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How to Plan a Joshua Tree Elopement or Intimate Wedding

I am one of the luckiest photographers in the world…Joshua Tree National Park is in my backyard! This beautiful, mesmerizing desert paradise that millions of people visit a year is less than 5 minutes from where I drink my morning coffee. Joshua Tree National Park is the PERFECT place to elope, get married, or renew […]

I am one of the luckiest photographers in the world…Joshua Tree National Park is in my backyard! This beautiful, mesmerizing desert paradise that millions of people visit a year is less than 5 minutes from where I drink my morning coffee. Joshua Tree National Park is the PERFECT place to elope, get married, or renew your vows! 

The stunning views, unique desert vegetation, and beautiful weather year-round serve as a perfect place to visit from all around the world and commit to forever together. The sunsets in California, and especially in Joshua Tree, are unlike any in the world. As a Joshua Tree wedding photographer, it is my passion to capture these beautiful and cherished moments that mean the most to you and preserve them in the most beautiful photographs. I am also committed to helping make your wedding or elopement completely stress-free (and VERY exciting!) 

Keys View – Jess & Chance

The five basic steps to start planning your dream wedding or elopement:

  1. Choose a date for your Joshua Tree wedding or elopement 
  2. Set a budget before you start any extensive planning
  3. Secure a permit at your favorite scenic location in the park or choose a super amazing venue in Joshua Tree
  4. Book a stay at one of the most amazing vacation rentals in the area
  5. Find amazing local vendors to help you plan and celebrate!

Click here to contact me to schedule your free elopement consultation. I will walk you through all of the steps in full detail!

Choosing a Date For Your Joshua Tree Wedding or Elopement 

Weather in Joshua Tree by Season 

Spring (March to May)

The pleasant temperatures and bloom of desert wildflowers make spring a magical time to elope in Joshua Tree! You can expect the weather to be anywhere from 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. It’s generally pretty dry during these months, but don’t discount the chance of spring showers making an appearance. The last thing to keep in mind is that it can get a tad windy, so you might need to anchor down any decor if you’re having an outdoor wedding or elopement! Spring time is THE most popular time to get married in Joshua Tree other than October, so you want to book vendors early!

Summer (June to August)

Whew, summer in Joshua Tree is no joke! The temps often exceed the 100-degree Fahrenheit mark, with lows staying around 70-80 degrees… if we’re lucky. Although there are beautifully clear skies, it can be super dry in the summertime, and usually isn’t worth it to have any type of outdoor wedding or elopement. If you truly want a summer date, I recommend sticking to strictly golden hour weddings and sunset photos right after!

Fall (September to November)

The desert definitely starts cooling down in the fall, with highs of 75-90 degrees and lows of around 50-60 degrees in the evening. The weather is MUCH more pleasant than summer, and the seasonal change brings out some pretty gorgeous colors. Due to the mild temperatures, dates book up pretty quickly!! If you’re locked on an elopement location, I recommend reserving it as soon as possible when planning for a fall date. October is our most popular month for weddings so I highly recommend booking about a year in advance, if not further!

Winter (December to February)

Taking a total 180 from summer, the winter months in Joshua Tree can get pretty chilly! With highs between 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit and lows dropping to 35-40 degrees, there’s much less traffic in the park. If you don’t mind the cooler daytime temperatures, winter can be a great time to elope in Joshua Tree!

If you’re eloping:

Choosing your date when eloping vs planning a traditional wedding entails slightly different considerations! If it’s just the two of you, you’ll most likely be eloping at an outdoor location within Joshua Tree instead of a venue. I recommend checking the availability of your location options before booking a date to ensure you snag a spot that you LOVE!

If you’re planning an intimate wedding: 

When planning an intimate wedding in Joshua Tree, your date should be farther out than if you were eloping so that you have plenty of time to send out invitations. If this is a destination wedding, then your guests will need adequate time to plan all of their travel and accommodations!! I recommend selecting a flexible date a year or so out, and then researching Joshua Tree venues to see what their exat availability is, Then, once you officially book your venue, you can secure your date and start sending save the dates or invites. 

Set a Budget for Your Joshua Tree Wedding or Elopement

Setting a budget is crucial when planning a wedding OR elopement, especially if you want to stay on track and prioritize the most important things! This process looks a little different depending on what size event you’re planning, but let’s start with these questions:

  • What are our non-negotiable priorities on our wedding/elopement day?
  • If we’re inviting out-of-town guests, are we covering the costs of their accommodations?
  • Is it worth it to hire a planner for the amount of guests we’re having?
  • If family members are helping pay for our wedding/elopement, do they expect to have a say in any decision-making? 

If you’re planning an elopement:

Consider park permit fees, wedding attire, elopement photography (I can help you with that!), and how you want to CELEBRATE getting married. There are a lot fewer vendors required for a “just the two of you” elopement, so you have more room to splurge on things like a nice dinner or an extra few nights in Joshua Tree.  My wedding and elopement packages start at $2,000!

If you’re planning an intimate wedding:

You can still reserve a ceremony site within the park for your intimate wedding, or you might prefer having a ceremony & reception venue all in one! If that’s the case, then your budget for location will need to be significantly higher than if you were eloping. Consider venue fees, catering costs, photography, and possibly a day-of coordinator if there are lots of decor and moving parts involved that you don’t want to handle on your own. 

Joshua Tree National Park Wedding Permit Information

If you will have 35 people or less, any elopement or wedding in the national park requires a permit for the ceremony. There are so many beautiful locations to choose from for your intimate ceremony! The special use permit is a one-time $120 fee and make sure to submit at least 30 days in advance! The farther in advance the better so you can have the ceremony site of your choice. I highly recommend at least 4-6 months in advance if you want a specific site.

Here are some of my favorite ceremony site choices inside the park:

  • Hidden Valley Picnic Area: Up to 35 people
  • Turkey Flats: Up to 35 people
  • Cap Rock: Up to 25 people
  • Rattlesnake Picnic Area: Up to 25 people
  • Quail Springs Picnic Area: Up to 15 people
  • Split Rock: Up to 15 people

Pioneertown Motel Wedding – Dustin & Evelyn

Joshua Tree & Surrounding Area Wedding Venues

  • Sacred Sands – this venue is located just right outside of the west (Joshua Tree) entrance to the national park! Perfect for being close to the park and having extra people. AND! You can do golden hour photos in the park! Up to 100 guests.
  • Pioneertown Motel – The Pioneertown Motel situated in the Wild West of Pioneertown and 15 minutes, if that, from Joshua Tree is the perfect place for a gorgeous, rustic wedding. There are several spaces that accommodate weddings here and are all so breathtaking!

Surrounding Areas

  • The Booth House – Twentynine Palms – A short 20 minute drive from Joshua Tree! The Booth House is a century-old wedding venue in Twentynine Palms, California, that radiates vintage, rustic charm. This picturesque desert property features nearly 20 acres of stunning landscapes, several unique ceremony and reception areas, and an old gold mill. Committed to sustainable and environmentally friendly business practices, this is an ideal space for eco-conscious couples.
  • Villa Leche – Palm Desert — Nestled on a 3-acre hilltop, this Mediterranean-modern estate features breathtaking views of stunning vistas made of mountains. It’s a painterly portrayal of desert-in-the-raw with no hustle and bustle,  city lights, or noise to speak of.

The Booth House – Twentynine Palms, CA – Halle & Matthew

Places to Stay In & Around Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree, Yucca Valley and Twentynine Palms are all within a short drive of Joshua Tree National Park. Many vacation rentals do not allow ceremonies due to permitting but most do allow photos before ceremonies for the fun of detail photos, getting ready and family photos! Keeping this in mind, choosing a beautiful place to stay that fits your vibe and style is important for getting married and eloping!

I know this area well and photograph vacation rentals in this area so please don’t hesitate to ask if you need assistance finding the perfect place for you — click here to reach out and I can help you pick the best place to stay, plan your getting ready moments and help you choose a rental that fits YOU best!

  • Stay Cocoon – Some of my favorite vacation rentals with friendly, local hosts and clean, beautiful properties with views! Perfect homes for your Joshua Tree stay. Cocoon offers a cozy airstream for the two of you to bigger homes that your whole family can stay in together throughout your whole visit!

Finding The Right Local Vendors to Help You Celebrate!

Joshua Tree and the surrounding desert is a very small community. Hiring local vendors helps the community grow and thrive. I’d love to share my local vendors with you and help you find those who pour their love and passion into making this a beautiful place to stay and get married. Many vendors are eco-friendly, eco-conscious and are able to help on a last minute’s notice because, we know, things happen! I have several local vendors to recommend for coordination, cake, DJ, florals & more!

A little about Mattie O’Neill Photography

Of course, I would love to be your Joshua Tree wedding photographer – after all, this is my backyard! If you’re looking for a photographer who will assist you with timelines, put you at ease, and become a friend in the process, it sounds like we’d be a great fit. I love working with couples who are planning a day completely unique to them, crafting an experience that you’ll never forget. Once you get to the end of this blog, I give you the next steps for getting in touch with me!

Hi! I’m Mattie - Your Animal-Obsessed, Adventure-Seeking, Travel-Enthusiast Southern California Wedding Photographer

I’ve been on both sides of the lens, and it’s my mission to capture the unscripted, genuine moments of your special day! I pour my heart into taking (and editing) your photos to give you epic portraits that you’ll cherish forever. Whether it’s a mountain-top elopement or a cozy backyard ceremony, I’m all in. Let’s plan something that is uniquely yours, filled with laughter, love, and maybe a few happy tears - mine included!

Think of me as your right-hand girl for planning an intimate, nature-focused, or non-traditional wedding or elopement.

Inquire Now & Let's Work Together

Destination Weddings

Southern California Weddings

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