Can We Get Married in Yellowstone National Park?
Updated: Jun 8, 2019
We really appreciate the questions we receive on our Yellowstone Explored “Contact Us” page. One particular question was from a couple asking if weddings inside the park were permitted by the National Park Service.
So, can park visitors get married in Yellowstone National Park? The answer to the question is “yes”, a couple may be married inside Yellowstone National Park. To do so a Special Use Permit is required and there are restrictions based on location, group size, and time of the year or day. The Mammoth Chapel is also a location where weddings can take place.
The Park Service recommends that if your desire is for a large, exclusive, decorated, or formal celebration for your wedding that the park is probably not for you. There are two high traffic locations within the park that have a designated area just for the wedding ceremony. They are Artist Point at Canyon, hosting a maximum head count of 40 people, and a location to the east side of Old Faithful Geyser in front of the Old faithful Lodge, it too hosting a maximum head count of 40 people. The wedding platforms are strategically located as to help avoid congestion with other park visitors, but those visitors will go about their activity while the ceremony is taking place, as no “closing off” of the wedding area is permitted for the ceremony.
Of course, there are other places within the park for a wedding ceremony and it is recommended that couples choose to have their marriage ceremony in a nice, quiet area away from the popular locations of the park. Considering that there are so many beautiful areas within the park in addition to the iconic landmarks like Old Faithful and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, finding a location with a backdrop of majestic mountains or sweeping valleys shouldn’t be too difficult.
What “things” should we consider when planning a wedding in the park?
1. Obtaining a Special Use Permit can be applied for up to 12 months in advance of your planned wedding day and no later than 2-4 weeks before the requested ceremony date. Also, the permit will not be issued more than a few weeks in advance of your event. It should be noted that a ceremony permit does not override park closures (e.g., adverse weather, wildfire, unusual events, etc.) that may be initiated at the time of your planned ceremony. Also, site use is on a first-requested, first-served basis.
2. If you would like to be married in the Mammoth Chapel, a Special Use Permit is not required. For details of a wedding in the chapel, call (307) 344-2203.
3. A valid marriage license is required for the ceremony and Yellowstone National Park is located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.
4. You may want to consider investigating having your wedding in one of the Yellowstone National Park Lodges. Some allow for such occasions and others may not. You can contact the Yellowstone National Park Lodges’ Conference Service Manager at (307) 344-5519 to inquire.
5. The National Park Service does not allow wedding ceremonies to take place in government buildings in the park such as Visitor’s Centers and Ranger Stations.
6. The season and time of day when the ceremony will be held. The months of June, July, and August are the busiest months for visitors. Having the ceremony in the morning before 11:00am (the earlier the better), or in the evening after 6:00pm, is the best time to hopefully avoid the crowds and certain restrictions that could be imposed during times of high traffic.
7. Will the location you choose have enough parking for your guests? This little detail can make a big difference toward the convenience of your guests, especially if there are those with limitations in getting around.
8. The area for your wedding cannot be “closed off” to other park visitors. As such, a quiet and uninterrupted ceremony cannot be guaranteed.
9. Amplified sound/music (microphone, speakers), decorations, or outside caterers of any kind are not permitted. Because of this, couples often choose to have the actual wedding ceremony in the park, but the celebration party at a location outside the park.
10. The use of chairs, tables, or other furniture at the ceremony site is prohibited. Existing picnic tables, park benches, or other established structures may be used where available.
11. Outside caterers are not permitted to service your ceremony, and paid wedding photographers or videographers must contact the permitting office for requirements as an additional permit may be required.
12. Wedding ceremony participants and guests must also have a park pass or pay for the park entrance fee.
13. The use of hardy flower bouquets and boutonnieres are preferred to ensure seeds do not fall and germinate. The use of native flower arrangements is also preferred. However, picking flowers inside the park is prohibited.
How do I apply for a Special Use Permit and how much does it cost?
Below are links to the Special Use Permit Application Form and the Special Use Permit Payment Form. When you submit your completed application, it must be accompanied with a non-refundable application fee of $75. The completed forms and application fee can be mailed, emailed, or faxed to:
Wedding Permits Coordinator
PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190
Office Phone: (307) 344-2722
Fax: (307) 344-2112
Note: Park employees involved with helping you schedule, plan, and conduct your wedding ceremony are very helpful and will be with you every step of the way.
How many weddings typically take place in the park each year, and in what locations do they occur?
There are approximately 30 special use permits for weddings or other ceremonies issued annually, most of which take place in the summer months and the typical group size is 20 guests or less. The majority of park weddings take place at the designated wedding platform areas at Old Faithful and Artist Point at Canyon, or at the Mammoth Chapel.
Other locations where we know weddings have taken place in the park include the Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace, the amphitheater at Madison Campground, and outside the Lake Hotel with Yellowstone Lake in the background.
From which state do most people getting married in the park come from?
The Park Service reports that most of the Special Use Permit wedding applications to the park are from folks living in the states that contain a portion of the park, Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. However, the Park Service has issued a number of wedding permits for residents of Utah and Colorado. Far less frequent, but nonetheless occurring, are applications for folks from California, Texas, Florida, and states throughout the Midwest and East Coast. Folks from Canada and even from Germany have made application for the chance to have this special event in the park.
What have couples who have married in the park said about their wedding experience?
We had the opportunity to ask some questions of a few couples who exchanged vows in the park. Here is what they had to say.
Q. Why did you choose to get married in Yellowstone?
· A. Yellowstone is the first place my wife and I traveled to when we were dating. The park is absolutely my favorite place in the world, and I wanted to share it with her since she had never visited Yellowstone. After 10 days at Madison Campground, she cried uncontrollably when we were leaving to go home. She fell in love with Yellowstone, and it was for us the perfect place to get married.
· A. We had already planned a trip to Yellowstone before deciding to get married, so we just decided to do it there. We were of the mindset that what we were doing was about the marriage and not a party or large event. I wouldn’t change one thing about our special day.
Q. How many guests attended your wedding?
· A. There was only the two of us, the pastor (who we met for the first time at the ceremonyl), the photographer, and her husband. They were also our witnesses as well. We actually held a big party with family and friends before the wedding.
· A. There was just the two of us and the pastor and some folks that stood in as witnesses for us.
Q. Was it hard finding a photographer for your wedding?
· A. My wife found our photographer on Marth Stewart’s recommendations. It wasn’t difficult at all.
· A. My husband acted as the wedding planner. He handled everything, including the photographer and so I don’t know the details.
Q. Where in the park did you get married?
· A. We were married at the chapel at Mammoth because we wanted to get married in a church. The history of the chapel is amazing, and we can say we rang the chapel bell on our wedding day!
· A. We got married at the second parking lot on the Upper Terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs. We loved the view with the Mammoth Historic District down below and the mountain range in the distance above Gardiner.
Q. What did you do for a caterer?
· A. We had a wedding cake created for us at the Mammoth restaurant and the staff were wonderful. We had so much cake we shared it with the waiters and chefs. It was a wonderful opportunity to share an important part of our lives with strangers who all love Yellowstone as much as we do.
· A. We did not have a caterer. Our event was just us and later after we were married and back home, we celebrated with friends and family.
Q. What tips would you give to someone planning their wedding in Yellowstone?
· A. To anyone getting married in Yellowstone, keep it simple and intimate. Inviting too many people or trying to do an elaborate wedding there will be very difficult. We say that sometimes, less is so much more . . . .
· A. Order a silk bouquet online and bring it with you to your wedding ceremony. Getting fresh flowers is difficult in the park.
· A. If you are having your wedding ceremony outdoors, in the designated wedding platform areas or some other area out among where park visitors will be, do it early in the morning before the crowds arrive, like 7:00am if possible.
· A. You might want to have a contingency plan if your ceremony is going to be held outside as bad weather could mess with your plans. We were lucky with our wedding having it in the chapel because the weather the day of our wedding was overcast and windy.