Being a Palm Springs wedding photographer also means I get the enviable perk of living super close to Joshua tree, and photographing elopements in Joshua Tree national park is a location worth traveling for. (Granted my distance is considerably less than others who travel here)
Here are some suggestions to help you get started on planning that dreamy Joshua Tree elopement.
Joshua Tree National Park is a wonderful, beautiful and affordable outdoor venue. You will feel lost by choice in the middle of the desert, and the trees and boulders serve as the most polite and silent guests to your elopement. However, much like any other amazing place, they too have black out dates where permits are not issued. Check out their website before you jump the gun! Confirm the date you are thinking does not fall in such period. Then take into consideration that you will need 2 permits – one for your ceremony and one for your wedding photographer. If you have a videographer, he or she will need their permit too. Each permit is $120, which is pretty reasonable.
Unfortunately, the park isn’t open to have a ceremony at any place that strikes your fancy – you do have to stick to a few designated locations. So plan ahead! Sometimes your top choice will be booked by someone else, so be flexible, and know where you are going. Thankfully its not an issue I’ve run to often. Tho keep in mind, weekends are kinda bananas and busy, so if you are hoping for a weekend elopement, definitely check in first to see if your top spot is available.
Also, please please please make sure your vendors follow the rules. I’ve seen drone footage (BOOO!!) confetti (ughhhh) and those things are such a big no no since its a public and wild place. Drones are cool for weddings – but they are best suited to private property.
Another option to the national park is a venue, or a private home/rental/Airbnb.
Many properties have an abundance of acreage and space and you can easily pull off a ceremony there without having to trek into the park. A word of caution though, always ask permission to the home owner before you do so, especially with an Airbnb. Some rentals will have an additional fee for you to get married on the property as well having other folks (like your vendors!) on site. Some venues might not, and might leave you a bottle of champagne at your arrival. You never know!
The Airbnb alternative is one of the many venues located in Joshua Tree and nearby towns. Some places you can check out: Rimrock Ranch, Tumbleweed Sanctuary, and the super romantic 29Palms Inn. The only place that you cannot also spend the night in is Tumbleweed Sanctuary, but the other two can offer lodging and a ceremony site.
Before you swoon over all the million of inspiration images out there you gotta start someplace and start from one tangible place. Once you got that date set – Book your Airbnb/VRBO/hotel. Get someplace close to the park, preferably within a 30 minute drive to the entrance of the park. I say this because the desert is massive. Yucca Valley is large and sprawling, Wonder Valley is special in itself, but in some distances, at least a 30 min drive away. And don’t forget, once you are at the gate of the park, it is about a 90 minute drive from one entrance to the other. Best advice, give yourself time if your dreamy digs aren’t close to the entrance.
I wish such a service existed when I was married, but no, I went down the vacuous hole of Yelp. Got a subpar hair do, hired a wedding photographer from way outta town, and well, wasn’t the wedding of my (our) dreams. My best advice? Hire a wedding planner. I know, being one half of Desert Pop Up, I am considerably biased, but its the one reason we started Desert Pop Up – to make it happen, and to make it fun and full of joy. And most of it – to help make wedding dreams happen. With Desert Pop Up we bring the whole cart and wagon of weddings to you, with planning, style & decor, hair and makeup, dreamy bouquets and this little old Palm Springs wedding photographer here….so basically, all you have to do is show up (dressed in whatever you fancy) And….a local wedding planner knows all the best local information and hook ups so that you won’t need to stop in LA for that cake, or pay travels fees to an out of town vendor.
This part is simple because pretty much you can wear anything you damn well want with an elopement. I tend to extend that philosophy into all facets of life because boring clothes are boring – but I digress! There are no rules here. BUT, there is the idea of being pragmatic because Joshua Tree is about 10-25 degrees cooler than Palm Springs and the terrain is wild inside the park.
Be prepared for cold weather once the sun sets in the months of October – April. Of course the degree of coldness will be less so in October and April and weather changes all the time, but nonetheless, it does snow there, and the evenings will catch you off guard. Bring something warm and layered that you wouldn’t mind being photographed in. Leather jacket, real/faux fur stole, denim jacket…it all looks good.
This bring me to footwear. Anything is welcome and what makes you feel bomb, will make you look bomb. BUT just remember there will be a lot of exploring, trekking, hiking around and you might find some shoes – uncomfortable. Do yourself a favor, and just pack a backup pair that you love. Always our number one vote: boots. But, if you have something that you are comfortable wearing and makes you happy – bring it!
Our groom here had some nice loafers, but left his feet a bit bloodied and bruised…so he switched to his trusty Birks.
I am fully aware that food choices are super preferential and personal, but still, I find the cuisine options quite limited in Joshua Tree and the surrounding towns. There is amazing pizza and the saloon is pretty damn good – but do either of those sound worthy of being your wedding dinner? That’s really up to the couple. Some cook at their airbnbs, some hire others to cook for them, and some just grab pizza! Still, something to consider.