Planning Your Joshua Tree Elopement
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!
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)
Rattlesnake Picnic Area
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:
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!
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.
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.
Searching Instagram Hashtags is also a great tool to find vendors who have previously worked in the area (i.e #JoshuaTreeMUA #JoshuaTreeFlorist #JoshuaTreeOfficiant etc.)
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.)
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 :
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.
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)
Items not Permitted For a Wedding
Non-battery powered candles
Any live animals, including doves, butterflies, etc
that’s it folks
You are well on your way to the best elopement day ever in Joshua Tree National Park