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Ultimate Guide: How To Plan A Smoky Mountain Elopement

Ok, so you want to plan an epic Smoky Mountain elopement but don't know where to start? I have you covered! As a licensed CUA holder with the Smoky Mountains National Park I know all you need to know to make sure you have the perfect elopement, EVER! The Smoky Mountains is an amazing place to elope at when done the right way. So, without further ado, let's get to it! Here is exactly what I would do if I was planning your elopement!

Choose The Season:

Choosing the right season for your Smoky Mountain Elopement can be challenging especially if you’re planning your elopement from a different state, so I want to give you a quick rundown of each season in the GSMNP starting with Spring. Spring in East Tennessee can bring a lot of rain, but it also brings the signature Smoky Mountain haze, mild temperatures, blooming wildflowers, and a less crowded National Park. Summer in East Tennessee is HOT! Temperatures hover in the 80’s and 90’s and the humidity is real y'all. One way I like to combat these conditions is by encouraging couples to choose sunrise or sunset for their ceremony so temperatures are cooling off and the sky is always so pretty. Fall in the Smokies is so dreamy, but it truly doesn’t start to feel like “fall” until October and Fall Foliage usually waits until November to show off those beautiful colors! And finally winter, winters tend to be pretty mild in Tennessee, temperatures rarely drop below freezing at the lower elevations but higher up in the mountains, road closures are common due to ice and snow, so when planning a winter ceremony, it’s important to formulate at least 1 to 2 backup locations just in case of road closures and in-climate weather.

Choose Your Photographer:

Choosing a photographer who is a licensed CUA holder with the Smoky Mountains National Park is a really important part of your plan to making sure your Smoky Mountain elopement is easy and seamless! CUA holders carry liability insurance and have an extensive knowledge about the permitted ceremony areas within the park so they can guide you to help you make the best choice for your ceremony location! A licensed photographer will also be able to submit a Special Use Permit on your behalf to the NPS for your wedding ceremony!

Choose Your Ceremony Location:

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing your perfect wedding ceremony location in the Smoky Mountains. Some things that I like to consider when helping couples choose their perfect location are: the type of backdrop you are envisioning, the time of day you’re hoping for, how important intimacy and privacy is to you, and accessibility for you or any guests. There are so many locations to choose from both inside and outside of the National Park! I even have a list of venues that specialize in elopement ceremonies in the area that are sometimes a better fit for couples based on their needs.

Secure a Special Use Permit from the Smoky Mountain National Park Service:

Once you have your ceremony date, time, and location figured out- you or your photographer (if they’re a CUA holder) can apply for a Special Use Permit through the National Park Service website if you’re planning on having your wedding ceremony within the borders of the Smoky Mountain National Park.

Hire Your Vendors:

Vendors that you may want to look into for your elopement day include: An officiant who’s willing to travel to your ceremony location and aligns with the type of ceremony you’re planning. A professional florist to craft a unique bouquet and/or boutonniere for you and your partner, a hair and makeup artist willing to travel to your cabin or getting ready location, transportation if you’re looking for a private shuttle to transport you around or a unique getaway car, and finally a plan for food, whether it’s a private luxurious picnic, charcuterie at your cabin, a private chef, or restaurant recommendations. I always equip my couples with a list of awesome local vendors so you at least have a starting point with planning these parts of your Smoky Mountain elopement!

Plan Any Special Activities:

When you’re planning an elopement day, you really have so much more freedom to do exactly what YOU want to do! Have you ever dreamed about sprinkling in some epic adventure on your wedding day? The Smoky Mountains have SO many options for adventure, from booking a helicopter ride, viewing the mountains from a hot air balloon, or even zip lining!

Book Your Lodging:

There are so many amazing locations to stay in around the Smokies. Some of the most popular towns surrounding the National Park are: Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Townsend, Sevierville, and even Cherokee, NC. There are beautiful hotels, giant cabins, unique A-Frames, and even yurts or treehouses you can stay in! Some things that I like to encourage couples to think about when booking their lodging are: How close do you want to be to amenities like coffee shops and restaurants? How far are you willing to drive from where you’re staying to your ceremony location? If you’re wanting to have your getting ready photos taken at this location, be intentional about the space (make sure it’s a relaxing and enjoyable space to spend your morning) and it’s always a good idea to check with the host of your rental to ensure that photography is allowed.

Apply for a Tennessee Marriage License:

Within 30 days of your ceremony date, you can submit an application online through Sevier County for your marriage license. There is no waiting period in the state of Tennessee so you can pick up your license the same day as your ceremony. To pick up your marriage license from the county clerk you’ll need a valid drivers license, your social security card, a passport if you’re not a US Citizen, and if you’ve previously been widowed or divorced you’ll need to know those dates for their records. Then just be sure to bring your marriage license with you to your ceremony so your officiant can make it official!

If you are ready to plan your Great Smoky Mountain elopement with me by your side then let's do it! The best part is that we can do all of these tips and steps together to make sure your elopement is exactly the way you want it to be! As a licensed CUA holder with the Smoky Mountain National Park I can be your expert along the way! Sounds like the perfect fit? Fill out my contact form and we can start planning today! And, if you would like to see more of my Smoky Mountain weddings and elopements, check out more on my blog!




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