There are few things more epic than the Grand Canyon—except maybe a Grand Canyon wedding. Here are Zola’s Grand Canyon tips.
The couple who loves adventure, the outdoors, and dazzling views would be hard-pressed to find better wedding venues than the ones offered at the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon wedding is a truly special experience and will begin your life together as a married couple in a unique fashion.
To make your nature-focused wedding dreams come true, there are quite a few boxes you must check off your list. After you decide where in the Grand Canyon you wish to hold your ceremony, you might need a special permit. Then you’ll need to decide when—and what—you want your wedding to be like.
We’re here to help you navigate the process of holding the ultimate Grand Canyon celebration with this helpful guide. We’ve included our top tips, such as:
The Grand Canyon stretches 277 miles and is bisected by the Colorado River. Although the river touches seven different states, the part we know as the Grand Canyon is only in Arizona. On average, the distance from one side of the canyon to the other is 10 miles, although it’s only 600 yards across at the narrowest point and 18 miles at the widest.
There are two primary parts of the canyon, commonly referred to as the North and South Rims. The North Rim has a higher elevation of approximately 8,100 feet above sea level. The South Rim measures 7,000 feet above sea level. This difference in elevation means you’ll find different climates, wildlife, and plants on either side of the canyon.
The majestic Grand Canyon National Park has two areas open to the public: the North and South Rims. There are 10 locations within the park that can serve as your wedding venue. The South Rim has significantly more options than the North Rim. There’s also a Grand Canyon West Rim option, but this comes with caveats we’ll discuss below.
There are possibilities for both indoor and outdoor weddings along the South Rim. Many of these places have limited capacities, so they’re best for small, intimate ceremonies.
Grandeur Point: You can take one of the free shuttles or have your guests walk the mile from the parking lot to Grandeur Point. While this may be a bit of a hike, it’s well worth it—this point offers some of the best sunset views in the canyon. You can have up to 45 people at a ceremony here.
Lipan Point: This small site with a capacity of 35 people offers dazzling views of the cliffs in the distance. You’ll also be able to see the Colorado River as it flows below the Lipan point.
Moran Point: Moran Point is named for the artist Thomas Moran who loved to paint the contrast between shadows and light. If you’re looking for the perfect place for dramatic photos, this might be a winner. You’ll be limited to 35 people at this site.
Pima Point: The capacity at Pima Point is only 30 people. However, the spectacular views of the Colorado River will provide those special few with amazing photos as they take in your I dos.
Rim Worship Site: You can have up to 50 guests at this site. However, there’s a bit of a hike from the parking lot to the area, so you’ll want to account for that when you make your plans. You’ll find an interdenominational worship area here.
Shoshone Point: This is the only viewpoint where you can hold both the ceremony and reception. It’s limited to 85 people and is very secluded. Shoshone Point is only accessible from a mile-long dirt road, so you’ll need to keep this in mind if you want to have your wedding here.
Park Lodges: If you want the Grand Canyon experience, but prefer an indoor option, you can book one of the lodges within the park. The capacities vary depending on the facility you choose. It’s important to note that the indoor park lodges are only available for weddings during the off-season, between November 1 and March 15.
Shrine of the Ages: The Shrine of the Ages is a multi-use building owned by the National Park Service. It’s used by many groups, so the availability for weddings is somewhat limited. The larger auditorium can fit 250 people, but no food is allowed in this area; the smaller room can fit 60. Please note: No alcohol is allowed in this facility.
The South Rim offers a variety of places for your earthy, captivating, Grand Canyon wedding ceremony.
The North Rim has fewer sites available for weddings. This is because it’s more difficult to get to, and the weather is more temperamental. However, if you love the North Rim, there are two options for you there, including:
Cape Royale Amphitheater: For a small ceremony with no more than 40 people, you can use the Cape Royale Amphitheater. This site is perfect for the minimalist, as it has six benches and stunning views.
Point Imperial Viewpoint: The highest point along the North Rim of the canyon allows only 20 people. You’ll have a different panorama from the Point Imperial Viewpoint as well, since it sits further north than any other spot.
While limited, the North Rim viewpoints are an excellent choice for any couple looking for a very small, low-key ceremony with breathtaking views.
If you’re looking for an alternative Grand Canyon wedding experience outside of the national park, there is one other option available. Some couples elect to get married at the Grand Canyon West Rim of the canyon. There are companies that offer a Grand Canyon wedding package for ceremonies at one of the three viewpoints along the West Rim or at the glass-enclosed Skywalk.
These packages are typically very expensive and don’t include the national park experience most couples getting married in the Grand Canyon want. However, we wanted to mention them as an alternative for those seeking just a touch of the canyon instead of a more immersive encounter.
Whichever option you select for your wedding is sure to get your guests excited. The ideal way to build your guests’ anticipation for your special ceremony is to craft a stunning wedding website. Zola’s free wedding websites have easy-to-use templates that you can customize to fit your wedding theme. This allows your guests to begin to make plans for your destination wedding.
While your guests are busy making plans to get to your wedding, you’ll need to acquire the necessary permits for the ceremony. You can request a specific area of the park to hold your wedding up to a year in advance, but some spots fill quickly.
You must apply for—and receive—a permit to use any of the places in Grand Canyon National Park for your wedding ceremony. There are several important pieces of information about permits you must know, including:
This is a critical part of the process of hosting a Grand Canyon wedding, so we recommend taking this step as soon as possible to secure your place.
If you opt for an indoor event at one of the Grand Canyon Park Lodges, you do not need to acquire a special use permit from the National Park Services. Instead, you must abide by the contract you sign with the lodge.
Since the West Rim wedding options are operated by tour companies rather than park services, you don’t need a special use permit. However, you must follow the rules outlined by the group through which you arrange your ceremony.
You’ll also need to acquire an Arizona marriage license if you wish to get married in Grand Canyon National Park. To obtain the license, you must both be present at the clerk’s office and it must be more than 24 hours before your wedding. The license is good for up to 12 months.
If you opt for the West Rim experience, it’s highly likely that you’ll have a Nevada marriage license instead of one from Arizona. Many of the companies that offer West Rim weddings are from Nevada and, thus, have Nevada certified-officiants.
Finally, you must have an officiant for your wedding. This can be a:
This person, along with two witnesses, must sign the marriage certificate before it can be officially recorded with the state of Arizona.
Some of the sites on both the North and South Rims are only available between specific dates. These limits, as noted by the National Park Service, include:
Weather can also wreak havoc on your Grand Canyon wedding plans. The park is known for unpredictable weather. Poor, unsafe conditions can close access roads and parts of the park with little notice. If you don’t want to risk a last-minute cancelation or postponement, you should consider one of the indoor options.
The Grand Canyon isn’t the place for a mile-long guest list. The range of guest capacities goes from 20 up to 85, with the exception of the Shrine of the Ages auditorium. Make sure that you double-check the capacity limits when you submit your permit application. It’s important to note that the capacities can change, and some have been further limited due to the ongoing pandemic.
Once your permit has been approved, it’s time to send out invitations to your select list of guests. While regular wedding etiquette typically requires invites to be sent six to eight weeks before the event, a destination wedding should have invites out at least four to five months before. This allows people to make necessary travel arrangements.
The design of your invitations should reflect the ambiance of a Grand Canyon wedding. We love:
You can find these and more when you order your wedding invitations from Zola. We have hundreds of beautiful and affordable designs for every budget. We also offer free guest addressing and free shipping.
We can’t stress this enough: You must be respectful of the rules and regulations when you have a wedding in a national park. The rules vary by location, but some common restrictions across the park include:
Leave No Trace: You must pick up all trash and organic materials, including flower petals indoors, and put them in the designated trash receptacles. There shouldn’t be any debris left behind after you and your group leave the site.
Food and Alcohol: Most sites do not allow food or alcohol. This includes the Shrine of the Ages, where food is restricted to the small meeting room only and no alcohol is permitted.
Masks: At the time of this writing, guests are required to wear masks at all indoor locations in the park, including while riding shuttle buses. They also must be worn in any outdoor area where there are many guests present.
Souvenirs and Artifacts: The Grand Canyon is a World Heritage site and is protected. You cannot remove any rocks, plants, or other artifacts from the park. You can purchase souvenirs throughout the park instead.
Other Prohibited Items: All outdoor locations prohibit the following:
It’s important to abide by these rules to protect the park and keep it pristine for other visitors in the future.
While a Grand Canyon wedding limits the decor and other elements you can include in your ceremony, the canyon itself is more than enough to make up for those things. You can use the beauty of the natural scenery to inspire the color palette for your small wedding party. The photographs you’ll have after the event will be cherished for the rest of your lives together.
Picture yourself standing at one of the scenic points overlooking the canyon. What colors do you imagine? Use these to guide your choices for your wedding party and, if you’re having a reception somewhere else later, there as well:
These will complement the astounding views of nature that surround you during your wedding ceremony.
Since you’re limited to what you can bring into the park, an amazing wedding photographer is a must. You can find the very best when you use Zola’s pre-screened wedding vendor finder. You can use this tool to sort by vendor type, location, price, and more. Once you’ve found some potential photographers, you can contact them and discuss your plans. You can even ask to view some of their past work to find the perfect aesthetic for your wedding.
Some divine Grand Canyon shots we’ve seen from couples include:
There are so many stunning pictures you can have your photographer capture during your ceremony and in a photo session afterward.
The ceremony is only a short piece of the Grand Canyon experience. You should use your time in this gorgeous place wisely. Once the wedding is over, planning to stay for a few days is a wonderful way to begin your life together as a married couple. You can even invite your guests to join you on your adventures if you wish.
Many of the best sights in the park can be seen on a day trip. Some of our absolute favorite ideas for taking in all the Grand Canyon has to offer include:
Rafting Trip: There are many options for rafting trips on the Colorado River. Shorter runs take about half a day, while longer one to 21-day rafting adventures are also available for the more dedicated water aficionados.
Bicycle on Hermit Road: If you prefer your adventures take place on land rather than water, you can capture enchanting canyon views while bicycling along Hermit Road. This road is closed to private vehicles from March through November.
Hike the Trails: The many trails throughout the canyon offer walking options for hikers of all ages and experience levels. You can find gentle hikes and more strenuous treks. Make sure you stick to the trails and follow the signage. If you plan to backpack and stay overnight, a permit is required.
Drive Desert View: If you’re tired after your ceremony and don’t want to walk, bike, or raft your way around the canyon, you can relax in the comfort of a car and drive the only road open to private vehicles. The scenic vistas along the way will have you oohing and aahing as you drive along.
Mule Trek: You can spend a short amount of time on a three-hour mule riding excursion, or extend the trip overnight. There are height and weight restrictions involved with mule rides. They also fill up very quickly and can be booked up to 15 months in advance.
Ride the Rails: If you’re staying outside of the canyon in Williams, AZ, you can ride the Grand Canyon Railway. Trips from Williams to the Grand Canyon Depot take just under three hours. You’ll then have about three hours for a quick exploration of the Grand Canyon Historic Village, before catching the evening train back to Williams.
Whichever adventures you choose, be sure to keep your camera handy to capture the magnificent sights along the way. You’ll have quite the wedding album stuffed with memories of your unique Grand Canyon wedding.
A wedding ceremony at the Grand Canyon has the potential to be a breathtaking and profound experience. You might not be able to host hundreds of guests, but the views will more than make up for the smaller crowd.
Even though the guest list might be small, the to-do list is long. You must acquire a permit, plan transportation and accommodation, and abide by the park rules. If you need help with the finer details of your wedding, we’re here for you. When you register with Zola, you have access to all of our wedding planning tools designed to make your job go smoothly, so you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the magnificent views of the Grand Canyon.
We’ve got wedding planning advice on everything from save the dates to wedding cakes.