It’s no wonder The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is such a popular destination for weddings. There’s no other place on Earth like these majestic mountains. Here are a few tips for planning your wedding in the Smokies.
Plan Early – There are pre-approved locations in the National Park where you can hold your wedding ceremony. The most popular locations include mountain rivers and streams, mountain views, historic churches in Cades Cove and waterfalls. National Park rules only allow two weddings per day at each of these locations. You should make your plans as early as possible in order to have the most options.
Permits – There is a permit required to have your wedding in the National Park. The permit provides you permission to have your ceremony at a specific location, but does not give you exclusive use of that location. All areas of the park are open to the public. An experienced, local wedding professional will be able to give you suggestions as to the best time to plan your wedding so you will be less likely to see other park visitors. You can obtain your own permit or let your wedding services provider get it for you. Information on permits and a list of wedding vendors who are approved to provide services in the National Park are available from Lisa Brown at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 828-497-1930
Keep it Simple – The outdoor locations in the Smokies are best suited for small, simple weddings with less than 25 guests and little to no decorations. There are a few indoor wedding locations that are better suited for weddings with more than 25 guests including the rustic churches in Cades Cove, The Appalachian Clubhouse and Spence Cabin.
Weather – The weather is the Smoky Mountains is simply unpredictable. The temperatures during Spring and Fall are especially erratic. While normally comfortable, temperature can fluctuate dramatically in these transitional seasons. And even though it is unlikely to rain on your wedding day, be sure to work with local vendors to come up with a back up plan for inclement weather.
Marriage License – You must obtain a Tennessee marriage license to be legally married on the Tennessee side of the Smoky Mountains. It is surprisingly easy to get your marriage license in Sevier County, there is no waiting period and a blood test is not required. If you and your fiance’ are both legal residents of another state or country your marriage license will cost $41.00. The county clerk has three locations: Sevierville, Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. More information on Tennessee marriage licenses can be found here or by calling the courthouse at 865-453-5502.
GPS – Although GPS is getting better all the time, it’s best to get directions or at least confirm directions to your lodging, wedding services and wedding ceremony with the companies you are working with. The rough terrain and winding rivers make GPS problematic in the Smoky mountains and surrounding areas including Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge. There are old road that are no longer passable, one way roads and lots of traffic considerations that GPS doesn’t always take into account.
Footwear – The National Park consists of rocky terrain. It is best to wear flat shoes, not just for the bride but also her guests. If your dress has already been fitted for you in heels, it would be best to change into them just before the ceremony. The terrain can also be challenging for elderly people who have a hard time getting around. If you have guests who are handicap or may have difficulty walking on uneven surfaces I would suggest an alternate location in Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg for your wedding ceremony. Then have wedding pictures made in the beautiful settings that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has to offer.
Photography – Your decision to marry in the Smokies will more than likely have to do with the amazing scenery. To take full advantage of the breathtaking scenes you should hire an experienced, local photographer. It’s easy for just about anyone to photograph the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains with today’s technology. And almost as easy to make good photos of people. But it can be difficult when you combine the two. There are challenging lighting and composition considerations unique to this area. A good photographer will be familiar with these challenges as well as know the best locations for wedding pictures.
Planning a wedding from out of town can be intimidating. The great thing about planning your wedding in the Smoky Mountains and Gatlinburg are the large variety of resources available to you. There are a number of local businesses, chambers of commerce and informational websites such as the Smoky Mountain Wedding Association ready and excited to help you plan the wedding of your dreams.
written by Eric Gebhart of New Beginnings Photography for your Smoky Mountain Wedding Packages