sites include Lone Mountain Ranch, Big Sky Resort, Moonlight Basin, 320 Ranch, Yellowstone Club, Beehive Basin, or other public or private property. If you think you would like to elope in Big Sky but are uncertain on a location, feel free to reach out to me for personalized advice.
Lone Mountain Ranch
If you would like an all-inclusive elopement package where every detail is taken care of, Lone Mountain Ranch might be perfect for you. Located just Northwest of the Meadow Village, the Ranch offers a private mountainside resort with stunning views of Lone Peak and top quality lodging and activity options. They'll even pick you up from the airport!
Big Sky Resort/Moonlight Basin
Located at the top of Big Sky, Moonlight Basin and Big Sky Resort are the public basecamps for Big Sky's famous "Biggest Skiing in America". Both resorts will happily put together an elopement package for you. If you are interested in Big Sky Resort I would ask about the possibility of holding your elopement up the mountain as the views improve the higher you get. The photo at the top of this page was taken at Everett's 8800' which would be a good starting point.
320 Ranch/Rainbow Ranch/Gallatin Riverhouse
The Gallatin River canyon offers alternative venues for your elopement with the 320 Ranch, Rainbow Ranch, and the Gallatin Riverhouse. Ranches in the Gallatin canyon will offer more traditional Montana views, like the photo from the 320 below, but if you'd like some portraits with the famous mountains of Big Sky it's not a far drive up to either the Taylor Fork or around to Big Sky.
Spanish Peaks/Yellowstone Club
These are private clubs so you'll have to be a member or know someone who is to hold your elopement in Spanish Peaks or the Yellowstone Club, but there are many location opportunities on this side of Lone Peak.
Much of Big Sky is privately owned, but there are a few public gems where you can hold your elopement. My favorite is Beehive Basin. You'll need to have an adventurous spirit for Beehive as it's a 7 mile hike with 1650' of elevation gain, but if you can be here at sunrise or sunset, it's well worth it. Here is a link to Holly and Brian's sunrise elopement that I photographed in Beehive. If you choose to elope in Beehive you may want to have the ceremony at the bottom so the officiant doesn't need to hike. I would also suggest bringing along a backpack to carry your nice clothes to change into at the top.
Another nice location would be up the Taylor Fork off of the highway to West Yellowstone. This road comes in on the east side of Big Sky and offers sage flats with a meandering stream and distant views of Lone Peak.
Big Sky Chapel or Soldier's Chapel
If holding your ceremony inside a chapel is important, either of these choices are good options. They both offer fantastic views of Lone Peak and have plenty of weekday availability.
Places to Stay
Big Sky offers many lodging options including hotels, vacation rentals, and the resorts listed above.
I am based in Missoula and spend my summers photographing all over Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho. My photography packages for elopements include travel and accommodations.
Big Sky Elopement Pricing:
-Four hours of coverage
-Online gallery of edited photos with download access and personal printing rights
Front country ceremonies (near a road): $1850
Backcountry ceremonies (can include an overnight): $2200