JOSHUA TREE WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY

Morgan Pirkle - Kept Record // Wedding Photographer
Serving the Joshua Tree Area

Creative, photojournalistic wedding imagery for the rad couples of Southern California and beyond! If you’re considering getting married in the magical desert of Joshua Tree just South of SoCal, I can’t recommend it enough. Not only have I had the amazing opportunity to photograph couples getting married here, but I actually eloped here myself! So I can say firsthand that it’s a truly incredible place to promise your life to your best friend. If you stopped on this page, you’re probably considering having your wedding in Joshua Tree, 29 Palms, Palm Springs, Indian Wells, or Yucca Valley. All of those are super rad and I’d be honored to follow your adventure to any of them!


This page is basically a guide dedicated to my mad love affair with Joshua Tree.

You’ll find examples of photography at Joshua Tree weddings, suggestions for wedding vendors and venues in Joshua Tree, and a few introductions to some of my favorite things to do on a visit!


A GALLERY OF PHOTOS TAKEN AT JOSHUA TREE WEDDINGS


So you’re running off to elope in the desert? i did the same thing!

 

My Joshua Tree Elopement was photographed by Vic Bonvinci


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Hey y’all! I’m Morgan, the hands + the heart behind kept record.

I’m a wedding photographer, a desert elopement bride, a coffee addict through and through, and a dog mama to two sweet husky rescues named Lucy and Pepper. I mainly photograph weddings in Southern California, but my bags are always packed + I’ve always got a full tank of gas in my Jeep! In January 2018, my husband Krisztian and I eloped in Joshua Tree National Park (see above). It was an absolutely incredible experience, and one I love sharing with many of the couples who book me for their Joshua Tree weddings and elopements. The landscape of this desert is breathtaking and it never fails to totally blow me away (it even SNOWED the day after we exchanged vows). You can read more about it here!

I describe my style as wedding photojournalism with soul. The balance I’m aiming for in every wedding is a documentary-driven approach with a few moments throughout the day of styled creative wedding portraits. This means that not only do you LOOK GOOD when you’re reminiscing through your photo album years later, but you actually FEEL GOOD about them too. I want you to remember exactly how you felt that day - surrounded by and filled to the brim with love. My style is inspired by my great-grandparent’s wedding albums, which I describe as warm, emotional, nostalgic, and documentary-driven. My approach on a wedding day is to let it unfold as naturally as possible before me; I try to be as unobtrusive as possible, while still making sure to get all the good angles as I go!

 
 

understanding joshua tree
from a photographer + former elopement bride’s perspective

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Nobody describes Joshua Tree (or, well, anything) like Anthony Bourdain:

Somewhere in America, about two and a half hours inland from the Los Angeles sprawl, is another America.

A stranger one.

Being out in the desert is this simultaneous feeling of being entirely alone, but at once being intricately connected to everything around you.

This location, located east of LA near Palm Springs and San Bernadino, offers the most breathtaking, endless views of the desert, dotted by the infamous Joshua Trees (Yucca brevifolia). In the 1930’s, FDR pronounced this area, about the size of Rhode Island, to be a national monument. There was a large debate about naming it after Minerva Hoyt, a conservationist, but because the Parks Department did not name Parks after living people, it was called Joshua Tree instead. In the 1990’s it was officially designated as a National Park. This area has magnetically drawn artists and musicians over the years, and it’s no question why: the peaceful yet harsh landscape serves as an inspiration to every visitor.

Whether you’re planning a longer visit or just a weekend stay, there’s plenty to do in Joshua Tree!

Where to eat + drink in Joshua Tree:

To start your trip Anthony Bourdain style, hit up Pappy + Harriet’s in Pioneertown for a shot of tequila + a plate of ribs. If you’re more like me, and start your day with copious amounts of coffee, head to Joshua Tree Coffee Company instead. For our “French Press Unity Ceremony” during our elopement, we brewed coffee from this exact shop! For lunch you’ll want to check out Frontier Cafe. Then for dinner, drive down to Crossroads and DON’T LEAVE without getting the Portabello Mushroom Burger! It was SO good, a year and a half later Krisz and I still recreate it once or twice a month.

THINGS TO DO IN JOSHUA TREE:

Growing up, one of my favorite things to do with my Yaya was to walk around knick-knack stores. That evolved into me exploring flea markets and antique shops with my mom. Somehow I have avoided developing a hoarding addiction, but I still love spending a quiet afternoon out wandering the aisles of these types of stores. If you’re like me, you’ll love all the shopping Joshua Tree has to offer! Check out these stores for antiques + collectibles: Pioneer Crossing Antiques, Ricochet Vintage Wears, Mother Lode Antiques, and The Station. You’ll also want to stop by the Sky Village Swap Meet if you can! There’s a huge art scene as well, so you may be interested in Noah Purifoy’s outdoor gallery or doing a Joshua Tree Art Walk. For nightlife check out Toucan’s Tiki Lounge Drag Show, and live music at Pappy + Harriet’s or Lander’s Brew. And of course, one of the biggest draws to Joshua Tree each year is the Joshua Tree Music Festival! Each Fall, musicians, artists, yogis and more come together for a one-of-a-kind desert experience. The thing I love to do most in Joshua Tree is to explore the park, though! There are two distinct landscapes that kind of mesh together: Joshua Tree is the place where the Coloradao Desert (known as the low desert) and the Mojave Desert (known as the high desert) meet. Throughout the park, there are some really incredible places to visit. I can’t recommend Lost Horse Valley enough! In Lost Horse Valley there are a few really cool trails: the Lost Horse Mine Loop is a moderate, 6.9 mile trail with wildflowers and great views. Barker Dam is my personal favorite place in the entire park! There’s also Cap Rock nearby. If you can only visit three trails in JT, these are the ones to see! But Skull Rock is also super cool - scroll to the bottom of this page to see some of the photos my husband (we took these the day after our elopement) and I snapped together!

WHEN TO PLAN YOUR JOSHUA TREE ELOPEMENT

Last year, Joshua Tree National Park had about 2.8 million visitors. WHOA. While the park is open year round, temperatures are most comfortable in the Spring in Fall — but that’s when the rest of the millions of visitors will probably be lining up their trip, too. Summers can be painfully hot, with temperatures reaching over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. From June to September, days average over 90 degrees so keep that in mind! Sunscreen, shade, and light clothes are key. Winter is actually a great time to visit, due to the cooler days! It’s more overcast from November to February which can change the mood of photos. Mornings and evenings are super chilly -- if you’re eloping there in the winter, layers are your friend. Our sunrise elopement had me in goosebumps, so I recommend now that if you’re wearing light clothing to sneak layers however you can, even by wearing nude fleece-lined leggings! In winter, snow may cover the higher portion of the park (which totally blows my mind honestly). So you may get a little snow, but the temperatures are definitely bearable and you’ll likely get to cut costs on hotels/airbnbs in the off-season! To reduce the amount of eager bystanders at your intimate park wedding ceremony, consider having it at less popular times of day if you’re hitting up the park during busy season. Since most visitors will want to see the park in full daylight, aim for an early morning sunrise ceremony or plan it for sunset when many people have left.

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Here are some of my favorite Joshua Tree Venues to consider!

Joshua Tree National Park - I know, I know, I’m biased. After my elopement in Joshua Tree National Park, how could I not be!? Exchanging vows during a sunrise ceremony surrounded by massive boulders and miles of desert was surreal. For engagements and weddings, the National Park Service does require a special use permit; you can find more info on that here!

Cactus Moon Retreat - This is the first Joshua Tree Venue I ever shot at! It’s really wonderful because there’s two buildings on the premises, a pool, and plenty of outdoor space to host a ceremony + reception. I remember it very distinctly because I had to sew a rip in the groom’s pants moments before the ceremony began! I loved this space because it had breathtaking views, lots of room to move around, and it wasn’t too far from the National Park. The two buildings worked perfectly as individual spaces for the bride and groom to get ready nearby without any chance of seeing each other.

Rimrock Ranch - This is such a STUNNING venue! Situated on 11 acres of desert landscape, there’s a wide variety of different scenes and locations for a wedding. There are multiple buildings on the property, including the world renowned Hatch House, which somehow combines this rustic feel with a minimalist, mid-century-modern look. The combination is killer and the weddings here are gorgeous!

The Lautner Compound - There are a few different properties on The Lautner Compound named for legendary architect John Lautner (sorry, I know you were hoping it was the werewolf Taylor Lautner - I hate to disappoint!). The ones really up for consideration are The Park, meant to host events of 200-300 guests, or The Lautner, which would be an amazing spot for couples’ wedding portraits following the ceremony or group photos of the wedding party.

Tumbleweed Sanctuary + Garden - I loved shooting at Tumbleweed Sanctuary + Garden in Joshua Tree! It’s super close to the National Park, but honestly it’s so pretty you won’t even want to leave. Just a few steps away from the ceremony site, you’ll be absolutely enclosed in the Joshua Tree desert, the sun setting behind the mountains and surrounded by the whimsical, prickly Joshua Trees. This venue has a rustic, geometric arch at the ceremony site which I adored. It didn’t take away from the immaculate landscape just behind it, yet it added that extra something. I love the idea of adding in bohemian, colorful rugs to add extra texture to the space.

Miramonte Resort + Spa - This venue is a closer to the Indian Wells/ Palm Springs part of the desert. It still has the stunning views of the Santa Rosa Mountains, but it’s a little less bohemian and more contemporary, with a Spanish-Mediterranean architectural flair. If you’re wanting a desert wedding, but still want lush, colorful landscape too- this might be the perfect spot! To get the best of both worlds, a first look or couples’ portraits could be planned in the nearby desert.

29 Palms Inn - If you’re looking for a desert venue that has tons of history, art, and nature then look no further! At 29 Palms Inn, you’ll experience all of that and more. The property has a series of traditional adobe bungalows + cabins - some dating back to the 1920’s. It’s pet-friendly, too, so if you’re bringing if your best man is actually your friendly dog floof, Fido, then not to worry! Certain cabins are available for well-behaved dogs.

Serenity Escape JT - Desert. Pool. Jacuzzi. Mid-Century-Modern Glam. It’s all here folks! This cozy Airbnb may look small but it’s incredibly spacious! What I loved most about shooting here was the general flow and openness of the home. The living room offered a great space for the getting-ready portion, as it was filled with natural light from the floor-to-ceiling glass door. The home is situated very centrally on the property, with space in every direction. On one side is a bright and welcoming pool with a nearby jacuzzi (did anybody say afterparty?!). Towards the back of the house is a large space that can hold several lengthy tables and a DJ setup. The concrete dancefloor is already set up so that’s one less thing to worry about!

High Desert House Airbnb - This cozy airbnb is such a beautiful spot for an intimate wedding! There’s a pool and jacuzzi in the backyard, gorgeous sunset views of the desert and mountains, and lots of lounging area for all your guests. The architecture brings a level of modernity + simplicity, which contrasts so well with the warm textures and colors inside!

The Living Desert Zoo + Garden - There are tons of options at The Living Desert Zoo + Garden, which I absolutely love. Tour the Coachella Valley venue to see six unique ceremony sites and seven reception options! You can dance the night away under an array of towering palms at the Palm Garden Patio or exchange vows in the lush garden at the Lurie Reception Patio. I’m a girl who LOVES options and y’all - this place has got em.


After our Joshua Tree elopement, we visited the park again the next day to explore Skull Rock, the Cholla gardens, and just drive around! It actually snowed as we left the desert, so that’s why you’ll see me so bundled up!

If you’re planning a Joshua Tree wedding or elopement, I’d definitely consider staying a few extra days and making it a true adventure! Stay in an airbnb for a few days (maybe even rent another one out for close friends + family!), hike at the park and camp at one of the Joshua Tree campsites, walk down through all the shops (whether you’re mid-century-modern or rustic, you’ll find something new to take home!). There’s so much to do and it’s so much fun to take your time and enjoy it!


IF YOU’RE GETTING MARRIED IN JOSHUA TREE, I’D LOVE TO BE YOUR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER!

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For more information on Joshua Tree weddings, get in touch! I’d love to talk more about your day. Interested in seeing more of my work?

california-wedding-photographer

Morgan Pirkle loves pineapple on pizza, has never seen an episode of Stranger Things, and spends her free time hiking or cuddling with her two husky puppies, Lucy + Pepper. She’s a wedding + elopement photographer specializing in documenting emotional, candid moments and making her clients feel good in front of the camera (dad jokes + corny puns included with every collection). When clients work with her, they can relive their wedding day over and over through warm, nostalgic, documentary-driven images full of connection + authenticity.