How To Plan Your Perfect Joshua Tree Elopement

Planning Your Joshua Tree Elopement

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When I think of travel nostalgia, road tripping through a desert landscape in a vw bus while blasting your favorite tunes, well there’s really only one place that comes to mind with that kind of magical spirit : Joshua Tree. 

It’s for those who are looking for something unique, edgy, wild, full of adventure, magic, and good times. This must be  the place (queue the talking heads song), Joshua Tree National Park is probably one of the coolest places to elope or have your intimate wedding with your closest friends by your side, cracking a few beers, and ending the night stargazing around a campfire.

Planning your elopement or intimate wedding  in such a unique and beautiful place like Joshua Tree definitely still needs some preparation and planning for it to be amazing  AND stress-free. 

I’m gonna cover what permits you’ll need, best ceremony locations, lodging, and some unique ways to celebrate your Joshua Tree Elopement!

Rent an adventure mobile for your elopement and cruise through the park in style.

Rent an adventure mobile for your elopement and cruise through the park in style.

Choosing Your Elopement Ceremony Location

If you’re having a “just us” experience or bringing along a few guest (as long at it’s under 25 people) here are the best locations where you can legally have a ceremony inside of Joshua Tree National Park:

  • 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

  • Arch Rock

  • Jumbo Rocks

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Permits and Fees

Whether it’ll just be the two of you and your photographer or a small intimate wedding with 10 guests, Joshua Tree National Park requires a “Special Use Permit” for any size wedding, you fill out the application, pay the permit fee online which is $120 dollars, just make sure to submit it at least 30 days prior to the date you want. (Permit fees are cheaper than a wedding venue and it’s one of the most epic places to have an amazing elopement experience so really its a win-win haha!) 

Make or Break Tip: Unlike other National Parks in California, the Special Use Permit for Joshua Tree does not, I repeat DOES NOT, cover your photographer or videographer (total bummer but true) you’ll have to get an additional permit for each “company” which would be an additional $120 dollars. 

Pro tip: If you’re also planning on engagement photos prior to your elopement in Joshua Tree, be aware that you actually still need a permit even to take engagement photos within the park!! (Or risk being fined $500 on the spot yikes.) The rule of thumb in the industry is that you - as the couple - would be in charge of covering any permits/fees.

Visit the official park website for FAQ’s and more info on Weddings below:

https://www.nps.gov/jotr/planyourvisit/permitsandreservations.htm

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Airbnbs : Lodging AND Elopement Ceremony Location?

This is a great alternative if you’re looking to avoid any extra permits/fees but still want the landscape of Joshua Trees:

Rent an Airbnb for Your Ceremony, Reception, and Lodging all in one:

First off, you’re probably already thinking of renting one for you to spend the night in right? If you’re looking for a cost effective solution just research to find the perfect Airbnb most locations near Joshua Tree are pretty open and have plenty of land to host a ceremony, even a mini reception party, of course always double check with your host.

You could always have your ceremony at your Airbnb and then make your way into the park for some portraits and finish off celebrating a reception back at the Airbnb! Your elopement day your rules. 

I always say Joshua Tree is the Mecca of Airbnb listings, it has some incredible properties wether it’s glamping, an airstream or actual homes, they’re all usually desert themed and stylish, some have bathtubs, even market lights, bonfire rings, and everything you’d need for an incredible elopement day.

Ps. They usually make for great getting ready photos too! 




Celebrate

Having a smaller guest count creates an intimate celebration and makes those you invited feel that much more special and cherished.

Having a smaller guest count creates an intimate celebration and makes those you invited feel that much more special and cherished.

Consider packing a picnic for your elopement, or going back into town for some pizza at Pie For The People or if you’re brunching check out the local favorite Crossroads Cafe , bring on the champagne, beer, or whiskey, or make it extra special and have catering waiting for you back at your Airbnb with a chef prepared hot dinner.

Fun Ideas: Rent a vintage adventure mobile and drive around the park blasting your favorite tunes, bring your motorcycles go for a ride, go rock climbing, or just hang out back at your Airbnb and finish the night off stargazing around a campfire. 

Go full party mode and rent out a cute open bar and have it parked at your Airbnb.

Go full party mode and rent out a cute open bar and have it parked at your Airbnb.

Vendors

If you’re considering having hair and makeup, or florals, or even an officiant, hire local vendors in the area to avoid any traveling fees. Best places to search for are in The Joshua Tree area, Palm Springs area, and Desert Cities.

Florals by : Intentional Blooms

Florals by : Intentional Blooms

Searching Instagram Hashtags is also a great tool to find vendors who have previously worked in the area (i.e #JoshuaTreeMUA #JoshuaTreeFlorist #JoshuaTreeOfficiant etc.)

Extra Tips

weather

Joshua Tree is pretty much open desert meaning there’s no real shelter from the sun, or if it rains, or if it gets windy (which it does) take this into consideration when prepping what you’ll need to bring. Bring plenty of water during the hot season, and bring layers during the cold season.

Pro Tip: Have stylish layers that you don’t mind being photographed in especially during the cold season ( furry coats, statement coats, etc.)

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Crowds

Joshua Tree is a hot spot for visitors and tourism, for the best elopement experience and to have a bit more privacy and seclusion aim to have your elopement during a weekday- and have your ceremony during sunrise or sunset.

marriage certificates - paperwork

You can apply for a marriage license in any county in California, (it doesn’t even have to be the county you’re getting married in), and since there’s no waiting period you could technically file in the morning and be married in the afternoon if it’s a spur of the moment elopement. Or if you’re a planner, you can apply up to 90 days prior from your elopement date.

The closest County Clerk to Joshua Tree :

San Bernardino County Assessor-Recorder-Clerk

Joshua Tree Satellite Office,

63665 Twentynine Palms Highway 1st floor, Joshua Tree, CA 92252

On your elopement day you’ll bring your marriage license and the officiant will take care of the paperwork. You’ll need two witnesses (I’m always happy to be an official witness if you need).

Don’t let paperwork get in the way…

If you don’t want to worry about filling papers and gathering witnesses and an officiant on your elopement day, most of my couples fill the paperwork before or after their elopement day!!

Remember paperwork is just that - paper. You get married the day you share your vows and commit your life to your partner.

Wedding attire

Embrace the location and have fun with your wedding attire, consider flowy lace dresses, ombre colored dresses, even solid black, tan suits, floral suits, fun accessories like hats, boots, and truly make it a representation of who you guys really are, whatever that happens to look like for you.

Leave No Trace

Joshua Tree is such a beautiful place let’s make sure we take care of it so we can continue to enjoy it for years and years to come. It’s important that we take care of the park during elopement celebrations! Stay in designated trails, don’t step over restoration areas, and most importantly Joshua Trees are very fragile with shallow root systems we shouldn’t hang or pull at them.

Here is a list of Wedding Specific Do’s And Don’ts Pulled directly from the Parks Website

Items that are Permitted For a Wedding

  • Arch, must be free-standing

  • Small table for guest book

  • Cooler with water (it gets hot)

  • Live flowers

  • Battery-powered candles

  • Runner

  • Rug

  • Cake

  • Champagne 

Items not Permitted For a Wedding

  • Drones 

  • Dried flowers

  • Non-battery powered candles 

  • Bubbles

  • Any live animals, including doves, butterflies, etc 

  • Confetti

  • Rice

  • Birdseed

  • Balloons

  • Smoke Bombs

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that’s it folks

You are well on your way to the best elopement day ever in Joshua Tree National Park

xx

Cheers

That’s it! You’re officially on your way to the best elopement day ever in Joshua Tree National Park!

Cheers xx

#8 Must Know Tips On How To Plan Your Sequoia National Park Elopement

#8 Must Know Tips On How To Plan Your Upcoming Sequoia National Park Wedding

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Whether you’re planning to elope or have an intimate wedding in California- Sequoia National Park is the place to go ! Sequoia National Park is one of the few places in California were you can access rather easily meadows, ancient giants, mountain views, and granite slabs, in other words : Sequoia has so much diversity in scenery it makes it the perfect candidate to have a wedding here.

If you’re reading this congratulations!! That means you’ve decided to elope (which makes you pretty awesome).

Eloping means that you get to decide on the choices around your day, you get to make the rules, you get to truly make your day an adventure and make it about who you are as a couple! It’s pretty exciting stuff, but I get it: You decided to elope to make it as stress-free as possible and now your realizing there’s still some planning and decisions to make. After all this is probably your first time getting married in a national park so don’t sweat it! I’m going to outline step by step what you need to check off to have the best elopement day ever in Sequoia National Park .

We’ll cover everything from choosing ceremony locations, getting permits, where to book your lodging, what vendors you might need, and of course how to celebrate your big day.

1.) Dream + Brainstorm

First things first. You’re going to want to take a moment and come up with an overall vision for your day. Think about what you want your day to feel like? What activities do you want to have as a part of your elopement day? What do you want to wear? What does your ceremony look like? How do you plan on celebrating? Your day could have an outdoor picnic, maybe you want to stargaze, or kayak, maybe you want some s’mores by a fire, or you want to celebrate with loved ones after. Whatever it may look like for you, once you’ve had a chance to dream up and visualize your day we can move onto the planning portion.

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2.) Choosing Your Ceremony Location

One of the additional perks of getting married in Sequoia is that they have a great selection of ceremony spots to chose from so you can share your vows at the spot that feels the most “you”.


My Top 3 Recommendations:

1. Beetle rock - sequoia national park

Beetle rock is a beautiful slab of granite rock formations that over look the high sierra and the Kaweah lake in the background. This is a super accessible location, it’s about a 2 minute walk from the parking lot, and accommodates small or large groups (although the surface of the rock is too uneven for chairs).

Beetle rock is a beautiful slab of granite rock formations that over look the high sierra and the Kaweah lake in the background. This is a super accessible location, it’s about a 2 minute walk from the parking lot, and accommodates small or large groups (although the surface of the rock is too uneven for chairs).

2. Parker Group - giant forrest loop

3. Zumwalt meadow

Check out the full list with photos below:

Wedding Ceremony Locations in Sequoia National Park with Pictures: https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/wedding-locations.htm

Map Locations of Park that accommodates larger groups for a ceremony : https://www.nps.gov/maps/full.html?mapId=771783f1-db83-4eff-a54d-d1daef9f7941

 

* On a last note about choosing a ceremony location for those with adventure at heart, hear this: If you’re style of eloping is a bit more relaxed and you’d rather explore all day and wait to exchange vows until you stumble upon a place that feels like “both of you”, that is 100% ALSO an option! You’ll still need a permit which we’ll cover in a minute but keep in mind you make the rules on your elopement day.

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3.) Permits

Permits are the one thing that you absolutely must have in order to have a seamless elopement day, Park Rangers do check for permits and it would be such a bummer to have your ceremony cut short because of paperwork!

Sequoia National Park requires a permit for weddings of “any size” meaning even if it’s just the two of you plus your photographer, you’re still going to need to fill out an application.

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how to get a permit

1. Go online and fill out a permit application

2. Pick a date + choose your ceremony location

3. Pay a small fee (online or you can send a check)

4. Make sure to submit your application at least 30 days prior to your date (as it can take anywhere from 2-3 weeks for approval)

5. Once confirmed make sure to print out a copy and carry it with you during your elopement day

Sequoia Wedding Permit Application Link Below : https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/wedding-permits.htm

* Pro Tip: As long as you take care of getting a permit for your ceremony location, your photographer doesn’t need any additional paperwork!

4.) Marriage Laws

One of the most common questions around elopements is : Are they even official? Are you actually getting married? Ok so how does it work? Let me tell ya, elopements are of course the real deal, they are as important (if not more haha) as any traditional wedding!!!

Let’s talk Legalities

You’re going to need to figure out how to go about getting the legal paperwork for a marriage certificate, getting an officiant, witnesses, etc.

California Marriage License Information: www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CHSI/Pages/Marriage-License-Information.aspx



don’t let paperwork get in the way

If the logistics of getting a marriage license signed in the place you intend to elope seems complicated, keep in mind that completing the legal paperwork at home is totally an option! In fact 85% of my couples who elope choose to complete the paperwork before or even after their elopement day!!

Remember: You get married the day you commit your life to your partner, not when a piece of paper says so.

5.) Where To Book Your Lodging

This is where it gets fun. You get to choose + personalize what experience you want! Things to consider: do you plan on camping at one of the campgrounds? Or are you renting an airstream? Prefer a little more comfort? Check out some of the popular lodging inside the park:

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My personal favorite when it comes to booking lodging in Sequoia National Park is actually looking up homes and cute cabins on Airbnb and Vrbo.

The trick here is that you should be looking at places to stay in “ Three Rivers, CA” area which is the town right before the park entrance. Pro-Tip: It’s good to check in google maps the distance between the place your considering booking and your ceremony spot to make sure that it’s not too far away. For reference, I was able to find a great Airbnb that was only 3 minutes away from the park entrance!

6.) Logistics

Although Sequoia isn’t nearly as crowded as say, Yosemite National Park on a hot summer day, it does still get plenty of visitors! Here are a few things to plan around and to take into consideration.

season vs offseason

Planning your elopement date during the peak summer season has it’s up’s and downs. The perk of choosing a summer season is that the weather is beautiful and the most stable (during June-August ; meaning there’s less chance of running into problems like closed roads, rain, snow, and frosty wind.) Perfect weather attracts more visitors and can mean that normally private spots/locations can be overcrowded and take away from your experience.

Choosing a Fall/Winter Season to Elope means that it is of course more secluded and private, yet weather can become a concern. Rain, snow, bad driving conditions, closed roads, are all issues you can run into. Weather can change rather quickly so make sure to be prepared.

Always make sure to check weather + local road conditions before you go.

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weekday vs weekend

This goes for any elopement: you will have more chances of having a more intimate and private elopement experience if you elope during a weekday. Popular areas in the park such as the Giant Forest, The Log Tunnel, Moro Rock, and Crescent Meadow will be considerably less crowded as well as any trails you might take.

If you can’t elope on a weekday and decide for a weekend elopement, the level of visitors will depend also on the season you’re going in. For example if you decide to elope in the summer season in Sequoia, you’ll want to make sure to start taking photos at sunrise and start at the Giant Forest Loop area first, and then make your way to any other areas such as the General Sherman.

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I highly recommend this because the road up to the Giant Forest area closes at 8am on the weekend and anytime after that you’ll need to take the shuttle service into these areas. Shuttles run constantly about every 10 minutes. However note that if you start later in the day and take shuttles, it can become very overwhelming navigating small crowded seats in your wedding attire with any guest you may have and with tourist. Be forewarned that in the most popular photo areas like Log Tunnel on weekends, there can often times be lines of people waiting to take their photo.

In other words: start early and avoid the crowds.

Pro Tip: An ideal timeline of your day could be: Have your ceremony at sunrise at Moro Rock, make your way to the Giant Forest for your portraits, shoot at Tunnel Log, and Parker Group, (they are all within relative distance of each other about 5 minutes). Then take a break, get breakfast, head back to your lodging, take a nap, and have your photographer re-group with you later on in the evening to finish off portraits at sunset.

7.) Celebrate!

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Music

If you want music to be a part of your ceremony (live or recorded) make sure you plan on how to play it, and double check for any noise restrictions in the location you chose.

Food

Pack a picnic to eat at an epic spot, or hire a local special event coordinator to set up a sweet heart table for the two of you with a cheese & charcuterie board, or you can’t go wrong with simply bringing pizza + beers. Whatever your style is plan on scheduling some meal time!

Champagne + Confetti + sparklers

I love when couples add some fun celebrations to their day! Don’t be afraid to get creative as long as we follow the Leave No Trace Principles. We all love some bubbly just make sure to be conscience of picking up the cork after the epic photo shot! If you’re thinking of having confetti consider local leaves or local eco-friendly confetti. Sparklers are super fun and make for some awesome photos at night but make sure to double check for any fire bans + restrictions.

General Sherman Trail

General Sherman Trail

8.) Hiring Vendors

Hiring vendors is completely optional and will vary depending on what your envisioning for your day.

Here are some things to consider:

hair + Make up

Will you be doing your hair + make up yourself or professionally? How will you touch up through out the day?

If you do plan on hiring a Hair + Make Up artist I recommend looking for vendors in neighboring towns such as Three Rivers and Visalia. Given the nature of elopements often times for a sunrise ceremony brides start hair/makeup before dawn (for example one of my brides started at 3:30 am) make sure to ask if they are willing to meet you at your getting ready location.

Pro-Tip: A good setting setting spray can withhold rain and keep you looking fresh until the end of the day. Check out this 16 Hour Water Proof Setting Spray!

Here are some Vendor Recommendations near Sequoia:

Hair + Makeup : Sabrina Tanaka

Makeup: Linda Martin

Makeup: Makeup By Forever Liz

florals

Tip: Consider coordinating your bouquet to your location + environment.  Florals: Mae&Co

Tip: Consider coordinating your bouquet to your location + environment. Florals: Mae&Co

Is having a bouquet/boutonnière important to you?

If it is you can hire a local florist in the neighboring towns or you can consider picking them up from a vendor at a larger city on your way there. Just make sure to take into consideration travel time or if you’re going to be arriving a few days early to Sequoia do you think they will last until your elopement day? Pro-Tip: If you can’t find a last minute florist just go the DIY route and pick up some florals at a Trader Joe’s/ mom and pop shop/ etc. while your on your way to Sequoia and assemble a unique bouquet.

Here are some Florist Recommendations near Sequoia :

Florals: Beard & Bloom

Florals : Sweet Memories

Florals : KB Flowers Fresno

Reception venue + Etc

If you invited friends + family to tag along to your epic elopement day and want to celebrate afterwards you can consider the following:

Finish off your elopement cuddled by the fire with hot cocoa and s’mores!

Finish off your elopement cuddled by the fire with hot cocoa and s’mores!

You can head back to your Airbnb, order food and keep the party going! If you’re camping you can of course grill it up around the fire and s’mores or for a larger guest count you can check out Wuksachi Lodge they offer banquet catering for weddings.

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If you’re looking to host a sweet little outdoor reception you can consider The Ol Buckaroo in Three Rivers,CA and you can book their food truck, the Buckaroo Diner restaurant or take over the entire place depending on your event, size and needs.



A finishing note: Remember an elopement is about you two coming together to share your vows and commit your lives to one another. Enjoy, have fun, and go with the flow.

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wrapped together after your elopement day under the stars

one of the most beautiful feelings in the world

A summer afternoon in Sequoia National Park.

A summer afternoon in Sequoia National Park.

Sunset Campground - Kings Canyon

Sunset Campground - Kings Canyon

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want to book your sequoia

(or elsewhere) elopement?