More recently, I helped plan Diana Tucker’s wedding, looking through several grand canyon wedding venues, we ultimately changed locations entirely. But up until the location switch, our discussion is all about Grand Canyon and creating an adventure wedding for the whole family.
Most weddings at Grand Canyon National Park take place on the South Rim in one of the permitted locations at Grand Canyon. These days “Adventure Elopements” are becoming more common place with backpacking couples taking off for a hike into the wilderness and to their ceremony location on the top of a mountain in the backcountry.
Some of these weddings require snowshoes, some require skis, some are hiking in their elopement night accomodations- a tent, backpacking stove and more and some might be taking a jeep ride to a secluded and romantic wedding escape. Whatever the journey, myself and my woman-owned business will help plan, execute and guide you for any adventure elopement. We know all of the possible options for grand canyon wedding venues.
Backcountry Grand Canyon Wedding
While this isn’t something that the Grand Canyon Park Service promotes on their website or even offers a permit for, it’s not impossible! The backcountry COULD be one of the best grand canyon wedding venues. The biggest thing at GCNP is making sure that you are being a good steward. I’ve worked and lived here on-and-off since 2009 so the rules are something that I understand and know well.
I’ve seen some other photographers suggesting an overnight hike and backpacking wedding at Grand Canyon. While this is a fantastic idea, and I myself hope to be married in the inner canyon, it’s something we have to be very careful about. Although the park service allows photos in your wedding clothing, currently the backcountry is not listed as one of the grand canyon wedding venues. NPS requires a permit for any wedding, AND any night spent below the rim requires a backcountry permit. That being said, it’s very difficult to operate below the rim of Grand Canyon commercially. Photographers who appear as if they are “guiding” would require a commercial use authorization and a wilderness first-responder certification.
I’m actually a backpacking, hiking guide and have a wilderness first-responder certification but unless I was hired to follow a bride a groom that already had Grand Canyon hiking experience, obtained the permits themselves and planned to hike in all of their own equipment, I would be wary of accepting to photograph couples in Grand Canyon’s backcountry.
Even recently, an older friend of mine was hiking with two younger men. He was pulled off the trail by a ranger and questioned heavily. The rangers were worried that he wasn’t truly friends with the younger males and he was wrongfully accused of guiding without a permit to guide commercially at the canyon.
In order to actually be married in Grand Canyon’s backcountry, I would apply for a special use permit. Right now, it seems like as long as the visitor experience wasn’t being impacted in anyway, an elopement might be permitted in the inner canyon. No chairs, no arch and no amplified sounds of course, just as the regular wedding permit suggests.
North Rim Grand Canyon Wedding
One thing to consider, the North Rim. 6.3 million people visit Grand Canyon National Park yearly but the North Rim sees only 10% of the total numbers in visitation. The North rRm also offers some insanely beautiful places to be married. These locations are often quieter than the South Rim and in the fall time the aspens change color (there is no fall color on the South Rim). The only thing to remember, is that the north rim closes on October 15 so don’t paln a winter wedding for here!
North Rim Dining Options
I also recommend staying in nearby Kanab and eating at this amazing French restaurant there. If we did the north rim I would want to do some first look photos at imperial point and then move on to Cape Royal for the wedding location.
North Rim Wedding Locations
Cape Royal makes an insanely beautiful wedding location there are lots of little picnic tables along the rim and an amphitheater that would accommodate all the gas in a safe way. Go Cape Royal is a popular place to visit the amphitheater and wedding location is off to the right to the railed area and often other tourists do not notice it. This location can accommodate 40 people!
Epic Secret Overlooks on the North Rim
If you are at all interested in making this an adventurous wedding there is an amazing amazing amazing spot called Tuweep overlook it is a little bit more challenging to get to you and you would need to rent a 4 x 4 vehicle but the view at the end is incredible and if your family was up for camping this would be an amazing place to have a glamping wedding.
My assistant and I have set up glamping for a couple different people but in the national park setting, we recommend hiring an outfitter or DIY. As I mentioned before, photographers as planners are an asset but we have to be careful about what services we are offering in the case that it bleeds into needing a CUA.
We have most of the supplies for a couple to be glamping, maybe not an entire wedding party. If we did this location I would want to take pictures of everybody that evening as well as at sunrise because at that location you can see the Colorado river at sunrise and it’s sunset and it’s absolutely outstanding all of the photos for Grand Canyon that you see with the big river view are shot from this location.
Astrophotography at weddings
Grand Canyon is the adventure elopement location that you definitely want to add photography coverage into the evening for. If you have flexibility, I would recommend planning your Grand Canyon elopement for a date around the new moon of the month. The Grand Canyon boasts an International Dark Sky accreditation. In 2016 they retrofitted 280 lights in the historic district to be hooded or downturned to better preserve the night sky. Nearby Flagstaff, where pluto was discovered, has the same accreditation. This means that those dark skies are DARK. When I first moved from NJ to Grand Canyon, the star filled sky was one thing that felt unbelievable to me, it still is. You don’t want to miss your chance to take epic photos in your wedding dress against a backdrop of starry skies.
South Rim Wedding Locations:
Typically, the South Rim of Grand Canyon is where most of my proposals and weddings take place. Having the most amount of grand canyon wedding venues. In general, the South Rim is busier than the North Rim of the canyon but it also has more infrastructure. There are more hotels and restaurants here. There are more tour options to make an all-day affair from you wedding day. The South Rim has 3 jeep companies, 2 helicopter tour companies, a scenic fixed-wing flight option, horseback riding, mule tours and even skydiving.
Shoshone Point – One of the most popular and secluded places to get married at Grand Canyon is the Shoshone Point. As a photographer, I HATE shooting sunset weddings at Shoshone. The canyon has a lot of bends and folds and this is one location that you’ll never see the sunset over the canyon itself. Because of this, it makes epic light hard to get and the best time for photos is after sunset, but then you only have 15 minutes. This is really the best for sunrise. Sunrise weddings take place 20 minutes before, once the sun rises the light can be harsh. Shoshone Point can be reserved for weddings, has picnic tables, grills for use and a shaded area.
Pima Point – This is located on the West Rim Drive/ Hermits Rest Route at Grand Canyon National Park. Pima Point offers supreme views and easy parking ,ideal for the smaller wedding ceremony. This THE location for winter weddings at Grand Canyon National Park, as it is only available December, January and February.
Rim Worship Site – The view of the canyon from this location is expansive. Year-round, the sun won’t set over the canyon here either. It’s blocked by one of the many folds from a side canyon buttt that fold does help create open shade for portraits and a brightly lit canyon. This is on the westend of Grand Canyon. It has has a good flat section of ground to accommodate more than a small group for weddings. The Rim Worship Site can accommodate 50 people. There is no on-site parking. The closest parking is a little bit of a walk at about a half a mile from the rim of the canyon.
Grandeur Point – I’ve photographed several weddings at Grandeur Point by the Yavapai Geology museum on the canyon rim. This location does not disappoint. There are plenty of places to get unique photos on the edge. Here there are a couple of beautiful old twisty Juniper trees that I love including in photos. Its located near the Grand Canyon Village area, has a large parking area. Weddings with up to 45 people work well at the point. The point is is a nice large flat area with a great natural larger outcropping on the rim. This makes it very easy to see the wedding couple through the crowd of family and friends. This location is also right by a prominent viewing area and can see increased pedestrian traffic. Everyone’s visitor experience is protected here at the canyon and you may have some onlookers. Sometimes of the year, the sun sets over the canyon here but I would say this is better as a sunrise location. In peak summer its best. Because by the end of september the sun doesn’t rise over the rim of the canyon here. Instead it is coming up too far east beyond the geology museum.
Moran Point – located on the East Rim Drive/ Highway 64 East/ Desert View Drive. This is a really great location for smaller weddings that want an intimate canyon experience. It is often less visited than other locations, has amazing views and plenty of easy parking. I’ve only shot one wedding here, but it was a real treat. I did not have not to worry about other visitors in my wedding photos. Even so, there were not many visitors at Moran Point on my client’s wedding day. Most of the summer you can see a sunset or sunrise from this location. However, in spring and winter this is more difficult. There is also a prominent feature here. Brave and adventurous couples can take a little goat trail below the rim to access this point. This allows for some of the larger sweeping landscape views that make wedding couples look and feel small.
Lipan Point– on Highway Desert View Drive/64 East/East Rim Drive. This spot offers a view of the river and can is great for a smaller wedding of no more than 35 people. Parking is prevalent with room for buses and larger vehicles. This is probably my favorite location. Grand Canyon is one of the only geologic features that you can see from space. It’s somewhat linear and then it bends toward the north. Because this spot is at the bend, most times of the year it’s the best for sunrise or sunset.
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Would you like florals? Did you know that fresh flowers are not allowed at Grand Canyon weddings?
It’s on the permit application but most people fail to see it. Faux flowers are preferred because they are ALLOWED hahhha. But also because they are not non-native plants entering into this protected environment. That being said, unless you’ve done this before, hire a pro! I’ve seen a lot of brides attempt to do this but they aren’t very good at it. Their faux bouquets look good, at first. But, they have no idea what it will be like to drag around flowers or wear a boutonniere for more than 15 minutes. Fact is, the flower bouquets y’all are making shed. Now, we have a lot of plastic garbage in the environment and it’s super hard to clean up after a bouquet that is falling apart all day long.
I use Florals by Sarah Kay. They are hearty, can be trusted in the environment. Bouquets can be recycled into christmas ornaments, or a million and one things after. Perhaps the nicest thing about her arrangements is that they aren’t meant for just the day. She’ll take the time to talk to you. Sarah Kay will add in little lockets of past family members. Sometimes, secret heirlooms and gifts from your partner into the bouquets and boutineers.
Accomodations/ Dinner reservations:
I can help you with all of this as well – If I know you a little bit better. There are some adorable historic cabins at the Bright Angel Lodge, that I personally would like to stay in. If you are up for a real adventure, we could try to get Phantom Ranch dinner and accomodations. It’s an amazingly magical place at the bottom of Grand Canyon. It is 20 degrees warmer than the South Rim. If you don’t go this time, I highly recommend coming back for an anniversary. To do this, one of the most memorable experiences for people but reservations can be harder because it’s a popular destination.
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