How to Plan a Glacier Nation Park Wedding or Elopement

A bride and groom embrace in the wildflower fields of Glacier National Park. Image overlaid with text that reads How to Plan a Glacier National Park Wedding or Elopement. Photo by Ashley J photo, a Montana wedding photographer.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: having a Glacier National Park wedding or elopement is one of the best decisions you can make when it comes to planning your dream wedding! Actually, this shouldn’t be a secret at all. I love Glacier National Park weddings so much, and I would recommend this location to any couple looking to get married or elope in Montana! 

Glacier National Park’s natural beauty = perfect wedding location

Glacier National Park is infamous for its rugged beauty. As someone who has photographed many Glacier National Park weddings and elopements, I have to say, the park does not disappoint in person! Its jagged mountain peaks, lush wildflower fields, excellent hiking trails, sweeping valleys, thriving forests, crystal clear waters, and blue skies (and more!) are absolutely breathtaking year-round. Because of this, it is the perfect place for an intimate wedding with a stunning, naturally beautiful backdrop. 

How to Plan a Glacier National Park Wedding or Elopement

If you’re interested in having a Glacier National Park wedding or elopement, there are some essential planning steps to consider. After all, a unique wedding venue calls for some unique planning aspects. 

But never fear! I’ve broken everything down into 9 easy-peasy steps for you, so that you know exactly what you need to make your perfect wedding day happen! 

#1 – Find an experienced Montana wedding and elopement photographer

I may be a little biased, but I truly believe that one of the first things you should do is find an experienced Montana wedding and elopement photographer to photograph your wedding.

Here’s why: when you work with an experienced wedding photographer who has photographed at Glacier National Park before, they will have allllll the tips and tricks to make your day extra special and gorgeous. They will know which locations look the best at certain times each year and when lighting is the best throughout the day. They will probably even know some secret spots that are less tourist-y, but still super epic! Plus, they will already have experience capturing gorgeous shots in this location, so they will know exactly what to expect and what kinds of photos to take. 

A bride and groom hold hands as they walk through the wildflower fields of Glacier National Park during their Glacier National Park Wedding. Photo by Ashley J Photo, a Montana wedding photographer.

When I work with a couple who is getting married at Glacier National Park, I am closely involved in their planning process. We go over all the details of the wedding day, and I love to offer suggestions and insight wherever I can! Since I’ve been a part of many weddings and elopements at this park, I can share from personal experience what works well and what variables to keep in mind as we plan your big day. So, the earlier you find and hire a wedding photographer, the easier the rest of your planning will go. 

#2 – Choose a time and date for your wedding

Next, you’ll need to pick a time and date for your wedding. 

Pick a season

Start by considering what season you’d like to get married in. Winter is often too cold to get married at Glacier National Park, and much of the park is closed during this season anyway. However, late spring, summer, and fall are all wonderful times of the year for a Glacier National Park wedding.

May and June can still be a bit cold, but the mountain peaks will look absolutely glorious during this time. Plus, the park isn’t as busy during these months, which is nice if you want a peaceful and intimate wedding ceremony.

July and August are often the busiest months at the park, for good reason! The wildflowers are in bloom, and the temperatures are perfect. Plus, the most incredible late-night sunsets happen during these months! 

In the fall, the weather is starting to cool down, which is perfect for cozy weddings and elopements. These are also slower months at the park, and I absolutely LOVE seeing the fall colors on full display! There’s truly nothing more majestic than the gold, orange, and red tones of autumn surrounded by glistening water and huge mountains.

Pick a time of day 

Generally, I recommend early evening weddings at Glacier National Park. This allows us to capture gorgeous golden hour photos and then enjoy a magnificent sunset. Morning weddings and elopements also work well, especially since the park is quieter during this time. Plus, then you’ll have the whole rest of the day to explore the park and celebrate saying “I do!”

No matter what, weekday weddings are a MUST at Glacier National Park. In particular, weekday evenings tend to be the quietest and peaceful (meaning fewer visitors are at the park). The fewer people that are around, the more likely it is that you will have a romantic, intimate wedding without any distractions. With that said, if you’re set on a weekend wedding or elopement, you are still in for a magical and unforgettable time!

#3 – Decide on a location

Once you’ve chosen a time and date for your Glacier National Park wedding, it’s time to decide on a location within the park. 

Couples getting married at the park are not allowed to bring in any of their own decorations, so it’s important to choose a wedding location that you really love.

I like to find out what kind of setting a couple wants for their wedding day. For example, do you want to get married in a field of flowers? Or by a lake or waterfall? In a forest? With mountains in the background? Or how about on a mountaintop?

The kind of backdrop you want for your wedding or elopement will help us pinpoint the perfect spot in the park for your ceremony. Additionally, some parts of the park close throughout the year depending on the season. Since we’ll already know your wedding date, we’ll know what our options are in terms of what parts of the park are open for visitors.

Here are some of my favorite wedding and elopement locations within Glacier National Park:

  • Lake McDonald
  • Many Glacier
  • Running Eagle Falls
  • Big Bend
  • Swiftcurrent Lake
  • Two Medicine Lake
  • Sprague Creek Picnic Area
  • Polebridge
  • Sun Point
  • Logan’s Pass
  • Lake Josephine
A bride and groom embrace and smile as they nearly kiss during their Glacier National Park elopement. Photo by Ashley J, a Montana wedding photographer.

Tip: Driving through Glacier National Park can be slooow. Keep that in mind as you choose a wedding location. Also, check out this handy website that helps estimate driving times and routes throughout the park. 

#4 – Apply for your Glacier National Park Special Use Wedding Permit

You will need a permit to have your wedding or elopement at Glacier National Park. You can find the Special Use application here. Glacier National Park has become an iconic place to get married, and wedding availability at the park can fill up fast. Therefore, the sooner you apply for your permit, the better! 

On the application, you’ll write down your preferred date, time, and location within the park. You’ll also have to include 3 alternate dates, times, and locations in case your preferred options are already booked or are unavailable for other reasons. This is another reason why I recommend weekday evening weddings. Since they’re less popular times to get married at the park, they’re more likely to be available when you apply!

Once you fill out your application, you’ll need to mail it in along with a $100 application fee. 

#5 – Choose an officiant (and other vendors)

Another important step to planning a Glacier National Park wedding or elopement is to choose your officiant and other vendors. 

Most wedding locations within the park only allow groups of up to 15 people. If you’re planning a Glacier National Park wedding, you’re probably already wanting a small and intimate ceremony anyway. Your officiant plays a huge role in creating the atmosphere of your wedding day. If there’s a friend, family member, pastor, or someone else you want to officiate your wedding, ask them ASAP. If you want to hire a professional officiant, make sure you hire someone you really connect with, since they will be such a significant part of your wedding.

This is also a good time to choose and hire any other vendors you’d like to work with for your wedding. Maybe a wedding planner, florist, reception venue, someone to do hair and makeup, and so on. Wedding vendors often get booked out in advance (even up to a year!), so it’s helpful to book them sooner rather than later. 

#6 – Make travel plans

If you’re flying or driving into the Glacier National Park area from out of town, you’ll also need to make travel arrangements. 

If you’re flying, you’ll want to fly into Glacier Park International Airport in Kalispell, Montana. This airport is a nice and easy 40-minute drive from the western end of Glacier National Park. 

For lodging, there are a few lovely hotels and resorts close to the national park that are perfect for hosting you and your guests. My personal favorites are:

#7 – Invite your guests

The next step to planning your Glacier National Park wedding is finalizing your guest list. Don’t forget to keep your group size to 15 or fewer people (unless you’ve specifically booked a location that allows for bigger groups). 

After you’ve finalized your guest list, it’s time to invite your guests and give them all the important information they need to know about your wedding. For example, you may want to give them clothing recommendations, especially considering the weather and any hiking you’ll be doing.

Remind people to wear layers and good hiking shoes. Items like sunglasses can also be really helpful. You may also want to provide things like water and snacks if you’re going to be hiking for a long time. 

A bride and groom embrace on the banks of a lake during their Glacier National Park elopement. Photo by Montana wedding photographer Ashley J.

#8 – Plan all of the little, special details

This step is one of my favorites! It’s all about planning those little, special details that are fitting for you and your fiancé. Let’s figure out how we can add some unique touches to your day that will make extra sweet and memorable. Let’s figure out what feels like YOU!

Maybe you want to bring some champagne along to toast after your ceremony (and maybe even before!) You could plan and pack a charcuterie spread for a classy, post-ceremony picnic. Maybe you don’t want to wear traditional wedding garb; that’s totally okay! Your wedding day is all about you, your relationship, and your love story…so let’s put together a day that reflects this! 

#9 – Get your marriage license

Last, but not least, you’ll need to get your marriage license. You can get your Montana marriage license at the courthouse in Kalispell, Montana. The address is:

920 South Main, Suite 300
Kalispell, MT 59901

The courthouse is open for marriage license processing Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm. 

You don’t have to make an appointment to get your marriage license, but you can start the application online to help speed up the in-person process.

Your marriage license expires 6 months from issuance, so make sure you don’t get your marriage license too far in advance before your wedding. 

You will have the dreamiest Glacier National Park wedding or elopement!

If you follow these steps, you will be well on your way to planning the dreamiest Glacier National Park wedding or elopement! If you cover all of these details in the planning process, everything will be set up so you can fully relax and enjoy yourself on the day of your wedding.

One last word of advice: don’t forget to enjoy this special season of being engaged and have fun with your wedding planning! Your big day is all about celebrating your beautiful love story, and planning this celebration shouldn’t be super stressful. Yes, there may be stressful moments, but it will all work out, I promise.  I hope you feel excited, inspired, and joyful as you plan your wedding!

If there’s anything I can do to help you plan your Glacier National Park wedding, or if you’re looking for a photographer to capture your big day, shoot me a message. I’d love to chat!

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Photography by ashley J  ||  806.773.1941