We’ve been planning traditional weddings for ten years and while we enjoy a large celebration shared with extended friends and family, we are drawn to the intimacy and uniqueness of small weddings and elopements – especially those at Glacier National Park. It’s definitely an incredible place to tie the knot and we can’t recommend getting married in this park enough! Even though intimate weddings are less complicated, they still have their unique set of challenges to overcome to ensure a successful wedding.
Below are some of the challenges couples face when planning the perfect Glacier wedding. With the right awareness and preparation, we’re certain your wedding will be even more than you dreamed it would be!
Glacier’s peak wedding season lasts for only about four months. During this time, a limited number of permits are issued for each of their designated wedding ceremony locations. Glacier’s visitation increases every year and it’s becoming a popular wedding destination. With the short season and increase in permit applications, there’s a chance that your desired ceremony location may not be available on your chosen date. There are specific locations that can be particularly difficult to secure a permit for.
Submit your permit application as early as possible! It can take some time to be approved for a permit so it’s best to request your favorite location sooner than later. Glacier asks that you provide three desired locations along with preferred ceremony times. They do a great job of accommodating requests as long as the permit is filled out properly and completely. And it’s likely you’ll get your ideal location if you’re flexible regarding your ceremony start time. If you’d like a specific time, i.e. a sunset ceremony, we suggest that you apply for some of the more off-the-beaten-path wedding locations. A few of our favorites are Kintla Lake and Wild Goose Island Overlook. Shhhhh….
Sunset at Glacier provides amazing light for photos! (Carrie Ann Photography)
An (approved) wedding permit issued by Glacier National Park ensures that your requested location is reserved for up to one hour (some spots are only 30 minutes). The permit confirms that there will be no other events at that exact location and at that specified time. However, the permit does not prohibit other park visitors from visiting the general area during the permitted ceremony time. All of the approved wedding locations are open to the general public; therefore, the park cannot guarantee a completely private ceremony.
Unfortunately, we’ve dealt with stubborn park visitors who’ve refused to respect our ceremony. We’ve also had other wedding photographers shooting within sight of our permitted ceremony location – talk about a distraction!
Be prepared to share your big day with other park visitors. (Amber Lynn Photography)
The best way to limit disruptions from other park visitors is to plan a ceremony outside of peak visitation hours. We suggest avoiding the middle of the day if at all possible. If you really want a quiet ceremony with private views, a sunrise ceremony is a great option. Glacier is technically open 24 hours a day so you can enter the park as early as you desire and if you arrive before sunrise there’s a good chance you’ll see more wildlife than people! If rising before the sun isn’t your thing, it’s hard to go wrong with a sunset ceremony. Typically, visitors have left the park by this time so it’s a lot quieter. Sunrise/sunset ceremonies also provide the added benefit of ideal lighting conditions for the best photos – it’s a win, win!
The weather at Glacier National Park varies greatly from day to day and can be difficult to predict, especially when planning a wedding six months to a year in advance. Winds can be extreme at specific locations, particularly at the east side of the park. And the dramatic landscape at high elevations creates the perfect scenario for increased rainfall. There’s no way we can’t mention that it could snow in any given month - it’s Montana after all! And lastly, a weather condition that is often overlook is smoke. Nearby wildfires can ruin the dramatic views that Glacier is known for.
“Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.” – John Ruskin.
Our greatest suggestion for handling poor weather is to have a positive attitude regardless of the wedding day conditions. We advise that you enter the planning process with the understanding that Montana is a wild place with wild weather and that anything is possible. That said, there are a few ways to increase the likelihood of having favorable conditions on wedding day.
Planning a wedding between June and September is ideal as the weather is the mildest during these months. Be mindful of the geography and elevation of your desired wedding location. Sites like Sun Point are known to have windier conditions and areas such as Big Bend that are higher in elevation mean colder temps. compared to locations surrounding Lake McDonald, for example. Smoke season is typically later in the summer so be aware of that when planning a wedding in August. Ultimately, Mother Nature is very powerful and impossible to control. The best we can do is cooperate with her.
A beautifully mysterious wedding at Lake McDonald (Michelle Arnold Photography)
The wind at Sun Point created epic dress photos! (Dina Remi Studios)
Rainy conditions provided dramatic views around Lake McDonald (Elsa Eileen Photography)
We’ve discussed these challenges not to scare you away from a Glacier National Park Wedding but to better prepare you and to help you plan the perfect day. There’s no doubt that Glacier is our favorite wedding spot and we hope that these quick tips make your planning process a little smoother and less stressful. This also isn’t an exhaustive list of challenges but ones we see people struggle with the most. If you’re overwhelmed and need help, we’re here for you and are happy to answer any Glacier wedding-related questions. Happy Planning!