How to Elope in Arizona: A Complete Guide
Updated: May 11
Do you want to elope in Arizona? Well, you've come to the right place. Hi, I'm Kathleen, an Arizona adventure wedding & elopement photographer, and your new friend. I put together this comprehensive Arizona elopement planning guide with adventurers like you in mind, informing you on everything you should know before having your own elopement in Arizona.
I hope this guide helps you as you begin planning your elopement! I love helping couples plan their wedding day, and would love to help you too.
I grew up in Arizona and lived there for nearly 23 years, making the desert my home. I love Arizona and am proud to be from The Grand Canyon State. Arizona is full of hidden treasures, natural wonders and lots of desert beauty. There are plenty of "local secret" spots that would be perfect to say your vows at.
Growing up, my family took me camping and hiking often- which ultimately sparked my love for adventure and the outdoors. Home of the most gorgeous sunsets in the world, amazing tacos, and the best college around (Bear Down!), Arizona will always hold a special place in my heart. The desert will always be a part of me, and while I love Washington dearly, I know one day I will return home.
Checklist For Your Arizona Elopement
1. Find a photographer
I may be biased, but hiring an elopement photographer is one of the most important things to do! It is important that you find someone that you truly connect with- you're going to be spending your entire wedding day with them. Plus, your elopement photographer will be able to help you with location scouting, logistics, and planning. It's important to also choose someone who knows the area well, and is experienced with elopements. Luckily, I know a pretty great Arizona elopement photographer... and I'll be there in October and November of 2020. If you want to elope with me then (with no travel fees!), reach out to me HERE. I'd love to connect with you and help you get started on planning your elopement or adventure wedding.
2. Pick a date
After you find a photographer, set that date! In my opinion, definitely avoid the summer months. Most of the state will be scorching hot, and the parts that aren't are sure to be run over with tourists and locals alike, looking to escape the heat. The best times to visit and elope in Arizona are September-November and February-April. Check out below where I go into weather more in depth!
3. Pick a location
Next, you'll want to decide on a location to elope at! This is a huge part of how I help in the planning process. For each of my couples, I do customized location scouting and send a variety of ideas that align with their vision & wants. I've listed my favorite generalized locations in this guide to help you get started! I love using AllTrails, Google Maps, and state directories to find locations, and they can be a fantastic resource for you to utilize. I only disclose my "local secret" spots to my couples- become one of them HERE.
4. Decide your timeline and work out the details
Now you should start working on more of the nitty, gritty details. Decide if you want to elope with just the two of you, or have guests. Figure out what you want your ceremony to look like. (Learn more about how an elopement ceremony works here!) Add in any extra adventures you want to do on your day (more on that at the end of this blog). Think about whether or not you want to have a "first look", and if you want any celebratory drinks or food. Book any necessary travel, rental cars, and lodging. Consider planning a special surprise for your partner, and think about any special details you may want to include. Write your vows and choose your elopement attire (Check out my Adventure Elopement Wedding Dress Guide here)!
Then, compose your timeline- leaving lots of time for spontaneity, so you don't feel rushed or stressed. Work with your photographer to decide the best time of day and lighting for photos. Make sure to leave lots of time to celebrate and enjoy the moment! If you're struggling to create a timeline, check out this article talking about ideas of what to do on your all-day elopement.
5. Hire other vendors
Decide what other vendors you want to hire to help with your elopement. Examples of good vendors to consider are: an officiant, hair & makeup artist, florist, elopement announcements, food & drink, and any additional adventure activities. You can include whichever vendors you'd like, and skip the ones you don't want- it's your day!
6. Get your permits & apply for your marriage license
Some locations in Arizona require permits for you to visit them and they can be highly coveted and competitive to get. Other locations require that you hire a local guide to visit. Make sure to research what permits you need to visit, park and hike at a location. Additionally, some locations will require you to have a permit to get married there or for your photographer to take photos of your elopement. Don't skip getting your permits! You don't want to risk getting a hefty fine, not being able to have your elopement documented and even thrown out of a location simply because you didn't take the necessary steps.
If you're getting legally married on your elopement day- don't forget to get a marriage license. Keep reading below to find out how to make sure your elopement is legal! Alternatively, many couples choose to complete the legal paperwork at home either before or after their actual elopement day for ease of mind and simplicity, The day you say your vows and commit your life to your partner is your wedding day! Don't let paperwork and technical logistics get in the way.
7. Get married
This is it! This is the day you commit your lives to one another and get married. Get ready for an epic day full of fun, love, and adventure.
Like I said above, the best times to visit Arizona in my opinion are February-April and September-November. This allows you to escape the heat in the summer and a majority of tourists. Most days in AZ are sunny, besides monsoon season, rain is on the rare side (especially compared to my new home in Washington!)
Here's a chart of average high/low monthly temperatures in various AZ locations:
February- 72/48 64/36
March- 77/52 69/40
April- 86/59 76/45
September- 100/75 91/61
October- 89/64 80/51
November- 76/51 68/41
Page Grand Canyon
February- 52/33 46/20
March- 62/40 53/24
April- 71/47 61/29
September- 86/62 76/43
October- 71/50 65/33
November- 56/38 52/24
Making It Legal
To get legally married on your elopement day, you want to ensure you have all the information. Arizona marriage licenses are $83 and there are 15 counties where you can apply and obtain a marriage license. To obtain a marriage license in Arizona, you BOTH must visit a Justice Court office and provide valid photo IDs (you do not have to be a resident of Arizona).
There is no waiting period for Arizona marriage licenses (meaning you could even get it the day before your elopement if you wanted) for it's validity. Arizona marriage licenses are valid for 12 months. You do not have to elope in the same county you obtain your marriage license in, you can go anywhere in the state. Once you elope, the license must be returned to the court within 30 days for it to be recorded.
An ordained officiant must perform a ceremony for you to be legally married. I am an ordained officiant and can perform a short, legal ceremony if you choose. All marriage licenses must be signed by the officiant and two witnesses (min. age is 18). If I'm not acting as the officiant, I can sign as a witness if needed. If you're eloping with just the two of you, witnesses can be fellow hikers or visitors (most people will be more than happy to be a witness for you!). We can do the legal ceremony with witnesses, and then you two can exchange your vows privately.
Favorite Arizona Locations
There are SO many hidden gems in Arizona that most people, not even a lot of locals, know about. I love exploring these spots and adventuring to new places! Plus, the more well-known places have hidden spots for those looking to find a little remoteness. After growing up in Arizona and living there for nearly 23 years, I know plenty of places that would be perfect for an adventure wedding or elopement.
*Disclosure- Not all photographs included in this blog were taken by Kathleen Elizabeth Photography. Other photographs are from Pixabay & Unsplash (credited underneath) which is a website full of free photographs with public domains (aka no copyrights).*
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon gives Arizona it's namesake. A natural phenomenon, this canyon lives up to its name as being truly grand. A particularly beautiful spot in the Grand Canyon is Havasupai. Havasupai is absolutely breathtaking- full of unreal colors and beauty. Permits sell out in February fast though, so if you want to visit here make sure to plan well in advance!
Sedona is a magical place, when you go there you can just feel it. Full of vortexes and beauty, it is a popular destination for many. Growing up, my family and I would visit Sedona often- making it one of my favorite places to explore.
Split between Utah and Arizona, Lake Powell is a sight to be seen. A stunning oasis in the desert, this would make an excellent choice for any elopement.
Okay, so here's another one that's technically split between the Utah and Arizona border. However, Monument Valley is another iconic place that would be perfect for an elopement!
Page has some of the most unique places around- including slot canyons! While Antelope Canyon is stunning, there are many other less popular slot canyons around to explore. Here there's also the famous Horseshoe Bend. However, due to recent popularity, tourism has skyrocketed here- making it hard to be secluded. If you want to visit there, try going early in the morning on a weekday in shoulder season.
There are SO many undiscovered, unique places in Northern Arizona. Be aware that many of these locations also require special, highly coveted permits- so be sure to plan well in advance!
Logistics: Getting There, Places to Eat, Places to Stay & Things to Do
If you're flying in, chances are you'll be coming through the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport- one of the largest airports in the US. I love checking Google Flights for flight deals, they have an awesome feature that allows you to see flight prices based on the day and easily choose the cheapest dates to fly. Depending on your elopement location, it may be best to rent a car that is 4WD & high clearance. Some of the best spots are trickier to access.
If you know me, you know I love to eat (and drink craft beer)- and luckily Arizona has no shortage of delicious food. Here are some of my favorites:
Four Peaks Brewing Company- home to all of my favorite craft beers, not only does this brewery make fantastic brews, they also have delicious food and a fun atmosphere.
Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company- another place with delicious brews, and out of this world hamburgers. One of my favorite breweries in the world!
The Perch Brewery- this brewery has delicious foods and beers- plus they have a lot of tropical, rescued birds, giving it a fun atmosphere.
The Great Gadsby- A delicious bakery, this would be a fantastic place to get a celebratory wedding cake or dessert to bring with you on your elopement!
Julio's Too- My family and I would always eat here growing up, the food is delicious and is a great stop to any trip.
Los Altos Ranch Market- it's technically a grocery store, but it contains a cafe with some of the most delicious food and baked goods you will ever eat.
Sonoran Delights- If you're visiting southern Arizona, visit this no-frills joint in Tucson, I especially love their tacos and raspados.
I highly recommend staying somewhere nearby your chosen elopement destination to reduce travel times on the day of. Plus, if you want getting ready photos, it is best to be somewhere nearby your location. Personally, I love staying in cabins and Airbnb's when I travel, or I go camping instead. Here are some cute suggestions to consider when planning your Arizona elopement:
Grand Canyon/Northern Arizona
If you're looking to add in a little more adventure to your trip (or actual elopement day- I would be thrilled to accompany you and document your entire adventure), Arizona has got you covered. Here are a few of my favorite adventure options in AZ:
Helicopter & Airplane Tours- Arizona has many destinations that would be perfect to explore in the air, including: Sedona, The Grand Canyon, Page, and Lake Powell. Some companies take a stop and allow you to get out at some really cool locations!
Hot Air Balloon- Another way to adventure in the air, a hot air balloon ride would be an incredibly romantic way to celebrate your elopement. Some fun places to have a hot air balloon ride include: Sedona, the Sonoran Desert, and Monument Valley.
White Water Rafting- Yes! There are many places you can go white water rafting in the desert, including the Grand Canyon.
Jeep & Off-roading Tours- A fun way to discover rugged places, this is a popular choice to see the desert, especially in Sedona!
Skydiving- Want to get a little crazy on your elopement day? Arizona has plenty of skydiving options for the thrill seekers and adventurous souls.
Hiking- Arizona is full of beautiful places to explore and trails to hike. From red rocks, canyons, mountains, lakes, and desert- Arizona is the outdoor lover's paradise.
Arizona is the perfect destination for adventure weddings and elopements.
Want to elope in Arizona? Contact me today and we can start planning your dream adventure.
Hi! My name is Kathleen and I'm an adventure wedding and elopement photographer (and your new friend!). I'm here to help guide you to having the ultimate wedding day experience, and to document every single moment of it. I would love to help you plan your elopement and answer any questions you may have!
Want More Resources?
Read about a real mountain elopement in the Mount Baker Wilderness HERE.
Learn everything you need to know to plan your own hiking elopement HERE.
Ever wonder why people choose to elope? Read about the reasons why HERE.