Weddings in the Smokies

Couple the beautiful natural chapel of the Smoky Mountains with the relatively minor requirements for getting married on the Tennessee side of the Smokies and you will understand why a Smokies wedding and honeymoon is second in popularity only to Las Vegas.  Couples can be joined in holy matrimony in a chapel, the National Park or the privacy of their cottage or cabin.

Chapel Weddings
Chapels around the Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg area in every shape form and fashion.  You can find one to fit any budget or style of wedding.  Whether you are looking for something quite & quaint or maybe a little more upscale there are chapels all over the Smoky Mountains.

Cabin Weddings
Maybe you have rented a cabin for your honeymoon.  If the group coming to your wedding is small enough, or your cabin is large enough, you can always have the wedding at the cabin.  Hire a local minister or get a justice of the peace to come out to the cabin and have a nice intimate ceremony with just your close friends and family.

National Park Wedding
Or maybe, just maybe, you are wanting to have your wedding in the grandeur and beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Here is a quote from the documentation from the Park Service about weddings:

“Persons wishing to conduct a wedding in the Park must complete the standard Application for Special Use Permit and return it by mail along with a non-refundable application fee. CUA holders may submit an application on behalf of their clients along with the required fee.  Applications must be received by the Park no less than 14 days in advance of the wedding date.  Applications for weddings which require exemptions from the standard permit conditions must be received no less than 21 days in advance of the wedding date. Exceptions/exemptions will not be granted to weddings planned or conducted by a CUA holder.”

Weddings in the SmokiesMarriage License
Both parties must be present to obtain the marriage license from the County Clerk’s Marriage License Centers (Gatlinburg Shilling Center, Pigeon Forge City Hall or Sevierville Courthouse). There is no waiting period and an appointment is not necessary to obtain the license.  Proof of age is required by a driver’s license, state-issued picture ID, a valid passport or certified birth certificate.  A blood test is not required and applicants need not be residents of Sevier County to be wed there.  Couples may also bring a valid Tennessee marriage license from anywhere in the state of Tennessee but remember that the license is only valid for 30 days after the issue.  If applicants are under the age of 18, both parents or legal guardians must sign the marriage certificate.

Gatlinburg, TN

Gatlinburg, TN is a typical little mountain town but what they have to offer visitors to the area is anything but ‘little.’  With shopping lining both sides of the Parkway, attractions at every corner, you can visit Gatlinburg and never leave the mountain.  Nestled right against the Smoky Mountains and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Gatlinburg beauty only slightly surpasses its adventure.

Though the Cherokee hunted in the flats around the present day city of Gatlinburg, the first European settlers to the area came due to South Carolina native William Ogle.  Though Ogle never lived in the area for very long his relatives did end up coming to the area and settling in the Cartertown area of Gatlinburg.  1856 saw the first post office being formed in the Radford Gatlin general store.  Though the people of the area didn’t care for Gatlin they liked his name and kept it after they ran Gatlin out of town.

The logging industry in the late 1800s kept the town going but the real boon for the town was when the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was founded.  The National Park being located on the boundary of the Gatlinburg brings millions of visitors through the town each year, this has made Gatlinburg a central location for people visiting the Smokies.


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Blowing Rock, NC

Blowing Rock may be the first tourist town in the Smokies.  After people got word of the beautiful area, this became a vacation spot with people camping, just to spend time in the mountains.  Now, Blowing Rock is the one of the premier resort cities on the North Carolina side of the Smokies.  Shopping, art galleries, culture, great food and skiing give you more than enough reasons to make Blowing Rock a stop on your mountain vacation.


The Cherokee called this area home until the European settlers came to this area.  The Scottish and the Irish felt home in this are at the top of the mountain, in the shadows of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains.  During the late 19th century, Blowing Rock adopted tourism as their main industry.  Hotels began to be built as people touted the healthy atmosphere of the town.

In modern times, with the development of better roads and the introduction of mass produced automobiles, Blowing Rock thrived.  People love the history and the legends surrounding the area.  The resorts that are around the area bring in thousands of people and the people love to come back year after year.


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A Bear Story

The last time I visited the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, my husband and I observed some curious human behavior. We were traveling the loop in Cades Cove when we saw a crowd of people getting out of their cars. Some among them were closely approaching a black bear to take photographs. Alan looked at me uncomfortably and asked, “Does this remind you of anything?” I laughed and stuck my head out the sunroof and said to whomever would listen. “My husband followed a bear to take it’s picture and almost got mauled!” When the pronouncement received only minor attention, we drove on.

I’ve often wondered what possesses otherwise cautious city dwellers to stalk claw footed, spiked tooth, bears for nothing more than a 4×5 photo. My curiosity began the first time I ever came came to the Smoky Mountains National Park twenty years ago.

Black Bear in the GSMNPAlan and I were newlyweds, and he had come home early from work with the idea: It’s a beautiful day, lets go to the Smokies! It was our first time. By evening, we were glowing from the long wonderful drive up Hwy. 19, and we sat by a stream eating fried chicken, honey, and biscuits  We were deep in that “OOH, look at this”, and “AHH look at that” phase of our love affair with the Great Smokies.

All at once I remembered seeing something on TV about the dangers of feeding bears in national parks. Being a real scaredy-cat by nature, I asked Alan about it. “Oh, you’ll be lucky if you ever see a bear.” he said confidently. “They’re afraid of people.” Great! I thought. Aren’t animals more dangerous when they’re afraid?

A couple of minutes went by when I noticed a very black stump about 20 feet back in the forest and across the creek. As I looked closer, little eyes, and then a nose began to appear. My eyes widened. I took one look at Alan, and said sternly, “There’s a bear!” To his bewilderment, I got up and quickly walked some distance to the car.

Oh, no! The doors were locked! I turned around. Alan stood up for the first time, and looked at me in utter amazement. “What’s the matter?” he called.

“There’s a bear right accross the stream!” I yelled back. Alan stared at me for a moment, and then broke out laughing.

What kind of reaction is that? I wondered? Who was this nut I married, and was laughing himself silly? Hadn’t I warned him with all solemnity that danger lurked close by?

At last, Alan turned around and saw I was right. There was a bear. Rather than panic, as I had done, he simply picked up our food, walked back to the car and unlocked it. Thank goodness for that! We both got in. Safe at last!

While I was telling him how frightened I was, he was assuring me I was overreacting. He began fumbling for his camera and film. “What are you doing?” I asked.

“I’m going to get some pictures of the bear and her cub.” Alan said blithely.

“You’re what?” I looked across the stream to see the bear was indeed a mother with her cub. They were sniffing their way through the picnic area especially around the trash cans. “Are you nuts?” I asked Alan as he reached for the door handle. “You’re not leaving me out here!”

Alan got out of the car and began striding down the road toward the bears. Instantly, I envisioned myself as a young widow and quickly leaped from the car to protect my new husband. Exactly how I was going to do that was unclear. As we walked toward the roaming bears, I alternated between acting brave and warning of impending doom.

Meanwhile, Mama bear and her cub had attracted the attention of an older couple who were driving into the area. They stopped their car just as the bear began walking in our general direction. Impulsively, I climbed on top of the couple’s car, saying, “I hope you don’t mind!”

“No, not at all.” the old man said. Incredibly, he was somewhat amused. He turned his attention back to the bear, and my husband’s boudacious charge. The mother bear and cub disappeared into the edge of the forest. Alan held his forefinger in the air and said excitedly, “I’ll be just be a minute!” Then he too disappeared.

Very quickly, Alan saw his chance for the perfect picture! Excitedly, he framed the “perfect” scene: the cub with it’s paws on the side of a tree and looking right into the camera! Experiencing a bit of tourist nervana, Alan thought, How cooperative! In an instant his delusion of cooperation was shattered by a heart-stopping roar, and the sight of mama bear headed right for him! Alan froze, and mama bear stopped only a few feet from his stunned stare. Luckily, she was only bluffing in an effort to scare off the intruder. Mission accomplished! In shock, Alan retreated a safe distance.

Many naturalists claim the black bear is the strongest animal for its size in North America. Knowing this, and being, no doubt, discerning, you won’t repeat Alan’s mistake by chasing one down for a photo op. Hopefully you will be lucky enough and cautious enough to enjoy the park bears from a reasonable distance. Should one get too close, however, it is helful to know that bears have very poor eyesight and loud noises often scare them away. Also, it is helpful to know a campground bear is more likely to be dangerous because they can be enboldened by the desire for food and a history of having been fed by unsuspecting tourists.

Finally, if you are very unlucky indeed, and do run across the rare bear that shows a persistent interest in you, long-time hiking enthusiast, Charles Blair, suggests throwing rocks and, if all else fails, abandoning your food and climbing a tree.

Keep these things in mind and both you and the bears will survive your trip to the Great Smokies National Park!

Kermit Hunter

Kermit Hunter is a well known American playwright.  But, he is also known in the history of the Smokies due to the fact that he wrote Unto These Hills, the second longest running outdoor drama in the US and one of the highlights to any visit to Cherokee, NC.  He also wrote the outdoor drama, Horn in the West which is performed each season in Boone, NC.

kermit hunter1Kermit Hunter was born in West Virginia.  After a time in the US Army in World War II, he went on to manage the North Carolina Symphony.  Over time, working with various theatrical companies, Hunter went on to his graduate studies program in Dramatic Arts at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  While he was there several of his plays would be produced by the Carolina Playmaker’s.  At this same time, the city of Cherokee started to look for someone to write a dramatic interpretation of the Cherokee people to be performed at an outdoor site in Cherokee.

Hunter jumped on this project and began to transform the information and the vision of the Cherokee Historical Association into a script and then into a production.  Hunters draft won the submission contest and his most famous play, Unto These Hills was first performed in 1950.  Though the play has been changed over the years and the current version has little resemblance to the original Kermit Hunter play it is still his vision that put this outdoor drama on the map.  Hunter parlayed the success with Unto These Hills into scripting the play that would be performed by the Cherokee nation in Oklahoma until the mid-90s – The Trail of Tears.

Hunter’s other legacy is the play Horn in the West which is performed in Boone, NC during season each year.  This play tells the story of the people that founded the city of Boone and the Western north Carolina mountains.  Horn of the West features such American heroes as Daniel Boone and the story of a very dramatic and at times tragic time in American history.  This outdoor drama, while not as long running as Unto These Hills is still a part of the history and cultural scene in the Smokies.

In all, Kermit Hunter wrote more then 40 historical plays.  He is still known for his work in the Smokies and the people that are performing those works today in the same theaters and venues owe the tales the tell to Kermit Hunter.

Harrisburg Covered Bridge

There has been a covered bridge in the Harrisburg Community of Sevier County since the mid 1800s.  The bridge was used by the locals to cross the East Prong of the Little Pigeon River and connected the two separate parts of the community.

Originally, the Harrisburg Covered Bridge was named the McNutts Bridge but in 1875, the bridge was washed away during a storm and was completely destroyed.  Later that same year, a Sevier County Court established a committee to oversee the construction of a replacement bridge.  $50 was raised privately and $25 was donated by the county.  The people of the Harrisburg community donated all of the lumber that was needed and the labor.  The people of Harrisburg built the bridge and made sure they would be able to get back and forth to town easily and that they would be able to further grow their part of the county.

While other covered bridges around the country were being torn down, the people of Sevier County kept the Harrisburg Covered Bridge up and going.  IN the 1950s, the bridge was renovated, but by the 1970s the bridge had fallen into disrepair and was nearing the end of its life.  At this point in the bridges history, the Great Smokies Chapter and the Daughters of the American Revolution raised the money to keep the bridge up and to make sure that it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, you can still go visit the Harrisburg Bridge, take some pictures and drive through a bridge that has been around since 1875.  The bridge is 83 feet long, 14 feet wide and has 11-1/2 feet of clearance.  A true wonder of not only architecture but also of a people that wanted to keep their history alive.  Pencil the Harrisburg Covered Bridge into your next trip to the Smokies.  Drive a a little out of the way.  Head down Dolly Parton Parkway and follow it to Old State Highway 35.  Once you turn left on 35, follow the signs, the bridge is just a few miles down the road.  Get out and take some pictures and spend some time in real, living history.

History of Highlands, NC

The town of Highlands was founded in 1875 by two developers living in Kansas who, according to legend, took a map in hand and drew a line from New York to New Orleans. Then they drew another line from Chicago to Savannah. These lines, they predicted, would become major trade routes in the future, and where they crossed would some day be a great population center. Their logic wasn’t completely insane when one recognizes that we are just over 120 miles from Atlanta.

What evolved was a health and summer resort at more than 4,000 feet on the highest crest of the Western North Carolina plateau in the Southern Appalachian mountains. This paradisal settlement, the highest incorporated town east of the Rockies, provided common ground for both northern and southern pioneers a decade after the Civil war. By 1883, nearly 300 immigrants from the eastern states were calling Highlands home. In the early 1880’s the town contained 8 country stores specializing in groceries, hardware, and general merchandise, a post office, a hotel and boarding house for summer guests, a public library, four churches, and a first class school.

Very little changed until the late 1920’s, when the Cullasaja River was dammed, forming Lake Sequoyah, to provide hydroelectric power. A spectacularly scenic road to Franklin was carved into the rock walls of the Cullasaja Gorge. The muddy roads in and out of town were reinforced with crushed stone. By the time the Chamber of Commerce was established in 1931, the town?s population had increased to 500 with 2,500 to 3,000 summer guests. There were now 25 businesses.

Again, very little changed until the mid 1970’s, when the influx of multi-family homes and shopping centers spawned land use plans and zoning laws intended to protect Highlands‘ natural assets.The town’s population stands at slightly over 1,100 year round residents with 3,200 on the plateau.

Since its creation in 1875, the demographic mixture of Highlands has been remarkably unique. Founded by hardy pioneers from all over the nation, sober industrious tradesmen from the north, Scotch-Irish laborers and craftsmen from the surrounding mountains and valleys, and wealthy aristocratic planters and professionals from the south, the town has served as a cultural center for well-known artists, musicians, actors, authors, photographers, scholars, and scientists who have thrived in its natural setting.

The result is a town too cosmopolitan to be provincial, too broadly based to be singular in attitude and prospective, too enamored of its natural surroundings to be totally indifferent to them, and just isolated enough and small enough to be anxious about the benefits and setbacks of growth and development.

Waynesville, NC

Waynesville is a cross between a resort town and all-Americana.  Great downtown eating and shopping makes for a great visit.  Waynesville is close enough to Asheville for a day trip and close enough to the Smokies to make it a fun place to spend some time or even overnight to enjoy a great meal and do some shopping.

Like most towns in Western North Carolina, the settlement around Waynesville really took off with the introduction of the railroad.  Waynesville was founded in 1810 by a former Revolutionary War soldier.  He named the town for his commanding officer.  After the Civil War when the train came to the area in 1881, Waynesville began to take off.

With the establishment of Interstate 40 and the Great Smoky Mountain Expressway, Waynesville was even more connected to the rest of the world.  The roadways and the railway (which sees multiple visits a day) make this towns connection to Asheville and Knoxville a vital link in the change of shipping.


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History of Townsend, TN

The origins of Townsend, Tn can be traced back, like many area towns and cities, to the Cherokee Indian tribes that roamed the Smoky Mountain region and used them as hunting grounds before the first English settlers stepped foot here in the 1700s.

The Little River Valley and the surrounding tributary streams were called Tuckaleechee Cove at the advent of the 20th Century. Tuckaleechee actually means “peaceful valley” and was the name given to the region by the Cherokee. It remained a “peaceful valley” for over a century. Farming in the valley made up the primary livelihood of its residents with commercial lumbering seeing a 40-year boom in between. When the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established in 1934, the area re-emerged as “The Peaceful Side of the Smokies”.

The Little River Lumber Company was founded in 1900 by Wilson B. Townsend and a group of fellow Pennsylvanians who had initially built the business in order to supply tanbark for a tannery located at Walland, Tn just down the road. With the purchase of nearly 80,000 acres of land, they now found themselves the proprietors of what would eventually be a large portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Traversing the region’s rugged terrain and moving the logs to the mill meant establishing some mode of transportation, thus they established the Little River Railroad Company to do just that. The railroad and the lumber company’s headquarters were located in the small village of Townsend. From here, track was laid and run deep into the Great Smoky Mountains. Each worker employed by the company, their equipment, and tools were hauled in and logs back out by the famous Shay locomotives – smaller, yet very powerful steam engines which were constructed for hauling and traveling up steep slopes such as the ones found in the Smokies.

With so much economic productivity coming out of the area, one would have thought that business would have continued to expand, and it did, but in ways you wouldn’t expect. The Smoky Mountains’ majestic vistas and views were bringing in a number of visitors that the railroad was providing easy access to. Elkmont, once a logging camp, evolved into tourist hotels to accommodate the influx of visitors. As logging activities lessened and the railroad tracks were removed, the rail beds provided the beginnings of roadways and trails into the Smoky Mountains. One example is Little River Road; it runs from Townsend all along the Little River to Sugarlands visitor’s center in Gatlinburg. Today’s Little River Road was originally the rail bed of the Little River Railroad.

By the mid-1930s, W.B. Townsend had sold most of the land he originally purchased for the railroad to the state of Tennessee. This sale provided land for the National Park Service to turn into a large portion of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Townsend became a primary gateway for national park visitors due to its proximity to Cades Cove and the relative closeness to the Little River, which by then had also been adopted into the national park. The park’s other main entrances – Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Cherokee, North Carolina have seen its share of development with welcome centers, businesses, and other attractions springing up, most providing travel opportunities primarily unrelated to the Great Smoky Mountains and its majestic splendor, which draw thousands of visitors yearly. Unlike the Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge outlets, Townsend has kept its moniker as “The Peaceful Side of the Smokies” intact. It’s still viewed as a more picturesque, natural destination for those who trip to take in the overwhelming beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains.

History of Maggie Valley, NC

Maggie Valley, NC takes its name from a mountain girl with long blond hair and blue eyes who once called the area her home. Maggie’s true life story is recorded in Maggie of Maggie Valley, NC, a book written by her daughter Patty Pylant Kosier. You’ll not only find a true account of Maggie Mae Setzer Pylant’s life but mountain life as well. At that time, Maggie’s home was part of an isolated wilderness settlement.

On December 21, 1890, ten years after Maggie was born, her father, Jack Setzer began tossing the idea around of the formation of a post office. More so, Setzer wanted a post office to be built in his own home. The nearest post office, the Plott post office, was located five miles from his home and someone had to be paid in those days to take and pick up mail for the valley. Soon thereafter, Setzer was contacting officials with the US postal department in order to get permission to establish a new post office in his home that all the people of the valley could use.

For the next six months he was instructed to provide the service that was needed in the area. He also kept careful records during the time. The post office made up a corner of Setzer’s room – a wooden box used to file incoming letters and newspaper.

Jack submitted his records to the U.S. post office department after six months and they accepted his application asking him to submit community names to the postal service. Setzer’s first three submissions were rejected because they we already being used for other post offices in North Carolina. Following that, he submitted the names of his daughters Cora, Mettie and Maggie Mae plus the name Jonathan Creek, the creek which ran through the Setzer’s home. He kept it from his daughters that he had submitted their names.

On May 10, 1904, Jack received an official letter from the US Postmaster General Frank Hitchcock that the post office authorities had made their decision. The official name of the mountain settlement post office was to be Maggie, NC. Maggie was embarrassed when she was told the news. She burst into tears and ran up the mountain to the old log cabin where she had been born. At the age of 17, Maggie became the bride of Ira Pylant of Nashville, TN. They moved to Texas, but she came back to her beloved valley several times before her death in 1979 at the age of 88.