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Our first trip together was an eight-mile hike to a turquoise lake flanked by jagged granite mountains covered in snow just a few weeks after we started dating. The next 2.5 years of our dating relationship were marked by countless adventures through the forests and coast of the Pacific Northwest. So, after Chase and I got engaged at Salt Creek Recreation Area last April, getting married outside felt like the obvious choice.
I stumbled across our wedding venue while browsing Pinterest a few days after getting engaged. I saw a photo of a bride and groom exchanging vows underneath massive evergreens and thought to myself, Yes! Somewhere just like that! — only to click and learn that the photo was snapped at Kitsap Memorial State Park—a state park only an hour away from us.
As it turned out, we could get married somewhere exactly like that. And we did. Now, six months after saying I do at Kitsap Memorial, I have some advice for those thinking about trading in a traditional wedding venue for the natural beauty of a state park. If you’re planning to get married at a state park, these questions will be a helpful guide as you start to plan your Big Day.
1. What does the venue provide?
Traditional and commercial venues such as churches and event halls sometimes provide or give you the opportunity to rent seating and tables, as well as linens and other decor. Many venues also offer separate spaces for both sides of the wedding party to get ready.
Kitsap Memorial did not offer furniture or decor rentals, so we rented our tables, chairs, and decor separately. The girls got ready in a small cabin onsite that was included in the event space rental and the boys got ready in the hall where the reception was.
Knowing what the park will provide versus what you will be expected to purchase separately will help you determine budgetary and logistical details.
2. Are there access fees for guests?
Some public parks require a fee or a pass for admission. Our guests were required to have a Discover Pass to be at the park. Determining whether or not guests will need to pay for a pass or an access fee to enter the park will help you to communicate those details to your guests in advance. You may even consider paying for your guests’ fees ahead of time, or you might offer transportation into the park such as a shuttle or bus.
3. Are there any rules or regulations that might impact your event?
Public parks often have regulations around noise and time restrictions, alcohol use, and guest count. Asking about those rules ahead of time will ensure that you don’t have to add any fines as line items in your budget.
4.How will we serve food?
Parks often aren’t outfitted with full kitchens, so make sure to find out what equipment they have and whether there are any restrictions on outside food, drinks, and cooking equipment. Take wildlife into consideration when you’re deciding where you’ll eat and how you plan to dispose of food waste and containers.
5. Do we need any permits?
Parks might require permits for hosting a wedding ceremony or for amplified sound or professional photography. Ask about what types of permits you’ll be expected to have as soon as you can to ensure they’re approved in time.
6. Will other people be around?
Public parks are—well, public. So, depending on the popularity of the park and the time of year, there might be people picnicking or kids playing not-so-far from your happy day. Be sure to ask about whether the area you’re in will be blocked off from the public and take the possibility of onlookers into consideration when putting together your photography list and ceremony location.
And one last note from me about getting married in a state park:
There was nothing more magical than celebrating the happiest day of our life underneath a canopy of evergreens, surrounded by our friends, family, and the beauty of the Olympic mountains at Kitsap. Getting married in a state park carries a few one-of-a-kind considerations—and comes with the delight of a one-of-a-kind venue. Cheers!
About the Author: Aly Lamoreaux is a writer for Magnolia and outdoor enthusiast. She lives in Tacoma, Washington with her husband and has never met a cheeseburger, alpine hike, or em-dash she didn’t like.