Best Places to elope in Sedona and Full Guide to planning your elopement in Sedona.
scouted and written by your Sedona local Elopement Photographer Traci Edwards, owner of Adventure and Vow (updated for 2022)
Sedona has become one of the most popular places in the United States for eloping. On any given day in the area you can expect anywhere from two to ten weddings to be happening, and depending on the location, there might be that many just in that location! Sedona is known for it’s easy access to beautiful places, its spiritual energy, stunning red rock vistas, adventure and more. It is a great place to spend the weekend or a full week, depending on what all you want to do. It is close to Flagstaff, the Grand Canyon, Page and Phoenix. It is easy to see why Sedona has become such a popular elopement location. This blog will tell you literally every little thing you need to know about planning an elopement in Sedona from a local elopement photographer and outdoor enthusiast. Before we dive into all things getting married in Sedona, let’s talk about the logistics of just visiting the area!
How to get to Sedona + when is the best time to go to Sedona…
Sedona is pure magic throughout the entire year, although the best time to elope in Sedona in our opinion from a local perspective is Feb-March and mid October to December. With the ideal weather also comes the busiest times of the year in Sedona being spring break, fall break, mother’s day and Easter weekend – which is part of the reason we suggest April has not the best option. In April the weather is prime, flowers are blooming, but it is Easter and spring break so everything is busy. We recommend avoiding the high times because trailhead parking is extremely limited in Sedona. Not only that getting around town can take you 1 hour to drive 4 miles. While these things can be a pain it doesn’t making eloping impossible you just want to plan ahead and be aware.
If you are hoping to see some Fall colors the best time is late October to mid November. If you want to avoid snow or see snow, you can expect very minimal flurries from mid January to mid February. However, know that snow in Sedona only happens a few times during the winter season and when it does, it is so magical! The white contrast against the red rock is beautiful and the best part is that snow here typically is not enough to close down roads or stay around long. The summer months from late June to end the of August are what we consider the no go zone. While it doesn’t bother some people, the temperatures can be over a 100 degrees making it both unsafe and no longer enjoyable for many outdoor activities.
If you are flying in to get to your elopement, you will most likely need to rent a car to visit. The best airports to fly into are Phoenix for the most convenient all round location but also the most expensive other than Flagstaff which is one hour north of Sedona and a much smaller airport. The cheapest option would be to fly into Las Vegas, which is further away but an awesome road trip to stop and visit other National Parks like the Grand Canyon, Zion or the Page area. We recommend either way being sure to drive the 89A through the canyon for some epic views! Also be sure to drive the 179 into Sedona from HWY 17 for great red rock views of Courthouse Butte, Bell Rock and Cathedral Rock.
Can you Get Married in Sedona?
Why, of course you can get married in Sedona! In the state of Arizona you need an officiant and two witnesses. If you are working with Adventure and Vow for your elopement, we have you covered. We are a two person team and we are both ordained, so you can “self-solemnize” or have us perform your ceremony. For the “self-solemnization” we would give you the space to hold your own ceremony, and after the fact perform the legally required actions separate from your intimate ceremony. We can also count as your witnesses if you want to hire an officiant out, which we have additional recommendations for.
Do not worry if you do not have guests coming to your elopement, it is never hard to get some fellow hikers on the trial to sign as witnesses or folks back in town near where you are staying. To get your marriage license, if you live in the state you can (currently due to Covid-19) get it mailed to you by ordering it online. If you live out of state, you will need to make an appointment online to pick it up at any Arizona clerk office. The state of Arizona does not have a waiting period from the time you get your paperwork from the time you get married, however be sure to keep their office hours in mind and make your appointment with the clerk office prior to booking your travel. Below are links to the clerk offices most convenient for getting your paperwork if you are eloping in Sedona.
Airbnb elopements have become very popular, but it is important to know that in the state of Arizona it is illegal to hold an event at an Airbnb. It is also important to know that no matter what state you are in, if you have a photographer planning to take photos of you in an Airbnb you need to get permission from the home owner first. So while in Arizona you can not legally hold your ceremony at an Airbnb, you can get ready at your Airbnb or have dinner there after your ceremony with permission of the owner. Sedona is known for its Airbnbs being unique and plentiful. For places we recommend staying from resorts, VRBO, Airbnb check out our guide.
So if you are eloping in Sedona, you will want to legally get married out on one of the trails that is not in wilderness or you can get married at a “venue” or State Park.
Where can you elope in Sedona?
This is a very important question! Sedona is millions of acres of red rocks, mountains and beautiful deserts, but you can not elope just anywhere in this wide spread wilderness.
It is important to know that in Sedona you are not allowed to elope on Wilderness Land, this mean you can not elope at Devil’s Bridge, West Fork or at other popular areas you may have seen images of floating around on Pinterest, Instagram and other places.
This rule is in place by the Red Rock Forest Service. Other rules that apply to eloping in Sedona are no set ups without approval, no groups larger than 75 people and the only paid vendors that can be present without pulling a permit are the officiant and the photographer. If you have any questions about permits/rules you want to reach out directly to the Forest Service Rangers for the Red Rock District. My biggest advice is to not assume something is okay just because you saw it on social media. A great map resource for seeing what is Wilderness Land and what is not is Gaia. Do not worry though, we are local to Sedona and know the area like the back of our hands. We are always happy to help with suggestions that would best fit your elopement day from a specific adventure to any amount of privacy desired.
The top two elopement locations in Sedona based on location, light and their popularity are :
I call this THE classic Sedona hike. There is just something about this rock that is beautiful and draws people in from all over. The hike itself is straight up the rock and about two miles round trip. Cathedral rock offers amazing views, epic and easy places to get to for a ceremony with friends and family. The location is best at sunset, but can also be amazing at sunrise and way more private. It is one of those hikes everyone is happy on! It is important to know how busy this trial is! Parking can be a huge challenge here and I would not expect to be the only couple eloping at this location on any given day.
NOTE: This location is closed for spring of 2022.
This spot is big! Yes, I mean big like spacious so it is great for a ceremony, but also big for all of the jeep tours in Sedona, hikers and folks with their own off road means. This place is so worthy of whatever journey you take to get there. Easily one of the best views at sunset in Sedona. Since the Jeep tours come here, it means you can get to your elopement location without the hike and you get to bring anyone in the family along for the adventure! This location is not as busy as Cathedral Rock, but in the last year it has picked up popularity fast. Your best bet is to elope here in the middle of the week, but again do not expect to be the only couple there. This past week we shot an elopement here and there were 6 other weddings happening at the same time. Last week we shot there on a weekend and were the only people. It is truly luck of the draw and something to be aware of.
While the two areas above are very busy and very popular it is important to remember they are not the only two places you can elope in Sedona. Most of our couples that choose an elopement type wedding are doing so because value privacy, the outdoors and the experience of an adventure style wedding. This can be hard to achieve in the two places above. If you keep an open mind and are open to adventure then there are plenty of other places you can elope in Sedona that are not as crowded or well known. We do not often post about these places because we want to keep them as little foot trafficked as possible and protect them the best we can as they are mostly social trails/climbing areas. However, when we send location guides to our couples they get the full details and images form past elopements to be able to check it out better! Without naming names, here are some other options for Sedona Elopement Locations:
- A 2 mile hike, perfect for sunrise if you want to see the hot air balloons flying by or perfect for sunset!
- A 6 mile hike that can be shortened if you can off road some, to a beautiful area overlooking lots of different areas of Sedona. Not family friendly or friend family as you are high up on some cliffs.
- A desert spire, over looking a ton of Sedona – can you say cozy? This requires knowledge and the ability to trad climb and a 6 mile hike.
- A short 2 mile hike and serious scramble or short climb – depending on your comfort, we rope up for it. To a heart shaped rock facing Cathedral – stunning at sunrise.
- And so many more 🙂
Do you need a permit to elope in Sedona?
No, you do not need a permit to elope in Sedona currently.
That is the short answer, the longer answer is you do not need a permit to elope in Sedona, unless you want to elope at one of the State Parks or Crescent Moon ranch. Then you need a permit. While as of right now, Spring 2022, you do not need a permit for an elopement or wedding on the Forest Service land in Sedona that does not mean this will not change. We recommend always checking in with FS before your elopement and while you plan. Currently, the only time you need a permit is for styled shoots or commercial filming, which does not apply to a wedding day.
Also, important to note: Sedona Forest Service does not allow set ups of any kind.
Things to do in Sedona for your Elopement Day
There is no shortage of adventures available to you in Sedona for your elopement day, but the other plus is there is no shortage of things to do that do not include adventuring, making it also a family friendly elopement location.
Here are some adventurous things you can do in Sedona on your elopement day:
- Rock Climb a spire or climb at a near by crag
- Off Road in a Jeep or ATV
- Mountain Bike
- Take a hot air balloon ride
- Take a private plane or helicopter ride over the red rock canyons
- Yoga on a vista
Things you can do in the area that do not include adventuring and are more family friendly:
- Get a massage
- Dine at one of the many restaurants or grab coffee in the am
- Shop in Uptown Sedona
- Take a town Trolley ride
- Get tattoos in Sedona or in Flagstaff
- Take the train from near Flagstaff all the way to the Grand Canyon
- Star gaze for the Milky Way
How much does it cost to elope in Sedona?
The cost of eloping in Sedona costs between $6500 and $10000 depending on your stay, your wedding day and what you choose to do while here.
What is the cost of visiting Sedona? The cost during peak times is always more expensive, per typically tourist areas. A typical stay in Sedona can average $75-$500+ a night at a hotel or other rental. There are plenty of free camping spots in the area as well year round. Visiting during the least busy time of the year like early December, many home rentals as well as all of the hotels will be dramatically cheaper than during April for example. Depending where you are visiting from, it is still typically sunny and 60 degrees for the high, although the days are shorter and the nights do drop below freezing. If you’re coming down to Sedona from far up north, it will definitely still feel like an escape! Your average dinner in Sedona for two can average $60-$150. Some of our favorite restaurants that we recommend out are Javelina Cantina, The Hudson, Mariposa, Layla’s Bakery, Vino de Sedona and more!
So to configure what the cost of coming to Seodna + eloping is check out this list to easily plug in your amounts and come up with a total:
- Wedding Attire
- Marriage License $65-$85
- Hiking boots
- Red Rock Parking Pass – $5 a day, free if you have a National Parks Pass
- Flight + Rental Car
- Officiant – ranges from $75 – $300, but if you book with us it is included in our services
- Photo + Video – ranges from $3000 – $9500
- Flowers if desired
- Activity costs – pending if you are doing a hot air balloon ride, off roading, spa day, further travel, mountain bike rental, etc
- Permit – if eloping within the State Park or Crescent Moon Ranch
Looking for a Sedona Elopement Photographer?
We are a husband and wife team who have explored the climbing routes, the off roads, the campsites, the trails and more! We know the area like the back of our hands. We have been capturing elopements in Sedona since 2018. We are both ordained, offer planning assistance and capture photo and video!
We truly believe in the magic of a location, what type of feeling and the experience it can give you on your elopement day. We also believe that location knowledge is what really sets a part a lot of elopement photographers. Sedona still leaves us in awe even after living here for years. It’s stunning and surreal. We are dedicated to this place as much as we are dedicated to your day, your experience and telling your love story authentically. To learn more about the elopement packages we offer and what it is like to work with us check out our process page.
Sedona Elopement Packages
- Video Add-On option
- Assistance in Planning
- An elopement planning guide 80 pages of everything you could ever imagine when it comes to putting together a perfect elopement day
- Vendor recommendations to past vendors couple’s have loved, or we have loved and recommendations for where to stay + dine while in Sedona (From a locals perspective!)
- Same Day Sneak Peaks
- A full gallery within 5 weeks, 8 weeks for video
- And so much more! We really are your right hand people during planning, on the trial, and more.
Our Sedona elopement packages start at $4000.
Things we recommend packing for your Sedona Elopement:
- Sunscreen, even in lower temperatures you will need this in the desert
- Layers, in the desert it can be warm during the day but super chilly in the evening, also it can be very windy out on those vistas
- A head lamp – night hiking in the desert is the best
- Hiking shoe, water shoes, chacos all depending on your activity
- Chapstick + Lotion because the desert is dry
- Wedding things I.E. – vow books, letters from family, special items like jewelry, ID to get marriage license, etc
Wildlife you may encounter in Sedona:
- Rattlesnakes – Yes, we have them. Should you be scared? Nope. Just keep your eye out and give them space. If one is coiled or rattling back away slowly and do not provoke it.
- Javelina’s are like rodent large pigs. You may see them on the trails or even in Uptown. Don’t worry, they mostly dont care that you are there, just do not approach a mother with it’s young.
- Mule Dear
- Elk in Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon
- Bears are not seen often in the Sedona area unless you are deep in the canyon, closer in elevation to Flagstaff. This is not really something you need to worry about at all in any of the elopement locations allowed in Sedona.
- Big Cats – Yes we have cougars and the rule of thumb is – It may be there, but you wont see it. If you see it, there is a problem. Cougars, do not want to see you and do not want you to see them. We have been here over three years and never seen one and we hike in the dark a ton as well as on remote trails a ton. If you see one do not break eye contact and back away slowly.
Following Leave No Trace during your elopement in Sedona:
For elopements in Sedona out on the trials, it is important to follow Leave No Trace. Sedona sandstone is super fragile and crypto soil can be found on some of the trials. Sedona gets millions of visitors a year so it is important to treat the land with respect so people can enjoy it for the many years to come. Sedona is already seeing a large impact from social media with locations like Devil’s Bridge becoming overwhelming popular from folks geo-tagging it on IG and FB. My suggestions is to never tag a specific trail. The other LNT principals to follow are: plan ahead and be prepared, travel on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize fire impact, respect wildlife and be considerate of other visitors. The last one is so important in place like Sedona, it is important to remember we all share the trail, even if it is your wedding day.