Montana is hands down, one of the most beautiful places to elope. It is home to Glacier National Park and Yellowstone National Park as well as 9 national forests, over 100 mountain ranges, and tons of glacial lakes! I have no doubt that you’ll find the perfect location in this state to elope. And to help with your plans to elope in Montana, I have put together an ultimate guide with everything you need to know!
The very first place to start is by sitting down with your partner and talking about what you want your elopement day to look like. Ask yourselves the important questions. Do you want it to be just the two of you? Or would you like a few friends and family members to attend? Do you want a more intimate ceremony and then a post-elopement party later on? In addition to your elopement guest list, think about what scenery you want for your elopement. What time of day do you want to elope? Sunrise or sunset? Would you prefer an adventure elopement where you hike to your location? Or would you prefer something a little less strenuous like an intimate chapel ceremony?
If you need a bit of inspiration, you can find tons of elopement day ideas on my Pinterest boards. Or you can even put together your own Pinterest board to visualize your elopement day and help you and your vendors get an idea of what you want.
Glacier National Park is arguably one of the most stunning national parks in the United States. GNP is 1583 sqft of wilderness in the Montana Rocky Mountains. Most importantly, there are over 30 pre-approved wedding ceremony locations within the park. Check out the full list of these locations, along with the approved guest count and other restrictions and helpful information here. And for every elopement ceremony in GNP, you must obtain a Special Use Permit here.
Plus you can take photos anywhere in the park! So even if you elope elsewhere, you can still take photos without a Special Use Permit.
Yellowstone National Park is almost 3500 sqft of land covering Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana! If you elope here, you’ll have the options of dramatic canyons, alpine rivers, forests, or geysers to choose from as your backdrop.
There are five pre-approved ceremony locations within Yellowstone, not including the lodges/hotels that could serve as a venue. But if you want to elope at a lodge, there are a few Yellowstone Lodges where you can have your ceremony or reception. And if you want a church ceremony, you can choose to elope at Mammoth Chapel.
Located in Swan Lake, just south of the Canadian border and Glacier National Park sits Flathead National Forest. The forest itself covers 2.5 million acres, with 1 million acres of designated wilderness. You’ll have the most epic adventure elopement here! The Whitefish Mountain Resort, which is partially within Flathead, has summer and winter elopement packages if you want to get married at a venue but still take photos within the park!
To elope at Flathead National Forest, you must obtain a Special Use Permit.
Lolo National Forest sits on 2 million acres and is located in Western Montana. They have various recreation sites to choose from and there are no permits required for eloping. So you have free reign to take photos and have your ceremony at any of the recreation sites! Or if it’s just the two of you, anywhere else in the forest!
This national forest has mountains, diverse greenery, and grasslands that are breathtaking! There are tons to explore here including the best trails to hike.
Weddings with 75 or more guests require a Special Use Permit, which fortunately for you, won’t be necessary since you’re having an elopement!
Located near Helena, Canyon Ferry Lake is Montana’s third largest body of water which covers over 35,000 acres and 76 miles of shoreline. After your elopement, there are three places where you can rent boats and do fun activities in the water: Goose Bay Marina, Kim’s Marina, and Yacht Basin Marina.
This lake is nestled between the Anaconda Pintlers, the Sapphire Range, and the Flint Creek Range. The stunning views of the beautiful snow-capped mountains will act as your elopement backdrop here. Additionally, the Fairmount Hot Springs resort is close by if you want to stay overnight or have your ceremony there and then take photos by the lake afterward.
This 90-mile river running along the British Columbia/Montana border features fun activities to do for your elopement. There’s swimming access about seven miles above the Koocanusa Dam, on the west side of the shore if you want to change into matching bathing suits or go for a post-elopement swim. Not only is there swimming access but there’s also wake surfing, dirt biking, and mountain biking in the Lake Koocanusa town!
This venue is located in Big Sky, Montana, near Yellowstone National Park. The ranch features super cute cabins that you and your guests can stay at and multiple indoor and outdoor locations that would perfectly suit elopements or intimate weddings. Or if you want to elope at Yellowstone and have a bigger party at Lone Mountain Ranch, there are spaces to rent out that can accommodate up to 150 guests! Best of all, they have winter and summer adventures onsite, such as horseback riding and sledding!
If you’re looking for a Montana elopement venue that’s a little more elevated than Lone Mountain, Sage Lodge might be perfect for you. They have wedding weekend packages, where you can stay at Ranch House with your guests, have a kickoff party at one of their venues, and have brunch and couples massage the day after your elopement. Their Ceremony Field has stunning views of Emigrant Peak in the background too!
For a more luxurious vibe, Armory Hotel Bozeman is the place. Their Sky Shed is the most suitable for intimate events, including rooftop elopements. They have an elopement package that is suited for up to 25 guests, ceremony and reception space, four hours of bar time, and more! There are also Wedding Weekend options for couples who want to soak in the post-elopement bliss a little while longer.
Flowers start to bloom, animals are more active and snow beings to melt when it’s spring in Montana. If you’re eloping in the spring, keep in mind that higher elevation trails will most likely still be snow. But if your elopement is at a lower elevation, you shouldn’t have to worry about snow.
There are fewer crowds in the spring, but it is also the rainiest season. So if you’re concerned about rain, I recommend eloping at a different time of the year.
Temperatures in the summer range from 50F in the morning to sometimes 90F during the hottest part of the day. Since the snow will be completely melted in the summer, this will be perfect to elope at high elevation trails. Summer in Montana always features pretty wildflowers too!
You might be concerned about the many outdoor elopement locations being busy with tourists and hikers but there are a few ways around it. This includes eloping at sunrise or sunset to avoid most of the crowds
Fall in Montana is the beginning of wildfire and snowstorm season, with beautiful fall colors. If you want to elope somewhere like Glacier NP, fall would be the best time as it gets very packed in the spring and summer.
If you want to participate in winter sports before or after your elopement, winter is the time to do it! There’s a range of ski and mountain resorts that are open in winter, where you can stay over and elope all in one place. There may be a lot of road closures in National Parks if there’s snow in the winter, so you may, unfortunately, have limited access.
January is the coldest, snowiest, and iciest month of the year in Montana, so be sure to wrap up warm and bring all of your safety equipment!
First, apply for a marriage license in the county where you’re planning to elope. In most counties, you can do this online. For women under 50, you need to take a Rubella blood test before applying for your license. But you can also apply for an exemption online. Next, pick up your marriage license. Bring along your ID, birth certificate, and proof of divorce if applicable. You’ll also need to know both spouses’ parents’ full names, places of birth, mother’s maiden name, and both partners’ social security numbers. After you obtain your license you will have 180 days to get married. For your ceremony, you will need an officiant and two witnesses.
Fees and permits: $0-$500
Florist for bouquets/decorations/boutonnieres: $500-$1500 depending on how simple or extravagant your elopement is
Wedding attire: $500-$2000
Once you have your elopement location and date confirmed, it’s time to book your vendors! Make sure to look at reviews, stalk their websites and social media and ask for a consultation if they offer them. Depending on how big your elopement is, you may only need a photographer and a florist.
That’s all you need to know about eloping in Montana! I hope this guide was helpful in your Montana elopement planning! I’m always excited to chat with couples about their elopement plans. So if you’re looking for a photographer to capture the magical moments of your elopement day, lock in a date with me via my contact form and let’s plan your dream elopement.