How to elope in Acadia National Park

A wedding couple on top of a mountain in Acadia National Park for their elopement

Acadia National Park is such a wonderful location to elope in Maine. The weather is flawless in the late spring, summer, and fall, and with such a wide variety of landscapes to choose from, such as rocky coastlines, sandy beaches, ocean views, fields, forests, mountaintops, lakes, ponds, and more, you can't go wrong with wherever you choose to say your "I dos" in the park.

So.. how do you elope in Acadia? I'll walk you through the steps!

Two women elope in Acadia National Park at sunrise

Select a date
You might already have a date in mind; perhaps you've already booked your vacation to Acadia, or are planning to elope on your date-aversary. However, if you're flexible, consider the following:
1. Acadia is busiest from July 4th through the end of August, and October tends to see a lot of leaf peepers. You can certainly elope during these months, but you'll have to be more thoughtful about the locations and times you use. If you'd like to explore the park when it's a little bit quieter, consider May (although Memorial Day weekend can be exceptionally busy), June, or September.

2. Acadia (and other national parks) host entrance free days, in which entrance fees are waived. It's best to not elope or get married on these dates as the park typically sees heavier traffic. They days for 2023 are the following:

  • Monday, January 16th, 2023
  • Saturday, April 22nd, 2023
  • Friday, August 4th, 2023
  • Saturday, September 23th, 2023
  • Saturday, November 11th, 2022

3. Wedding vendors often don't provide elopement services on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays (they're often photographing larger weddings during those days). By having your elopement on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, you'll be more likely able to find available and awesome wedding vendors.

Dramatic landscape wedding portraits in Acadia National Park

Determine your guest count
Are you planning on having an elopement and including just the two of you, an officiant, and a photographer? Or, are you hoping to have an intimate ceremony that includes a few of your friends and family as guests? You'll want to estimate your guest count before continuing any further- the number of must-have guests you'd like to have at your elopement may determine where you can have your ceremony, and what steps you'll need to take to obtain permission. Keep in mind that you'll need to include your officiant, photographer(s), yourselves, and any other present vendors in your guest count- we're participants!

If you're planning to have ten or less people participating in your Acadia elopement, guess what? You're in luck- you won't need a permit! If you're not entirely sure what your guest count will end up being, I recommend applying for a permit just to be safe- permits are only $50, and it's a small price to pay for security (and, bonus- you're supporting the park)! However, you should wait until you finish the steps below before applying for your permit.

And, one final piece of info, according to Acadia National Park's website - your permit will likely be approved if the guest count is under 30. If your wedding will feature over 50 guests, you'll likely need to use a picnic area, which will limit your options, but they are beautiful all the same.

Wedding portraits on top of a mountain for an Acadia wedding

Review Acadia National Park's policies on elopements and weddings.

Next, you'll want to review Acadia National Park's elopement page, which provides a lot of useful information on what you can and cannot do at your elopement/intimate wedding, and provides a link to the permit document. If you book local vendors, they should already know what they can and cannot do in the park, but it's not a bad idea to send it to them, just in case. The most important thing to note in Acadia's elopement policies is the request for you and your guests to follow Leave No Trace policies- so, in short, park in approved parking spaces/lots, and no installation of decorations. But, do you really need decor when you have Acadia's beauty as a backdrop?

Beautiful Acadia elopement on the quiet side in Acadia National Park

Plan your day
Your elopement can be more than just ceremony coverage and portraits. Want to grab an ice cream cone? We can! Do you want have a luxury picnic at some point during your day? That can be arranged! Want to pop a bottle of champagne and toast to each other? Sure! Do you imagine the two of you hiking to cool spots while wearing your wedding gear, or maybe changing up on top of the mountain? I'm in! What about a sunset boat ride? Your elopement/wedding day can look like whatever you want it to like like, I'm just along for the ride!

Here's a few examples of unique Acadia weddings and elopements!

Book your vendors. Choose local!
If you want to elope in Acadia, there's a lot of high quality Maine wedding vendors to choose from. Whether you're going simple and hiring just an officiant and a photographer, or perhaps adding a few others to your team- a hair/makeup artist, florist, planner, and perhaps a catering/restaurant reservation for afterwards- I recommend hiring a local team. Why? By hiring local vendors (in particular, a photographer, planner and/or officiant), you'll be able to pick their brains in regards to selecting a location and time for your elopement that will (hopefully) allow you to avoid crowds. I assist all of my Acadia elopement and wedding couples with selecting an elopement spot as well as locations for wedding portraits, and I've developed tricks and suggestions that ensure that parking shouldn't be a problem on your big day, even if you're getting married at a fairly popular spot.

Here's a short list of some of my favorite vendors in the Acadia area. They won't steer you wrong!
Planner: RL Sisson Events
Florist: Floret, Chickadee Hill Flowers, Cottage Flowers
Caterer: Clark Point Catering, Bar Harbor Catering Company, Luxury Picnics Acadia
Makeup/hair: Echo Salon, Bar Harbor Beauty
Officiant: Malen Hsu, MDI Weddings, CC Ceremonies
Weather Consultant: Nor'easter Weather Consulting
Boat charters: Sail Acadia

A couple get married on the top of Cadillac Mountain during an elopement

Choose a location
Acadia National Park has become a very popular vacation spot from Memorial Day weekend through the end of October, and many of the most popular locations are slammed during peak hours. And, since Acadia is a relatively small park, parking is often hard to come by at the most popular locations. You'll need to keep all of this in mind as you consider locations, as you don't want to encounter a situation in which you, the officiant, and your guests are unable to come across parking when it's time for the two of you to elope!

First off, I've photographed many elopements - feel free to look through my past Acadia elopements blog posts to see if any locations speak to you.

If you decide to book with me, I can give personalized advice about these locations, as well as share other locations that are off the beaten path (if I were to post about them online, they could become overcrowded!). The most popular (or asked about) locations are Otter Point, the cliffs, Sand Beach, Cadillac Mountain, and Jordan Pond, but they can be among the most touristy spots.

Mountaintop Acadia wedding portraits

Send in your permit
At this point, you should have enough information to complete your permit if your wedding requires you to complete one. Remember- you MUST apply at least ten days prior to your elopement. I personally recommend applying at least two months out, as Acadia is very busy during the summer, and you'll want to make sure it's reviewed in time for your elopement.

Obtain your car registration pass(es) if needed
From mid May through mid October 2022 (exact dates have yet to be released yet) Acadia National Park will require those driving up Cadillac Mountain to purchase a $6 car registration pass for the time they would like to enter. These can be purchased starting April 1st, at 10am EST. They'll be released in two waves- 30% of the Cadillac Summit Road vehicle reservations will be available 90 days in advance of the reservation date. The rest of the reservations will be accessible for purchase two days prior to the reservation date, at 10am EST. From personal experience, it's usually easier to try and snag a reservation 90 days prior.

What does this mean for you? If you want to take portraits at Cadillac Mountain, you'll want to talk to your photographer to determine what time you'll want to purchase your pass for, as well as how many car registrations you will need. I suspect car registration passes will sell out very quickly, so you'll need to make sure you're on the ball and purchase your pass on the day(s) it becomes available. Would you like to avoid having to deal with car registrations? If yes, I recommend considering hiking to other, quieter mountaintops. While hiking may sound daunting, some can be reached with as little as a 15-20 minute hike, and many mountains offer as good as if not better views than Cadillac!

If Cadillac Mountain is somewhere you absolutely have to visit during your elopement, make sure to visit Recreation.gov's vehicle registration ticket page!

A couple poses for portraits in Acadia National Park during an elopement

Determine where and when you will obtain your marriage license
If you are a Maine resident, you'll need to apply at your city/town office. However, if you live outside of Maine, you'll be able to apply in any Maine town or city. The marriage license will be valid for 90 days once obtained, so plan wisely. If you'll be traveling up to Maine only a day or two prior to your ceremony, I recommend contacting the town office you plan to apply for your marriage license just to make sure they'll be open and ready to provide your marriage license for the day you plan to stop by.

Pick a rad place to stay
You'll likely be staying on Mount Desert Island for a few days, so you should pick an inn or AirBNB that's fabulous! The hardest decision will be where you'll want to stay on the island. It's fun to pick a place close to or in downtown Bar Harbor if you want to be walking distance from restaurants, bars, and shops, but if you're hoping for a quieter experience, I suggest checking out some of the communities on the other side of the island- Tremont, Southwest Harbor, Seal Harbor, Somesville, and Northeast Harbor, to name a few. Most spots on the island are only a short drive away from Acadia National Park. Why not start your search for a unique location via AirBNB?

Eloping in Acadia is a (relatively) easy feat, and many of my past couples have told me how wonderful it was to keep their weddings simple and intimate. Want to make the process even easier? If you book me, I'll help you select the perfect ceremony and portrait locations, collaborate on a timeline (so that we ensure we stop by every location you'd like to visit while avoiding crowds and parking snafus), and more. What are you waiting for? Email me and let's craft the perfect Acadia elopement!

A bride and groom elope at Sand Beach in Acadia National Park

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