I think anyone who knows me, knows my extreme love affair with Joshua Tree. The landscape is nothing I’ve ever seen before (which is strange to say after living in California my whole life). But I think why it’s such an empowering place for me is because it represents a time in my life where I found myself again. I hope to share this guide with you to make this experience easier for you as your personal expert on your Joshua Tree Elopement.
Even if you’re not 100% sure if this is the place you want to get eloped, I hope that this guide inspires you—because it’s such a magical place.
Because Joshua Tree is a desert, the temperatures can spike up to 100°+ in the Summer. If you want to avoid sweating, the best time to go is in Spring and Fall/Winter. According to U.S News the best time is March-early May & late October-early December.
In March-May, the wildflowers start blooming around the park, which makes it even more ethereal. Then in October, you get the most beautiful sunsets California has to offer! All of this to say, within these two seasons, there are so many beautiful options for you to choose from. It really depends on when you want to experience when you get eloped.
Joshua Tree Wedding Permit & Fees
So let’s get the hard part out of the way! Let’s talk about the permit application. YOU are in luck because I did all the heavy lifting for you. (And if you book me, you bet I can walk you through this form and tell you to want you need to know if you get stuck at all!)
Let’s talk about the fees for the permit for a moment. It should be noted that there’s a non-refundable $120 fee. Also, there’s a day of small entrance fee of $25 per vehicle. GREAT NEWS FOR YOU THOUGH! If you choose me as your Elopement Photographer—the entrance fee is waived!
So with the $$ out of the way, let’s start this process!
Step 1: Click this link and scroll down to where the ‘Wedding and Engagement Photos’ heading is. The screen will look like this.
Where it says, ‘Permit information,’ you’ll want to click to expand that section on the right-hand arrow.
In this section, it has the link to download the permit application, which they call the ‘NPS Form 10-930 Short Form’. It should be noted that if your photographer (me hopefully!) needs to obtain a separate Special Use Permit. If you’re going to be hiring a caterer (if you’re having a small reception afterward) they also need to obtain a Special Use Permit, which can be found on the same page.
Step 2: Download the form—which will open the form in a word document. It should look like this:
Filling it out this section can be straight forward, but again, if you decide to choose me as your Elopement photographer, I can 100% help you out if you get stuck. I’ve filled out my fair share of these!
Finding your location
Or step 3 of the permit. On the application they want you to choose a specific location. If you’re having an Elopement of 25 or less, here are the locations that you can choose to say you’re vows at:
- 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
Emailing the Form
Once you fill out the form you can email it to Jeannie Wilson: firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll most likely get a response back from Jeannie in the next 1-2 days. When you do, she’ll give you instructions on how to pay the $120 non-refundable fee. They don’t accept checks, so be prepared with your credit card information.
And from there, Jeannie will be in contact with you to finish the approval of your permit!
What You Can Bring Into The Park, What You Can’t & Leave No Trace
I’m going to be quoting exactly what is permitted and what isn’t straight from the website. It’s important to know that this isn’t a list of regulations or rules to break because they have a purpose. We all love our national parks, and these are just guidelines to make sure our parks are taken care of so we can fully enjoy them!
Also, just in general, let’s make sure we respect the park and pick up our trash and not hurt any of the beautiful landscape. These rules are like giving a hug to Joshua Tree National Park so you can experience all the magic it has to offer.
Items that are permitted for your elopement:
· Arch, must be free-standing
· Small table for guest book
· Cooler with water
· Live flowers
· Battery-powered candles
Items not permitted for your elopement:
· Dried flowers
· Non-battery powered candles
· Any live animals, including doves, butterflies, etc
· Smoke Bombs
Getting Ready Location and Possible Reception Afterwards
There are a few really fun options I have for you when thinking about your getting ready location and possible reception afterward.
For getting ready:
When looking for Airbnb’s look for one that has a great aesthetic to match your style and make sure it includes big windows for natural light! This is the biggest thing that you can do to get great pictures: make sure there are big windows that let in natural light. Any other light doesn’t get the same effect and isn’t as beautiful as natural. Just a tidbit!
To use as a reception area:
My suggestion before you book your dream Airbnb is to make sure you connect with the host to clear it with them if you’re going to have 10+ people over for a reception. I repeat: make sure you connect with the hosts and let them know what you intend to use it for. Yes, it might cost you more, or worse they might say no altogether. But I cannot stress enough how important it is. Let’s play out the worst-case scenarios: They could fine you pretty heavily. Or they could kick you out. In my mind, those are the worst-case scenarios. I bet I could come up more that could include the cops, but I won’t!
If this is supposed to be one of the greatest days of your life, why would you want to have one of the worst situations possibly unfold. No one wants that kind of drama, especially on such a magical day. I myself have experienced first hand what it looks like when not complying with the rules—and it’s really not fun.
My tip for you though is find a home or a bigger accommodation space where it specifies guests up to 10-15 people. In my mind that’s the only way you could possibly get around this. But just clear it by the hosts to be safe so you don’t end up with a worst case scenario.
(ALSO—biggg tip for those people who ADORE The Joshua Tree House. They unfortunately, don’t hold or allow any elopements or receptions at their Airbnb locations. I reached out to them personally. But you can still use their Airbnb as your getting ready location and to stay afterward! So there’s good news—you can experience all their magic.)
I do have a list of recommended Airbnbs, or I can help you find out what would be a great option.
Here’s a location that I’d recommend called the Masaya Desert Ranch Airbnb:
It has a very similar vibe as The Joshua Tree House does, and I’d say it’s a great alternative. What I love about this property is that it encompasses exactly what any free spirit would want for their reception area (or just Airbnb location). It has the aesthetic and the property is on 2 acres of land, so it’s far enough away from other peoples homes to feel like you can blast your music (to an extent!) and celebrate. I also know that they do allow receptions at the property, but again, I’d suggest clearing it with them!
Glamping in Joshua Tree
I’m going to be honest—I’ve seriously thought of this option for my Elopement one day! Let me give you a visual so maybe you can understand why I’m semi-obsessed with this idea.
I love the idea of glamping, because you can be in the national park AND have the true bohemian aesthetic. Badmoon glamping is my go-to company I’d book with for a really rad and out of the box, getting ready location, as well as fun reception area. With a great florist, a campfire, and some drinks, this would be everything that a free-spirited, adventurous couple would need. (And maybe a few friends, but it’d be up to you!) This could also be used as your two-night mini-honeymoon experience. (Literally sounds like my dream!)
Another AMAZING glamping option that would hold more people is a vendor called Under The Canvas. They have a variety of options that can hold up to 120 people for your reception.
These are my two favorite glamping options that I would seriously consider for my own elopement reception!
Florals, HMUA, & All Other Vendors
Full disclosure—I love flowers. I’m lucky to have amazing vendor friends who I would recommend for some STUNNING flower arrangements. BUT, if you think you want to DIY your flower arrangement, my biggest tip for this is Trader Joes. Did you know you can custom order certain flowers?
My mom did that for her intimate wedding a few years back. And they turned out amazing! My recommendation is to create a Pinterest board for inspiration. Then talk to your local Trader Joes store to see what flowers are in season to see if you can recreate something similar. I’d also test it to see if you can recreate a small bouquet once.
Testing and practicing are beneficial for the day of! For hiring HMU vendors and anything else you might want, there are so many local options available.
Regardless of all the other vendors, you want this moment to reflect you as a couple. When thinking about capturing some of your most intimate moments you’ll experience on your elopement day makes me excited.
I genuinely believe in freeing couples from obligations and expectations so that they feel celebrated & fully loved while saying their vows on their terms—in the most adventurous way they want.