Washington National Park Elopement | How to Get a Special Use Permit

Do you need a permit for your Washington National Park elopement? The short answer is YES! Mount Rainier, Olympic and North Cascades National Parks all vary in size, the amount of visitors they see each year and the natural and cultural resources they protect. For that reason, each park sets its own special use permit requirements. 

Obtaining a special use permit for your elopement or intimate wedding helps the parks manage the potential interference of other visitors’ experience, congestion of popular spots and overuse or damage of the natural resources that particular park was established to protect.

While you should technically get a special use permit for elopements and intimate weddings of every size within Washington’s National Parks, we know many don’t for elopements with no or just a few guests. The reality is that the parks don’t have the staff to chase down and kick out every group–Just know, if you do get stopped by a ranger, you could be asked to show your permit, even fined and/or asked leave the park. That would be a pretty big bummer on your wedding day!

Whatever you decide, be sure to follow the Leave No Trace principles and don’t take/share photos that promote poor LNT practices! We know other vendors that have been fined after the fact because they didn’t know (or chose to ignore) the rules and restrictions–They posted photos on social media that broke the rules, tagged the parks, rangers saw the photos and mailed their businesses tickets!

Special use permits are super easy to get and we’ve never had a couple denied for one! Again, the priority is to keep an eye on the popular spots to ensure they aren’t damaged. It’s a good excuse for the parks to touch base with each couple and educate them properly. It’s nothing to be afraid of!

Mount Rainier National Park

Of Washington’s 3 National Parks, Mount Rainier National Park’s rules and restrictions are definitely the most specific!

  • The special use permit application for your Mount Rainier National Park elopement can be found here!
  • Submit your application at least 4 weeks prior to your wedding day. Although, we recommend applying as soon as you know you want to get married in the park!
  • Be sure to read through the restrictions and conditions section, under ‘Permit for Weddings’
    • Party size will determine which ceremony locations you will be allowed to use
    • Even if you have a permit, you can’t impede on the activities of other visitors
      • Don’t ask other guests to move or to not watch
      • Don’t hog the best view points/block off areas
      • Keep the noise down and make sure any music isn’t too profane or obnoxious
    • Special setups, like flower arrangements, rugs, etc., require special permission. No chairs or tents allowed!
    • No throwing of rice or confetti in the park
    • If you have professional photography/videography, include their contact info on the application–Additional permissions are required for professional photographers/videographers

***Wedding permits are issued to couples NOT photographers/videographers or planners

  • We do NOT recommend the Paradise & Sunrise areas on Saturdays and Sunday during peak season (Memorial Day-Labor Day)
  • To apply:
    • Download and fill out the application
    • Email your application to mora_special_use@nps.gov
    • You will be sent directions on how to pay the $60 non-refundable application fee

Olympic National Park

  • The special use permit application for your Olympic National Park elopement can be found here!
  • Submit your application at least 3-4 weeks before your wedding day. Again, we recommend applying as soon as you know you want to get married in the park!
  • To apply:
    • Scroll down to ‘Weddings & Ceremonies’
    • Download, print and fill out the application
    • Mail your application and the $50 non-refundable application fee to: Olympic National Park 600 East Park Avenue Port Angeles, WA 98362
    • In addition, it is recommended that you send an email, using the contact form on the same page, to let them know the application and payment are on the way. Include your purpose and requested date

North Cascades National Park

  • Information on the special use permit application for your North Cascades National Park elopement can be found here!
  • If you have a professional photographer/videographer, they are required to apply for a Commercial Use Applications
  • To apply:
    • Scroll down to ‘Weddings and Group Gatherings’ for more information
    • To receive application materials for your wedding or elopement, please call the Commercial Services Office: 360-854-7213
    • The $50 non-refundable application fee can be made online at pay.gov–A copy of your payment confirmation receipt from pay.gov must be forwarded to the Commercial Services Office

If your application is approved by one of the parks above, you will be sent a copy of the permit to review and sign. You will need to return the signed copy to the park for the superintendent’s signature, along with any additional requirements. A copy signed by the superintendent will be returned to you–You must have this copy with you during your permitted activity!

Bonus Info: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest

Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest covers more land in Washington than any of the 3 National Parks and includes some extremely popular locations like Artist Point (Mount Baker Ranger District) and Gold Creek Pond (Snoqualmie Ranger District). Non-commercial events (events where guests/participants are not charged a fee and the primary purpose of the event is not for sale of goods or services) under 75 do NOT technically require a permit (see below). However, we NEVER recommend weddings this big! We usually suggest a MAX of 25 people.

***NOTE: The Mount Baker Ranger District has seen an increase in weddings and elopements in the area and while it’s not required, they have asked couples to “apply” so that the rangers can keep tabs on things

  • Your permit is NOT a reservation
  • Submit your application at least 1 month before your wedding day
  • Do not throw rice, seeds or confetti
  • Roping off areas is not allowed
  • Flags, signage and balloons to notify guests of your ceremony location are not allowed
  • Stay off of sensitive vegetation
  • Do no block the flow of vehicle or hiker traffic
  • Permit does not exempt guests from paying for the NW Forest Pass/$5.00 per car
  • Carpooling is highly recommended
  • In the event of inclement weather, events are not allowed in Heather Meadows Visitor Center
  • Please follow the Leave No Trace Principles
  • Have a backup plan in case of road washouts, etc. (Artist Point is often closed from Austin Pass/Heather Meadows Visitor Center but you can hike up along the road, ~2 miles)
  • To apply:

As elopements become more and more popular and parks/public lands around the country become more and more strict. Let’s take care of these spaces and play by the rules! Never guess on whether or not you need to get a permit! Always call the local ranger station for more information, they will be happy to assist you!!

Need help planning your Washington National Park elopement or intimate wedding? Contact The Greatest Adventure Weddings & Elopements to set up a complimentary consultation!

Cheers & happy planning!

Erika