I’ve been an elopement photographer for over 5 years now, and have been a part of countless elopements in gorgeous locations across the world. Throughout all my travels, I’ve learned that the best elopement locations are the ones that allow you to be fully present and give a sense of perspective to the commitment you are making. Moab is one of those places – with towering walls of red rock that light up during the alpine glow, thousand foot cliff sides that overlooks the vast desert expanse below, sandstone arches that make the perfect natural altars – it’s a spiritual and mysterious landscape. The kind of place that fills you with wonder, humbles you, and makes you feel small all at once. There is something about the desert that just makes you feel something, and that’s exactly the kind of place you should say your vows.
Moab is also ripe with opportunities for adventure. It’s often referred to as an “adult’s playground” due to the never ending possibilities for fun. Whether it’s rock climbing, canyoneering, off-roading, skydiving or even base-jumping – you could never get bored. Moab is truly the perfect place for an elopement, so I created this guide as a resource to walk you through the entire process of planning your meaningful elopement experience in the desert expanse.
Moab Elopement Photographer
Before we dive into the rest of this Moab Elopement Guide, I want to give a quick introduction! I’m Carissa, a Moab Elopement Photographer, and I truly have the best job in the world. Getting to help couples plan meaningful, intimate elopement days that are rooted in the significance of marriage fulfills me in ways I never thought possible. In my free time I spend hours exploring dirt roads, scouring the internet, and researching amazing and secluded locations. I have lists on lists of incredible spots that I have scouted over the years, that would be perfect for a Moab elopement. Whether you want a sweeping canyon, or a secluded spot among the red rocks, I’ve got a spot in mind. My standards are high, and almost all of my favorite spots are usually empty, so rest assured you’ll get some incredible recommendations from me. Planning an elopement day can be overwhelming, so I help my couples a lot through the whole process, by providing completely custom, bespoke planning assistance.
Here are some of the ways I typically help my couples:
- Location recommendations so incredible they might actually bring you to tears (it’s happened in the past)
- Trip planning + activity suggestions
- Permit assistance
- Unique lodging ideas to enhance your experience
- Incredible local vendors to help bring your dream to life, such as private chefs, florists, designers etc.
- A relaxed, FUN timeline, with all of the logistics and details taken care of
Reach out here and we can get started planning your dream desert elopement.
How to Plan a Moab Elopement
Planning a Moab elopement (or an elopement anywhere for that matter) can feel stressful! You have so much freedom in the choices you get to make, which can ultimately feel overwhelming. Luckily, most of the decisions you will be making are actually fun. Instead of choosing things like seating charts for 200 guests, you are choosing which magical desert location you want to say your vows.
Here are the 6 basic steps to planning a Moab elopement:
- Book your Moab elopement photographer! I always recommend hiring your elopement photographer first, because they will be able to assist you throughout the rest of the planning process and make things so much easier! Get in touch here!
- Choose the location you want to say your vows + any other areas you want to explore and take photos at on your elopement day!
- Create a relaxed day of timeline, so you have an itinerary for the day!
- Apply for any necessary Moab permits, and secure your marriage license!
- Book your lodging and vendors!
- Elope! We will explore Moab, soak in all the amazing landscape, and celebrate your marriage!
Getting to Moab
Part of the fun of eloping in Moab is getting there. It’s sort of in the middle of nowhere (but all the best elopement locations are). Luckily, there are quite a few different airport options conveniently located all around the Moab area. The most common option is to fly in the Salt Lake City International Airport and then rent a car and drive about 4 hours to Moab. You can also fly into the Grand Junction Regional Airport, which is a much smaller (and slightly more expensive) airport to fly into. Some couples will even fly into Las Vegas and plan a fun little desert road trip – Zion National Park, St. George, Grand-Staircase Escalante National Monument, and Capitol Reef National Park are all right along the way, making for the perfect honeymoon!
When to Elope in Moab
Moab’s high desert climate means that it can experience harsh weather that ranges from hot and arid, to bitterly cold. Moab also receives a high level of tourism throughout the year, so I recommend eloping in the shoulder seasons in order to avoid the crowds, and still get pleasant weather! Busy season is typically from March – October. For that reason, I recommend eloping in Moab anytime in February – early March, or mid October – early December. The weather will be great, and the crowds will be minimal!
Summer in Moab:
During the summer months Moab turns into a furnace, with temperatures reaching up to 100 degrees. These high temperatures make it really uncomfortable to be outside, so for that reason I highly recommend against eloping during the summer months. Tourism is also at an all time high during the summer, so it’s best to avoid this season all together if you can!
Fall in Moab:
Fall is absolutely magical in Moab. The temperature drops, and the crowds start to clear out, which makes it the perfect time of year to plan an elopement. With fewer tourists, it makes it an ideal time to plan an intimate experience. Fall tends to be the most rainy season in Moab, so you can get the occasional thunderstorm, but rain in the desert is absolutely magical (as long as you are careful of flash flooding).
Winter in Moab:
You might be surprised to hear this, but Moab can get really chilly. The average high during December and January in Moab is 44 degrees, so it’s important to properly prepare with lots of layers if you choose to elope in Moab in the winter! Despite the chilly weather though, winter in Moab can be absolutely magical. This is the least busy time of year, so you can explore a lot of the more popular areas of the National Parks, and still have an intimate experience. You also may be lucky enough to experience a desert snowstorm and wake up to the red rocks dusted in a blanket of white.
Spring in Moab:
Spring is my absolute favorite time of year in Moab. The flora is in bloom, making for a wide array of colorful vegetation that gives the otherwise desolate landscape life. The weather during this time of year is dreamy too, with perfect temperatures ranging from 60-70s. These mild temperatures make it the perfect time to enjoy an array of outdoor activities, and really soak in the experience.
Moab Elopement Laws and Permits
In order to get legally married in Moab, all you need to do is obtain your marriage license. This must be done in person! You can obtain your marriage license at any County Clerk’s office, fill out some quick paperwork, and pay the $50 fee. Once you’ve got your marriage license there is no waiting period, so it can be used immediately, and is valid for 30 days. The Grand County Utah county clerk is located in Moab, making it the best option to get your marriage license for your Moab elopement, but you can get it at any county clerk throughout the state.
When you elope in Moab you will need an officiant to solemnize your marriage. You can either hire an officiant who specializes in elopement ceremonies, or have a family member or friend get ordained to marry you! They can get ordained through the Universal Life Church in about 5 minutes!
The state of Utah does require you to have two witnesses to sign your marriage license. If you are including a few guests in your day then this should be no problem for you. If you are choosing to elope just the two of you then you can get a bit creative! Your elopement vendors can sign as your witness, or you can typically find a hiker / tourist to sign too (which makes for a funny memory!). The only requirement is that the witness is over the age of eighteen.
Whether or not you’ll need a permit for your Moab elopement depends on a variety of factors, such as the location, the event size, etc. Most places will require a permit, so it’s a good rule of thumb to just expect that you’ll need one unless told otherwise. For an elopement, you’ll likely need to acquire a Special Use Permit, which permits you to hold your ceremony on the public lands. While it is your responsibility to take care of this, typically your photographer will be able to walk you through the process, as it can be quite confusing! Places like Arches National Park, and Canyonlands National Park both require permits. A permit will typically range in cost anywhere from $100-$400. Your photographer may also need a Commercial Use Permit, and they will be the ones to handle that.
The Best Moab Elopement Locations
Choosing your elopement location will be one of the most important decisions you make throughout this entire process. The place you choose to say your vows is so significant, and it’s important to choose a spot that allows you to feel fully present, and really feel the weight of the commitment you are making. When choosing your Moab elopement location, it’s really important to figure out what your biggest priorities are. You’ll want to consider things like how private the location is. Moab has become a popular tourist destination, so oftentimes some of the most popular spots can get really busy. If privacy is important to you, you might want to consider a more off the beaten path location. You’ll also want to consider the scenery. Moab has so much diversity in the landscape, whether you want to stand at the top of a thousand foot cliff, or at the base of a massive sandstone arch. The options are truly endless. The last thing you’ll want to consider is accessibility. How hard are you willing to work to get to your elopement location? Maybe you love the idea of hiking 8+ miles into the desert, or maybe you would rather relax, and take a Jeep down a bumpy road to a remote location, or maybe you’d rather it be on private land where you don’t have to leave the property at all! Moab truly has endless options.
Arches National Park Elopement
Arches National Park is one of the most gorgeous locations to plan your elopement in Moab. The park is located just on the outskirts of town, making it easily accessible, and is home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches. The landscape is vast, desolate, and mysteriously beautiful, providing the perfect backdrop for an elopement. The park offers a diverse range of landscapes, from delicate arches and towering spires to sweeping canyons.
Arches National Park is Utah’s most popular National Park, so it’s important to keep that in mind when planning an elopement here. During the busy season, when the parking lots fill, staff may temporarily delay more vehicles from entering the park. These temporary delays can last for up to 3-5 hours on some days. This means that even if you are planning to elope (and have secured an elopement permit), you could be denied entrance to the park for hours. For this reason, I highly recommend eloping at sunrise or sunset in the off season months to avoid not being allowed access to your elopement location! I also recommend planning for a backup location in the event that the park is temporarily closed during your designated ceremony time.
During this upcoming 2024 busy season, Arches will be implementing a timed entry system for the park from April 1 to October 31. Visitors will be required to have a reservation to enter the park. While this is a *good* thing and means that the park will experience less crowds (making everyone’s experience far more enjoyable), it does mean that you’ll need to plan ahead for your elopement! If you have a wedding (SUP) permit, you will not be required to make a reservation, but if you are just planning to take photos in the park, then you will need to get one!
Elopement locations in Arches National Park:
While you can explore and take photos anywhere in the park on your elopement day (as long as it’s a location that is open to the public), you have to hold your ceremony in one of the following pre-designated locations:
- La Sal Viewpoint: Group size 50
- Park Avenue: Group size 15
- Double Arch: Group size 25
- The Windows: Group size 25
- Panorama Point: Group size 50
Arches National Park Permit Information:
will need to acquire a Special Use Permit if you plan to hold your legal ceremony in Arches National Park. The permit fee is $185, and can be applied up to a year in advance, to 4 weeks out from the event date. Your ceremony can only be 10 minutes long, and there have been some instances of a ranger being required to monitor the event. Because of these strict regulations, I sometimes recommend holding your ceremony in a less restrictive location, and just exploring Arches for photos.
Canyonlands National Park Elopement
Canyonlands National Park is an absolutely stunning location for a Moab elopement. The park has some of the most unique views, with deep canyons, meandering rivers carved into the landscape, and interesting rock formations. The expansive vistas and ever-changing colors of the canyons create a dynamic and visually stunning environment that makes the perfect backdrop for an elopement. The park is divided into districts, each offering its own diverse scenery, such as Island in the Sky, The Needles, and The Maze.
Canyonlands is located over an hour outside of Moab, so it does require a bit of driving to access! The views along the way are stunning though, and the park itself is well worth the journey to get there. Although there are some highly popular locations in Canyonlands (such as Mesa Arch), the rest of the park is much more quiet in comparison to Arches National Park. It’s easy to find solitude, and have a more intimate experience here.
Elopement Locations in Canyonlands National Park:
Similar to Arches National Park, Canyonlands has a list of pre-designated ceremony locations (most of which are located in the Island in the Sky district of the park). While you have to hold your ceremony in one of these locations, you are allowed to explore and take photos anywhere in the park:
- Shafer Canyon Overlook: Guest size 25
- Green River Overlook: Guest size 25
- Grand View Point: Guest size 25
- Pothole Point: Guest size 15
- Needles Group Campsites: Guest size ranges from 15-50 depending on which campsite
Canyonlands National Park Permit Information: Canyonlands has the exact same rules as Arches when it comes to permits. You will need to acquire a Special Use Permit if you plan to hold your legal ceremony in the park. The permit fee is $185, and can be applied up to a year in advance, to 4 weeks out from the event date. Your ceremony can only be 10 minutes long, and there have been some instances of a ranger being required to monitor the event. Because of these strict regulations, I sometimes recommend holding your ceremony in a less restrictive location, and just exploring Canyonlands for photos.
Moab BLM Elopement
BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land offers some of the most remote, off the beaten path, stunning elopement locations around Moab. Oftentimes, these areas are overlooked due to the more popular National Parks, but I can assure you that they are just as incredible, and have far fewer tourists around! If you want to elope in one of these areas, your photographer needs to hold a permit with the Moab BLM, and then apply for one of the pre-approved locations.
In order for the photographer to obtain a permit with the Moab BLM they will have to go through a long and thorough process, so you may want to be sure that your photographer has this permit before you book with them – I have held this permit for a few years now. Once your photographer holds this permit, it opens up access to a ton of rugged, remote location options. Here are just a few of my favorites:
- Corona Arch Trail
- Fisher Towers Trail
- Parriott Mesa Trail
- Castleton Tower and base of the tower area
Dead Horse Point State Park Elopement
Dead Horse Point State Park is quite possibly one of the best sunset locations in the entire world. This state park is located about 30 minutes outside of Moab, at the end of a mesa sitting 2,000 ft. above a gooseneck in the Colorado River below. The overlook features panoramic views of the vast desert landscape, which glows with hues of orange, red, purple, then blue as the sun sets into the horizon. It’s truly the perfect place for an elopement. Despite being a popular spot, I find it quite easy to find privacy. The mesa extends for miles, so it’s easy to walk along the rim and get away from the crowds.
Dead Horse Point State Park has a list of pre-designated ceremony locations that each can accommodate a different number of guests. While you have to hold your ceremony in one of these locations, you are allowed to explore and take photos anywhere in the park.
Dead Horse Point State Park Permit Information:
In order to elope at Dead Horse Point State Park, you will need to obtain a special use permit! The fee is $60 and the permit should be applied at least 30 days in advance (although I would recommend applying much sooner than that). You will also have to pay the $20 entrance fee on the day of the elopement.
The Best Small Wedding Venues in Moab:
It can be very logistically challenging to bring large groups of people on public lands for an elopement, even when the public lands allow for your group size. If you are planning a day with more than 15 guests, I highly recommend considering an intimate wedding venue that can accommodate everyone, and then planning a more private adventure just the two of you. Moab is a small town, so it doesn’t have a huge assortment of small wedding venues, but it does have a few options that I love. Any of these would be ideal for an elopement or intimate wedding with 15-60 guests:
More Elopement Planning Resources: The Best Small Wedding Venues in the US
Where to Stay for Your Moab Elopement
If you are having a smaller group of guests, or just want to stay somewhere super unique, Moab has a few really unique options for you as well. Here are some of my all time favorite stays in Moab:
Moab Elopement Ideas / Things to do in Moab
Moab really is an adult’s playground, with endless opportunities for fun, ranging from super adventurous activities, to super relaxing / luxurious activities. Here are some ideas of things you could either do to make your elopement day more fun
- Rappelling / Canyoneering
- Horseback riding in the desert
- Have a picnic
- Rock climbing
- Base jumping
- Watching the sunset from the top of a canyon
- ATV riding
- Host a candlelit dinner at your yurt
- Go stargazing
The Best Moab Elopement Vendors
The vendors you choose to hire can have a big impact on your elopement experience! I’ve been photographing elopements for 5 years so I’ve gotten a pretty good idea of which vendors are worth considering for your day. By no means do you need to hire every single vendor I’ve listed below, but I highly recommend choosing where you want to prioritize your money, and investing in a few incredible vendors who will give you the experience of your dreams.
Moab Elopement Photographer:
I always recommend hiring your elopement photographer before you do anything else. Not only will a great photographer take amazing photos, but they will typically also provide you with a lot of guidance through the elopement planning process. For most couples, their elopement photography is the most important, and highest priority vendor that they will hire for their day. Eloping can be confusing, and logistically challenging, so it’s super important to hire someone who is highly experienced, and knowledgeable about the area. An incredible photographer will be able to provide you with hidden gem location options, help you plan an incredible experience, and take photos of it all, that feel like art.
For an elopement photographer, of course I am going to recommend myself! I take pretty great photos, but even more than that, I know Moab like the back of my hand. This Utah desert holds a very special place in my heart, and I love sharing it with couples who will connect with the landscape in the same way I have. Contact me here and we can get started planning your day.
Florals are such an incredible way to elevate your elopement day, and make it feel even more special. Florals in the desert are especially beautiful – they are so vibrant and alive against the monochromatic, desolate landscape. I highly recommend budgeting for a bouquet for your elopement. Here are a few of my favorite Moab florists:
Moab Hair & Makeup Artists:
Hiring a hair and makeup artist is a great thing to invest in if you think it will help you feel absolutely incredible on your elopement day! It’s important to hire someone who has experience working with brides who are getting married in the outdoors, to make sure that your hair and makeup will stay put through all of your adventures!
Here are my favorite recommendations:
Moab Planning / Design:
Elopement planners are often overlooked because photographers typically help a lot with the planning process, but there are so many things an elopement planner can do (that a photographer can’t) that will completely elevate your elopement experience. If you are including guests in your elopement, or want any sort of styling / design, then I highly recommend considering hiring a planner. Here are a few of my favorite elopement planners who would make your elopement experience an absolute dream:
Moab Private Chefs:
If you are food lovers (like me), then you might want to consider hiring a private chef for your elopement experience. Imagine coming back to your private yurt, after an adventurous elopement exploring wild places all over Moab, and having the best meal of your life as you sit at a candlelit dinner table (styled by one of the designers mentioned above). Could there be anything more romantic? Here are a few of my favorite private chefs in Moab:
Moab Elopement Packages
Moab is a place I work frequently. I love this desert, and I love getting to share it with couples who I know will connect with it in the same way I do. I am endlessly inspired by this mysteriously spiritual landscape, and am beyond excited about every single elopement I get to shoot out here. I love helping my couples plan a day that reflects their values and priorities, that is rooted in the significance of marriage. I’ve got a long list of incredible (secret) spots, so if you’ve connected with my work then I would love to help you plan a truly unique day. Take a peek into what my Moab Elopement Packages include:
- Starting at half day coverage, ranging up to multi day, immersive experiences
- Custom, bespoke elopement location recommendations
- Vendor and lodging suggestions
- Assistance with timeline planning
- Assistance with acquiring the proper permits
- Travel fees to Moab are included
Full Day Packages start at $6,800
Multi Day Packages start at $10,500
Contact me here and we can get started planning your dream Moab elopement experience!