Smokies Weddings


Ceremony Information

  1. Who performs our ceremony?

    Your ceremony will be performed by Chaplain David Russell.  Chaplain Russell is ordained by Chaplain Fellowship Ministries International and is the director of Smoky Mountain Chaplain Services, an organization dedicated to family ministry of all types.  Chaplain Russell is registered through the Sevier County Clerk's Office to perform weddings and is also a member of the Smoky Mountain Wedding Association.  Chaplain Russell graduated with honors from Liberty University with a degree in Psychology and Religion.  He has been involved in various ministries for the past thirty years.

  2. How do we get our marriage license?

    Couples must have a Tennessee marriage license to be married in Tennessee but the process is very easy. Simply appear in person at any Tennessee County Clerk's office or one of the Marriage License Centers in Sevier County. No appointment is necessary.

    Both the bride and the groom must appear in person and present a valid photo ID such as a driver's license or a passport. Both must also present a social security card or other ssn documentation. Both parties must be at least 18 years of age. If either applicant is under age 18, please call the Marriage License Center for additional instructions.

    Due to Sevier County's tourism status, the cost of a marriage license in Sevier County for out-of-state couples is $41.00 in cash. There ia a small processing fee with either Mastercard or Visa. Out-of-state couples may purchase a marriage license in any other county in Tennessee, but it will cost approximately $60 more. Marriage licenses are only valid for thirty days.

    Couples who reside in Tennessee pay a fee of $101.00 in cash. There is a small prcessing fee with credit card (Sevier County rate; rates may vary slightly in other TN counties). In-state couples who complete a four-hour premarital preparation course can receive a $60 credit with proper documentation. (Note that the premarital course option only applies to couples who live in Tennessee.) Please call the Marriage License Center for more information.

    No witness is needed for the marriage to be recognized, but there is room on the Tennessee marriage license for one optional witness to sign.

    You may also fill out a pre-application on-line and save a lot of time when you go pick up your license. A link to that site is included on our links page

    Here is the contact information for the Marriage License Centers

    Sevier County Courthouse

    125 Court Avenue

    Sevierville, TN 37862



    Monday - Thursday: 8:00 am - 4:30 pm

    Friday: 8:00 am - 5:00 pm

    Gatlinburg Shilling Center

    405 Reagan Drive

    Gatlinburg, TN 37738



    Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 8:00 am - 4:30 pm

    Closed Tuesday and Thursday

    Saturday: 9:00 am - 1:00 pm

    Pigeon Forge City Hall

    300 Pine Mountain Road

    Pigeon Forge, TN 37863



    Saturday only: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm

    Please call for holiday hours as these will vary.

  3. What type of ceremony can we expect?

    That's entirely up to you. This is your day and we want to help make it as special as we possibly can.

    Our standard service is a non-denominational Christian service. This includes prayer, scripture reading, declaration of vows, exchange of rings, blessing of the union and presentation of the couple.

    We will work with you to make the ceremony all that you want it to be. You may want to include a unity candle or sand ceremony. Maybe you have written your own vows. You might have children you want to include in the service. We will make every effort to accommodate your wishes.

    From traditional to fanciful, elegant or subdued, formal or informal, today is the day for you to officially show the world how much you love each other. Let us help you with a ceremony that is distinctly yours.

  4. Where can we have our service?

    Again, that's entirely up to you. Each year thousands of couples come to the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee for their wedding. The stunning beauty of the area’s peaks, forested valleys, rushing streams and cascading waterfalls create a beautiful setting for a wedding.

    If you have a favorite spot, let us know. If not, we know of some stunning vistas, secluded hideaways, and picture perfect areas, both in and out of the national park, that we can sugggest. We have posted photos of many of these in our photo section. Don't forget however, that these venues and scenes change throughout the season and will not always be as pictured. Also remember that weather in the mountains can change quickly. Still, we cant think of a better place to be married than surrounded by the beauty of our area.


    Due to Commercial use license and requirements and the costs involved to both us and the wedding couple, we will not be performing weddings inside the park. We will gladly refer you to someone who will.

    If you want to have your wedding ceremony in the Park itself, there are some guidelines you must follow.. All weddings in the Park require a permit which can be obtained by contacting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (828-497-1930) to request an application. To have your ceremony at any of the historic structures such as the Primitive Baptist or Methodist Churches in Cades Cove, there are a few simple guidelines you need to keep in mind. Because the historic structures in the Park are of wood, no candles or lamps are allowed. In addition, parking is very limited (6 parking spots at the Baptist Church, for example). An application to marry in Cades Cove must be submitted to the Cades Cove Center. Be certain to allow ample time prior to your wedding date for processing of permits.

    Finally, you must understand that even if you have a permit for a ceremony in the Park, you don't have a reservation in the sense that persons outside your party (tourists) are excluded--they have unfettered access to the premises. Most are courteous enough, though, to keep their distance. This is true in any public outdoor setting.


    Of course, this area is home to many, many vacation cabins which are located in some prime scenic areas. Most have decks from which to enjoy the views that would be perfect for your wedding. These cabins would offer you more privacy and more protection from the elements.

    Just imagine waking up, having your morning coffee, then walking out on the deck to get married. How cool is that? Or imagine your ceremony taking place on the deck as the sun sets slowly behind you. How about a ceremony gathered around the fireplace on a chilly autumn evening or a snowy winter day? We would be happy to come perform your wedding ceremony in your cabin.


    In our opinion, one of the most gorgeous views in this area is from the overlook picnic area at Douglas Dam. You have the mountains in the background overlooking Douglas Lake on your left and the French Broad River, valley and more mountains on your right. This is our favorite place to watch the sunrise and the sunset. There is a covered pavillion that can accomodate 60 people at tables and stadium seating outside the pavillion that will seat 200. The covered pavillion eliminates worries about the unpredictable East Tennessee weather. There are no permits required for a wedding here but the pavillion must be reserved. This can be done by calling 866-494-7186.

    The possibilities for locations are really endless in this area and are as diverse as the couples wanting to be married. Contact us and we will be glad to discuss the possibilities with you.

  5. What can we expect from you on the day of our wedding?

    On your wedding day we will arrive approximately thirty minutes prior to your service for an outside wedding or twenty minutes prior for an indoor ceremony. This is flexible and we can arrive earlier if needed.

    We will give you and your wedding party brief instructions on what will take place, the timing of things and where everyone should stand.

    We will make certain that all the ceremony details are covered, such as personal vows, the license, proper permits if needed, order of the service, etc.

    If needed we will work with DJ's, caterers, florists, etc to insure that everything runs smoothly during the ceremony.

    We will sign your certificate and return your license to the county clerk office for recording.

    If you choose not to have a professional photographer, we will provide a photographer (non-professional) to take digital photos before, during, and after the ceremony. You will receive the photo memory card before we leave.

    We will present ourselves in a professional manner at all times and strive to make you as happy as you should be on your wedding day.

    If there are certain things you expect which are not listed here just let us know. We will be happy to discuss them with you and try to accommodate all your requests.

  6. What other services do you provide?

    This is really a tough question to answer because we want to provide any service we can to make this day special for you. This can be as simple as providing you with linkage to wedding vendors for all your needs, recommending lodging or cabin rental companies, or giving you suggestions for ceremony locations. We have a pretty good amateur photographer and will provide you with fifty or so photos on a digital memory card.

    We can also be more in-depth. You may want premarital counseling (especially Tennessee residents). You may want us to attend a rehersal the night before.

    We will also try to accomodate your wilder side if possible. Want to get married on horseback? Saddle up. Love motorcycles? We dont ride any longer but we can still throw on our leather and do-rags and perform your ceremony.

    Truly, if you have an idea for your wedding or for a service you might need please let us discuss it with you. If it's possible and feasible we are willing to give it our consideration.

    We are also honored to perform renewal of vow ceremonies. We will also gladly perform baptisms if you want and feel that this is God's call for you, or serve communion either before or during the ceremony.

  7. What is the cost?

    The cost of a basic ceremony is $100.00. This includes officiating your wedding, filing your license with the county clerk's office, photos, and 40 miles travel (roundtrip) to your site. Longer distances or overnight stays may require a travel fee. You will also be responsible for any admission fees for certain locations (Dollywood, Aerial Tram, Hellicopter Tours, etc.) for your party, the chaplain and photographer. Additionally, you will be required to pay any reservations or usage fees for locations which charge them. We request a 50% deposit. Since all proceeds from our services are used to support our ministries, this deposit will be non-refundable. We will be happy to reschedule for a future date if we have availability. The balance will be due prior to or on your wedding day. We can process payment via credit or debit card over the phone or check.

  8. Are there any other details we should know when planning our wedding?

    Yes there are. We won't go into details concerning big, elaborate weddings because there are so many small details to consider. Likewise, details concerning wedding vendors are not in our area of expertise, although we will be happy to refer you to some we have worked with in the past who do fantastic jobs.

    Primarily there are two main things we would like to point out to you and both are extremely important.

    The first concerns the minister performing your service. As much as it pains us to say, any business as large as the wedding industry in Sevier County is going to attract unscrupulous and less than honest people.

    Because so many couples come to the Smokies to be married, there's a huge demand for ministers in our area. A good portion of the ministers performing ceremonies in Sevier County are legit, but there is a growing number of people that have gone online, filled out a form, and instantly receive a printable certificate that says they are "ordained ministers," They are out taking your money and performing ceremonies in our Sevier County area that may not result in you being legally married.

    Tennessee law says that religious ceremonies must be performed by a duly ordained minister who routinely has the "care of souls" as part of his qualifications and duties. Internet or mail order ministers are not considered legal according to our state's attorney general. Likewise, many wedding chapel ministers who only perform wedding services may not meet the definition of "care of souls" contained in the Tennessee Code Annotated. If you choose to be married in the Smokies, we hope you will choose us to perform your service. But whether you choose us or not we highly urge you to call the provider of your ceremony and question the minister's credentials to make sure they are a real minister.

    The second concerns your wedding location. Many wedding sites will show you beautifully stunning views with wide open vistas of the glory of the Smoky Mountains or breathtaking waterfalls cascading down to whitewater streams. The problem with this is that many of these views are only seen from the balcony of a five hundred dollar per night cabin or accessed by embarking on a twenty mile hike. Now if you want to spend that much or hike that far then that's great. Just make certain that you know the details about the location you are being shown.

    We will only put photos on our site of locations that are easy to access and available to the general public. If you have another location, that's fine and we will be happy to work with you on that. But the pictures you see here are places that you can drive by or walk to in five to ten minutes.

    Be sure also to read our FAQ about getting married in the park. Some places require permits for all useage, some require permits for more than twenty people.

    Also, be aware that this is a mountainous area and that means the weather can change in a moment's notice. The weather is also drastically different as you climb in altitude. Eighty degrees and sunny in Pigeon Forge can mean fifty-five and drizzly at Newfound Gap.

    One final word about your location. Any outdoor wedding in a public venue, in a tourist location, cannot be guaranteed to be private. As stated earlier in our FAQ's section, most people are respectful and will not intrude, but nearly all people are drawn to happy occasions. You will almost certainly have guests at an outdoor wedding of whom you aren't aware. But if they stay in the background (as most will), that is a pretty small price to pay to be wed in one of the prettiest places on earth.

    So, keep these two things in mind and whoever you call upon to perform your ceremony....ask questions...lots and lots of questions. A reputable organization will have no problem providing you with accurate information and proof to back up what they say.

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  • "We had a wonderful experince, had no ideal what to do or which way to go, till I talked to Renee, she was a great help, the cermony was awesome, they helped with picking a place..."
    Mark and Cheryl Alcina
  • "We had a beautiful wedding thanks to Chaplain Russell and Renee. The ceremony was exactly what we asked for and was perfect. Renee took beautiful professional quality pictures a..."
    S & D Garrett
    College Grove, TN

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