Shenandoah National Park provides a beautiful backdrop for your special day, whether it's your wedding or another special ceremony. A special use permit is required for any wedding ceremony or special ceremony involving more than 15 participants. Weddings or special ceremonies may be coordinated by the authorized concessions operator, Delaware North at Shenandoah National Park (contact the Delaware North group sales office at 866-383-2922). For all other weddings or ceremonies in the Park, contact the permits office prior to completing any applications.
Obtaining a Special Use Permit
- Please note that simple, standup ceremonies with less than 16 participants and no set-up of any kind do not require a permit, however, to avoid possible conflict please contact the commercial services office to ensure a particular area/time/date is not already issued a permit.
- Ceremonies with any type of setup (i.e., decorations, chairs, arch, awning, music, etc.) requires a permit, regardless of the number of participants, and will only be approved to take place in a park amphitheater, or through arrangement with DNC in their land assignment.
- This office strongly recommends you not to finalize your wedding plans until you are issued an approved permit. Changes you make after receipt of the application in this office will require submission of a new application, emergencies and park operational changes notwithstanding.
- The Park reserves the right to monitor Special Use Permit activity.
- You are strongly encouraged to visit the park in advance of making your ceremony plans to familiarize yourself with available park resources and deciding where you want to hold your ceremony.
- This office does not plan weddings/ceremonies and does not make recommendations for officiates or outside resources.
- For clarity and consistency in the permitting process, this office will only communicate with the applicant on record as indicated in a SPU application.
- Due to the extremely high volume of visitors to the park on fall weekends, any wedding ceremony taking place at an authorized overlook on a Saturday or Sunday in October or November must be completed no later than 10 A.M.
The stunning natural, scenic beauty are prime reasons for the establishment of Shenandoah National Park and is an outstanding example of nature’s regenerative ability and a testament to the benefits of America’s conservation ethic. In respect for the natural, simple beauty, weddings or ceremonies in the front country, certain authorized overlooks or trails will follow this simple theme, i.e., you can wear your beautiful gown and/or best suit, or hiking clothes if so inclined, stand up in a small group (limited to no more than 29 participants) and have a simple, peaceful ceremony. Music, setup, or decorations of any kind are not authorized in these specific areas. Due to the possible introduction of non-native materials, throwing rice or any other materials of any kind at any time is strictly prohibited. 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.
Large Wedding Groups and Weddings or Ceremonies Requiring Setup
The maximum number of participants for weddings and ceremonies held within park boundaries is limited to 100. Those requesting a Special Use Permit for large wedding parties of 30 or more participants and/or any formal setup (i.e., use of chairs, arch, awnings, decorations, music, etc.) will only take place in a park amphitheater or through an arrangement with our authorized Concessionaire, Delaware North at Shenandoah (DNC). This is because these specific type weddings/ceremonies are not congruent with the prime reasons for the establishment of the park, and viewing these activities in front country, certain designated overlooks and trails significantly detract from the normal visitor experience. 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. DNC hosting weddings within their land assignment limits the number of participants to 100.
The park determined that our visitor centers are mission critical hubs in park operations for the dissemination of park information and interpretation operations telling the story of Shenandoah National Park. As such, and because of the inherent impact/detraction from the purpose of park operations, weddings and ceremonies are not authorized at, in, or around the Dickey Ridge and Byrd visitor centers.
In support of the park Natural Resources program and propagation of rare native plants in the Big Meadows area, the small open meadow immediately below Tanner’s Ridge Overlook is the only authorized area for weddings in the Big Meadows. Parking is limited and is not reservable.
Although not every permitted activity requires monitoring, all Special Use Permit activities are subject to monitoring as a program cost recovery. Monitoring fees are $55 per hour for each NPS staff member necessary to adequately monitor the activity. Monitoring fees are billed to include travel time to/from the area of activity and government vehicle mileage costs. Please email the Commercial Services Office (SHEN_Permits@nps.gov) well in advance of the event with activity specifics and receive a determination concerning required monitoring.
All vehicles shall park correctly in legal parking spaces on a first-come, first served basis (no reservation of parking spaces).
- Do not park on roads, road shoulders, or block any access.
- Vehicles shall not impede road traffic or visitor access in any way.
- Commercial transportation is not authorized within the boundaries of the park, unless specifically approved, in advance.
Entry fees apply, as appropriate to the method of entry into the park. Advance payment of entry fees for guests is possible via credit card only, through the park fee program. For more information please contact the Assistant Fee Program Manager at (540) 999-3500, ext 3406.
The Permittee and/or employees/associates, and/or participants, and/or guests is/are expressly prohibited from entering any closed/out-of-bounds areas or from leaving established trails, walkways and visitor areas. Vehicle or foot travel off designated roadways, walkways, sidewalks, or trails is not permitted.
The Permittee and/or employees/associates, and/or participants, and/or guests holding their weddings or ceremonies in the front country, certain authorized overlooks or trails are limited to only corsages, chaplets, boutonnieres and handheld flowers during the permitted activity. Weddings or ceremonies held in an amphitheater may bring plants or flowers for use during the ceremony. Wherever the wedding or ceremony is held, the Permittee and/or employees/associates, and/or participants, and/or guests but will, by the end of the permit, police the area and remove all such materials to include petals, leaves, stems, pieces and/or plant parts from the park at the conclusion of the permitted activity, to mitigate the potential introduction of non-native and invasive species left behind.
The use of decorations may be considered only in amphitheaters and will be approved in advance. The Permittee shall ensure removal of decorations by the end of the permit.
Banners, Chairs, Memorials, Photos, Plaques, Signs, etc.
Shenandoah National Park specifically prohibits placement of the following:
- Memorials, photos, and/or plaques
Note: In support of the park invasive species prevention program, the use of chairs from sources outside the park are prohibited due to possible contamination from insect and/or plant materials. Weddings and ceremonies requiring chairs in their setup are required to make arrangements to use chairs provided by the park concessions partner, DNC.
Authorized equipment is limited to hand-carried cameras and tripods. All equipment cannot interfere with the experience of other visitors. The Permittee is not authorized the use of stand-alone lighting systems.
Electrical power is not furnished. The Permittee shall not connect to any power sources located anywhere within park boundaries. Generators are not authorized.
Audio devices (e.g. electrified musical instruments, P.A. systems, tape players, etc.) are prohibited.
Non-amplified musical instruments (e.g. flute, guitar) that do not impact the experience of other visitors may be considered and shall be approved in advance.
Use of Native Materials
Native materials shall not be disturbed and/or used for props except, as a natural backdrop. Off-trail is not permitted.
Attachments and Coverings
The Permittee and/or employees/associates, and/or participants, and/or guests under this Permit will not attach anything to any NPS facility, structure, rock, ground, or vegetation. Permittee and/or participants under this Permit will not cover or remove signs, fences, or posts, natural features, etc.
Ground Disturbing Activities
The Permittee employees/associates, and/or participants, and/or guests under this Permit shall not engage in any ground disturbing activities, whatsoever.
Disturbance of Natural Features
Permittee employees/associates, and/or participants, and/or guests under this Permit shall not dig, scrape, remove, or otherwise disturb any natural features.
Leave No Trace Policy
The Permittee and/or employees/associates, and/or participants, and/or guests under this Permit shall follow a leave-no-trace policy and restore the area of use to the same condition prior to use, or better.
Waste Disposal (Pack-in, Pack-out)
The Permittee and/or employees/associates, and/or participants, and/or guests under this Permit shall dispose of all such waste and debris associated with activities authorized within this Permit outside the park boundaries. The Permittee and/or participants under this Permit shall not use garbage collection facilities provided for the public within the park, for the disposal of refuse associated with this Permit.