A Morning Elopement Ceremony With Bear Claws and a Sunset Canoe Ride, Montana

A Morning Elopement Ceremony With Bear Claws and a Sunset Canoe Ride, Montana

Zach and Emma had their elopement at Glacier National Park because it’s one of their favorite places ever. They chose to do a morning elopement ceremony in Montana at the remote Bowman Lake with some of their closest loved ones. 

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Eloping at Bowman Lake in Montana

Photography by Emily Hary Photography

Glacier National Park has a limited number of designated ceremony spots for your elopement within the park, so Emily suggests teaming up with a photographer or planner as soon as you can to submit your special use permit

“Keep in mind each spot has its own set of regulations. Be sure to study the chart on their website for information on group/vehicle restrictions, if pets are allowed, decor regular and plenty of helpful planning information. Peak season is roughly May through September, with most of the park accessible between mid-July and mid-September. Expect to wait weeks for a reply on whether or not your permit was approved due to a very high volume of applications being submitted to their office.

Trying for a sunrise time on your permit is an excellent way to make the most of your time in the park on your elopement day. Take a midday break after the ceremony like these two did and then reconvene for more exploration and photos in another area of the park. The time spent between can be great for quality time with family/friends if you choose to bring any.” [Emily, the photographer]

Check out our Montana elopement packages for more tips and places to elope in the area.

About This Morning Elopement Ceremony in Montana

“They had a small group of family/friends join. Their friend even flew his cello to them to play! It sounded incredible, echoing off the quiet lake. Afterwards, we took photos then went to Polebridge Mercantile to get their famous huckleberry bearclaws. The couple got a couple drinks and lunch at a next door saloon too. So fun! Later that evening we reconvened for an evening adventure on Lake McDonald with the most dreamy canoe ride. The sunset was stunning pink and they took in all the beauty and soaked up their elopement day into dusk.” [Emily, the photographer]

Deciding to Elope

The couple shares that eloping was originally Zach’s idea since he always loved the idea of getting married in a way that wasn’t traditional. The more they talked about it, the more they realized the intimacy of an elopement was what they wanted for their day.

“The great thing about eloping is that you get a vacation and a wedding all in one! We didn’t have things like a rehearsal dinner or last minute finalizing plans. Instead, the day before we went ziplining, and got to check out fun towns around Glacier and hiking. With Emily, we got to choose to do an adventure session the day after our wedding. We met her in the morning and got to drive around the park taking amazing pictures! We weren’t in our wedding attire anymore, so it gave us a lot of versatility in pictures. It was a way to see so much of the park.” [Emma]

Check out our top 10 reasons to elope!

Details From This Elopement

“I absolutely adore their custom banner! It doubles as home decor afterwards and is so cool! I also loved how the foliage was just starting to show signs of fall with pops of yellow here and there. The custom canoe we rented was also a cherry on top to a glorious September day.” [Emily, the photographer]

Other details we love from this wedding day:

  • Emma’s something blue shoe laces
  • Personalized wedding tie for Emma’s father
  • Bear claws as their wedding cake
  • Playing basketball with their family in their wedding attire
  • Sunset canoe ride with lanterns

“During our planning sessions, Emma, Emily and I threw around the idea of doing a photo shoot in a boat as the sun was setting on Lake Mcdonald. As you can see from our photos, it ended up working out but it wasn’t without teamwork. We all looked around for some options and Emily found a beautiful Wedding Rowboat at Glacier Outfitters… We were ecstatic, and those photos are probably my favorite wedding photos we have.” [Zach]

Estimated Cost Breakdown From This Elopement

Photographer: $5800
Flights: $300 (I used a flight miles reward card to pay for Emma’s engagement ring and some other wedding things I’d highly recommend this because it paid for our trip out to Glacier)
Flowers: $200
National Park Wedding Permit: $42
Wedding Dress: $1000
KOA Cabin: $300/night

Estimated total: $8,000

Check out this elopement cost guide for more things to consider when planning. 

Memorable Moments During This Morning Elopement in Montana

From the photographer:

My all-time favorite moment was witnessing the incredible sunset on Lake McDonald as Zach and Emma rowed around taking in the views together on their canoe. Pink faded into blue and I was giddy as I photographed them snuggling with the lanterns. It was an unforgettable evening out in nature together.”

From Emma:

“I think that our late-night photoshoot was my favorite at Lake McDonald. At that point we were married, fed, and so happy! It was right at sunset and probably the prettiest sight I’ve ever seen. Then at the end of the boat ride, we got in the water and took some awesome pictures of my dress floating in the water.”

From Zach:

“Other than the actual ceremony, I honestly have to say the huckleberry bear claws. I know I already mentioned it, but I can’t recommend Polebridge Mercantile enough… and no I’m not getting paid to say that. I would choose that experience over a fancy wedding cake and reception 100 times over.”

Advice From The Photographer 

“Always plan for the worst, prepare for anything, and hope for the best! Talk to your photographer about what will happen if the permit is rejected or the park suddenly closes that day. Have a back-up location or two in mind that is outside of the park’s boundaries.” [Emily, the photographer]

Are you ready to start planning? Learn how to elope here.


Photography | Emily Hary Photography

Florals | Mum’s Flowers


Photos From This Elopement Day in Montana

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