When the U.S. began going into lockdown in March, my partner and I weren’t too worried about it affecting our wedding. Our day was scheduled for July 25, 2020, and it seemed impossible that restrictions on gatherings would last more than a few months. There’s no way the pandemic would roll into summer, right?
Well, we were obviously wrong. When Memorial Day weekend hit, we called it off and began brainstorming a plan B. I own my own business, Lucky Bee Marketing, and because of this I was still on my parent’s health insurance…with that luxury quickly expiring in August (I was turning 26). We had been engaged for over a year and a half at that point too, so for these reasons, we were ready to tie the knot.
Since we had planned to get married in Whitefish, Montana, I had been following Montana-based vendors on Instagram for over a year. I knew that many couples had been getting married in Glacier National Park for years and was always wowed by the photos. I didn’t think we could do that, being the eldest child with a big family, but What. A. Dream.
But since having guests at our wedding was no longer an option, eloping in Montana suddenly seemed like the perfect alternative to our original wedding.
If you’re looking to get married during this pandemic, I highly recommend eloping.
Here’s how to elope in Glacier National Park!
How to Elope in Glacier National Park
Eloping in Glacier National Park is relatively easy—here’s what you need to know:
1. Contact Glacier National Park to Get a Permit
First, Follow this link to print and fill out the PDF under the wedding permit section. Put this + $100 into an envelope and mail it to the designated address and wallah, you have requested your wedding venue! Cheapest venue ever, right?!
Make sure to follow up with the park as they will need to mail you the official permit, and you’ll need to mail a signed copy back to them (so leave yourself plenty of time for them to get back to you). I spoke to Justin and he helped me pick a spot to get married in (we were married at Ryan Meadow, which is near the west Glacier entrance right on Lake McDonald) and also sent me the official permit. I wanted to get married at Ryan Meadow because it was more private than other areas of the park, and I’m so glad we picked that one. Note that you can take photos anywhere in the park, but your actual ceremony needs a reservation.
Click here to see other beautiful ceremony spots!
2. Find an Officiant & a Photographer (if you want)
Kimberly of Studio KH took our wedding photos, and I can’t recommend her enough. She makes you feel beautiful and and will make your wedding day so fun!
Here are a few more options I had also been considering as back-ups:
But I’m obviously partial to Studio KH and highly recommend enquiring about her services
Jas and I had a friend living in Missoula, Montana, so she officiated our elopement. However, some of these photographers do offer packages that include an officiant, among other things like cake, videography, etc. so I would enquire about that if you’re looking for one.
Fun fact: anyone can marry you in the state of Montana, and you don’t need witnesses.
3. Apply for a Marriage License from the Kalispell Courthouse
Here is the link! You’ll need to pick this up before your wedding, and then return it after you’re married. Make sure to request a few copies if you’re looking to change your name (I got three).
4. Consider Wedding Details
Do you want flowers? I got a bouquet and boutonniere from Rose Mountain Floral. You can reach out to Janet through her website—she is wonderful to work with!
What about hair and makeup? Since I had already booked hair and makeup for the day, I kept my original stylist, Ty Nykole. I got so many compliments on my hair and highly recommend her.
Jas is 100% Polish and Polish weddings usually center around F-O-O-D. We ordered cupcakes from Fleur Bakeshop to celebrate (they are AMAZING)! We also brought mini bottles of champagne for everyone to pop one in a safe, coronavirus-friendly, way.
Lastly, when picking your wedding dress make sure it is easy to walk in/you can hike a little in it. My original dress had a long train and wasn’t altered yet, so I ended up finding a new one off of Still White, a used wedding dress site. It’s originally from BHLDN, which is also a great spot to find a dress!
5. Pick a Date
We wanted to get married on our original date, which was a Saturday, but I highly recommend getting married during the week if you can. Sunset/sunrise is usually best, so take a look at sunset time charts after you picked a day. We got married at 6 p.m. and it was the perfect amount of time (we finished taking photos at 10 p.m., sunset was at 9:30ish). Keep in mind that it takes an hour to drive from the entrance (where we got married) to Logan Pass.
If you want it to be warm, late July-August is your best bet. Also, the road to the top, Going to the Sun Road, is usually partially closed until July. So if you want to get those top of the mountain pics, make sure to plan your ceremony for later in the season. You can’t get married at Logan Pass (where the visitor center is), but you *can* get married at Big Bend (where these photos were taken), right before the road winds up to the visitor center. It’s a huge pullout, you can’t miss it!
6. Determine Plans for After Your Ceremony
Since my partner’s parents live in Raleigh and are older, we didn’t think it was fair for mine to come to the wedding, so we jointly decided that it would be only us. If you do a “mini-mony” as they are called, you can make dinner plans in Whitefish or Kalispell.
If you’re like us and are eloping, we highly recommend exploring the park after (especially with a photographer)!
Your photographer will probably know where to take photos, but here are a few spots that we scoped out:
Pull-outs along Lake McDonald
Pull-outs along McDonald Creek
Highline Trail (beginning—this is where we saw a goat!)
7. Figure Out Where To Stay
If you’re reading this and we’re still in the pandemic, know that in Whitefish masks are mandatory in public places, even at their outdoor farmer’s market, and we felt safe even while staying at a small inn in Whitefish.
We split our time between the Duck Inn (which we LOVED—the name doesn’t do it justice) and an Airbnb on Whitefish Mountain. Other places we considered were the Lodge at Whitefish Lake (absolutely beautiful) and the Firebrand Hotel. If you want to spend most of your time in Glacier, know that you’ll be in the car a lot if you stay in Whitefish, but you’ll also be closer to restaurants and other activities.
What Eloping in Glacier National Park is Like
Eloping in Montana is pretty stress-free compared to a standard big wedding. We slept in, wrote our vows in the morning (LOL) and took our time getting ready.
When we got to the park, we changed at the venue site (I changed in my photographer’s van, haha!) so we could a first look.
The ceremony was quick—10 minutes—and we read our personal vows in private. Ally, our friend/officiant, wrote the cutest, cheesiest vows and then told my partner he could “kiss the bride” in Polish (at least I think, I don’t speak Polish yet)!
Afterwards, we drank a celebratory drink with our two friends, ate a cupcake and then spent the rest of the night with my photographer taking photos and watching the sunset.
Highlights include: running in the road, stopping for a bathroom break at a trailhouse restroom (aka port-a-potty), watching the sun sink below the ridgeline, and having people honk and wave at us while they drove down the mountain.
A goat even crashed our sunset sesh while hiking on the Highline Trail. The trail is only a few feet wide and incredibly steep! We backed up against the mountain to let him go by!
All in all, it was a perfect day. If you’re considering eloping in Montana too, DO IT. You won’t regret it, I promise!