Top National Parks to Say "I Do" or "I Will"

Finding the perfect setting in the perfect setting
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Trunks Bay Beach, Virgin Islands National Park
Trunks Bay Beach, Virgin Islands National Park  (Digital Vision/Getty)
Yosemite (Marryin') Sam
For couples who dream of marrying in a chapel in a valley, one national park rises to the top of their list of where to wed: Yosemite. That's because Yosemite offers a chance to be married in a chapel in THE valley. Moved to its present site beside Southside Drive in 1901, the circa-1879 Yosemite Chapel offers couples the rare privilege of exchanging vows in a house of worship in a national park. The simple wooden chapel is an excellent example of early chapel architecture in the Sierra Nevada, one that is as plain as its surroundings are majestic. It looks familiar and comforting. The interior consists solely of several rows of wooden pews, hanging lights, a simple altar, and a single cross. But the sanctuary can be enhanced with candles, flowers, ribbons, and accoutrements limited only by the wedding budget. Without frills or adornment, the sincerity of the chapel—the first structure in Yosemite National Park placed on the National Register of Historic Places (1973)—shines through.

Many romantic stories have been written in our national parks, where quiet sanctuaries amid the widespread grandeur and lovely settings designed by nature serve as the perfect backdrop for a marriage proposal or wedding. Ceremonies are usually low-key and discreet (permits and restrictions apply), but romance is ever present.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Crenellated Shoreline of Lake Powell
The waters of Lake Powell stretch into million-year-old sandstone canyons and seep up cliff walls, creating nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline that feather throughout the serpentine 186-mile-long lake set on the Utah–Arizona border. The lake's multiple fingers in this 1.25-million-acre national recreation area create natural sanctuaries where couples can escape and find themselves alone among the region's spectacular cliffs, buttes, smooth sands, color-changing canyons, and deep blue waters. In these dramatic settings visitors can be at one with nature … and together with their intended.

Cape Cod National Seashore
Atlantic Shoreline at Sunrise
Sweet sea breezes, curling waves that have been kissing the sand for millennia, and 44,600 acres of pristine shoreline create a setting that rivals the spiritual peace of the grandest cathedrals. Among the ecosystems of this Massachusetts peninsular preserve are grasslands, heathlands, woodlands, and forests, as well as hidden lakes and ponds. And if the park's endless Atlantic coast beaches—some 40 miles' worth—are the church, the soft sand dunes are nature's pews. Arrive before dawn and as day breaks, a well-timed proposal can lead to a new chapter that begins in the glow of sunrise. Thanks to nature and the local resident turned President who signed the papers to preserve it (a young man named John F. Kennedy), this national seashore and its untamed wilderness will always be here to offer suitors—and their grandchildren—a magical place to create family memories.

Grand Teton National Park
Inspiration Point
With a ticket in hand and an engagement ring at the ready, arrive at the landing at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center and board an open boat to Mount St. John and a trail that leads to Inspiration Point. The walk is easy and quite picturesque as it passes Hidden Falls and its river rapids before arriving at Inspiration Point (elev. 7,200 feet), an overlook dominated by a view of Jenny Lake with Mount St. John and Grand Teton to the rear. The dramatic vista will be unforgettable, especially because this is where he or she said yes. Return to seal the deal at Grand Teton, where weddings are often held at one of the Signal Mountain summit turnouts, adding unique vistas to wedding photographs. Couples at this Wyoming park can bring the wedding indoors in the Menors Ferry Historic District, where the Chapel of the Transfiguration boasts a broad window that frames the tallest of the Teton peaks.

Virgin Islands National Park
Trunks Bay Beach
High on the list of exotic wedding locations, the tropical Trunks Bay Beach on the U.S. Virgin Island of St. John offers the option for a shoesfree ceremony. That's actually a good idea considering that rolling waves tend to soak the feet of bride and groom. Consistently placed among the world's ten best beaches by people who have the enviable task of ranking beaches, Trunk Bay Beach is sandwiched between crystal-clear, blue-green Caribbean waters and a tropical potpourri of coconut palms and seaside grapes. When the traditionally casual ceremony begins, guests may sit in folding chairs (or on the sand) and the bride and groom may opt for a floral arrangement of colorful orchids (or settle for seaweed). By nature, Trunk Bay weddings are laid-back and natural, and the ceremony could just as easily conclude with a surfing contest as with a kiss. With nature and human nature setting the pace, often the only guideline couples follow is timing their first kiss as man and wife to a Technicolor Caribbean sunset.

Hot Springs National Park
Historic Bath Houses
There aren't many towns in America where one side of the street is the city itself and the other a national park that shares the city's name. In fact, Hot Springs in Arkansas may be the only one. For centuries, Quapaw Indians tapped into naturally healing, heated, and therapeutic mineral waters that were later utilized by 20th-century entrepreneurs as the centerpiece of a gilded age resort—and those are reasons enough to visit Hot Springs. Add a lovely grand hotel, the Oaklawn Park racetrack, a gorgeous circa-1880s promenade, and a commanding view of the Ouchita Mountains from a circuitous drive to the top of 1,060-foot Hot Springs Mountain, and there's every reason to visit. The National Park Service has preserved several historic bathhouses: Buckstaff and Quapaw are in operation and Fordyce is restored as a museum. After taking the plunge in a mineral-rich bath, after being kneaded into muscle-melting bliss, while sipping iced lemonade and relaxing in plush robes, the mood may be right to take advantage of the town's heritage and hot springs and ask … "Will you?"

Published: 20 May 2011 | Last Updated: 26 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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