How to Elope in Glacier National Park

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In the northwest corner of Montana sits a hidden gem of the earth.  It is a park so naturally beautiful it is known as the “Crown of the Continent.”  It is North America’s Swiss Alps and in my opinion, there is no better place to be married.  It is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, romantic, and adventurous. I love taking photos everywhere, but I never feel as inspired as I do when I’m in Glacier photographing weddings.  Hopefully you fall in love with this little piece of heaven (it was actually used in the movie What Dreams May Come as heaven) as much as I have.  Here’s a link to just a few of my favorite photos I’ve taken in Glacier www.mariannewiest.com/elopements

Here are the 10 steps to getting married in Glacier National Park.

1. Choose a photographer
It may seem a little too early in the process for this, like maybe you should pick your date before your photographer, but what if the photographer of your dreams already has the date taken?  If epic, gorgeous, stunning, one of a kind, adventurous photos are important to you (and I’m guessing they are since you’re looking into getting married in Glacier National Park) then get talking with your photographer first thing.  Plus, they will help you with timing, locations, tips, all those little things that add up to a perfect day.

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2. Choose a date and time
July-August are by far the busiest months in Glacier, but for good reason, the weather is perfect, chance of rain is minimal and the daylight never ends. May and June I feel are underrated months and oh so beautiful.  Everything is vibrantly green and flowers are in bloom.  There’s one big catch though, the Going to the Sun Highway is most likely not open until the 4th of July but there’s still so many beautiful spots in the park to explore and with a fraction of the crowds!  September and October are absolutely beautiful and with more fall colors then you might guess.  And last but not least, winter is beautiful, cold but beautiful!

I highly recommend a weekday, Glacier is much less crowded. And if you want absolutely breathtaking photos, you’ll want to have your ceremony in the morning or in the evening, that is by far the prettiest time for photos.  Whatever you do, do not plan on photos from 11-2, it’s just not the same, I promise! Here’s a link to sunset and sunrise calendars for the park. https://www.sunrisesunset.com/USA/Montana/ I know it can be hard to plan around dinner and all but you didn’t choose to get married in Glacier for convenience, you’re getting married here because it’s one of the most beautiful spots in the world and don’t you want the photos to capture that!?

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3. Choose a location
Be sure to check out my article https://www.mariannewiest.com/2016/02/15/top-5-spots-in-glacier-national-park-to-elope/ to help you choose a spot.  With over 1 million acres, Glacier National Park’s possibilities for beautiful photos are endless! What’s difficult is choosing how far you want to travel from where you’re staying, where you want to get ready, and where you want to have your post wedding meal. But if you’re asking my opinion, I say, pick the spot you think is the prettiest and plan the rest around it! You only have one chance at this, so as I always say “Go Epic or go home!”

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4. Apply for a permit
Here’s the link to apply.  Scroll towards the end. https://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/permitsandreservations.htm The total ends up being $100 and the park is good about communicating and expediting the process.  In fact, they try to get the permit back to you within 10 days.  Be sure to bring the permit with you the day of, although I’ve never personally been stopped, I’ve heard of rangers asking couples for their permit.  It’s also nice to know the special spot you have in mind for your ceremony won’t have another couple there getting married at the same time!

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5. Get an officiant (or a friend, or family member, or person off the street)
Yes, Montana prides itself on being a state filled with outlaws, and in so doing, allows anyone to officiate weddings! You don’t need to be ordained, which is fun because a friend, a family member, a crazy person off the street could help you say the “I dos”

Another fun fact about getting married in Montana is that you don’t even need witnesses! Although I’m happy to sign as a witness because it’s fun.

If you don’t have a friend who can make it and prefer to not have a random person off the street officiate your wedding, here are two people who do a fantastic job and make the ceremony very special and personal.

My two “go-to” officiants are Christa Bourne (406) 890-3597 and Sally Hanger Sallyhanger@gmail.com http://www.marrymeinmontana.love/

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6. Make your travel plans.
You will most likely be flying into Glacier International Airport, about 40 minutes from Glacier National Park.  The next closest airport is in Missoula, about 2 hours away, prices may be slightly cheaper, but then you have to factor in travel and car rental fees.

Some of my favorites places to stay for lodging outside of the park are The Lodge at Whitefish Lake and Grouse Mountain Lodge, both in Whitefish.  Whitefish is an adorable and super fun town with plenty of things to do and places to eat.  Glacier Raft Co, Great Northern Resort and The Belton Chalet are minutes outside of the West Entrance to Glacier.  The Izaak Walton Inn is halfway between West Glacier and East Glacier and a very cool and historic place to stay.   Lake McDonald Lodge (West Glacier), Many Glacier Hotel (Many Glacier), and Glacier Park Lodge (East Glacier) are the three most popular lodges within the park.  And don’t forget about VRBO’s! They are very popular in the area and give you numerous options.

Here’s a link to some of my favorite restaurants in the valley. https://www.mariannewiest.com/2016/06/06/montana-recommended-restaurants/

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7. Get a dress (or not) and flowers (or not) and someone to do your hair and makeup (or not). It’s your wedding! You can do whatever you want!

For hair and makeup, I love

Christina at CS Bridal styling 406-885-4140 / Christinastevensmt@gmail.com Www.csbridalstyling.com 

Ty Nykole at :406-534-9055 / ty@tynykole.com www.tynykole.com

My favorite flower shops are Conrad Floral, Mum’s, and Rose Mountain Floral

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8. Get a marriage license
The courthouse in Kalispell is the closest spot to Glacier for getting a marriage license.  The address is 920 S Main, Kalispell, MT 59901 and you don’t need an appointment.  The hours are Monday-Friday, 8-4:30, afternoon is busiest.  To save time you can fill out an application beforehand here https://flathead.mt.gov/clerk_of_court/_marriage_application_start.php   .  You will need your birth certificate OR driver’s license and the fee is $53.  You can also sign a waiver so you don’t need to submit the Reubella blood test.

Include this form when you mail the license back to request a certified copy, which you will need when changing your name (if you are going to change your name) https://flathead.mt.gov/clerk_of_court/links.php

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9. Get Married!!
This is the fun part! You’ve done the work, now sit back and enjoy your wedding! Even if it rains, or snows, or is windy, it’s ALL beautiful when you’re in love and in Glacier National Park.  Your photos are going to be absolutely one of a kind!

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10. Send Announcements

Ok, let’s be honest, the first thing you’re going to do is change your facebook status and share an absolutely insane wedding photo of you two surrounded by peaks that go on for days, but AFTER that, send out real, honest to goodness announcements using your amazing wedding photos! There are so many fun, cute options to let everyone share in your special day with a card, plus, it’s a handy way to send people your mailing address, if by chance they want to send you a wedding present ;)

Last but not least, live happily ever after!!PIN

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