Shenandoah National Park, filled with so much beauty and wonder, is one of all time my favorite spots to photograph an elopement! There are so many adventurous hikes and breathtaking vistas that would be perfect for any couple seeking a unique place to celebrate their wedding day. But, as with any elopement spot, the celebration is only as good as the preparations you put into it! So, here are my top six tips for any couples hoping to say “I do” in Shenandoah National Park.
1.RESEARCH THE RULES
The first thing to remember is that Shenandoah is a national park, and because of this, permits are required for many events held there. While this adds an extra step to your to-do list, it actually benefits you on your wedding day. These permits help the park regulate how many people are in the park, protecting it from overcrowding and destruction. In Shenandoah, if you have over 15 people in your ceremony you are required to get a permit. More information can be found here.
2.CHOOSE YOUR SEASON
When planning an elopement I always tell my couples to think about the backdrop they want to see in their elopement photos. Shenandoah is a national park where all four seasons can be fully experienced, so consider whether you want spring flowers, summer foliage, or brilliant fall colors. Then, get a bit more particular by looking up leaf forecasts or wildflower charts for the area. And when eloping outside, it’s vital to consider the weather and how it can change suddenly and drastically, especially in the mountains.
3.SELECT THE TIME
Once you’ve chosen the season, then it’s time to choose the exact time for your ceremony. I recommend eloping at sunrise or golden hour, a.k.a about an hour and a half before sunset, for the best photos! While getting married at sun up sounds a little extreme, there are rarely any other people around, giving you that crowd-free, intimate ceremony of your dreams.
4.FIND A SPOT
Now, you get to choose the exact spot for your elopement. Here are a few of my tried and true favorites:
- Overrun Waterfall
- Signal Knob Overlook
- Hazel Mountain Overlook
- Spitler Knoll Overlook
- Skyline Drive Overlooks
- Stony Man Trail
- Upper Hawksbill Trail
5.SET THE ACTIVITIES
Believe it or not, an elopement isn’t just showing up, saying “I do,” taking a few pictures, and then leaving. You can plan all sorts of exciting activities to celebrate your Shenandoah wedding day, including:
- exchanging gifts
- reading vows
- hiring a musician for the ceremony
- asking your family members and friends who aren’t present to record themselves giving little speeches for your “reception”
- an intimate picnic on top of a mountain or at a viewpoint
- staying overnight in a cabin
- going stargaze
- planning a hike
- having a bonfire that night
- renting a getaway car to drive along The Skyline Drive
6.LEAVE NO TRACE
As any great explorer knows, the goal is to leave the beautiful places we find just as we found them for the next group to enjoy! Leaving no trace after an elopement is extremely important to me, and I always ensure we never leave anything behind. For example, confetti, food, flowers, and extra trash should all be carefully collected and removed. Couples are so lucky to have Shenandoah National Park play a part in their wedding day, so let’s promise to care of this beautiful park together.
Photographs taken during mentorship with Lexie Hand.