How to Elope in Joshua Tree National Park

How to Elope in Joshua Tree National Park

So you want to Elope in Joshua Tree National Park?

Joshua Tree is a gorgeous spot in the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County, California — and we are completely enamored with it. There’s plenty of reasons why we love documenting Joshua Tree weddings. A few reasons? The desert, the trees, the rock formations, the colors. Simply put, it’s a breathtaking spot to have a wedding or an elopement. If you’re wondering how to get married in Joshua Tree, then you’re in the right spot. Keep reading on! Why you Should Elope Here Joshua Tree is a little over a 2 hour drive from Los Angeles, California – and even closer if you are in the San Bernardino County. The terrain itself is breathtaking. It varies from rocky boulders, to cacti. From the vivid and colorful sunsets, to a night sky peppered with stars (something you definitely don’t see in the city!). It’s a beautiful location to start your new adventure together.  Another thing we love? The intimacy & quietness that the desert brings, which (in our opinion) is perfect for an elopement. With all the rush and activities that go into weddings, eloping in Joshua Tree can be a beautiful way to have a wedding that is centered around being together, fully present, & intentional in your moments together.

IMAGINE YOUR WEDDING LIKE THIS

Saying your vows in a tranquil spot, surrounded by Joshua Trees. Spending your first married moments together, adventuring and exploring trails. Being able to actually spend time together – without feeling rushed or anxious. Having your first dance together – in an intimate desert setting. Feeling the wind, the quietness. Being completely together.  These are some of the pros that eloping can bring. “Okay – but what if I’m not thinking of eloping?” Maybe you love Joshua Tree, but aren’t sure if an intimate elopement is right for you. If so, don’t let that discourage you! There are plenty of surrounding wedding venues (and even Airbnb’s) that are a fantastic option, if getting married in the national park is out of the question. The desert still brings that same vibe regardless of where you have your ceremony, and choosing to have your wedding in a venue makes it no less beautiful. There are BEAUTIFUL locations with an intimate, desert, bohemian feel that could be the perfect fit for you, so don’t be discouraged if you’re not set on the park. Spoiler alert: There’s no right or wrong answer here. Your wedding day should be a TRUE reflection of who you are, and what’s important to you, so pick what you feel is best! However, if you’re still wondering on if an elopement in the park is right for you, then keep on reading! We break it down for you, so that you can feel confident in your choice. 

What You Need to Know About Eloping in Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is busiest in the Spring. This is when temperatures are not too scorching. Wildflowers will also be blooming at this time. It’s a beautiful season, but it’s also likely the most crowded. Just something to know when considering when to plan your elopement. If you have your heart set for Spring, you can still find a spot that is relatively secluded (there just may be a few more people than if you opt for an elopement during non-peak seasons).

To elope in the park, you’ll need to acquire a Special Use permit. Trust us, it’s not as scary as it sounds! It’s actually quite simple. We go over that a little more in depth, later on. The desert typically will bring high temperatures and strong winds. The weather at Joshua Tree tends to be hot. It is the desert, after all. Winds here will also be stronger, so just something to know and be prepared for if you’re thinking of having a Joshua Tree wedding. You can have your ceremony in the Park. While you can have your wedding ceremony in the park, you’ll need to find a second spot for a reception (if you plan to celebrate with family and friends after). This can be a local Airbnb or a nearby restaurant. 

Tips on How to Have a Joshua Tree Elopement

Maybe you’re sold on the idea, but now you’re wondering “how do I get married at Joshua Tree?!” Here’s a few things to consider.

Park or Venue?

There are pros and cons to having your wedding or elopement in the park itself. We mentioned a few points to consider in the section above, but here are a few other questions to think through when deciding if you’d like to have an elopement in Joshua Tree National Park, or at a venue nearby: What’s your guest size? Will the heat or strong winds be an issue for any family members?  Are you hoping for extensive wedding décor?

Consider your guests (and your guest count).

Eloping at Joshua Tree National Park does NOT have to mean you can’t have family & friends present. If you have 25 guests or less (including your vendors), you can get married at the following locations: Hidden Valley Picnic Area (not permitted in March–May) Quail Springs Picnic Area (not permitted in March–May) Cap Rock Live Oak Split Rock Rattlesnake Picnic Area If you have a guest list from 26 to 100, you can get married at the Indian Cove Amphitheatre.  Tip: if you LOVE the park, but know your guest count is huge, consider getting married at a local wedding venue, and then sneaking in time (either during, or the day after) to have an adventurous photo session at the park! Guests will also have to pay the entrance fee to get into the park. Currently, this is $30 per vehicle, or $25 per motorcycle. If any guests have a national park pass, this can be used to get inside. Payment is at the gate, by cash or credit/debit card.  There is no cell service within the park. Joshua Tree is huge – so make sure to communicate exactly where and what time guests are supposed to meet you for the ceremony. If they get lost, they may not be able to reach you if you are already in the park. You’re allowed to bring chairs for guests. If you are getting married at the Indian Cove Amphitheatre, the benches may be hot. Have guests bring a small cushion to sit on. Parking may be limited (especially during busier seasons and/or weekends). Encouraging guests to carpool on the way into the park can help tremendously.  TIP: Stop by the park and grab a bunch of national park maps to pass out before the wedding! You can also access the park map online to print and hand out to guests. Make sure to indicate where exactly your ceremony will be held.  

Apply for a permit

This can sound intimidating, but we promise you it’s not as scary as it sounds. Choosing to elope in ANY national park will typically require permit(s). Here are the two you’ll need. SPECIAL USE PERMIT This is absolutely required if you are planning to get married in the park. For Joshua Tree, a special use permit will cost you $120 USD. The permit will be non-refundable, and will be required of ALL weddings, regardless of the size of your party. Permits will take *approximately* 5-15 business days to process. Plan to send this in as soon as you finalize your date, so you can secure your spot in the park. PHOTOGRAPHY/VIDEOGRAPHY SPECIAL USE PERMIT If you are bringing along a professional photographer and/or videographer with you, they are required to obtain a separateSpecial Use permit. This is also a non-refundable $120.  TIP: If you’re hoping for both photography & videography services, hire a team that can do both. Often times, that will save you in permit fees! (Permits are required per vendor). HOW TO APPLY FOR THE PERMIT You can apply year-round. Visit this link and check out the Weddings section. Download the NPS FORM 10-930 SHORT FORM (under Permit Information), and fill it out. You can either email this in, or physically send it over (the address to send it to will be on the permit form). This will take about 5-15 days to process. After it is reviewed, you’ll receive instructions on how to make your payment online. Currently, Joshua Tree National Park does not accept checks.  For any additional questions on permits, you can contact Joshua Tree’s Special Park Use Coordinator: Jeannie Wilson (760) 367-5518 Jeannie_wilson@nps.gov

Plan out vendors accordingly

Getting married in the desert may mean finding vendors who are familiar with the area. For example, if you opt to get hair & makeup done, you’ll want to find a hair & makeup artist who is an expert at making sure your makeup stays on, or your hair doesn’t get undone by the wind. It may mean finding a florist who can offer suggestions or put together a bouquet that can withstand the desert heat. Find vendors who are familiar with serving couples who opt for a desert wedding.

Plan out your decor

Certain things may not be allowed during your wedding ceremony in the park. Don’t let this bum you out though! There’s still a lot that you CAN bring. Here’s a list of what’s allowed: Arch, must be free-standing Small table for guest book Cooler with water Live flowers Battery-powered candles Runner Rug Cake Champagne  Likewise, here’s a list of what’s NOT allowed: Drones  Dried flowers Non-battery powered candles  Bubbles Any live animals, including doves, butterflies, etc  Confetti Rice Birdseed Balloons Smoke Bombs Amplified sound systems (i.e. microphones) Generators 

Secure your photo + video team

Photography & Videography teams often get booked up fast – sometimes even over a year in advance. Make sure to reach out and get your date secured! When looking for a photo & video team, also make sure you look for someone who is familiar with elopements, and the national park itself. This is so important! Your photographer and/or videographer will be the one who is showing you around, doing things properly, and obtaining permits needed.

Plan out where you’ll be getting ready

Don’t count on using any public facilities in the park. Public restrooms are often filled with visitors, and also not a good place to lug around attire or makeup. Plus, it’s a shared space and others will likely be waiting in line to use the restroom/sinks/etc. The best tip we have is to book a local hotel or Airbnb. That way, you can stay there the night before, and wake up early to start getting ready for your wedding. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you can book a camper van or RV, and camp out with your partner the night before! (This won’t work if you’re doing a first look though).  

Bring the essentials

Remember that you are in the desert. Be prepared with sunscreen, plenty of water both for you and your partner and any guests, hand sanitizer, toilet paper (just in case), a first aid kit, a bridal emergency kit (stocked with deodorant, bobby pins, safety pins, etc.), and a small mirror.

Be respectful of the park

Along with following Leave No Trace rules, you’ll want to be respectful of the park and it’s visitors. If you choose to get married at Joshua Tree, you’re essentially having your wedding in a public and shared space. The beauty of it is that there are plenty of private locations to sneak away to. The park is big enough to share, so you can still have an intimate and special time together with your partner and/or any friends and family. The most important thing is just to make sure that you leave the park better than how you found it. This means not leaving behind any trash, making sure you take home any decoration you bring with you, and being mindful to pick up after everyone when the ceremony is done.

Ask questions

If there are any other burning questions on your mind, you can always reach out to Joshua Tree National Park! Here’s the best person to contact, if so.  Jeannie Wilson (760) 367-5518 Jeannie_wilson@nps.gov Ready to have a wedding in Joshua Tree? We believe your wedding day should firmly reflect who you are & what’s important to you. For some couples, that means having a beautiful and intimate elopement in a national park. We hope our little list helped you think through whether a Joshua Tree wedding is right for you. Whether it’s a small, intimate gathering made up of your nearest and dearest, or it’s an elopement with just the two of you, we hope your wedding day is a true reflection of who you are. Xx, Kristine and Charles

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