No, You Can't Keep People Out Of Yellowstone To Have Private Wedding

Yellowstone National Park is one of America’s most popular public places. It’s beauty also makes it a wedding destination, just don’t expect to have the park to yourself, as one recent wedding party tried to do.

AR
Andrew Rossi

September 29, 20234 min read

A "Private Function" sign at the stairs leading to Artist Point at the Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is a message that, although it's a public place, the wedding party wants the space all to themselves.
A "Private Function" sign at the stairs leading to Artist Point at the Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is a message that, although it's a public place, the wedding party wants the space all to themselves. (Cowboy State Daily Staff)

Yellowstone National Park might be one of the most beautiful backdrops for a wedding, and many people exchange their vows and rings surrounded by the park’s natural beauty. But the national parks belong to everybody, which means everyone in a park during a wedding is technically on the guest list.

Wedding crashers, whether they be photogenic tourists or native wildlife, are an inherent hazard for any Yellowstone wedding. That’s why a recent sign proclaiming one of the park’s most popular spots off limits because of a “private function” has many people speaking now and not holding their peace.

‘Private Function’

A Yellowstone visitor captured a video of a wedding at Artist Point at the Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

The video filmed the most breathtaking moment of any wedding: The bride making her way down the aisle or, in this case up the stairs to the landing that gives the best view of the Lower Falls on the southern rim of the canyon.

The sight of the bride at a wedding usually is a happy, joyous image, but many who saw the video of this bride on “Yellowstone: Invasion of the Idiots” were seething instead.

That’s because a sign proclaiming the “Private Function” at the bottom of the stairs leading to the Artist Point overlook was a clear indicator that nobody other than the wedding guests were welcome on the landing, which is one of the most popular and picturesque spots in Yellowstone.

Being uninvited to a wedding is one thing, but driving hundreds — or perhaps thousands — of miles to visit the national park to find it inaccessible is quite another. The national parks belong to all Americans, for better and for worse, in sickness and in health.

Dearly Beloved, Permitted Here Today

Nikki Flowers is a notary and wedding officiant from Cody. She officiated a wedding in that same place, Artist Point at the Lower Falls, last weekend. 

The couple Flowers married had a special use permit issued by the National Park Service with them, which laid out exactly what was permitted for their nuptial ceremony.

“We had the ceremony (on the lower platform) so people could go up to the landing, and we went up to the landing for pictures afterward,” she told Cowboy State Daily. “You’re not supposed to make it so other visitors cannot go up there. They’re supposed to have access.”

About 20 family members attended, and not a single sign was posted.

“The family made a half circle around the couple while I officiated,” she said. “Everyone recognized a wedding was taking place, probably because two dozen people in dresses and suits is a bit removed from the typical tourist getup.”

Once the ceremony concluded, everyone in the party posed for photos on the Artist Point overlook with the Lower Falls in the background. The landing was crowded, but not closed, and tourists could still get their photos at the iconic location.

I Do, You Don’t

Anyone can have a Yellowstone wedding if they go through the proper channels.

The National Park Service issues permits for weddings depending on location, group size and the time of year or day. The betrothed must apply at least two to four weeks before the big day at a cost of $250.

However, not every spot in Yellowstone is a potential venue and there are specific parameters that must be followed.

The NPS’s Yellowstone website states that weddings at Artist Point must take place “in the treed area on the lower platform,” and a maximum of 40 people can attend. Exclusivity is not only unlikely, it’s not allowed.

“While the park can be an unforgettable backdrop for your special day,” the permit site reads, “if you want to have a large, exclusive, or decorated celebration, please consider locations outside of the park for your event.”

It’s possible the wedding party brought the “Private Function” sign themselves. Based on the permit, it’s unlikely the NPS or Yellowstone staff provided it.

Yellowstone Wedding Crashers

When Flowers officiated a wedding at Artists Point, there were dozens of tourists bustling by; however, nobody disturbed the ceremony.

“There were tourists filming it while I was doing it. It made me chuckle a bit. But everyone was kind and respected the moment, which I thought was impressive. You don’t always get that in the park,” she said.

Not following an NPS permit could see a Yellowstone wedding get crashed by a park ranger, who could sign a ticket rather than the guest book.

Andrew Rossi can be reached at arossi@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Andrew Rossi

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