Desert Elopements: The Ultimate Guide to an Intimate Desert Wedding

July 30, 2020

Adventure elopements and intimate weddings are quickly becoming a unique alternative to traditional weddings all over the world. Especially in the era of social distancing, when couples are opting to marry under the stars, in the desert, on top of a mountain, at glacier lakes, oceans, anywhere beautiful. These types of intimate ceremonies are perfect for couples in love with nature and the great outdoors, for adventurers and free spirits that want to have an intimate event instead of a full on wedding with a couple hundred guests.


Desert elopements are  intimate celebrations focused on two people getting married and celebrating a commitment to each other. The idea of elopements on a whim is an outdated notion, you can create the day of your own and invite your immediate family and a few guests to witness your ceremony. But don’t be mistaken, there is actually quite a bit of planning that goes into desert elopements. In the desert, nature is typically your wedding venue, which makes the planning much easier and less stressful than planning a traditional wedding. On top of that, I will help you research the perfect location, the ideal time of the day, we will talk about logistics and come up with the ideal game plan. So, if you love the idea of getting married surrounded by cactus, sand dunes and slot canyons, you are in for a treat! 


  • You will need an officiant, if you want to make it legal! This could be a friend or family member who is ordained, or you can hire a local officiant available for an elopement ceremony

  • Two witnesses

  • Bouquet/hair piece and a boutonniere

  • Photographer

  • Videographer (if you’d like to add some motion to the stills)

  • Determine the time of the day and a specific setting (I am here to help)

  • Cake or desert

  • Champagne for an epic sunset shot


There are some truly gorgeous desert locations in the US, from high desert, to golden dunes, mostly located on the West coast. To narrow down what you envision to be a perfect spot for your desert elopement, think about the elements you would like captured in your photographs. Some deserts feature gorgeous golden sand dunes, while others include mesas, red rocks, slot canyons, mountains, cliffs and desert vegetation, such as succulents and cacti. After we settle on the vibe you’re going for and the type of terrain you enjoy exploring, I will start researching specific locations for your session. I use professional tools to map out hiking trails and to determine the best season and light during the day of your shoot. 

Joshua Tree, California

Death Valley, California

Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Lake Powell, Arizona

Horseshoe Bend, Arizona

Zion National Park, Utah

Bryce National Park, Utah

Taos, Utah

Canyonlands, Utah

Moab, Utah

Arches National Park, Utah


National Parks usually require permits. Processing can take about a month, so I suggest you make sure that gets approved before you move forward with planning anything else. Permits vary depending on the scope of your elopement, number of guests (if any), and the specific location. If you are getting married in a different state than you reside in, make sure to check legal requirements. Some states require two witnesses, while others do not. To avoid bureaucracy, some couples choose to do the paperwork in their own state and their elopement ceremony becomes a bit more symbolic.


Adventurous weddings are about experiencing the day on your own terms. So, how do you want to spend your day? If you’re an adrenaline junkie and you choose to do a helicopter ride with no doors on, or just simply hike a serene trail, this is your day and you should celebrate it the way you desire. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Light is everything! If you want to plan for a truly magical lighting, your ceremony should happen early in the morning or 2 – 1.5 hour before sunset. If that isn’t doable, there are locations with tree cover that are great for mid-day.

  • Allow about 15 minutes to exchange vows, 1.5 hour for wedding portraits, and 20 minutes for photos with friends or family

  • Plan for getting ready photos. Allowing me to document these moments will help tell a complete story of your day. Allow for an hour and a half for hair and makeup.

  • Always cushion your timeline with extra travel time between locations. Also – this will give us an opportunity to make impromptu stops in case we spot a gorgeous desert location we didn’t know about!

  • To avoid crowds, especially in the summer, plan to elope on a weekday


If you’re planning a desert elopement, you might be looking for a beautiful, flattering dress that will allow you to move freely without feeling constrained all day. You are most likely not wildly interested in a fairytale ballgown from a traditional bridal shop, but a gown that simply makes you feel you. The good news is that there are SO many options for incredible wedding dresses that will make you feel like a goddess without paying thousands. Make sure to buy something lightweight and prepare for your dress to get a little dirty.



Each couple chooses to approach their ceremony differently. From the traditional ring exchange, vows, or other traditions, your ceremony is completely up to you. 

Please, have fun!

Be present

Don’t forget to eat and drink plenty of water

Focus on the connection with your partner

Enjoy every minute of this epic adventure!


My couples celebrate love, deep connections, they strive for adventures and value meaningful experiences over anything else. I simply observe and document the connection between two untamed souls wildly in love and preserve the essence of the moment in still images. I usually work with couples I connect with on a deeper level from our initial consultation, so by the actual elopement day, we are friends. 


Your elopement day is just as important as any traditional wedding and it deserves just as much coverage and love from your photographer, and just as many captured memories. As an adventure elopement photographer, I capture love stories for couples all over the world. When you decide to work with me, I am SO much more than just your photographer. I am there to help you through the planning process and guide you through each step. 

8-hours of coverage

Unlimited planning and consultation

  • Including a personalized timeline
  • Vendor recommendations
  • Location expertise

Hand-picked high-res files in a private online gallery

Digital slideshow

Travel expenses