Joshua Tree is arguably one of the most beautiful and unique national parks out there. With towering boulders, miles of cacti and Joshua Trees, the rugged yet fragile desert landscape, and famously gorgeous sunsets, what better place to say your wedding vows? Joshua Tree is one of my favorite national parks, and I love using my knowledge and love for this place to help couples plan the desert wedding or elopement of their dreams.
From where to stay, to how to apply for your national park wedding permit, to what to pack, here you’ll find everything you need to know about getting married in Joshua Tree National Park! Let’s get started!
Joshua Tree is notoriously scorching hot in the summertime, even in the mornings and evenings. The best time of year to avoid the heat and the biggest crowds are spring and fall weekdays (May and June are usually the windiest months of the year). I have visited Joshua Tree in early November, late December, and late February/early March and enjoyed beautiful 60-70 degree sunny weather (though the nights can get chilly). Plan a spring elopement to catch the desert blooms. But of course, if you’re planning an outdoor elopement, you need to be ready to be flexible and embrace whatever weather the outdoors bring!
Pro tip: To dodge crowds, avoid planning your elopement during spring or fall school breaks, or holiday weekends!
Okay, you’ve picked a date, now what? It’s time to get a wedding permit! Like most national parks, Joshua Tree requires a $120 Special Use Permit for weddings and elopements. Due to recent updates in the permit process, photographers are covered under your wedding permit and no longer require a separate one.
While acquiring permits is a very easy process, it can also be a slow one, so be sure to allow about a month from application to receive your permit. You can apply for your permit here!
Pro tip: The National Park Service does not issue permits on Federal holiday dates, so make sure your elopement date doesn’t fall on one!
Ceremonies in Joshua Tree are only allowed at certain locations. Here are some of the gorgeous permitted ceremony locations available for weddings with 35 guests or less:
Hidden Valley Picnic Area
Quail Springs Picnic Area
Rattlesnake Picnic Area
For larger weddings, the Indian Cove Amphitheater is available and has seating for up to 100 guests.
For a more detailed list and information, just click here! I have my personal favorites out of these location options, but I highly recommend visiting the park beforehand if possible, even just the day before your elopement, and picking out your favorite spot! Google images don’t always do these spots justice. You want to pick THE spot that just fits and feels perfectly right for you!
BONUS: What if you’re wanting to have your wedding ceremony at an actual venue with your family and friends, and then just have some wedding portraits taken in the park? I got you! Check out my list of the Best Wedding Venues in Joshua Tree.
If you’re like me and picking out your lodging is your favorite part of any trip, then GET READY. Joshua Tree has some of the most beautiful Airbnbs and lodging options I have ever seen, all of which would be perfect to stay at during your elopement! Whether it’s just the two of you or you’re bringing along some family and friends, there is a myriad of options just minutes from the park entrance! Here are some of my personal favorites:
Pro tip: If you’re planning to host a dinner/reception at your Airbnb that includes people who are not staying there, always double check with your Airbnb host to make sure that’s okay with them! Many Airbnbs have a “no parties/events” policy. Likewise, some have a “no photoshoots” policy, so to stay on the safe side, if you’re wanting getting ready photos taken at your bnb the morning of your elopement (or a cozy day-after session), just be sure to ask your host before booking!
Even when planning a small celebration, choosing the right vendors whose vision and values align with yours is so crucial to an enjoyable and memorable elopement experience. There are truly countless talented vendors who service the Joshua Tree area. When you book with me as your photographer, you’ll receive access to my exclusive list of recommended florists, caterers, planners, hair + makeup artists, and more. But here are some questions to ask yourself when looking for the perfect vendors for your day:
Do I connect well with their website and message? Does it seem like our personalities will mesh?
Does this vendor follow Leave No Trace principles? (Read more about this below!)
Do I like their style and does it align for what I have in mind for the day?
Do they communicate well and respond quickly?
There is no water, gas, or cell service once you enter the park, so it’s vital to come prepared! And like I said, temperatures can soar. Be sure to pack the following:
A full tank of gas
LOTS of water
Plenty of protein-rich snacks
Comfy shoes with good tread
Likewise, here is a list of items that are approved by the park and permitted for your wedding or elopement:
Arch, must be free-standing
Small table for guest book
Cooler with water
Also important to note, these items are not permitted:
Non-battery powered candles
Any live animals, including doves, butterflies, etc
When visiting any national park, it’s crucial to follow Leave No Trace principals. Like many parks, Joshua Tree has fallen prey to vandalism, graffiti, litter, and destruction by careless visitors. It is also a rampant issue in the wedding and elopement industry, as more and more photographers and clients are going off-trail for photos, leaving behind litter or leftover confetti/flowers/trash, or trying to shoo away other park visitors from a certain location. Just remember, it is never worth damaging our national parks just for “the shot,” so here are some easy Leave No Trace guidelines to keep in mind during your elopement day!
Only park in designated areas
Stay on trails and avoid stepping on the fragile desert plants; keep to durable surfaces
Leave what you find
Respect the wildlife and keep your distance
Be considerate of other visitors!
Read more about Leave No Trace here. You know how beautiful and sacred our national parks are. That’s probably why you’re choosing to get married at one! Let’s all work together to keep them safe and beautiful for years to come!
This may sound like a complicated task, but it’s actually quite simple! You don’t have to be a California resident to get married in Joshua Tree. You just have to acquire a marriage license for San Bernardino County (the county Joshua Tree is in), and your ceremony must be performed by a recognized wedding officiant. The Joshua Tree office is open to marriage license appointments on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10:00am-12:00pm and 1:00pm-2:30pm. An appointment is required to get your marriage license, and you must both be present with a valid photo I.D. You can call (760) 995-8065 to schedule your appointment today!
If these hours don’t work for you, here are some other location options!
San Bernardino Office – (855) 732-2575 | Appointments are required on Mondays and Fridays only; walk-ins are welcome Tuesday-Thursday from 8:00am – 11:00am and 2:00pm – 4:00pm.
Jerry Lewis High Desert Government Center Office – (760) 995-8065 | Appointments are required on Mondays and Fridays only; walk-ins are welcome Tuesday-Thursday from 8:00am – 11:00am and 2:00pm – 3:30pm.
One of the biggest pros of choosing Joshua Tree for your elopement is how accessible it is! The easiest and most efficient way to get there is to fly into Palm Springs International Airport, rent a car from the airport, and drive the 50 minutes to Joshua Tree. It’s a very easy drive and the scenery is beautiful! You can also fly into LAX which is approximately 2 hours 15 minutes away without traffic (but… when is there ever NO traffic in LA?).
Pro tip: If you love plants and cacti, then stop by Cactus Mart in Morongo Valley on your drive to Joshua Tree. IT’S TO DIE FOR.
There’s everything you need to know about getting married in the gorgeous Joshua Tree National Park. I am so so excited for you as you plan your big day in such a beautiful place!
Based in Oklahoma City, I photograph weddings in Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California, and of course, Joshua Tree! When I’m not working, you can usually find me planning my next national park trip, bouldering, hunting down the best chai lattes, hanging out with my pup Mumford, and looking at Airbnbs just for fun. I specialize in working with intentional, adventurous couples who are focused on making their wedding day exactly what they want it to be, regardless of tradition.
As a lover of nature and cold weather, mountains have always held my heart, but when I visited Joshua Tree the first time, the peace and wild beauty of the desert completely captivated me and I’ve been drawn back to this place over and over again. I would love to help you craft your one-of-a-kind Joshua Tree wedding experience and document your love story in a way that is personal and meaningful to you! Just as your wedding or elopement should be a reflection of who you are, I believe your photos should be, too.
My Joshua Tree wedding and elopement photography packages start at $5000. Other than the photos of your dreams, my packages include access to my exclusive 15+ page Joshua Tree Elopement Guide, location scouting, a custom day-of timeline, vendor recs, help with permits, and a kickass experience. Let’s work together and make some magic!!