planning a Joshua Tree elopement | Joshua Tree elopement photographer

 

Joshua Tree is all the rage in recent years (well, okay, actually more like decades). Couples - including my husband and I - flock to this unique desert from all over the world each year to elope! There’s something incredible about the landscape: somehow between breaks in the barren desert beautiful things find their way through. And I’ve always been a fan of a good underdog story.

Having eloped myself, I figured I might have a unique perspective for those planning an elopement of their own - in Joshua Tree/ Yucca Valley or anywhere else! In this post I’ll incorporate some shots of our own elopement process + some from a few intimate weddings in Joshua Tree!

@ Vic Bonvicini Photography

@ Vic Bonvicini Photography

at the LAX courthouse, doin the official thang! (phone photo!)

at the LAX courthouse, doin the official thang! (phone photo!)

1. Finding an officiant: this step is one of the less glamorous parts of planning a elopement but technically the most important! If your paperwork doesn’t get filed, you didn’t elope - you just went on vacation and gave each other jewelry. In an officiant, you need someone that is highly organized, personable, available, and able to travel to your elopement spot. because we planned things pretty short notice, we weren’t able to find someone that met all of those requirements within our budget. if you can’t find one that suits your budget, style, or availability you can do what we did: go to the county courthouse! We did this in LA the day before we went to Joshua Tree, because it fit our availability, was super affordable + we were sure the paperwork would get filed correctly.

If you’re planning with a bit more time, here are some local to Joshua Tree that have a great way with words and wonderful reviews:

Let’s Get Married by Marie : I love that she proudly claims her title as an #antiboringweddings officiant! LA based, Marie offers elopement packages specifically for Joshua Tree and the Pacific Northwest. From her reviews + blogs, it’s clear that she does her due diligence when it comes to preparing for her couples!

LA Wedding Woman : LA Wedding Woman offers a variety of packages to suit couples’ needs, perfect for an elopement!

Wedding in the Desert  : As a Joshua Tree local, Celine offers a unique perspective. She also is a certified American Sign Language interpreter, which she says has given her insight on how to “speak for” people without injecting a personal agenda.

captured by @Vic Bonvicini

captured by @Vic Bonvicini

2. Simple but significant. Eloping in a beautiful place (hi, JTNP) means you can really minimize costs that would have been spent on a venue (besides a park permit), decor, etc.

One of our favorite photos of the whole day. This is a truly candid moment, fixing each other up one last time before heading on a short hike to the spot where we exchanged vows. We love that it incorporates some of the most memorable parts of the day - our Mini Cooper, the homemade bouquet, and the camping pack where we’d tucked away all our coffee goods. Fun fact: over 18 months later, this is still the lock screen on my phone!

One of our favorite photos of the whole day. This is a truly candid moment, fixing each other up one last time before heading on a short hike to the spot where we exchanged vows. We love that it incorporates some of the most memorable parts of the day - our Mini Cooper, the homemade bouquet, and the camping pack where we’d tucked away all our coffee goods. Fun fact: over 18 months later, this is still the lock screen on my phone!

We stayed at AirBnb’s instead of renting a hotel + wouldn’t have it any other way. cactus mountain & joshua tree house.

Joshua Tree House - source: Airbnb

Joshua Tree House - source: Airbnb

Cactus Mountain - source: Airbnb

Cactus Mountain - source: Airbnb

3. Injecting your personality. Eloping is a fun way to magnify elements of your relationship that are unlike any other! We for instance are total coffee nerds. Moments after saying “I do”, we were saying “I brew” with a French press. We picked up local coffee from Joshua Tree Coffee Company the day before for our sunrise vow exchange + joked it would be our form of a unity candle. We packed a blanket we picked up during our cross-country move the day we went to the Grand Canyon and packed it all into our little Mini Cooper (RIP) to sit on as we sipped. Another thing we like nerding out on is gardening! Hopefully we’ll have a little farm of sorts down the road, but in the meantime we love visiting plant nurseries + watching gardening shows (yes, if you’re wondering, we are actually 60 years old inside). That’s why we decided to make the bouquet an adventure too - we went to the iconic flower market downtown early Saturday morning and picked our very favorite flowers. That night, we carefully crafted a gorgeous and MASSIVE bouquet and tied it up with bakers’ twine.

If you’re not down to make your own bouquet, there are several super talented florists in Joshua Tree! We loooove the bouquets from The Blooming Gypsy. Check out the hanging flower wall in this post and the wildflower-vibes here.

Vic Bonvicini Photography

Vic Bonvicini Photography

Vic Bonvicini Photography

Vic Bonvicini Photography

Phone photo - In-N-Out after our courthouse ceremony!

Phone photo - In-N-Out after our courthouse ceremony!

Phone photo - In-N-Out after our courthouse ceremony!

Phone photo - In-N-Out after our courthouse ceremony!

4. Good food = good times. After leaving the courthouse from our short little ceremony, we stopped at In-N-Out, of course! And then Donut Friend in Highland Park because what wedding is complete without a little dessert? We brought fresh food & champagne down to JT and cooked in our AirBnb the night before because we love to do that together - homemade shrimp tacos + fresh guac! The next day after our ceremony, we grabbed lunch at Crossroads cafe - we had the most amazing portobello mushroom burger + we attempt to recreate it at least once every other week! Getting some of your favorite food - whether that’s Chick-Fil-A or a fancy steak dinner - will make the day feel so personalized. Maybe this is where you want to splurge, and that’s totally ok! But don’t feel pressured to. My advice is to make sure it’s something you FEEL is worth a billion bucks, even if it doesn’t cost much.

Phone photo - realizing we’re stuck in a ditch.

Phone photo - realizing we’re stuck in a ditch.

Phone photo - realizing we can’t get out.

Phone photo - realizing we can’t get out.

5. Understand that things may go wrong. Elopements aren’t immune to unpredictable moments any more than traditional weddings! We grabbed some phone photos to document this moment because we knew as ridiculous as it felt, we’d be laughing about it soon. We’d wrapped up our portraits + headed back to our airbnb, and we got STUCK in the desert. Literally stuck. In the sand. Like, had to be towed out by AAA kind of stuck. The joke that day was “well it can only go up from here!” Sometimes as a photographer you walk into an intimate wedding and ten minutes later you’re sewing a grooms’ pants seam (like I did for Jade - the groom in the photos below!), or helping dig your couples’ car out of the sand (thanks, Vic!).

I hope you enjoyed these tips for planning an intimate ceremony! Tell me in the comments if you’d like more posts like these + what tips you found useful! If you’re obsessed with Joshua Tree like I am, click here to learn some of my favorite venues + things to do in the area!


Here are a few photos from an intimate wedding I second shot with Eden Strader in Yucca Valley, just outside of Joshua Tree National Park, at Cactus Moon Retreat.