Navigating the Wedding Photography Permit Process in Philadelphia

The wedding permit process in Philadelphia has actually gotten much simpler in some ways in recent years. But we’d like to simplify the process even further for you with this post detailing common areas we photograph that require a permit and how to get one! I promise to try to make this exciting as well as informative. 

Independence Historic National Park: Our Most Popular Spot

If you’ve followed our work for any length of time, you’ve seen the classic Corinthian columns of the Second National Bank, the charming stone steps of the First National Bank, and, our personal favorite, the rounded marble of the Merchants Exchange Building. These three stunning works of architecture are part of Independence National Park along with the 18th Century Gardens, Washington Square Park, the lawn behind Carpenter’s Hall, and a few of the gardens in the area. As a result, Park Rangers are often out and about, asking for proof of permit and having people vacate if they don’t have one. That is the last thing we want for your wedding photos! So, here’s how to get a permit.

First, we’ll need to talk through your wedding day timing. Because the permits are timed for one hour blocks that begin on the hour or half hour, we’ll need to figure out what timeframe we need the permit for. Once we have the timing sorted, you’ll need to fill out the permit form for Independence Historic National Park

A couple important things to note about the form. If you’ve selected multiple locations and times, you must indicate that on the form. We’ve found that separating the requested areas with commas has worked well in the past. The site fee only applies once and is based on how many people will be onsite. Most wedding parties and family fall within the 11-30 range, which costs $150. There’s also a $25 application fee. 

Once you’ve sent the paperwork and check to the NPS, they’ll send you back a signed copy. You must sign the second copy and send it back to them. But then, you’re all set! There, that wasn’t so bad was it? Especially for places as beautiful as these!

Dramatic wedding party portrait spread out on stairs at Second National Bank
Groom spinning bride with long veil and silk ballgown at Merchant Exchange Building
Portrait of bride and groom in garden holding hands

The Philadelphia Museum of Art & Waterworks

This is another immensely popular place for wedding photos. Most people recognize the iconic Rocky steps and want their very own moment at the top. We don’t blame you in the slightest. The front steps are actually not part of the permit for the Art Museum, but it seems that no one really enforces that all that much. So if you’re willing to risk being asked to leave, we can always stop for that quintessential Philadelphia shot. 

However, the rear steps of the Art Museum and the Azalea Gardens are a great place for portraits. There’s so many different looks and while it is often busy on beautiful weekends, there’s always somewhere we can go to have relative privacy and minimal background disruptions. The Water Works are there too. This beautiful location offers views over the river and down Boathouse Row and is worth a stop. The only catch is that permits here are only granted until 3pm and can be hard to come by if Water Works is hosting a wedding that day. 

The other location covered by this permit is the Rodin Museum. The inner courtyard and reflecting pool are ridiculously beautiful. This permit is definitely the most difficult to obtain as there are often events here that preclude wedding parties. It is totally worth a phone call to see if your date is available and we highly recommend you do that before sending a permit application. 

Again, we’ll need to talk through your wedding day timeline to apply for the proper time frame. The Philadelphia Parks & Rec charges an hourly rate for permits, instead of a site fee. When you’re ready to apply, download the form here, check the appropriate box, fill in all the information, and then write in the actual location you are requesting. The Azalea Gardens encompasses all the rear of the Art Museum apart from the Water Works. If you’d like the Rodin Museum, indicate that here. 

Congratulations to you if you stuck with me through all the nitty gritty details. Here’s a bunch of beautiful photos from all these locations as a reward!

Groom leading bride down the stairs of the Rodin Museum
waterworks, river view, wedding portraits, bridal portrait, outdoor wedding portrait,
classic wedding portrait, wedding portrait with dog, dog in tux, bridal bouquet, outdoor wedding portrait, azalea gardens
wedding portrait, outdoor wedding portrait, art museum stairs, philadelphia art museum, bride and groom walking

Penn’s Landing Area 

If portraits on Race Street Pier under the impressive span of the Ben Franklin Bridge and overlooking the Delaware River are your dream, I’ve got great news. The permit process here is so easy and 100% worth it. It’s a $50 flat fee per location per hour. All you have to do is visit the Delaware River Waterfront Corp website and fill in their web based application. After we’ve had the chance to talk about the time frame that is. You can request permits for multiple hours or multiple locations by simply filling the form in a second time. This is where to request a permit for Spruce Street Harbor Park as well which is such a fun place to be, especially as the sun goes down. This is definitely a place where avoiding people in the background is not likely to happen entirely, but it’s recognizably Philly, and that has its own draw. 

So, there you have it. The popular permitted locations of Philadelphia, demystified. We encourage you to sit down together and figure out exactly where you’d like to have your portraits taken and then reach out to us! One of the benefits of planning out in advance for permits –you’re more likely to get approved for your first choice location on your wedding day.

As always, we’re here to help navigate these wedding day questions. Feel free to email us or find a time to connect in person

Under long veil bridal portrait at Race Street Pier in Philadelphia
Groom spinning bride in her dress in front of bridge gate in Philadelphia
Bride and groom during first look at Race Street Pier in Philadelphia

Which of these spectacular locations are you most excited to have in your photos?  

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