Desert Elopement Destination Guide
The desert is one of my favorite settings to photograph an elopement, and I’m here to help you find the perfect spot! It is a vast and marvelous landscape made up of humbling towers of sandstone and massive canyon walls. Its radiant sun envelops its visitors with brilliant warmth. I want you to experience that warmth and let it play a part in your adventure story. As an elopement photographer, I’m passionate about giving you resources to help you create the richest experience.
There are so many beautiful places to choose from as you pick the backdrop for your desert elopement – it can almost feel overwhelming. You may not know where to look or where to start when planning, and I hear you. Luckily, I’ve become an avid visitor to the desert myself, and so I’ve become an expert on all the wonderful landscapes it has to offer. I’ve put together a list of my favorite desert elopement areas with other tips and tools to make eloping in the desert feel more accessible for you and your loved ones!
Top 5 Desert Elopement Destinations
1. Bonneville Salt Flats
2. Southwest Utah
3. Moab, Utah
4. Lake Powell
5. Sedona, Arizona
Bonneville Salt Flats Elopement
Eloping in the Bonneville Salt Flats is an unforgettable desert elopement experience. The Salt Flats are located in Northwestern Utah, west of the Great Salt Lake. Its otherworldly salt crust ground expands across 30,000 acres of BLM land, providing you with vast, uninterrupted space for your desert elopement. Not to mention that its wide-open skies and reflective salt surfaces make for the best sunsets and the most magical light, with vibrant color surrounding the scene.
Southwest Utah Elopement
With a plethora of stunning national parks, southwest Utah is a hot spot for desert elopements. Get married in the breathtaking Snow Canyon State Park, where deep red sandstone formations soar into the sky and ancient lava forms bands of color. Or you have Bryce Canyon National Park, one of the most striking scenes for a desert elopement: it’s the world’s largest site of hoodoos, which are dramatic naturally-occurring columns of rock. The views out over the canyon are epic – and definitely unforgettable.
Moab, Utah Elopement
Moab in Utah offers some of the starkest and most beautiful scenery in the United States. The landscape of the Canyonlands National Park has those dramatic silhouettes that epitomize the drama of the desert – they make for iconic wedding photographs! And, speaking of iconic photographs, you can’t beat the towering arches and bridges at Arches National Park.
I love the views that you can get at Dead Horse Point State Park – from their lookout points, you can see cliffs and canyons for miles and miles, while snowy white mountains preside in the distance. And if you want to celebrate your marriage with a story not many couples will share, this park rents mountain dirt bikes: so you can ride off into the sunset in style!
Lake Powell Elopement
With endless acres of sky, unmistakable miles of canyons, columns, peaks, spires of rock, and, of course, the glorious expanse of the lake itself, Lake Powell is an incredible destination for a desert elopement. Not only is the beauty and the scale of the scene truly awe-inspiring, but it also presents so many opportunities for adventure. Kayaking, boating, swimming – you could celebrate your marriage in so many unique and fun ways!
The contrast between the deep reds and light pinks of the Glen Canyon’s vast and winding formations with the deep blue-green of the Colorado River and Lake Powell is incredible. You could get married underneath the iconic Rainbow Bridge, or pledge your love overlooking the gorgeous Horseshoe Bend. If you’re looking for luxury, the world-class Amangiri Resort will offer you the experience of a lifetime.
Sedona, Arizona Elopement
Any discussion about desert elopement destinations wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Sedona. From the iconic Cathedral Rock to the picturesque town square of Tlaquepaque, visiting this Arizona desert feels like an escape into another world. The towering monoliths of red rock and stretches of desert valley feel wild and untamed, but the ready access to beautiful spas, restaurants, and hotels means that your desert elopement in Sedona can be a heady blend of adventure and luxury.
Best Time of Year for a Desert Elopement
The extreme temperatures of the desert mean that time of year is important when you’re planning a desert elopement. In general, it’s best to go for spring and fall to avoid the blistering temperatures of high summer and, in some cases, even the snowfall of winter.
For a desert elopement, I highly recommend choosing a weekday. Unlike a traditional venue where you can book the place to yourself, the natural wonders and national parks are open to all – so if you want the intimate privacy that is such a special part of any elopement, it’s best to go for a weekday to avoid the crowds.
Desert Elopement Checklist
A desert elopement can be easier to plan than a full wedding, but there are still some key things for you to consider to make the day as magical as possible. Let’s look at your desert elopement checklist!
1. Decide Your Desert Elopement Location
As you can see, you have a wealth of incredible desert elopement options at your fingertips. Picking a location is the first step towards planning everything else! Think about scenery that inspires you! Where feels most authentic to celebrate your love and your passions?
2. Pick a Date
Once you’ve got a location, it’s time to choose a date! Keep in mind the weather, which can be extreme in the desert. No matter when you decide to go, don’t forget to continually replenish your water supply as it’s easy to get dehydrated in the desert!
3. Hire Your Vendors
Once you’ve got a location and a date, you can book your vendors. For a desert elopement, this shouldn’t take too long. You’ll want a photographer who is up to the challenge of capturing all of the spontaneity and intimacy of an elopement. I would love to be that person – let’s talk!
When you are thinking about your other vendors, consider your priorities: a beautiful bouquet? A particular officiant to marry you two? Are there any outdoor activities you want to include on your adventure? You can book a helicopter ride over the canyon! Or rent a boat or kayaks & spend an evening on the water. Even schedule a slot canyon tour with a guide! There’s no set list of must-haves, so it’s up to you: just make sure that you book them well in advance.
4. Book Wedding Night Lodging
After traveling out to the desert, the last thing you want to do is spend your wedding night on the road back home. Find somewhere special to celebrate your first evening as a married couple – Airbnb is a great place to find unique desert lodging for you and your loved ones. You may even be able to find one to serve as an intimate ceremony or reception space in the desert!
5. Research Permits and Passes
You may need special permission or passes to access different parts of national parks or to conduct any kind of ceremony in them – so do the research upfront. When the day of your desert elopement comes, you want to be focused fully on love and adventure – not the paperwork!
Final Thoughts on Desert Elopement Destinations
As you can see, the opportunities for an unforgettable desert elopement are endless. You can be sure that wherever you choose to elope, your day will be full of the beauty and wildness of these awe-inspiring places. I am so excited for you as you embark on your adventure!
Need someone to capture the magic? Let’s talk!
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