Glacier National Park is such a gorgeous place for an elopement or wedding. In fact, 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. Of course with planning any wedding, there were 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!
Logan Pass, Hidden Lake Overlook
1. CHOOSE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHER & VIDEOGRAPHER
When it comes to elopements, the most crucial aspect of the planning process is getting the photography and videography teams you really want. It’s also helpful to hold off on choosing a date until you know your dream team is available. I mean, after all, you’ve already chosen your venue when you chose to get married in the park. 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?! Plus, more than likely, 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. Plus, it’s something you can bring back to your family and friends so they can experience it with you.
The experts book out a year or more in advance, so be sure to jump on this ASAP.
West Glacier, Near Lake McDonald
2. CHOOSE A DATE AND TIME
Summer months between July and August are by far the busiest months for Glacier. Mostly because the weather is perfect and you don’t need to worry too much about snow or rain. Another big plus is the sun basically never sets and the light is endless! The wildflowers are blooming from late July through mid August. Another option is the shoulder season of May and June. They aren’t given enough credit with how lush and green things are with things blooming… BUT the Going to the Sun Road won’t be open until early July. You’ll see sunshine AND snowcapped mountains. The waterfalls are gushing and on point. The crowds are also minimal this time of year. September and October are stunning with the fall colors, but you just run the risk of less than ideal rain or snow. Winter is stunning in Glacier. Cold enough to freeze your buns, but absolutely beautiful. Whitefish Mountain Resort is a great place to ski Grouse Mountain Lodge offers ski packages if you’re into that. Jake grew up skiing back when it was still called Big Mountain.
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. Logistically, it can be tough to work around dinner, buuut you didn’t chose to get married in Glacier National Park for convenience, you came because you appreciate epic scenery in your photographs and video. For more fun, check out Things to Consider Before Eloping.
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. We’re biased, of course, but we suggest choosing the most epic spot and then plan everything around that. I mean, that’s what you’ve probably flown thousands of miles to see, right?! Go big or go home!
When helping our couples, we find the ceremony location first based on photos that we give them and then chose the specific ceremony spot based on the general location. If you’re into lakes vs. mountains vs. waterfalls vs. woods vs. rivers… you get the idea. The number of guests and vehicles can determine a certain ceremony location. Our favorite general areas are West Glacier (Lake McDonald), Logan Pass (although you can’t have a ceremony at the actual location, there are some great spots just a few minutes drive away), Two Medicine (the hidden gem of Glacier), Many Glacier (America’s Ande’s mountain range), and Polebridge (Bowman & Kintla Lakes, basic but beautiful).
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
If you’re thinking a reception is in your future, here’s where you can check out the Glacier National Park Wedding Venue Options.
Saint Mary, Elsa Eileen Photography
Logan Pass, Hidden Lake Overlook
Going to the Sun Road
4. APPLY FOR A PERMIT
The link to apply to a permit is here. The permit is $100 (as of 2019, so this could change) and you can 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. He likes it best when you send in your application via snail mail and then follow up with him with a call. You can reach him at 406-888-7832. Before applying, have your ideal location in mind so people don’t double up on your magical spot at the same spot! The permit will have you list your first and second ceremony location choices. You’ll also need to list your ceremony time. It’s helpful to have an evening ceremony here too because it’s less likely there’ll be another ceremony at that time. Be sure to bring your permit with you. We’ve never been stopped, but we hear more people are getting stopped by rangers.
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 still need to pay for park entry and parking is not reserved for you. A good option for transportation option is Arrow Shuttle. Glacier also offers tours and shuttles within the park with the Big Red Bus. They’re SO fun and the pictures are 100% worth it. 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. No decorations are allowed. No playing of instruments or amplified sound allowed. No tossing (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. So. There’s all that for you to consider.
5. GET AN OFFICIANT (or a friend or family member)
In Montana, basically anybody off the street can be ordained to officiate your ceremony. Here is the link to become ordained in the state of Montana. You also don’t NEED witnesses to sign your marriage license, but Jake and I LOVE signing as witnesses 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.
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 email@example.com
Going to the Sun Road, Saint Mary
Going to the Sun Road
6. MAKE YOUR TRAVEL PLANS
Not gonna lie, Glacier National 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 are The Lodge at Whitefish Lake and Grouse Mountain Lodge, both 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!
The In Park accommodations sell out quickly, so jump on it as soon as you’ve chosen your date. Lake McDonald Lodge (West Glacier), Many Glacier Hotel (Many Glacier) and Glacier Park Lodge (East Glacier) are the most popular.
Don’t forget about AirBnBs! There are so many scattered around the park. When we got married we stayed and got ready in the prettiest little cabin that was way more beautifully decorated than our house.
Trail of the Cedars
7. GET A DRESS AND FLOWERS AND SOMEONE TO DO YOUR HAIR AND MAKEUP. If that’s something you’re into. It’s your wedding!
Dress shops in the area: Mimi’s Bridal Boutique 406-257-4684 firstname.lastname@example.org
For hair and makeup, here’s the scoop: Beauty by Emily (makeup) 760-694-3498 email@example.com Foxtrot Salon – Stephanie (hair) 406-730-2113 firstname.lastname@example.org Ty Nycole (hair and makeup) 406-534-9055 email@example.com
On another note, having a caterer is also a really sweet touch for a sunset picnic or intimate meal with your loved ones outside the park.
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 need to go in person up to 180 days before 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. You’ll also need 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
Hiking shoes as well as ceremony shoes – if they’re any different
Sweater/jacket/wrap – mornings and evenings in Montana are chilly with the higher elevations. Glacier especially!
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. Whether you’re getting married at sunrise or sunset, we’ll be hiking in the dark either up or down!
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 knowing we have it.
Wedding permit from Glacier National Park
Many Glacier, Lake Josephine
9. DECIDE WHAT WEDDING TRADITIONS ARE IMPORTANT TO YOU
Just because that huge wedding reception isn’t your thing, doesn’t mean you have to opt out of wedding traditions all together. Eloping is just as emotionally fulfilling and meaningful (probably even more so) than the normal wedding. From saying traditional vows or exchanging rings to having a first dance and cake cutting with your new spouse… we say “JUST DO IT!” It’s your day, so make it your own. We have 6 Sweet Wedding Traditions to Include in Your Elopement.
10. GET MARRIED!
Do the dang thing! This is the best part! Even if the weather doesn’t cooperate as you want, it’s GLACIER NATiONAL PARK! It’ll be beautiful! Be sure to bring yourself snacks, sunscreen, and bug spray. Your photos and video are going to be so so special and something you can always look back on!
11. TELL THE WORLD YOU WERE MARRIED IN THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE ON EARTH
It’s not official until it’s on Facebook/Instagram so of course share your photos and video on the socials, but after that, send out actual tangible announcements using your amazing photos in the mail. Relatives love that stuff. Hey, they might even send you back a gift! If you’re planning on having a reception back home, play your wedding video so people can experience your magical married moments with you!
Lake McDonald Lodge
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