Even pre-pandemic, we always receive plenty of requests for wedding day photography and ceremonies in one of the many beautiful parks around Philadelphia. Several of these parks require a permit for both photography and wedding ceremonies.
To help navigate through the confusion, we’ve put together a helpful guide that includes what permits you’ll need for which park, and how to go about obtaining the necessary permit.
There are two different jurisdictions for parks around Philadelphia.
City of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation
National Park Service
For all permits, note that it’s a permission slip from the government to be able to either hold your ceremony or take pictures in that particular park. It does NOT give you exclusivity to the park, and so you will still have plenty of onlookers while you are being photographed!
The NPS (National Park Service) oversees Independence National Historic Park in the Old City/Washington Square West neighborhoods (map).
Wedding photography is limited to the following 9 locations around the park:
The Magnolia Garden
18th Century Garden
Benjamin Rush Garden (sometimes referred to as the Bishop White Garden)
South steps and lawn area of the Second Bank of the United States
Front steps of the First Bank of the United States
The lawn area on the south side of Carpenters’ Hall between 3rd and 4th Streets
Washington Square (vicinity of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier excluded)
Behind the Merchants’ Exchange (permit holder may not move or go behind the chain at the foot of the steps)
Details about each location can be found here. Wedding photography is prohibited in all other areas of the park.
The wedding photography application has to be mailed in, along with a check (no electronic payments here!). The permit application fee is $25 and there’s an additional charge based on the number of people that will be present (so keep those wedding parties small!)
Less than 10 people – $50
11 – 30 people- $150
Over 30 people – $250
The permit is good for one hour, and you must specify the time frame on your application.
They ask for a minimum of 7 business days, but with Covid, the turnaround time is likely longer. They also note that during peak wedding season (Spring and Fall), processing applications can take several weeks, so get those applications in as early as possible!
Within Independence National Park, wedding ceremony permits are only issued for 2 of the previously mentioned locations:
The Magnolia Garden
They have some pretty specific rules and regulations, since it IS a national park:
Max of 35 guests and only 20 chairs are allowed but you must bring your own chairs
No helium balloons
The permit doesn’t give you exclusivity, as these parks are still open to the public
The permit fee is $50, and the application can be found here. I would give yourself as much time as possible for this permit request, and make sure you have a backup plan!
Philadelphia Parks & Recreation oversees over 300 parks and 40 historical sites, many of which are popular options for wedding day photos or a quick outdoor ceremony.
Their most requested locations include:
Fairmount Water Works, including the gazebo
FDR Park Boathouse
The Rodin Museum
The Azalea Garden
The policies and procedures for the parks managed by the City of Philadelphia are very similar, but the city had added a Covid 19 Permit addendum for all permit applications. Applicants must agree to COVID-19 related restrictions.
Unlike the federal paperwork, there’s only one application for both photography and ceremonies, but the permit cost differs based on your purpose and location.
Azalea Garden & other approved locations – $50 per hour
WaterWorks Gazebo(round), FDR Boathouse – $150 per hour (Until 3PM)
All approved locations – $200 per 2 hours
WaterWorks Gazebo(round), FDR Boathouse – $500 per 2 hours (Until 3PM)
Although the website says you’ll need a minimum of 14 days for approval, I recommend getting your application in as soon as possible since it must be mailed and you in turn receive your permit through the mail.
For all of these locations, they are public parks, so alcohol is not permitted.
I know that all of this information can be overwhelming, but if you need any help navigating the world of permits or you don’t know where to start with picking a venue, reach out to MG the Venue Specialist!
Looking for more help with planning your elopement or micro wedding? Check out these blogs!
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