October 29, 2018

How to Plan your Joshua Tree Wedding


The complete guide to an elopement in Joshua Tree National Park

(updated for 2021 by your California Elopement Photographer)


So you have decided to elope, heck yes!! Now you’re looking for the perfect elopement location. Let me tell you why Joshua Tree is the most magical location for your wedding day!

Joshua Tree is something different. It is a place of still, of adventure and of beauty. Tucked away in the desert is this beautiful place of trees from another time with endless exploration. It is a great place for a high activity adventure elopement or a relaxing elopement surrounded by nature. It’s the perfect place to spend your elopement and honey moon or have your elopement and head off to honey moon in San Diego, Yosemite, Alabama Hills, Sedona or elsewhere!


How to Elope in Joshua Tree National Park

First things first, how do you get to Joshua Tree? There are several airports you can fly into to easily access the park. The closest is Palm Springs international, second closest in LAX then followed by San Diego and Phoenix. No matter which airport you fly into you will need to rent a rental car.

If you wish to hold your elope ceremony in Joshua Tree National park you will need to pull special use permits. This may sound scary, but do not let it stray you away from booking at this beautiful place! The permit process is simple and the rangers are super helpful. You will need to speak directly with ranger, Jeannie, to pull your permit. Her email address is [email protected] You can always visit the parks website for exact information and contact to the ranger in charge of issuing permits. For an engagement/couples session you want to pull your permit at least one to two weeks out just you can have time to get everything squared away. For an elopement, I would try to get your permit at least three weeks out. During peak season at the park always try to do things earlier than usual! Also the permit office is currently going to be closed for the month of June this year.

If you are wanting to get married in Joshua Tree with guests you can still do this. Below is the information listed on the Park’s website of locations you can get married with guests for the ceremony. These locations must be reserved through the park service permit system for usage.

Indian Cove Amphitheater; No more than 100 people total and guests must be shuttled in due to limited parking.
Hidden Valley Picnic Area; Limit of 35 people.
Turkey Flats; Limit of 35 people.
Cap Rock; Limit of 25 people.
Rattlesnake Picnic Area; Limit of 20 people.
Quail Springs Picnic Area; Limit of 20 people.
Split Rock; Limit of 15 people.
Porcupine Wash; Limit of 12 people.
Queen Valley Mine Intersection; Limit of 10 people.
Lost Horse Parking Lot; Limit of 10 people.
Live Oak Picnic Area; Limit of 5 people.

As always with elopements in the great outdoors you want to practice Leave No Trace principals, but this is a National Park so you also need to obey any of there specific regulations. Avoid locations that have been closed and stay on the trail. It is also important to remember these items are not allowed in the park for a wedding: dried flowers, smoke bombs, bird seed, bubbles, drones and more. They also lay out things you can have at your elopement like a free standing arch and champagne!

Most of the park is out of cell range, so if you do have any guests or an officiant you want to make sure that they know exactly where to meet you ahead of time. I recommend asking your guests to arrive early or car pool since during season parking can be limited due to crowds, especially on the weekend. Also note if you plan to have your fur baby with you as well that there are many restrictions on where your pups can be and they must stay leashed. Dogs are allowed in camping areas and parking lot areas mostly.

Legally speaking Joshua Tree National Park is in California. Therefore, you will need an officiant to perform the ceremony married and one witness to legally get married. You can have two witnesses sign your marriage documentation if you wish though. You will need to obtain your marriage license by the local clerk’s office in California. For phone numbers, address and information you can visit the Joshua Tree Clerk Office District.

The most ideal months to elope in Joshua Tree based on weather are March, April, May, late September, October and early November. I do not recommend the summer months due to the desert heat, it can be brutal up against the light colored rocks on a hot day. I always recommend eloping the park on a week day, not on a holiday to avoid crowded trails and parking areas. Sunrise or Sunset in the park is peaceful and stunning with colorful skies and the light pouring through the Joshua Trees.

How long should you hire your elopement photographer for an elopement in Joshua tree? As an elopement photographer that works in Joshua Tree often I recommend 8-12 hours for your elopement coverage in the park. The park is one thousand acres big. It has several park entrances, but depending where you are staying and where you are going in the park you can end up driving for 1-3 hours on your elopement day. If you wanting to catch stars you will need time for the sky to get dark and take the time to enjoy the night sky. Joshua Tree is the kind of place you want to take your time and enjoy. There is so much to explore and see, you may find the perfect nook for a picnic or want to explore a dirt road longer than expected. Joshua Tree is not the place for rushing.

What should you pack for your Joshua Tree elopement? Joshua Tree is the desert, so you want to bring sun screen and lots of water in re-usable water bottles. There is no water access in the park so it is important to bring with you into the park what you need for the day. The rock at Joshua Tree is very sharp so if you plan to be on the rocks you need approach shoes or hiking boots. If you plan to be on the trails after sunset or out for night photos/star gazing you should bring head lamps with you. Since you can get deep into the park I suggest bringing snacks/a packed lunch.


Where to stay for your Joshua Tree Elopement?

I have written an entire blog on this topic with the best Airbnbs in the area listed and camp spots. If you plan to camp in the park, which I recommend since the park is vast and can take some time to travel to different locations within it and then you get the whole experience that the park has to offer, you need to book your camp site at least 1-3 months out. Joshua Tree is known for having some of the most aesthetically pleasing Airbnbs in the country. A lot of the Airbnbs have hot tubs, great spaces to be outdoors, are close to the park and have great space to just be together relaxing on your wedding night after adventuring!! To the right is my top 20 hand picked places to stay. Keep in mind if you plan to have your photographer (hey hey!) at your Airbnb photographing getting ready, toasts/dinner or night shots it is important to ask permission from the home owner before booking your stay!



Things to do in Joshua Tree for your Elopement Day

Joshua Tree is a wonder for hikers, off roaders, campers, star gazers and especially for climbers. On your elopement day in Joshua Tree you can do all of these things! You can climb a route with your love for photos on the side of the rock and/or the top. I recommend climbing routes off the beaten path away from the main climbing areas and for sure climbing routes out of the camping areas. or if you want to stay closer to the main areas of the park I would recommend real hidden valley. You can hike any of the trails to water, run down homes, automobiles or into the wilderness. You can off road to some of the more quiet spots in the park. Or on the right night you can watch a full moon rise between the Joshua Trees, or you can see the milky way in all of its glory later in the night. You can camp with your love for a full night under the stars, just keep in mind if you want photos at camp you can not camp in the park for photography is not allowed within camp areas. There are many camp sites you can book on Airbnb or dispersed camping is available not too far out of the park.


Are you looking for a Joshua Tree Elopement Photographer?!

Well you are in the right place! Hey, I am Traci! I first fell in love with J Tree in 2016 and since I go back every chance I get. I have spent many sunrises and sunsets there on trails, on the side of rocks and in the camp sites. I truly believe in the magic of Joshua Tree National Park and would be happy to help you two plan the most epic day that truly reflects who you two are to start off your marriage. We are a partner team, we offer officiating and planning within all of our services. We are stoked high on adventure and helping you two connect with your love and the environment as we help you document this special day.


HEY! Some of my elopement images from Joshua Tree was recently featured on several accounts! Check them out here: Sister in Law, Looks Like Film & Whimsically Wed

wedding in joshua tree

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20 comments on “How to Plan your Joshua Tree Wedding”

  1. Oh gosh this shoot is gorgeous; love the astrophotography shot! Girl you're an amazing Joshua tree elopement photographer <3

  2. Oh WOW this Joshua Tree elopement is seriously SO pretty! You did an amazing job! Gorgeous details, locations, and edits! You are such a good Joshua Tree elopement photographer!!

  3. What great photos of an elopement in Joshua Tree, a lot of information and inspiration for couples wanting to elope. I really like the star pic and the double exposure pic, but they are all so good! You're a real adventure elopement photographer 🙂

  4. Joshua trees are so funky looking especially at night! They always kinda give me a jump scare haha. This blog is helpful and answers a lot of questions and makes getting married here seem so rad and even... easy! Thanks for sharing your beautiful images with us!

  5. Wow, Joshua Tree looks like an exceptional place to elope, and your pictures are soo good.

    Thanks for providing us with this guide, there's so much information here. x

  6. This is amazing, thank you! You’ve literally answered all the questions I was having a hard time finding answers for. 🙂

  7. I have seen so many photos of Joshua Tree and it is always amazing to see how beautiful that place is! You captured is perfectly, and the helpful insights are just a bonus! That stars/landscape couple photo, OMG!!!

  8. These are such amazing tips and recommendations!! I loved that double exposure photo with the couple almost kissing and the sky. AMAZING WORK!

  9. Stop it with these gorgeous images, i can't take it. The moon shot is just stunning. Pack with some much information too, love it.

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