March 15, 2021

Shenandoah National Park Wedding Guide For Nature Lovers

All the info you need to know before having a wedding in Shenandoah National Park
(and how I can help you have your dream elopement day there)!

If you’re an east coaster, or just love those Virginia views, having a Shenandoah wedding is a lovely option. This special place is one of the best national parks on the east coast (in my opinion). The long stretch of road is filled with hiking trails, waterfalls, and vistas for miles where you can spend your elopement day enjoying all that nature has to offer.

Best Time of Year
To Have a Wedding in Shenandoah

The best time of year to have a wedding in Shenandoah ultimately depends on what season and activities you want for your elopement day. Fall is one of the busiest seasons in the park due to leaf lookers, for good reason. It is beautiful! You can expect to see more people on the trail (even for sunrises) this time of year.

There is limited access to the park in the winter months (November – April typically). That’s because sections of the road may close due to inclement weather. Spring is the least crowded time in the park but still just as beautiful as any other season. This area gets all 4 seasons, so no matter what weather you are dreaming of for your elopement day, you can typically find it in Shenandoah.

Summer and fall are the busiest months with visitors to the park. That’s why I ALWAYS suggest choosing a weekday for your wedding. This will help to minimize how crowded your elopement day experience will feel.

Where to Stay
For Your Shenandoah Wedding

Camping

Camping is always a fun way to celebrate your elopements, whether you decide you want to live the tent life, have a camper, or rent a campervan, you’ve got lots of options for staying inside the park for a low price!
There are 5 campgrounds within the park: Mathews Arm, Big Meadows, Lewis Mountain, Loft Mountain, and Dundo.
The campground are only open ranging from March – November depending on the campground you choose. Some take reservations and some are first come first served. I always suggest reserving a campsite ahead of time so you know you have somewhere to stay and will be less stressed in the process of your wedding. Each campground also have different amenities so be sure you find the right one for what kind of stay you are looking for.

Lodges

There are 3 lodges inside of the National Park: Skyland, Big Meadows Lodge, and Lewis Mountain Cabins and Campstore.

They similarly are open around the same time of year as the campgrounds from March – November and each have a wide array of options for style of lodging if you prefer a more comfortable setting for your elopement or wedding experience.

You also have the option of reserving one of the PATC cabins that the Appalachian Trail Club has built around the area. The cabins are equipped with mattresses, blankets, and cookware, with a pit toilet and spring water nearby.

Local

There are quite a few different little towns speckled around the long length of the park. One thing to remember is that it does take a while to traverse the road and get down the mountain, so staying in towns will require a bit more travel time.

You can look up airbnb or vrbo rentals in the area depending on the size of your group for your wedding or elopement.

I always suggest finding somewhere that you feel really cozy, comfortable, and excited to stay. I would suggest to book a place to stay as far in advance as possible!

Fees, Passes, & Permits

You do NOT need a permit to get married in Shenandoah National Park if you have 15 participants or less (including all your vendors) and don’t have any sort of set-up. If you have more people or want to set something up like an arch, chairs, music, etc. you will need a Special Use Permit. Either way you choose, it is best to contact the office about your chosen locations ahead of time to ensure there isn’t already a permit reserved for that date.

There are additional restrictions on your pass for your elopement ceremony listed on their website and advised in your permit acceptance. The size of your elopement also determines which locations may be used for wedding ceremonies. The larger the size, the fewer options provided. I always suggest keeping things small and simple for elopements on public land!

You also need a pass to get into the park itself, whether that means that you buy a single vehicle pass that gets one car into the park for 7 consecutive days ($30 total) or you have a general America The Beautiful Pass (usually around $80/year) which provides you with a few other perks if you visit national parks frequently. If you plan on visiting the park multiple more times that year you could purchase the Annual pass (55 total), but you likely won’t be doing that unless you live nearby!
Permitting can change at any time, so be sure to check the website below for any updates.

OFFICIAL PERMIT INFO

What to Wear
For A Shenandoah National Park Wedding

Depending on the time of year, you can wear different things!
The main thing to remember is that it always gets colder the higher in elevation you go, and wind can make a big difference in temperature. Make sure you bring layers so that you can adjust as necessary. Hats, gloves, scarves, thermal under layers are never a bad idea.

It is always better to be over prepared than under prepared.

For shoes, you are going to want something super comfortable, durable, and with plenty of traction. You might be walking through mud, dust, water, and over rocks. Hiking boots are usually the best bet when it comes to your wedding day shoes.
If you are wearing a dress, I always suggest dresses that are loose around the hips and light and flowy. You don’t want anything keeping you from moving around, taking normal steps, and weighing you down.

Comfort is always key to having a fun elopement day.
The more comfortable you are, the more present in the moment you are going to be to enjoy the experience with your partner.

What to Do
During Your Shenandoah National Park Wedding

Whether you want to spend the day (or multiple days) doing a mix of things, or focus on one, there are a tons of options of fun outdoor activities to choose from for your elopement inside the park.


Day Hiking: You can’t go wrong spending the day hiking to beautiful views and through gorgeous scenery.

Backpacking (need a permit): If you’re wanting more privacy and up for a bit of an adventure, backpacking in to a beautiful spot for the night is a great option! But you will need to get a backpacking permit ahead of time.

Picnics:
Everyone loves a good picnic, and what could be better than having one with a beautiful view in the outdoors.

Camping:
Since there are a few campgrounds to choose from in the park, why not enjoy them for at least a night or two

Campfire:
Speaking of camping, one of the best parts is having a cozy fire at the end of the day to wind down. You can have s’mores or even enjoy your first dance around the campfire to make it even more special. These moments make for lovely images!

Waterfall exploring:
There are lots of awesome waterfalls speckled throughout Shenandoah, so make sure you take some time to explore at least one while you’re there!

Swimming: If you’re heading to a waterfall, there might just be some swimming holes at the bottom or along the way. If it’s summer, why not take the opportunity to jump in and make a new memory while you cool off.

Marriage Legalities
in Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is located in Virginia and the Virginia laws for marriages require a few steps:
1 – Obtain a marriage license for $30 from a local Clerk office (the license is good for 60 days)
2 – Hire an ordained minister to officiate your wedding/elopement

You might not want to deal with the legalities or hiring an officiant to hike around with you. If that’s the case, you can always plan to get officially married at a different time. Maybe at the courthouse or a different way in your before or after your elopement experience. Lots of my couples choose this option to have total freedom over their day.

How to Get Around

You will definitely want to rent a car for an elopement at Shenandoah! If you live nearby though, you can always take a road trip and driving the whole way there! You don’t need a car with 4WD to get through the park since everything is generally paved.
A car gives you freedom to get around how and whenever you want. That flexibility is very important for an adventure elopement day in the park.

Choosing a Wedding Location
in Shenandoah

Choosing your location(s) for your intimate wedding or elopement in Shenandoah National Park can be tricky. Why? There are so many to choose from! Hiring a photographer/videographer/planner who can help you pick the perfect places and the perfect times to avoid crowds is going to be key in creating your ideal elopement day.

I personally spend hours scouting & researching in my personal life for fun! But also to be able to suggest locations and hikes based on each of my couples desires and abilities.

Some of the more popular locations are:

  • Hawksbill Mountain
    A short hike up to a rocky ledge and a manmade viewing platform make for a great location (but it can get busy, even at sunrise!)
  • Stony Man
  • Old Rag (for the super adventurous hikers)
  • Dark Hollow Falls

How Much Coverage You Need
For a Shenandoah National Park Wedding

A majority of my couples choose to celebrate their day with no stress, no rush, and no strict timelines. Because of that, we plan a day that ranges from 6 – 10 hours. The day is full of experiences that you will be able to remember forever through your film and photos. But, you also will have the best memories in your brain, which is always the most important!

That might sound like a lot of time, but you would be amazed at how quickly it goes when you’re having fun. It flies by when you’re enjoying each other, nature and views around you!

Shenandoah Elopement Inspiration

Feel like you are physically in the park while watching the film of Brithany + Dhruvin’s Shenandoah elopement adventure.
Sometimes all you need is a little inspiration!

“I feel like no matter how many times I try to write this review, it can’t do justice to the amazing experience we had working with Kathryn! Kathryn is AMAZING! <3

My husband and I just knew from our first phone call that we had to work with her. During our talk, we felt like we could be ourselves during the whole process. She was supportive in what we wanted in our elopement and it never felt like we had to do something that wasn’t us.

As for the video, we love our wedding film! It was exactly what we were hoping for! She was able to capture the natural silly moments, the foliage on our hikes, the giggles, our dog’s ears flapping in the wind, and the mountain views. Kathryn is a storyteller and we love not only the way she captured the details, but the emotions of the day.

— BRITHANY + DRUVIN

The Perfect Photographer/Videographer
for your Shenandoah Wedding

Finding the right person who can capture your elopement day AND help with planning isn’t an easy task. You deserve something that is unique as your relationship is!

I’m Kathryn (that very pale, big smiled face in the photo above). I love to help couples create outdoor elopement days that focus on your experience. That matters just as much as your final photos and video. I believe your elopement day shouldn’t be a photoshoot, it should be filled with memories and moments that make you happy. The most beautiful photos and films come from simply share that special story.

I’d love to help you plan and capture your epic Shenandoah National Park wedding.
Reach out to see if I’m your girl!

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