11 Glacier National Park Elopement Mistakes
& How to Avoid Them
from photographers who have seen *almost* everything
11 Glacier National Park Elopement Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make
Is planning your Glacier National Park elopement easy? With the right guide, yes! There’s a million resources to tell you how to plan your Glacier National Park elopement, but as a wife & husband Montana elopement photographer team, we’ve come to tell you how not to plan your Glacier National Park elopement with these elopement mistakes you must avoid! We’ll also hit some faq’s you’ve got along the way! You don’t have all day, so let’s hop on in bearing in mind these Glacier National Park elopement mistakes are in no particular order. 🙂 We’re passionate about helping you navigate the planning process so you make zero mistakes. So let’s get started!
Exchange your vows
in the tranquility of Glacier.
Glacier National Park Elopement Mistake #1:
Applying for your ceremony permit too late or the wrong location for your specific needs
We’ll cover a TON of how to choose the best ceremony location for your specific needs in another mistake below, but first–let’s check out the permit process from start to finish. The truth is the park has made the permit process incredibly easy and streamlined in recent wedding seasons so that’s great news! However, the greatest mistake we see folks making is waiting too long to apply for your Glacier National Park elopement ceremony permit too late.
Let’s quickly cover those
Glacier National Park elopement permit q’s.
Do you need a permit to elope in Glacier National Park?
That’s an absolute yes! The park states, “Any and all vow exchanges, elopements, ceremonies, weddings, or special events, etc. require a Special Use Permit. This is regardless of the size of the group, whether or not it is ‘officiated,’ or if papers are being signed. If you are entering the park with a photographer only to take photographs and no vow exchange, signing of documents, or union is being witnessed, then no permit is required..
Can you get married anywhere in Glacier National Park?
Sadly, no! But great news! The park’s preapproved ceremony locations are STUNNING and range in types of views and guest counts. We’ve never had any couples walk away unsatisfied with their ceremony location.
Where can I get married in Glacier National Park?
Glacier National Park has preapproved wedding ceremony locations for couples to choose from for their Glacier National Park elopement or micro wedding. There are specific considerations on each location such as seasonal availability, participant count, etc. Check here for their options!
Sneak a peek into
Glacier National Park elopement locations.
Since there are only a limited number of preapproved ceremony locations and only two permits per location per day are available, it is best to get to work quickly on choosing your location and applying for the permit. That’s why we get our couples’ Personalized Elopement Location Guide to them quickly to help you make the best decision quickly! Let’s check out our next mistake after sneaking a peek inside your Personalized Elopement Location Guide!
your Personalized Elopement
Location Guide will Include:
- Location selection strategies
- Applicable national park and forest rules
- Location logistic tips
- Personalized location notes
- How to form an elopement concept
- Potential ceremony location options
- Easily paired experiences
- Potential adventure locations
- Final implementations tips
A quick word
About our photography service:
“Not only are Des and Dan skilled in photography, but they also offer packages that assist in destination planning, vendors, location scouting, timelines, and packing lists. Having someone in your arsenal that serves a major purpose AND has endless knowledge of your event is priceless.” -M+B
Where is the best place to get married in Glacier National Park?
We’ve written a whole blog on Glacier National Park wedding ceremony locations to make you swoon! So check out that blog to see some of the best spots for a just us experience, and experience with guests, and even some of our favorite local hidden gems we don’t share with the public. 😉
Let’s hear it again!
Here’s what eloping folks are saying about hiring us:
We cannot say enough good things about Des and Dan. To put it as simply as we can – if we were to do our Glacier National Park elopement all over again, they would be the absolute first call we made. If you read nothing else, I cannot think of a better endorsement than that. Now, if you want details…
Where do we start? When you hire Des, you get so much more than a photographer. She was incredibly thoughtful in how she approached our elopement and made it the perfect expression of us and our relationship. Within the first couple conversations, she was able to get a solid grasp on who we are as a couple and as people and what was important to us. From there, she laid out our options to help us select the best sites for our ceremony and photos (along with all of the permitting that goes with it), and then was able to work with us to create OUR perfect day. Des laid out the initial timeline for us, and then worked with us over the course of several months to make tweaks to it, making sure it was exactly what we wanted.
-Margaret & Mike
Glacier National Park Elopement Mistake #2:
Trying to pack too much into your elopement timeline
This is honestly the reason we work with couples so closely on crafting your customized timeline to fit your needs in the amount of time we know it will take. If you do not spend adequate time getting educated on things like commute times, construction areas, points of interest, etc., you may plan a day that is nearly impossible to live out.
Glacier National Park is HUGE, and we typically recommend only trying to hit two major regions in each day. Hitting one region is even better if you choose the correct one.
Glacier National Park Elopement regions that typically work well together are:
Lake McDonald & The Going to the Sun Road Corridor
St. Mary Lake & Two Medicine
Two Medicine & Many Glacier
Lake McDonald and The North Fork
You’ll need to understand commute times
in & around Glacier National Park.
How much time do you really need for your Glacier National Park elopement?
If you’re bringing guests, we automatically recommend splurging for a 2 day wedding experience if at all possible. This leaves 1 day dedicated to your ceremony and guests and 1 day dedicated to exploring the park with just one another. We’ve seen couples with guests most satisfied when not feeling rushed and not feeling the tension of being pulled away from guests or their partner to be with the other party.
If you’re not bringing guests, a 10-12 hour experience for your elopement is perfect! This amount of time is great for getting ready, having your ceremony, exploring the park, planning a fun activity, and finishing the day with something romantic like stargazing from your hot tub to relive your epic day!
Check out this real
2 Day Glacier National Park Elopement Timeline
However–we have oodles of couples opting for a single day Glacier National Park Elopement experience!
If this is you, have no fear. 🙂 We’ll show you how to prioritize your time so that what really matters most to you is what is emphasized in your timeline.
Glacier National Park Elopement Mistake #3:
Expecting the day to go exactly according to schedule
We’ve seen enough Glacier National Park elopements to know–they never go exactly according to schedule. We’re here to tell you–that’s a beautiful thing! When we’re working with couples on their timelines, we are SURE to build in buffer time for a few reasons.
- Buffer time ensures you’ve got time for something to go wrong.
- Buffer time ensures you won’t feel rushed hopping from location to location.
- Buffer time ensure you have room for spontaneity (the key to romance!).
We’ve seen Glacier National Park elopements get derailed by weather, a snafu when leaving for the day, a wildlife traffic jam, you name it! The key is always to have a backup plan!
Check out J+J’s
epic plan B for their Glacier National Park elopement.
The necessity of 2 Glacier National Park timelines
That’s why we help couples craft not only 1 timeline–but 2! We try and help couples craft a second timeline in another area of the park so we can quickly pivot for different circumstances. We also communicate with you via walkie talkies as we bop around in case there are any unforeseen circumstances we need to accommodate together!
Glacier National Park Elopement Mistake #4:
Choosing a ceremony location unbefitting to your specific needs
Your wedding experience will only be lived out once. Your ceremony photos are what will be gawked at by you and your loved ones for generations to come. You want somewhere gorgeous, but you also need to bear in mind how your vision fits in with the park’s guidelines.
To choose the best ceremony location, bear in mind the location pick two triangle.
Usually you can only have 2 out of the 3 perks listed above for your ceremony location. If you’re bringing guests, the park has detailed restrictions on party number and even vehicle count. When choosing your location and applying for the permit, you’ll need to know these logistics to communicate to the park.
The good news is the park has Glacier National Park elopement locations with varying participant counts ranging from just us 4 to us 4 plus 250! Keep in mind all on-site vendors will be counted in your participant count.
Sounds like a drag, huh?
Well we’re here to help you navigate your pick two triangle and apply for your permit so your day fits your needs!
Not to mention, we’ve got the local skinny on ceremony locations that do not require a permit that are just as stunning as Glacier National Park. Then you can go into the park afterwards for more exploring and photos. 🙂
Glacier National Park Mistake #5:
Choosing the wrong attire for your vision & the elements
Your Glacier National Park elopement will no doubt need to be an expression of who you both are, and one of the best ways to express that is in your attire!
If you’re hoping for authentic Montana ranch chic, opt for an elevated attire paired with the option of cowboy hats and boots.
If you want mountain glam & luxe choose silky, solid materials and traditional color palettes.
If boho is your vibe, add lace, free flowing hair, and a wild bouquet.
Glacier National Park Elopement Mistake #6:
Choosing the wrong season to elope in Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park truly has a prime season! The Going to the Sun Road is typically open from late July through early October so most folks try to squeeze their Glacier National Park elopement within this time frame. However, each season in Glacier has its own perks and challenges. Here’s how that breaks down.
Consider November-March for a wintry elopement! Crowds will be minimal, and the peaks will be snowcapped. However, access to the park will be very limited.
Consider April-June for a Glacier National Park elopement with wildflowing waterfalls! The snow is melting and rain is coming giving water features lots of movement. Bear in mind that this also means mud and rain will be in abundance.
Consider July and early August for warm temperatures, Going to the Sun Road access, and wildflowers at high elevations! This is also prime wildfire season so we’ll come prepped with backup plans in case your location becomes inaccessible or too smoky.
Consider September and October for your Glacier National Park elopement if you want crisp temperatures, stunning falls colors, and the potential for straight up MOOD. Honestly when folks inquire we are quick to point them to September as we believe it has the most perks for eloping folks like you.
When is the best time of year to elope in Glacier National Park?
The most popular time is certainly July-September due to its favorable weather and accessibility to hiking trails. Local businesses are also welcoming visitors during this time making it an easy time to enjoy with guests.
If you’re lost on when to choose, don’t worry! It’s all part of the process. We can help you best weigh the pros and cons to choose your Glacier National Park elopement date.
When is the best time of day to elope in Glacier National Park?
As photographers, you know we’re big fans of gorgeous sunrise and sunset photos. This means the best time of day to elope in Glacier National Park would be midday! Your ceremony should be early afternoon so you can prioritize the best part of the day for photos. Alternatively you could plan a late morning ceremony following a sunrise adventure.
Keep in mind some locations are better at sunrise or sunset. This is all information we’ll have listed in your Personalized Elopement Location Guide so you’ll know what location and time works best for you depending on the type of couple you are. 😉
You can also always opt to split your day in 2 sections so you hit both sunrise & sunset like this Moody September Wedding!
The good news is overwhelm is avoidable.
Your Glacier National Park elopement should be 1000% customized.
The best time of year, the best of day, and your timeline will fit your needs no matter what the average couple does.
Your day belongs to YOU.
Glacier National Park Elopement Mistake #7:
Budgeting for the wrong things
Here’s some great news! Sources indicate weddings that are reflective of the couple, keep guests involved, and are well planned cost $100k-$500k. I know what you’re thinking. Where’s the good news?
The good news is even the most extravagant Glacier National Park elopement with guests comes down to much less–averaging around $20k for travel, vendors, guest costs, food, etc.
Maybe you’ve been considering your elopement budget for a while, or maybe you’re just throwing stuff to the wall to see what sticks financially.
Our biggest tip on budgeting is to consider your overall available funds for your Glacier National Park elopement. Take off the top what is required by the park. Then divide the rest based on your personal priorities.
How much does it cost to elope in Glacier National Park?
The park’s special use permit costs $125. This gives you permission to hold your ceremony at one of the preapproved ceremony locations. However, the money we’ve seen allocated to the entire experience ranges from $50,000 all the way down to $12,000.
These numbers are considering “just us” elopement experiences with minimal vendors all the way up to swanky micro weddings help within the park considering guest costs.
Most of our couples hit around the $20,000 mark including 2 days of photography with us (1 day for the ceremony and guests with the other being dedicated to celebrating and exploring the park with just you two) while holding room for a formal celebration with guests and adventurous activities for the two of them.
See below how your Glacier National Park elopement budget may break down for a $30,000 event.
Glacier National Park Elopement Sample Budget
This sample budget is purely an example.
Since your day will be personalized to you, you have the option to raise the budget, lower it, move percentages around, etc. The world is your elopement oyster based on your priorities.
Our biggest tip on how to avoid a money mistake is to truly budget for what you prioritize for your
Glacier National Park Elopement.
Think critically about the type of day you’d love to have, and budget from there. We have more info on this in our Elopement Brainstorming Master Guide if you need a little more help!
You can receive that guide for free when contacting us and scheduling a call!
your elopement brainstorming
master Guide will Include:
- Setting the foundation for nailing your elopement vision
- An introduction into 4 crucial decisions you must make when eloping or having a destination wedding
- Tips on knowing who to bring along
- Location logistics to consider when choosing your general wedding location
- A breakdown of how to budget for your wedding experience
- Final action steps to bring your newly discovered vision to life
Glacier National Park Mistake #8:
Neglecting travel logistics specific to a Glacier National Park Elopement
Sometimes folks get so excited about the views and vows that they forget they also have a honeymoon or vacation to enjoy! Our biggest tip on how to avoid this is to remember to plan your trip carefully!
If your elopement is during tourist season (June-early September) you’ll need a vehicle reservation acquired months in advance to visit varying parts of the park. You’ll also need a park pass to enter the park.
Find all the information you need on reservations and passes here!
But we also have a more extensive travel guide for our couples and their guests to share to help answer those other travel questions and give specific information on the upcoming tourist season.
About our photography service:
“Des was so so so helpful! She provided us with so much information and made the experience & planning so effortless for us. Des is so much more than a photographer and planner, she is a friend. She makes you feel so comfortable and like you have known her for years.” -J+J
Glacier National Park Elopement Mistake #9:
Forgetting to prioritize food and drink
The views are so big, and you’re having a blast during your Glacier National Park elopement! It’s easy to forget food and drink!
You’ll need to avoid getting hangry and dehydrated so your elopement experience stays as warm and fuzzy as you’d love it to be. An easy fix is to come prepped with your favorite snacks from home and keep them in your car.
However, our favorite way to avoid this mistake is to intentionally put food consumption in your timeline. This may mean grabbing a gorgeously curated hiking friendly picnic to take with you on the trails!
Or if you have guests a celebration at your ceremony location is a great way to celebrate while packing in calories.
You may also opt for a formal sit down dinner with guests to celebrate at one of the local gems we know!
With any of these options we always encourage you to plan a breakfast or brunch so you’re not just surviving on snacks all day. If you are deciding to have formal meals with folks, we’d also recommend adding a second day to your elopement experience so you don’t miss out on that quality time with one another during the most beautiful parts of the day during your Glacier National Park elopement.
Glacier National Park Elopement Mistake #10:
Forgetting to prioritize time with your partner
If you’re choosing a Glacier National Park elopement in the first place you likely value that peace you feel with one another when you’re somewhere outdoors. If you spend your free time trying to get more chill quality time with one another somewhere epic or cozy, then you’re also the type of couple that needs to prioritize quality time on your elopement day.
Prioritize time for one another during your Glacier National Park elopement by opting for at minimum a full day experience. This means creating a relaxed timeline and utilizing times like travel times to bond and reflect on what you just witnessed.
This also means giving yourself more than enough time at each photo location or event so you can take time to soak it in and truly remember it.
Here’s what one of our grooms said about the importance of taking time to soak it in together:
Des & Dan truly want your special day to be perfect and filled with little moments along the way. They encouraged us to go have a moment to relax and soak up our special day. Little did we know that they never stopped taking pictures! Those candid photos turned out to be some of our favorites!
-S & B
If you’re bringing guests along, then it’s extra challenging. Don’t get me wrong. Bringing guests to your Glacier National Park elopement is always welcome if you value those relationships and believe they will truly add to your experience.
However, there is often internal tension on how to best spend your time. Should you spend time with your guests that spent money and flew across the country to see you get married? Or should you soak up time with your newly wedded boo in your new favorite national park?
We know you can do both. Opt for a 2 day Glacier National Park elopement experience to avoid this mistake entirely. You can have your (wedding) cake and eat it too.
Glacier National Park Elopement Mistake #11:
Hiring the wrong vendors
Sheesh, this mistake is TOUCHY. We’ll go so far to say as that choosing the correct vendors for your Glacier National Park elopement can make. Or. break. your wedding experience! Unfortunately we’ve seen some bad vendor experiences put a damper on folks’ wedding days, and we hated it. You just can’t imagine the stress of a vendor forgetting your service, showing up late, not being reliable or supportive, etc.
You also don’t want to hire vendors that don’t align with your unique vision for the experience. This will make your Glacier National Park elopement feel disjointed and a little awkward, especially if the vendor is an on-site vendor like a photographer, officiant, or videographer.
That’s why we craft an Exhaustive Vendor List for each of couples eloping in Glacier National Park! In it we’ve put all of our favorite and most trustworthy vendors so you can skip all the guessing and googling. Instead, scroll through our Glacier National Park vendor guide to find vendors like officiants, hair and makeup, florals, etc. You’ll also find some fun bonuses like hot air balloon pilots, tattoo artists, and horseback riding guides. You won’t be at a loss for vendors with us.
Your exhaustive elopement
vendor Guide will Include:
- Hot tips on how to choose the correct vendors for you
- Extra considerations on different types of vendors
- 20+ pages of traditional wedding vendor recommendations like officiants, hair and makeup artists, caterers, and floral designers
- 10+ pages of unique wedding vendors recommendations like hot air balloon pilots, tattoo artists, and any other unique vendor you’ll need
- Vendor values & processes to understand before hiring
Your top requirement for Glacier National Park vendors should be the support they provide you with.
The best vendors in the valley know that experience comes first–then the banger photos will follow. 🙂
It’s no stretch to say we believe that as well! We know what you need is a photography team to not only capture your day, but to hold your hand along the way giving you every answer you’ll need and perhaps even being a stress ball you can virtually squeeze through a zoom call. <3
You have a lingering q:
How can this Glacier National Park elopement experience be yours?
Additional Resources for Eloping Couples:
Hey. We’re real folks. Who really love to serve our clients (and even not our clients) really well by providing free planning help! So if you missed any links above, we’re including them here so you can keep reading, keep dreaming, and keep creating your dream elopement! <3 And as always, feel free to reach out about any questions you have. We’d love to hear from you!
Eloping in Montana | The Ultimate How To and Location Guide in case you’re open to other locations options in Montana
How to Elope | So you can have a checklist to reference when planning your elopement
How to Get Married in Montana | So we’re sure we have all the legal and logistical bases covered!
Airbnb Elopement | In case you want a venue feel while you escape to Glacier National Park!
Hope these help! Let us know which ones are most helpful by leaving a comment or two on your favorites, and we’ll chat with you soon!