| November 17, 2020

How to Plan a Rocky Mountain National Park Wedding

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Rocky Mountain National Park Wedding

A Rocky Mountain National Park wedding is a truly special way to get married! We’re a little biased – two of Adventure Instead’s photographers (Maddie Mae & Amber) live in Colorado and we love our backyard national park fiercely. Over the years we’ve gotten to witness these mountains grow in popularity and the park becomes more strict about elopement ceremonies – because of this we want you to feel prepared and ready to plan your Rocky Mountain wedding the right way. It’s definitely still one of the most beautiful places on earth to say “I do,” and we’d love to guide you through the process to make it happen!

Below you’ll read a bit more about what makes this park so special, why we think a wedding in RMNP is one of the best ways to get married, plus all the details for how to make this happen – how to acquire a special event permit, where within the park you can perform a ceremony, and what rules you’ll need to follow. 

The Rockies – 3000 Miles of Wild Ridgeline Spanning North America

The Rocky Mountains span thousands of miles through the continent from northern British Columbia to New Mexico. Many of The Rockies highest peaks are in Colorado, which is what makes the national park such a special place – you feel quite literally on top of the world when you’re standing on these ridgelines. The longest thru-hike in the United States, the Continental Divide Trail, follows the course of these mountains and is considered one of the most difficult long-form hikes in the world. It’s no wonder that millions of people are drawn to the magnificence of this place – over 4.5 million people visited RMNP in 2019.

The national park itself is located just west of Denver, Colorado. It’s not just one of the most visited national parks in the US, it’s also one of the oldest. The borders of over 256 thousand acres of RMNP was established in 1915, and in 1976 UNESCO designated it a World Biosphere Reserve because of the incredibly special environment found here. The mountains are marked by crystal blue lakes, lush old-growth forests, and beautiful wildlife. While visiting you might see moose, elk, or even a bear! Much of the landscape is known as “alpine tundra,” which is particularly fragile but essential for the wildlife who live on these slopes.

On the eastern side, Estes Park is the gateway to The Rockies, and is a gorgeous place to stay if you’re looking to find a rustic mountain cabin to home-base in for your elopement adventure. It’s also where you can access most of what is designated “wilderness” or “backcountry” areas within the park – hundreds of miles of trails here can take you to some of the most stunning forests, waterfalls, and meadows. The geology of this region is part of what it makes it so stunningly beautiful – steep cliff sides and jagged ridgelines descend quickly into bowls and valleys.

Why You Should Have a Rocky Mountain Wedding

You should get married in Rocky Mountain National Park if you love the truly wild spaces! If hiking into the mountains is your idea of a fun weekend, this place is a wonderland. Even if you don’t want to hike to access your elopement location, there are plenty of spots within the park where you can drive right up to a viewpoint (like 3M Curve) and suddenly find yourself overlooking a vista it’s hard to imagine took basically no effort to reach!

A wedding in The Rockies isn’t for the faint of heart – you’ll be looking at high elevations, altitude that is no joke, unpredictable weather, and more cold days than heat waves. But, if none of that deters you, the reward is some of the most stunning scenery on earth! Summers in the park are more likely to have pleasant weather and incredible views. If you’re imagining a winter wonderland celebration, you’re more likely to find a spot to yourself. Basically, it’s a gorgeous place to get married year-round, but that depends on what kind of environment appeals to you. I always warn couples that you can find snow at the higher elevations basically 10 months out of the year, and that’s no exaggeration. If you’re interested in a Rocky Mountain wedding, we’ll give you a full run-down on what kind of weather you can expect from your location on your date – I’m sure we can find your dream wedding location at one of the ceremony posts listed below!

Getting Married at RMNP

First: Pick a Date

Choose a date at least a few months in advance to give yourself enough time to secure necessary permits for a wedding in RMNP.

Second: Pick a Ceremony Location

You’ll need to list your ceremony spot & date on your permit application.

Third: Secure Your Permits & Reservations

Every wedding, elopement, anniversary & engagement photography session requires a permit at RMNP. As of October 2020, permits were reduced to only 200 per year!

Finally: Have Your Dream Wedding!

You’ve worked out all the details. Now, all you have to do is get yourself to Colorado!

Permits: How, Why, & Where

**Current COVID-19 regulations restrict all RMNP weddings to 30 people (couple, guests, photographers, vendors, etc. included) and this will be the case throughout 2021.**

The Rule: If it looks like a wedding, sounds like a wedding, or in any way could be perceived to be a wedding – you need a permit.

In fact, you need to get a wedding permit to have any sort of celebratory event within RMNP – engagements, anniversaries, commitment ceremonies, wedding portraits, or elopements. 

As of Oct. 1, 2020 Rocky Mountain National Park is issuing a total of 250 permits for the following year, on a first come first served basis, to take place within the park in 2021. Only 6 weddings can occur on any single day within the park. To apply, you must email the completed application to romo_fees_permits@nps.gov. Mailed and faxed applications are no longer accepted. You can apply up to a year in advance, or no later than 7 days prior to the event.

There’s a full guide on the National Parks Service website outlining the process of applying for a RMNP wedding permit. Be warned – you don’t want to wait until the last minute – we’ve witnessed the number of allowed permits be reduced each year, and the park is only growing in popularity. We highly recommend applying for your RMNP wedding permit as soon as you know you want to get married in the park. 

Unlike many other national parks, which request that you send your application fee at the time you apply, RMNP specifically requests you not send in your $300 application fee until they have decided to approve your application. You’ll receive a followup email to sign and return. If at any point in the planning process you change some details, the park asks to be notified. You must have your permit in your possession at your ceremony.

What does it cost to have a RMNP wedding?

  • Wedding Permit (includes photography) – $300
  • Entrance Fee – $35 per car (or $80 America The Beautiful pass)
  • Campsite/Cabin – Varied $$$ 
  • Total: $335+

A Few RMNP Wedding Restrictions & Questions Answered:

  • You can have your dog (on leash) at some locations where weddings are allowed in the park. Dogs are allowed within 100 feet of the roads, and at the Moraine Park Discovery Center Amphitheater. Dogs are not allowed at Sprague Lake, Lily Lake, Alluvial Fan, Bear Lake, or Hidden Valley.
  • Amplified music is not permitted within the park. Live music under 60 decibels is allowed.
  • The Moraine Park Discovery Center Amphitheater is the only place within the park where you can have an arch.
  • Lily Lake Southside Picnic area is the only place within the park where you can have a designated picnic food reception following a wedding, but that required a separate special use permit.
  • Drones are prohibited from flying anywhere within Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Flower petals, birdseed, rice, and other materials natural or unnatural are prohibited from being “thrown or scattered.”
  • You can go other places than your designated ceremony location within the park for photos, but you must note those areas on your initial application.
  • In most places within the park setting up tables, chairs, or other structures is not permitted.

Rocky Mountain National Park Wedding Venues

3M Curve

Ceremony Size:15

Parking Spaces: 3

*Site Description: “3.5 miles from Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. Large rock outcrop overlooks mountains, meadows, and moraines.”

Alluvial Fan Bridge

Ceremony Size: 20

Parking Spaces: 5

*Site Description: “7 miles from Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on Old Fall River River. Large boulder-strewn river with waterfall, wooden foot bridge, aspen trees, restrooms. Very busy area during summer season.”

Bear Lake Nature Trail

Ceremony Size: 20

Parking Spaces: 5

*Site Description: “11 miles from Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. On Bear Lake with mountain views, aspen trees, restrooms. Very busy area year round.”

Copeland Lake

Ceremony Size: 30

Parking Spaces: 10

*Site Description: “13 miles from Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on Hwy 7 in Wild Basin. Lake with mountain views, forested area with some aspen trees. Restrooms nearby. Dogs permitted on leash.”

Harbison Meadow Picnic Area

Ceremony Size: 30

Parking Spaces: 10

*Site Description: “Large meadow with mountain view. No restrooms. Wildlife frequent the area. Adjacent to Trail Ridge Road.”

Hidden Valley

Ceremony Size: 30

Parking Spaces: –

*Site Description: “6 miles from the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. Aspens and pines, summer wildflowers, wooden foot bridge, restrooms, wheelchair accessible.”

Lily Lake Dock

Ceremony Size: 10

Parking Spaces: 10

*Site Description: “6.4 miles from Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on Hwy 7. 360° mountain views, lake, walking trail, restrooms, wheelchair-accessible trail.”

Lily Lake Trail & Lily Lake Southside Picnic Area

Ceremony Size: 20 / 30

Parking Spaces: 10

*Site Description: “6.4 miles from Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on Hwy 7. 1/4 mile walk on lake trail, mountain views, wheelchair-accessible trail. A knoll overlooks the lake and aspen trees.”

Moraine Park Visitor Center Amphitheater 

Ceremony Size: 30

Parking Spaces: 10

*Site Description: “2.7 miles from Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on Bear Lake Road. Pine trees, view of Moraine Park and Longs Peak, wooden benches, rustic amphitheater. Dogs permitted on leash.”

Sprague Lake

Ceremony Size: 15 summer / 30 winter

Parking Spaces: 3 summer / 10 winter

*Site Description: ”7 miles from Beaver Meadows Visitor Center on Bear Lake Road. Wheelchair-accessible trail, dramatic view of mountains and lake, dock, knoll, wooden foot bridge, restrooms. Very busy area.”

Timber Creek Campground Amphitheatre

Ceremony Size: 10

Parking Spaces: 5

*Site Description: “Partial views of Colorado River, restrooms. Large campground nearby. Wheelchair accessible.”

Upper Beaver Meadows

Ceremony Size: 30

Parking Spaces: 10

*Site Description: “1.5 miles from the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. Views of Continental Divide, open meadows, restrooms. No vehicle access in winter.”

For more detail about each of these locations, check out our blog on How to Elope in Rocky Mountain National Park or check out the listing on Rocky Mountain National Park’s website (*site descriptions above came directly from RMNP).

Ready to plan your Rocky Mountain National Park wedding or elopement?

We can’t wait to help you plan your DREAM celebration!

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Maddie Mae

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Your Elopement Photographers & Planning Consultants. We are Maddie Mae, Amber, and Tori. We're your photographers, your elopement consultants, your cheerleaders, and your go-to adventure buddy on the day you say your vows.

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