Yellowstone Elopement Planning Guide [Updated for 2020!]
Are you considering an elopement in Yellowstone National Park? If so, you've chosen one of America's greatest treasures to get married. The Park comprises 2.2 million acres and lies mostly in Wyoming but also touches Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone is famous for its geothermal features, extensive wildlife populations, and Yellowstone Lake. There are five entrances intoYellowstone leading to three major airports that will help you access the Park: Bozeman via the West and North entrances, Billings via the Northeast entrance, and Jackson from the south entrance.
What Time of Year to Get Married in Yellowstone National Park?
If you're not from the Northern Rockies you might not know which seasons are best for your Yellowstone elopement. The season you choose will have a significant impact on which entrance you will use and how many clothes you need to wear. The roads begin to open for the summer season in late April and remain open until early November. The North entrance at Gardiner to Mammoth Hot Springs all the way through the Lamar Valley and Cooke City remains open all winter. There also is a snow coach option into the Old Faithful Snow Lodge in the winter.
Yellowstone gets the bulk of its 4 million annual visitors during the months of July and August. You will likely be spending a few extra days vacationing around Yellowstone, so if you'd like to have less tourists for the rest of your trip it may be worth looking into June or September dates.
For more information on what the Park offers throughout the year, see here: https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/seasonalhighlights.htm
Sunrise or Sunset?
It will be best to avoid holding your Yellowstone 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 and work towards the 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 but there's a chance of fog around the rivers and more wildlife will be out.
Permit and Marriage License
There are two legal requirements to get married inside Yellowstone National Park: a Special Use Permit from the Park and a Marriage License.
If you are getting married at the Mammoth Chapel, you must make a reservation and pay $100 to the Superintendent's office. They can be reached here: (307) 344-2203
If you are getting married anywhere else in the Park, a $75 permit fee is required. You must apply at least two weeks prior to your ceremony. More information on Park permitting and regulations can be found here: https://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/weddinginfo.htm
Marriage licenses from either Wyoming or Montana are acceptable for use in Yellowstone. A Wyoming license is $30 and can be purchased in Jackson or Cody. A Montana license is $53 and can be purchased in Livingston, Bozeman, or Billings.
Yellowstone Wedding Locations
Yellowstone is huge and offers many potential locations to have your wedding. Popular sites include Mammoth Chapel, Yellowstone Falls, and Old Faithful, but if you have a favorite spot the permitting office may be open to your idea, particularly if there is parking and you're having your ceremony during off hours.
This is the most popular place for weddings and elopements in Yellowstone National Park. The chapel can support a pretty large wedding, or just the two of you. Services are located close by at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel and just outside the park in Gardiner.
Perhaps the prize of the National Park System, Old Faithful is a geyser that erupts 130' in the air around 20 times each day. Being one of the most famous landmarks in the country, Old Faithful receives a lot of visitors so expect to have tourists around if you have your wedding here. There is a designated spot for elopements, or weddings up to 40 guests. A nice bonus to having your wedding here is that you can stay within walking distance at the Old Faithful Lodge.
Artist Point/Yellowstone Falls
One of the most photographed views in the Park, Artist Point's view of Yellowstone Falls is simply magnificent. This is also a popular site with the general public, so you may face restrictions in terms of group size or time of day. This is definitely a location you would want to schedule your ceremony to be at sunrise or sunset. It's also suggested that you carpool if you have more than four guests. If you'd like Yellowstone Falls to really be roaring, be sure to schedule your elopement during the melt off season in May or June.
Your Own Location
Yellowstone has over 250 miles of roads and many potential locations for your elopement. This will be even easier if your wedding party is small, as parking won't become an issue. Some potential locations to consider would be the Lamar Valley, anywhere along the Yellowstone River (particularly at sunrise), Yellowstone Lake, or the Firehole River.
Places to Stay
Unique to Yellowstone is the large number of lodging options within the Park. On the north side of the park are Mammoth Hot Springs Lodge and Roosevelt Lodge and Cabins at Tower Junction, as well as many more options just outside the entrance in Gardiner. Near Lamar Valley would be private options in Cooke City, MT. Along the east side of the park there is the Canyon Lodge and Cabins (near Artist Point), Lake Yellowstone Hotel, Grant Village, and Lake Lodge Cabins. Along the west side of the park is the Old Faithful in and, just outside the west entrance, many options in West Yellowstone.
There are numerous campgrounds throughout Yellowstone National Park, as well.
Most accommodations in or near the Park will require reservations, so plan ahead!
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.
-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