Desert Weddings: Everything You Need to Know About Getting Married in the Desert

bride and groom having their wedding in the desert, kissing

How to Plan A Desert Wedding or Elopement:

 

As wedding trends evolve, couples are choosing to stray away from the traditional wedding venue and get married in all different types of geographic destinations, such as deserts, forests, mountains etc.

Desert weddings are full of red rocks, plateaus, and sand dunes. Having a desert wedding is great for couples looking for a southwestern, bohemian, and adventurous vibe. Depending on your research into this trend, some people may refer to a desert wedding as an elopement; an elopement is another word for a more unique wedding experience with 20 guests or less, in an adventurous destination. Learn more about elopements here. 

Getting married in the desert is a great option for anyone looking for a unique and fun way to get married. Desert weddings can also be turned into full-day or two-day adventures, filled with exploring, off-roading, hiking, and ceremony celebrations, it’s all up to you. 

Although your friends and family may not have heard of this adventurous wedding trend, couples are choosing to have their weddings in the mountains, at waterfalls, in deserts and on beaches. 

If you’re looking to have a bohemian desert wedding, it’s not as difficult as you would expect. As nature becomes your wedding venue, it’s an easier and less stressful process than planning a wedding at a traditional venue.

So does a dreamy bohemian desert wedding sound like your perfect day? WELL keep reading to find out everything you need to know about having a desert wedding: 

 
bride and groom walking through the desert arms around each other
 

Location 

Like I just said, nature is your wedding venue now. All the deserts in the U.S. are located on the West Coast, so that at least narrows it down by a decent amount! 

But let’s not forget about those international spots! If you’re a big traveler, like me, there are so many options outside North America. These spots include Morocco, South Africa, and Australia

To narrow down your search, think about what type of geographic features you want at your destination. Some deserts are just endless views of sand, while others include plateau formations and big red rocks, cacti (I had to look up the plural version of cactus), mountains, and cliffs. These geographic features can drastically change the scenery in a destination. I’ve included a few examples below. 

Here are some popular U.S. Desert Wedding Destinations: 

Zion National Park 

Grand Canyon 

Great Sand Dune National Park 

Bryce Canyon National Park 

Valley of Fire

Arches National Park

Joshua Tree National Park 

If you are overwhelmed by where to choose for a desert wedding spot, don’t stress! One of the reasons couples love to work with me as their photographer is I am around for the whole planning process. When couples decide they want me to capture their day, we constantly are in contact working to decide on a location, I pass along my recommendations on locations, travel logistics, and I help create a timeline for your wedding day. 

 
male twirling female in wedding dress in the desert on their wedding day
 

Photographer 

A wedding or elopement photographer may be one of the most important investments you make on your wedding day.

An elopement photographer is a different kind of photographer. I don’t just show up the day of your elopement, photograph it, and leave. From the day you book me, I am 100% invested in your day. 

There are two main reasons why having an elopement/wedding photographer is so important:

REASON NUMBER 1:

Elopement photographers do so much more than just take pictures. Since planning a desert wedding/elopement is a completely different experience than a traditional wedding, we are the experts and help YOU throughout the whole process. 

We help in every aspect of planning: finding a location, planning the ceremony, finding vendors in the area (make-up artists, florists, ordained officiants… you name it), helping with what to pack, logistics where to stay, backup locations, what to do before and after, creating a personalized timeline and basically ANYTHING that goes into planning your perfect elopement experience. Elopement photographers care about making sure your wedding day is EVERYTHING you could ever want. 

I care so deeply about my couples. Helping them have the best elopement/wedding experience is my highest priority. I am in their corner 100% of the time. I am always texting them late at night or giving advice on things such as- how to tell their family they’re eloping or talk them through which dress will look best in the desert sand. By the actual day of their elopement, we are the closest of friends, which makes bringing me with them on the most important day of their life, that much more special.

REASON NUMBER 2:

Your elopement day is just as important as any traditional wedding. Wedding photographers capture 6, 8, 10 or 12 hour days. Your day deserves just as much coverage and just as many captured memories. You want this day to be documented forever. The day you decided to commit yourselves to each other should be completely captured, so your love story can be passed down for generations to come. 

Since not all your friends and family will be there, it is also a great way to share the adventures of your day with all those who care about you. After elopements, couples always tell me ‘our day would not have been complete without you’. In those special moments, I will be a fly on the wall, and you will look back at your pictures and feel those moments all over again. Having an elopement photographer will help keep you in the present moment, knowing you only need to focus on each other, so you can look back and remember how warm the sun felt on your face, or how your partner started to tear up during your vows. Those are the moments you’ll want to re-live forever.

 
groom about to pick up his bride with his arms around her waist
groom picking up his bride in the desert
 

Timeline

When you are designing your own wedding day, you don’t have a wedding venue to help build a timeline. It’s important to have a timeline, as a strict or gentle guideline, to lay out the plan for your wedding day.

Things to think about for your timeline:

How long will it take you to get ready?

Are you having a first look?

Do you want to do anything before the ceremony? (hike, explore, drinks with the family)

What time of day is the ceremony? (I recommend sunrise or sunset!!)

How do you want to celebrate after? (first dance, champagne pop, adventurous activity)

Adventurous weddings are about experiencing the day. Whether it’s just the two of you or you have your family with you, how do you want to spend your day? Couples are choosing to do activities such as helicopter tours, ATV rides, sand dune surfing, hiking, or anything that you two would love to do on your wedding day to celebrate. No idea is too crazy! This is your day and you should celebrate the way you want. 

 
groom helping bride down a rock during their desert wedding
 

Guests & Permits

Typically, these desert locations have restrictions on the amount of guests that can attend. These weddings tend to be a more intimate/small, if you even choose to have guests at all. (which is totally okay, since a lot of couples just want it to be the two of them!) 

If you are getting married in a different state than you reside in, it’s important to look up the legal requirements to get married in that state. Some states require two witnesses, while others do not. This can impact if you are having guests or not. 

If you do decide to have guests, it’s important to layout a detailed schedule for them. This is different than the traditional wedding, and they may be confused on where they are supposed to be at certain times. Communication is key here, since you don’t want to have to be stressing about your guests on your big day. 

State & National Parks may also have a permit fee to get married in their park. These can range from $10-150, state parks tend to have lower fees.

 
couple playing in the desert after their wedding, groom is swinging the bride around
 

Dress, Vendors, Bouquet 

Obviously you will want to pick out a wedding dress for your big day, but make sure you are okay with it getting dirty! That is some of the fun of getting married in a desert. You’ll also want to factor in your shoe choice, or bringing a backup pair of comfortable shoes to change into. 

Bouquets can still be a fun accessory to have in your photos and on your wedding day. It is a good idea to find a local florist where you are having your ceremony to pick up the day of or the day before. Using #arizonaflorist or #arizonaweddingflorist on Instagram can be a great way to find amazing bouquets for your wedding (change the state depending on where your destination is).

Other vendors to think about are an officiant, hair and make-up artist, and a planner. Some couples want a friend, religious leader, or an ordained officiant to marry them, it is completely up to how you want to celebrate your ceremony. These vendors can be found in a similar way through Instagram hashtags, or your photographer has a network of vendors who they may be able to recommend. Otherwise, a quick google search could do the trick.

 
desert wedding couple blurry in the background has the wedding flowers are in focus.
bride walks away holding her dress as she walks through the dirt in the desert
 

Ceremony

This might sound strange, but with a unique wedding like this, you can create your own ceremony. From the traditional exchanging rings, saying vows, having a religious ceremony, or other unique traditions, your ceremony is completely up to you.

Read here for some unique ceremony ideas.

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box with your wedding day. It’s important to pick a ceremony that is authentic to you and represents you as a couple. 

 
couple touching foreheads looking at each other during their desert wedding ceremony
close up of a couple during their desert wedding
 

Have a better understanding on how to plan a desert wedding? Looking to move forward in the planning process? Get in touch with me so I can hear more about your vision for your wedding day and help plan your perfect wedding adventure!

 

how-to-plan-a-desert-wedding-elopement.jpg
 

Hey, I’m Amanda

I’m an adventurous travel elopement photographer who believes in experiencing all that life has to offer. I do not see the value in objects, but rather in experiencing moments and developing relationships with others.

I truly believe your wedding day should ONLY be filled with things that will make you blissfully happy.

i believe YOUR WEDDING DAY SHOULD BE AS adventurous, as breathtaking, and unique as you want it to be.

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Amanda Karpacz