Gatlinburg, Sevier County (AP) - Citing a five-fold increase in weddings inside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Park Service is set to begin charging for permits to conduct them.
Beginning October first, individuals wanting to say their vows in the Smokies will be required to buy a $50, non-refundable permit.
National Park Service spokeswoman Nancy Gray says such a permit will cover standard weddings by couples who want to get married in popular spots like a Cades Cove Historical Building, at Cataract Falls near the Sugarlands Visitors Center or by a stream at Greenbrier.
Businesses which put together wedding packages and want to use the park will pay for a $200 application fee and $10 per month during the 24-month life of the permit. Gray says those permits apply to commercial wedding chapels, companies and supply transportation to a wedding location and other commercial users.
The ordained ministers of local area churches are exempt from the commercial use requirement, provided they don't perform more than four park weddings a year and don't advertise their services.
Gray says the fees are consistent with those charged for commercial hiking and fishing guides who lead customers in the park.
Park officials say the permitting process will also help them balance the interests of people performing wedding ceremonies, regular park visitors and staff and resources use.
Park officials say the number of wedding has increased about 500% over the past five years.
Copyright 2006 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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