The Ultimate Guide to Shenandoah National Park Weddings + Elopements

A bride and groom kissing at sunrise on the top of a mountain in Shenandoah National Park after their elopement wedding. The brides dress and hair blows in the wind and she holds a bright colored bouquet.

So you’re dreaming of

Getting Married in Shenandoah National Park

Well, you’ve come to the right place! I’m Hayley-Ann, a Shenandoah National Park adventure wedding photographer and I’m here to help make the experience of planning your incredible wedding day stress free and simple (+ maybe a little fun too). This guide walks you through the process step-by-step and lays out everything you need to know in order to plan an elopement or small wedding in the park. From permit info, to location and lodging suggestions, getting your marriage license, to sample timelines, elopement photography packages and more, this guide is the best place to start. And, I’m stoked for you to see all that this amazing park has to offer!

bride in blue dress kissing her groom in front of a waterfall surrounded by trees with yellow and orange leaves

Why choose Shenandoah?

  • Diverse landscapes
  • Incredible sunrises and sunsets
  • Jaw-dropping fall foliage
  • Epic + accessible views of the Blue Ridge Mountains
  • Hidden waterfalls
  • Great spot for a romantic getaway
  • A nature lover’s dream

Shenandoah National Park boasts stunning landscapes and no shortage of things to do – which makes it a perfect place for an elopement or small wedding. In Shenandoah, you can have a wedding deep in the woods, in a wild field, on top of a mountain, or even at the base of a rushing waterfall.

And, the park is home to the iconic Skyline Drive (that runs through the its entire 105 mile length) dotted with its seventy-six overlooks, which allow you to get epic views for minimal effort. So whether you’re looking to hike parts of the Appalachian Trail or pull off the road to an overlook with a gorgeous view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, beauty and adventure can be found in every corner of the park no matter what you choose to do!

groom kisses his bride on the forehead as her hair blows in the breeze

How to get to Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia about 2 hours north of Richmond. The most southern end of the park is 35 miles west of Charlottesville and the most northern part is 70 miles or about 1½ hours west of Washington, DC. Because the overlooks, lodges, visitor centers, and most trailheads are accessed from Skyline Drive, it’s best to travel the park by car (motorcycles are very popular too!). There are no shuttles.

If you’re coming from out of state, it’s best to fly in and rent a car from the airport. You can check flights arriving into Washington Dulles International (IAD), Reagan National (DCA),  Charlottesville-Albermarle (CHO) or Richmond International (RIC) if you don’t mind a little extra driving. 

** One other important thing to note — if you are using GPS directions, particularly Apple Maps, they will sometimes direct you to the park via routes you can’t take, like emergency or fire roads. There are a handful of hikes that start at boundary trailheads, but you can only access Skyline Drive through four different entrance stations. Check out the map below to see the location of these entrances, popular hikes, visitor centers and more.

Step 1: Ask yourself – “Who will be there?”

When you picture yourself getting married, who can you not imagine the day without? Your biggest supporters, your closest family, or your best friends – you can definitely include them! Or, maybe you want an incredible “just-us” experience!

Take some time to make a list of who you and your partner want to be surrounded by on your wedding day. Then, decide if you want those people to be at your ceremony or just for other parts throughout the day.

bride and groom walk past cars to meet their guests at a Skyline Drive overlook before their wedding ceremony in  a field with mountain views

Do we need a permit to get married in Shenandoah National Park?

Nobody likes the answer “it depends” but this one is pretty easy. If you are having 15 or less total participants (including yourselves, your photographer, an officiant and any other vendors) for a simple, stand-up ceremony you do not need a special use permit. 16 or more total participants and you’ll need to apply for a special use permit to have your wedding in Shenandoah National Park.

You’ll also need to apply for a special use permit if you plan to have a ceremony with any kind of set-up like: an arch, chairs, awning, decorations, or music. The Shenandoah National Park permit page also states that ceremonies with any set-up or music, or those with 30 or more total participants, are only allowed to take place in a park amphitheater or through an arrangement with their authorized Concessionaire, Delaware North at Shenandoah (DNC).

**Your special use permit must be received by the permit office at least 6 weeks before your wedding date. It’s always better to do it earlier if you can because there is no guarantee the permit will be approved and you’ll want extra time to figure out a backup. When you’re ready with a date, time, and location for your ceremony, head to the ceremony permit page, print out the special use permit application and fill it out. Then mail it to the address at the top of the form along with the $150 application fee.

Know the rules of the park for your wedding

The rules below are taken from the Shenandoah National Park website. Before solidifying any plans, it is important to read their entire page about rules and regulations regarding weddings as they update it regularly.

  • Any ceremony or gathering taking place at an authorized overlook on a Saturday or Sunday during the months of October or November must be completed no later than 10 A.M.
  • Throwing rice, petals, confetti, or any other materials of any kind is strictly prohibited.
  • Music, setup, or decorations of any kind are not authorized (except with permits at an amphitheater or at a location approved by the DNC). Audio devices are not permitted at any time. Non-amplified music must be approved.
  • Do not bring in any outside chairs, they must be rented from the DNC to avoid bringing invasive insects or plants into the park.
  • The maximum number of participants for weddings and ceremonies held within park boundaries is limited to 100. Please be advised the amphitheater chosen for the wedding or ceremony will dictate the maximum number of participants based on the seating capacity of the facility.
  • All cars entering the park must pay the entrance fee. But, advance payment for guests can be arranged.
  • All involved must stay on the designated trails and follow all signage.
  • Weddings + ceremonies are not allowed in or around the visitor centers.
  • You must be parked legally and it cannot be reserved in advance.
  • Ceremonies are NOT allowed in Big Meadows itself. But, you can use the nearby Tanner’s Ridge Overlook.
  • Live plants and flowers are allowed but ceremonies in the front country, certain authorized overlooks or trails are limited to only corsages, chaplets, boutonnieres and handheld flowers. If you wish to have any flowers on the ground, on an arch, or in any other form, it must be at an amphitheater.
  • Pick up any fallen petals, leaves, stems, and all other plant parts before you leave the area.
  • Pack it out- dispose of any trash or waste outside of the park boundaries.
  • The park reserves the right to have a ranger monitor the permitted activity
  • When the ceremony is complete and in keeping with the Leave No Trace policy, check to ensure leaving nothing behind and quietly leave the area as good as you found it, or better.
a bride and groom look out at the blue and purple mountains of the shenandoah valley

Step 2: Choose when to elope in Shenandoah National Park

Which season should I get married in?

bride and groom walk through the forest in the spring grass is on the ground the bride is wearing a green sweater and wedding dress


I love spring in Shenandoah. It is still pretty quiet in terms of other visitors and it’s incredibly special seeing the park come back to life after winter. By late April, green is usually starting to return and by the end of May it has really spread across the mountains. You’ll also start to see wildflowers pop up in the second half of the season! And, spring is the best time to do a waterfall hike before the summer heat decreases their volume and the summer crowds hit the trails.

Spring is such a mixed bag in terms of weather though, you could have rain, sun, or snow- so it’s always best to be prepared! March is still quite cold and in May you might still need a good jacket, especially in the morning.

For the past two years, besides October, April has been my busiest month for Shenandoah National Park elopements.

a groom dips his bride into a kiss in the middle of a wildflower meadows


By June the park is a stunning lush green, the ferns have bloomed, trees are all green (or colored with flowers) and the weather is starting to be warm all day.

By July and August, the weather is hot – particularly mid-day. Being in the mountains can be up to 10 degrees cooler compared to the towns nearby. But, if you’re hiking mid-day that sun is still strong, consider a hike to a waterfall or through the forest to stay under cover. Sunrise elopements are best this time of year to beat the heat and avoid some of the bugs that come with it. Bug spray is a must in the summers.

Summer is the perfect time if you love being by the water and plan to hop into a waterfall or plan to tube down the Shenandoah River.

groom leads his bride through orange and red meadows in the fall


Fall is THE busiest time in Shenandoah National Park. But for a good reason- it is gorgeous! The mountains get vibrant and covered with yellow and orange.

By late September, the weather has started to cool down a little and although the majority of the park is still a lush green, you might see some yellows and orange leaves starting to pop up. By October the leaves are changing all over and the park looks like magic. People get to there super early for campsites and lines at entrance stations on weekends can be very long (like 2+ hours). Sunrise is a must for elopements on the weekends! The park requires all weddings at overlooks in October and November to be done no later than 10am.

By late October and early November, you’ll need to pack a warm outer layer as it starts to cool down but you can still find beautiful colors. By the end of November, the crowds fade, the roads and trails can get icy, and the mountains turn brown and purple.

*Peak week for fall leaves in the park changes from year to year depending on the weather leading up to it. In 2021 peak was in the last week of October going into the first few days of November. In 2022, peak was around the second week of October. Also keep in mind that the trees at higher elevations will turn colors and lose their leaves sooner than those at lower elevations. And, you can find color in the park weeks before and after the “peak.”

bride and groom walk in the forest away from the camera holding hands through the snow


By December, the crowds have gone elsewhere. Winter is the quietest season in the park, and during the week you can sometimes go a full day with only seeing a handful of people. Skyline Drive will likely have a few road closures so it’s (always) a good idea to have a backup location. We sometimes do get snow in Virginia and the mountains usually get it first.

Sunrises and sunsets are extra beautiful this time of year because of the lower humidity and wind in the atmosphere. It can be quite cold especially with the wind chill so make sure to bundle up with a warm coat and gloves you’re excited to be photographed in. But it’s worth it for the amazing purple and blues of the mountains.

What day of the week is best?

My advice is always choose a weekday if you can! Here are some benefits of planning your Shenandoah National Park wedding on a weekend:

  • The park will be less crowded and parking for popular trails will be easier to grab
  • A cool or rare Airbnb will be less likely to be already booked
  • You can use the time off as a mini honeymoon (wrap it around a weekend for an even longer vacation)
  • You could have more time with any out of town guests
  • Hotels and airfare are less expensive
  • Wedding vendors will have more availability
  • You can choose a fun date or one with sentimental value

Also, be on the lookout for holiday weekends and National Park Free Entrance Days as those will have more visitors than normal.

If you can’t choose a weekday because maybe your guests can’t make it or you can’t take the time off work, have your ceremony at sunrise, choose a more off-the-beaten-path location (your elopement photographer should be able to help you), or keep your guest count low so you can be flexible with the spot you choose and pivot on the day of it is crowded.

What time of day is best?


Sunrise is my favorite time for elopements and wedding in Shenandoah National Park. It is least busy time of day- so much so that there have been a few days where I have been on the busiest trails and didn’t see another person for a whole hour after the sun came up. The light at sunrise is beautiful and sometimes golden or pink, and the light for the next hour or two is still soft and flattering.

What better way to start your wedding day than by actually getting married- then you have the whole rest of the day to celebrate however you’d like! Tip: the best sunrise colors often come before the actual sunrise time.

a bride and groom hug in a big field


Sunset and golden hour (the time right before sunset) is also amazing light for photos. If it’s a clear day, the light is an orange-gold glow that makes everything look fantastic! Sunset is also less busy in the park than the middle of the day because most people have finished hiking by then and are heading out of the park for dinner. Some overlooks will be busy though, as visitors like to pull over on their way out of the park to enjoy the views.

Sunset elopements are great for couples who want to take advantage of golden hour but don’t want to wake up early (particularly if they want hair and makeup done). You have the whole day and afternoon to do fun activities and hang out and then you save the best for last- saying “I do.” But the fun doesn’t have to stop at sunset, you could also plan a candlelit dinner back at your airbnb, sharing stories around a firepit with your families, or watching the stars come up. Tip: if you are hiking near and plan to enjoy the sunset, don’t forget to pack a flashlight or headlamp for your walk back.

bride and groom pop champagne in the mountains laughing


I don’t usually recommend a mid-day centric timeline because it is the busiest time in the park, it’s the hottest time of day in the summer, and it’s when the light is not as flattering for photos. The sun being directly overhead can cast harsh shadows on the face on a clear day. Although I’ve shot many elopements mid-day and know how to edit those photos to still get amazing images, most couples choose to save the photos that are most important to them (like their vows, ceremony, or couples portraits) for the best light – golden hour either at sunrise or sunset.

picnic in the woods a bride and groom feeding each other breakfast bagels surrounded by flowers

Step 3: What activities can we do during our wedding day in Shenandoah?

Just because you’re having an elopement or small wedding doesn’t mean you have to have small plans. Your wedding day is more than just a quick ceremony and a few photos. The Shenandoah Valley has so much more to offer! Here are some ideas that could make your wedding day extra special.

In the park you could:

  • Have a picnic
  • Cut a cake
  • Ride bikes
  • Cruze down Skyline Drive (you could even rent a vintage car or a convertible for extra fun)
  • Hike
  • Have a champagne toast
  • Take a dip in a waterfall
  • Read letters from family
  • Go fishing
  • Have a first dance in the forest
  • Stargaze

Outside the park you could:

  • Go to a brewery or winery
  • Take a hot air balloon ride
  • Relax by the fire pit at your Airbnb
  • Ride horses
  • Take a helicopter tour
  • Play games with family
  • Make breakfast together
  • Visit a cave
  • Tube down the Shenandoah River
  • Have a candlelit dinner
  • Soak in a hot tub
  • Have a dance party with friends and family

What does a typical Shenandoah National Park elopement timeline look like?

Every single elopement day is different- and each timeline looks different too depending on the time of year, what activities are important to a couple, and more. These are just a few examples of what it could look like.

3 hours

November Sunset Elopement with Guests

  • 3:30pm – Meet up at a short trail, hike, and change into wedding attire for a First Look
  • 3:50pm – Get some photos with beautiful mountain views
  • 4:30pm – Drive to Big Meadows
  • 4:35pm – Explore Big Meadows taking photos along the way
  • 5:15pm – Drive one minute to nearby overlook, guests and officiant arrive
  • 5:30pm – Ceremony begins
  • 5:50pm – Ceremony ends, take group family photos
  • 6:00pm – Champagne toast with guests, cut a cake and share, enjoy the view as the sun sets
  • 6:15pm – Official sunset time
  • 6:30pm – Pack up, photo coverage ends, head to dinner

6 hours – most typical for a “just us” elopement

October sunrise hiking elopement

  • 6:45am – Meet at trailhead and begin hike to summit
  • 7:15am – Watch the sunrise, get changed into wedding attire, have a First Look on top of the mountain
  • 7:32am – Official sunrise time
  • 7:40am (depending on the light)- Ceremony begins
  • 7:55am – Ceremony wraps up, officiant leaves, take a few portraits at the summit
  • 8:20am – Hike to Little Stony Man, relax, toast with hot chocolate and a little snack, then hike back to the trailhead
  • 10:30am – Drive to Dark Hollow Falls
  • 10:50am – Hike to Dark Hollow Falls taking photos along the way
  • 12:00pm – Drive to a cute overlook
  • 12:15pm – Have a first dance in the forest, read letters from family, and have a picnic
  • 12:45pm – Photo coverage ends

8 hours – most typical for wedding days with guests

April ceremony in the park and dinner with family

  • 2:00pm – Hair and makeup wraps up, candid photos of getting ready, then change into wedding attire
  • 3:00pm – First Look at Airbnb in the woods
  • 3:15pm – Drive 1 hour to an overlook in Shenandoah NP
  • 4:20pm – Everyone arrives (including officiant)
  • 4:30pm – Ceremony at the overlook begins with beautiful views of the valley
  • 4:45pm – Ceremony wraps up, hugs and photos with family, friends and pups
  • 5:15pm – Guests leave, couple has a private first dance at the overlook
  • 5:30pm – Couple and photographer hop to a few different overlooks for stunning views with no hike required
  • 7:00pm – Drive one hour back to Airbnb
  • 7:45pm – Official sunset time
  • 8:00pm – Arrive at Airbnb, family is there, catered dinner begins, guests can give a few toasts
  • 9:15pm – Dinner wraps up
  • 9:30pm – Get a fire going, everyone is relaxing, having fun outside and roasting marshmallows
  • 10:00pm – Photo coverage ends

12 hours

Sunset + sunrise June elopement with waterfall and tubing

  • 5:00am – Meet at trailhead in Shenandoah National Park, hike to best view
  • 5:45am – Official sunrise time, get changed into wedding attire, have a First Look
  • 6:00am – Ceremony with officiant
  • 6:15am – First Dance + portraits with mountain views
  • 6:45am – Hike back down to trailhead
  • 7:45am – Arrive at trailhead and drive 20 minutes to waterfall hike
  • 8:05am – Hike 1 hour 15 min to base of waterfall
  • 9:20am – Relax, exchange private vows + gifts, take photos with falls and have breakfast picnic
  • 10:30am – Head back up to trailhead
  • 12:00pm – Arrive at trailhead
  • —— Break in coverage (this is a good time for a nap, relax at the Airbnb, have lunch, start tubing, etc.)——
  • 5:45pm – Photographer arrives to capture the end of tubing and hanging out by the river
  • 6:40pm – Drive back to Airbnb
  • 7:00pm – Arrive at Airbnb, change and relax
  • 7:30pm – Candlelit dinner on deck outside with private chef
  • 8:30pm – Hop in the hot tub with a drink to enjoy the sunset
  • 8:40pm – Official sunset time
  • 9:00pm – Head inside to dry off, Facetime love ones and read letters from family
  • 9:40pm – Cut mini cake for dessert
  • 10:15pm – Head outside Airbnb to watch the stars come up and take photos with the milky way
  • 10:45pm – Photo coverage ends

*split day coverage only available with top package

a family at a wedding celebration under a tree in a meadow

Step 4: Choose where to get married in Shenandoah National Park

Close your eyes and picture yourself standing across from your partner reading your vows. What do you see and feel? Is there a crisp breeze because you’re standing on top of a mountain? Do you hear the sound of rushing water because you’re at the foot of a waterfall? Or maybe you want a great view but the most important thing is that your grandma is able to be there and celebrate with you?

Other things to consider when choosing your location- How much hiking are you comfortable with and excited to do on your elopement day? Are you bringing family along? What about pets? Do you have any spots that already hold sentimental value?

First, go back to how many guests you’ll have- if your wedding will have more than 29 participants, you’ll have to use an amphitheater, lodge or rent out a venue for your ceremony. If you’ll have between 29 and 10 or so participants its best to choose an overlook for your ceremony because backcountry trails were not made for large groups and because many wedding guests are not prepared for or able to hike. You can always venture into the park with just the two of you and your photographer before you meet up with guests.

Shenandoah has tons of amazing spots (and more than are listed here)- don’t feel like you have to choose just one. You can have your ceremony in one area then adventure to another spot with completely different scenery!

Places to elope + take pictures in Shenandoah National Park

Stony Man

a bride and groom hug at sunrise on a cliff and look off in the distance at mountains

Hawksbill Summit

bride and groom smile and embrace in front of dark hollow falls, a waterfall, in shenandoah national park

Dark Hollow Falls

a man and his wife stand on a rocky outcrop, hug and look at the blue ridge mountains

Blackrock Summit

bride and groom hugging at an overlook surrounded by yellow wildflowers in the shenandoah wildflowers

A Skyline Drive Overlook

groom holding his bride's hand and leading her through the mountains

On a Trail Less Traveled

groom leads his bride through brown grasses in a beautiful open field the sky is stormy

Big Meadows – for photos only

Big Meadows is top of many couples’ list for their visit to Shenandoah National Park. The park does not allow ceremonies to be held in the meadows, but you can take photos there before or after your ceremony. If you’re looking for a spot to say your vows near Big Meadows, Tanners Ridge Overlook is a great option just across the road.

a couple on the morning of their wedding sharing coffee watching the sunrise over the Blue Ridge Mountains

Raven’s Roost – not actually in Shenandoah NP

Raven’s Roost Overlook, a popular spot for ceremonies and photography, is actually along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waynesboro, not Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. It’s about an hour and a half south of Big Meadows Visitor Center in Shenandoah. The overlook is an amazing spot for sunset! Just be aware that the Blue Ridge Parkway has their own set of rules when it comes to wedding permits.

Can we elope in Shenandoah without hiking and still get good views?

Yes! One great thing about Shenandoah National Park is that you can get amazing mountain views right from the road. Skyline Drive has many beautiful overlooks you can get married at with no hiking required.

Can we have a Skyline Drive wedding?

Yes- some of the best places to get married in Shenandoah are along Skyline Drive. With over 70 overlooks, there are more than a few that are great for a ceremony. Having a wedding along Skyline Drive is great because it’s super accessible for couples or guests who don’t hike and you can still get lots incredible scenery.

There are stops on both the east and west sides of Skyline Drive so some overlooks are better for sunset than sunrise. It’s also important to note that some overlooks are not suitable for a ceremony because there simply isn’t enough space. Other overlooks have just enough space for ceremonies with only 3-4 guests and then there are some that will have plenty of space for 25 guests! I can help recommend a few spots that will work best for your guest count and the type of views you like best. Some of my favorite overlooks for an elopement are Tanners Ridge, Timber Hollow and Pass Mt.

A bride stands on a mountain holding a wedding bouquet with her hair and dress blowing in the wind

Be prepared to Leave No Trace

If you’re planning a wedding in Shenandoah National Park, you’re probably drawn to nature’s beauty. It’s important to keep it beautiful so that we can still visit our favorite spots in the park years from now without them being closed for restoration, trashed, or non-existent. You don’t have to stifle your celebration to reduce your impact, just plan ahead and be prepared! Disposing of waste + trash, walking on durable surfaces (not moss, flowers, or other fragile vegetation), being prepared for the elements and any activities you have planned, taking nothing but photos and leaving nothing behind, following the park’s rules about fire, respecting and not feeding wildlife, and being considerate of other park visitors are all part of the Leave No Trace principles that help us recreate responsibly while still having fun on a wedding day.

Visit to learn more about what you can do to minimize your impact. I am committed to preserving our public lands and have taken the Leave No Trace Center’s official photography course, so I can help too!

bride and groom standing in front of yurt at campsite in their wedding attire

Step 5: Choose lodging near Shenandoah NP

Distance from the park should be one of the first things you consider when choosing where to stay. Be ready to drive – most lodging outside of the park will require at least a 45 minute drive one way.

Inside the park

If you’re having a sunrise wedding and don’t want to wake up super early, or if you want to minimize driving on the winding mountain or country roads when it’s dark, consider booking accomodations in the park. Shenandoah National Park has two lodges, Skyland and Big Meadows Lodge, and cabins at Lewis Mountain. All three options are located in the central district of the park. Skyland and Big Meadows Lodge both have traditional rooms, suites, small detached cabins, and a restaurant. There are one room and two room options for the Lewis Mountain Cabins, although these are a bit more rustic than the lodges. Keep in mind that all accommodations in Shenandoah National Park close for the winter season.

There’s also camping in the Shenandoah National Park that is open from early spring to late fall. Some campgrounds are first-come, first serve and others require reservations in advance. In the fall and summer, reservations can fill 6 months in advance so don’t wait. You can also camp in the backcountry with a permit.

Outside the park

Although it does require more driving, there are lots of benefits to staying in a rental property or hotel not found in the park. You could find a spot with amenities like firepits, a private hot tub, a deck, ping pong or billiards, a pool, etc. Some Airbnbs and Vrbos have great spaces to get ready in that are beautifully decorated and have lots of natural light. If you choose one that you love the inside of, it can double as a great weather backup plan that you could retreat to if needed. Some property owners will let you have your dinner, reception or even the ceremony on site if you ask (just be sure to get permission first). This is a great option if you want to have a flower arch or decorations that you wouldn’t be able to bring into the park!

Look for stays in Luray, Culpepper, New Market, Sperryville, Stanley, Syria, Harrisonburg, Front Royal (near the northern district of the park), or Charlottesville (for locations in the southern district). Some of my favorites places are Rose River Farm Cabins, Hotel Laurance in Luray, the yurts at Rock Tavern River Kamp, and Getaway Shenandoah.

bride and groom laughing with officiant during wedding ceremony hand fasting

Step 6: Plan the Legalities

How to get your marriage license for your shenandoah national park wedding

If you are visiting Shenandoah from out of state and have not already been legally married in your own state, you’ll have to plan to be in Virginia on a weekday to visit the Clerk’s Office and pick up a marriage license. Marriage licenses cost $30. Most courthouses are only open Monday-Friday and their hours vary. You can pick up your marriage license and get married the same day- there is no waiting period in Virginia. The closest locations to pick up a marriage license near Shenandoah National Park are in Luray, Culpepper, Waynesboro, Woodstock, and Harrisonburg.

If you are a Virginia local, any time 60 days before your wedding, plan a time to go to your local Clerk’s Office and pick up your marriage license.

For more info, check out this blog post about VA marriage licenses.

Decide who will marry you and how

Online ordinations are not allowed in Virginia- so you’ll have to think about who you want to officiate your wedding. The easiest option is to hire a recognized officiant. See below for some great vendors I’ve worked with in the past that work in Shenandoah.

If you want a friend or family member to preside over your service to make it more personal, you have three options:

  1. Find an officiant that offers a quick “marriage license signing” package, so they sign the paperwork but don’t perform the ceremony.
  2. Get legally married at the courthouse earlier by a commisioner/Justice of the Peace.
  3. If the friend or family member is a Virginia local, they can petition the court that they are a resident of and post a $500 bond to get a one time civil celebrant authorization.

For more info, check out this blog post about VA officiants and legalities.

Extra Shenandoah Wedding Tips + Info

Have guests carpool

Some overlooks and parking lots only have space for a few cars.

Cell phone service is unreliable

Download any maps or directions ahead of time. Be sure to communicate with your guests exactly where you’ll meet.

How much does it cost to get married in Shenandoah National Park?

It costs only $30 (the park entrance fee) if you do not need a permit. If you do need a permit that would be an additional $150. Besides that, other expenses vary – consider your marriage license ($30), officiant ($100-700), photographer($2k-7k), flowers ($75-$1k+) or any other vendors, attire, lodging, food, and travel.

Are dogs allowed in Shenandoah National Park?

Yes, Shenandoah National Park is one of the few national parks where dogs are allowed. You can bring them with you to overlooks and most trails.

What iF there’s bad weather or a closure?

Stay flexible and have a backup plan

Part of having a wedding in nature is knowing that there are some things we can’t control- like the weather. But thick clouds, a little rain or snow can actually make for stunning images (and a great story). A backup plan could be having some clear bubble umbrellas, packing extra warm layers, or getting a cute Airbnb that you’re excited to spend a little extra time at (just don’t forget to check with the owner that it’s okay for other people/a photographer to be there). And the good news is, rain usually doesn’t last all day, so if your elopement day is flexible, you could switch the timeline around to make the most of the time with good weather.

Check the Shenandoah National Park website

In the case of ice, snow, or other bad storms, stay up to date and check the website for any closures or cancellations. You can also follow the park on social media or get text alerts sent to your phone. Most times when part of Skyline Drive is closed, some trails and overlooks can still be hiked to from the entrances.

Sometimes even a few cars of tourists stopping at the overlook you planned to have your ceremony at can put a damper on things. If you had a second or third favorite choice you could just pivot to one of those and still have an amazing experience. The best way to have a great day is to go with the flow, expect the unexpected, and focus on the fact that you get to marry your best friend!

Shenandoah National Park Elopement Packing List

bride and groom holding hands walking through the forest with bouquet in backpack

Your Leave No Trace Essentials, including:

  • Water
  • Snacks
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Good sturdy and comfortable shoes
  • A warm layer – it may be colder than you expect. Consider bringing nude leggings to wear under a dress, gloves and a hat, a long sleeve shirt to under a dress shirt, an extra pair of socks, and a warm coat you’re happy to be photographed in
  • Moisture wicking base layers and undergarments in summer
  • Your wedding permit (if required)
  • Any medicine you may need (like an Epipen)
  • Maps (downloaded on your phone or paper)
bride smiling at groom on a mountain with her dress flowing in the breeze

And all the rest:

  • Your wedding attire- expect it to get a little dirty or the bottom to get snagged on your adventure, it’s just evidence of a great time. Choose clothes that are easy to walk in and are not restricting when you take deep breaths. Bonus tip* if your dress can blow in the breeze it makes for extra magical photos
  • Accessories, hair pieces, or jewelry that won’t easily fall out
  • Rain gear- like an umbrella, poncho, or rain jacket
  • Money to get into the park – they do take card
  • Your vows
  • Any flowers or extra details
  • Bug spray
  • Sunscreen, + sunglasses if you have sensitive eyes
  • Allergy medicine- pollen in VA is no joke
  • Change of clothes for hiking
  • Blanket
  • Anything you’ll need for special activities – like a swimsuit, picnic supplies, camping gear, etc.

Vendors for your Shenandoah Wedding

Shenandoah National Park Elopement Photographer

I’m Hayley-Ann, an outdoor enthusiast, Virginia local and photographer specializing in elopements and intimate weddings. And, I can’t wait to help you craft and capture your incredible elopement day experience in Shenandoah!

I photograph about 90% of my elopements in Virginia each year, and of that, over half of them are typically in Shenandoah National Park – it’s the park I know best! I understand that while planning an elopement or small wedding is simpler than planning a big traditional wedding, starting with such a blank canvas can be daunting. That’s why, when you hire me as your photographer, you get more than just the photos, I’ll guide you through the planning process too. You deserve a fun, stress-free wedding day, and that should include planning it too.

woman with hiking backpack smiling at camera at old rag summit
An iphone snap of me cheesin’ at the summit of Shenandoah’s famous Old Rag Mountain!

Shenandoah National Park Elopement Packages

what’s included in each Package

Photography coverage

3+ hours of photography coverage makes sure that you have the story of your day captured. When your wedding day arrives, I can be there from when you start getting ready all the way until the end when you’re dancing under the stars. That way, when you look back at your photos, you’ll remember all the special moments in between.

Access to all my planning resources

Including my 40+ page digital Elopement Planning Guide, questionnaires, packing lists and unlimited consultations

Personalized vendor recommendations

I’ll send over a list of local Shenandoah vendors (beyond the ones listed above) that can help bring your vision to life

Location suggestions and permit assistance

A list of specific trails and ceremony spots will be coming your way based on what you’ve told me about yourselves and your dream elopement in your questionnaire. Then, if you need a permit, I’ll walk you through application process to make things easy-peasy.

A customized day-of timeline

A schedule that makes the most of our time together so that you have a day that’s relaxed, allows room for spontaneity, and includes all of the traditions or activities that are important to you on your wedding day.

The simple-to-use gallery makes it easy to relive your day over and over, share your elopement day with family and friends, and download and print your images.

Full day coverage (6+ hours): Starting at $3700, Up to three hours: $2500. Contact me for detailed pricing.

“Hayley went above and beyond anything I could imagine for our wedding day!

She was flexible and organized with planning. Hayley was amazing when it came to relieving stress. She helped us forget about everything to really take in the special moments we had with each other! I wouldn’t change a single thing about her work. The photos were amazing and we are so happy with the way everything turned out!”

– Michael + Abigail

Ready for an incredible wedding day in Shenandoah National Park?

Looking for more places to elope in Virginia?

Similar views in VA can be found along the Blue Ridge Parkway, Sky Meadows State Park, Grayson Highlands State Park, and other areas in the western part of the state. Check out the guides below for more information.

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