Planning an elopement in Acadia National Park
Updated: Mar 5
While I hope this blog will be a valuable resource for couples who are considering eloping in Acadia, it's a blog of my own wedding planning process in chronological order. This way you can also get "first hand experience" in the elopement planning process with me!
I'll separate different sections based on dates & major details so that way you can see my planning process and how quickly (or delayed) things take! This will be sort of personal diary but I'll try not to make things too detailed so it's not irrelevant for the general public... and if you want to know more details, I'll be sure to write a blog about my elopement day experience after our wedding; July 2021. All vendor info will be shared in that blog as well.
Elopement Planning Process
August 2020 - Proposal & First Plans
Paul proposed! I've known for a long time I wanted to have our wedding pictures somewhere a little more adventurous but wasn't sure what form that would be in. The first option would be to do a couple's shoot in our wedding attire before our wedding and then display the photos at our big wedding later on. The other option was to have an intimate wedding somewhere outdoors.
October 2020 - Deciding on Acadia
Paul and I went to Acadia National Park for our friend's wedding. I photographed their elopement ceremony while he officiated. We've always loved Acadia, and after witnessing how amazing and personalized their day was, we decided we wanted the same for ourselves. Thus commence planning our Acadia National Park elopement.
Related Blog: Fall Acadia National Park Elopement
January 2021 : Setting a Date & Securing a Permit
After deciding on an intimate wedding and Acadia, we just had to choose a date. We originally wanted a long engagement since we figured we'd have to save up the money over two years or so to pay for it. But since we no longer had to save up money for a big wedding, we decided on 2021!
Acadia's peak tourism is from May - October and while we didn't want the park to be super busy, we also wanted to take advantage of all that Acadia and Bar Harbor has to offer. To combat the tourism, we planned to have a mid-week ceremony so hopefully it won't be quite as busy. Paul originally wanted Fall, but since I'm a wedding and elopement photographer myself, that just isn't an option. After consulting our families to see if they had any blackout dates, we were torn between three diff dates. Ultimately our decision came down to when our photographer (who is one of my best friends) was available. So July 29 it is!!!
Obtaining a permit to have wedding ceremony in Acadia National Park:
After we decided on our date, my first priority was to secure a permit from the National Park Service ensuring we'd be able to proceed with our ceremony in Acadia. Permit applications are $50 and required for any ceremony over 10 people and should be secured within the same calendar year. There are a lot of restrictions for getting married in the park (like no chairs, signs, amplifying equipment, interfering with other visitors, etc). The NPS website lists some popular ceremony spots alongside the guest limit for each location. Since we'll have 25 people in attendance we had limited options for where we could choose. We decided on Otter Point with Schoodic Point as a backup. I mailed our permit application on January 25th and received an email from the NPS with next steps on February 1st - SOOO much faster than I anticipated!! It was amazing to get it taken care of quickly.
While our guest count limited where we could have our ceremony, we had been to Acadia a few times so knew where we wanted to have our wedding. However, if you've never been, and interested in eloping there, I have an Acadia Location Guide I created that I share with my couples to help them choose what's best for them. Interested? Contact me.
Obtaining a vehicle registration (if applicable):
After a successful run in 2021, Acadia renewed its vehicle reservations for popular Cadillac Summit Road. In 2022, dates span from May 25 through October 22, and visitors have two types of tickets to choose from: sunrise or daytime.
The tickets cost $6 per vehicle and will be available on Recreation.gov. The park plans to release 30 percent of reservations 90 days in advance, with the remaining 70 percent released at 10 A.M. EST two days ahead.
February : Creating an Elopement Timeline
After finishing the application paperwork and finalizing our date and ceremony location it finally felt real. It was the first official paperwork and deposit we had to submit to take steps towards getting married. We now only had 5 short months to plan. While some things can be done shortly beforehand, certain things require more time - like getting a wedding dress and securing a space for dinner. So we did that ASAP.
In order to ensure we can have the day of our dreams, it is essential to plan a timeline well in advance. This way we know how long everything will take and when to book reservations and the time increments we'll hire vendors for.
Our elopement plan:
It's extremely important to me that our wedding is more than just having family witness us saying "I do" - I want it to be a fun getaway and experience for everyone. Because of that, we've planned a three-day experience. The day before our ceremony Paul and I will take all of our sunset couple's photos so that way we won't have to sneak away on our actual wedding day. That night we'll host a welcome party with apps and open bar since everyone is traveling up to Bar Harbor that day or the day before. The day of our ceremony we'll rent two shuttles to drop us off at Otter Point so no one has to worry about driving or parking (peak park season problems). The ceremony will likely be a half hour. Following the ceremony we'll get back on the shuttles and head to dinner on the marina of our hotel. We have our dinner space reserved for three hours and after that we'll walk to Windjammer Cruise Lines and our group will hop on our private sunset sail for our "cocktail hour". We plan to take a little bit of time to do our family photos and first dances on the boat. Afterwards we'll bar hop with whoever wants to keep the party going! Next day we'll have a nice private brunch at our hotel!!
Since I wanted to do so much after the ceremony, I knew it was important to have an earlier start time. While lighting won't be the best at 2pm, it's more important to me to have a great experience than killer photos. So part of this timeline had to be figured out before I sent in our permit since I had to indicate the ceremony time on the permit.
March - May : Hiring Wedding Vendors & Buttoning up Details
So far we got confirmation we secured the park permit, booked our hotel and transportation, reserved a private dinner space, put a deposit down for the sunset sail, hired a photographer, ordered invitations, bought a wedding dress, and secured a hair and makeup artist.. I'll elaborate on who everyone is and their work in my post-wedding blog.
We still needed to secure a florist, welcome-party space, brunch space, wedding bands, Paul's attire, annnddd... I think that's it? *exhales*.
Paul and I are generally frugal, so when it came to looking for a hotel we procrastinated hard. Putting the deposit down on a hotel was probably our most difficult decision of where to choose. We had wanted to stay at the Ivy Manor Inn because we had a good experience there in the past, but unfortunately they don't allow dogs. And of course we needed to have Winston with us! So we ultimately decided it made the most sense to stay at the Harborside Hotel since that's where our dinner will be - costs be damned. Convenience wins!
We ordered hand painted invites in January and got them in April. I am obssseessssed with them! We visited the designer's shop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming a few years ago when we visited Grand Tetons National Park and fell in love with her work! I've kept up with following her on instagram so knew immediately that I wanted her to design our invites. I sent her a photo I had taken from the Acadia coastline and she painted a watercolor version of it for the invitations. So in April we mailed out our invites and finished our wedding website to provide people with more info.
In April we also got our wedding bands!!! Woohoo!!! They came in in about two weeks. Also Paul's family reserved space for our brunch, and we reserved space for our welcome party. Harborside hotel is freaking amazing and has made the process SO easy and the food all sounds so good I'm drooling writing this blog. So that means we're doing the welcome party, our wedding dinner, and the brunch all at the Harborside Hotel. They have a separate building, the Bar Harbor Club for the private events.
I got the call that my dress is ready! Woot! They expected it to be done in May but it's relieving to have already gotten the call the first week of the month. Not only is my dress ready, but it was the same day that Paul and I went to buy his suit. Huzzah!
Literally the only thing left to do is secure a florist and pick up our marriage license.
I'm not too stressed about the florist since all I need is my a few bouquets then a few corsages and boutonnieres. No installments or arrangements for decor. The only thing I DO have planned with florals is that I'm going to mail my bouquet to Framed Florals afterwards to dry, press, and frame the flowers. I've wanted to work with this Lacie for yearsssssss and I'm stoked it's finally my time.
June : Getting a Marriage License & Other Updates
Although we live in Massachusetts, since we're getting married in Maine we have to get the marriage license from Maine. So we drove up to Portland for a little weekend getaway and to get that done. I just had to call the city hall to make an appointment at their office. In Maine, there is no waiting period between when you receive your marriage license and when you can get married. However, the marriage license is only valid for 90 days.
In June I found a florist who does amazing work, and when I inquired with her she sent me a super personalized proposal with a mood board and everything! AMAZING! I am so excited to work with her. I never thought florals would occupy so much space in my mind but I'm seriously so excited about them. Since we have no other decor for a venue, the flowers are really the only personal touch I'll have for the day! We'll repurpose the bouquets to be centerpieces. My MIL is also ordering these cuuuuuute Moose cupcakes for everyone since we weren't planning on having any cake.
We also decided we wanted to get favors for everyone! I know that to keep costs down this can be overlooked but it was important to us to give our guests a token to show we appreciate them and have something to remember our day by. We got pint glasses with a white frosted "logo" of sorts with our last name, the date, and a picture of Maine. I love them!
Now all we have left to do is confirm everyone's meals, I need to pick up my dress from getting alterations done, get my bridesmaids their gifts, buy Paul a wedding present, figure out what jewelry I'm wearing, order vow books, and write the ceremony script. LOL okay more than I thought.
July : Crunch Time
Legit the week of our wedding I bought my wedding jewelry, shoes, wrote my vows, and did a bunch of random last minute things I hadn't thought of like pick up snacks for the room, etc.
But it all came together. And it was fucking awesome. I'll be posting our wedding day recap blog soon!
Do you have any questions about how to elope in Acadia, or Maine? Fill out my contact form below or reach out and let's chat about what your day could look like! I'm booking 2022 elopements.
Tamara Merri Photography