• kathleenelizabethphotos

How to Elope in Arizona

Updated: Feb 8


A couple kisses in front of red rocks and an airplane at sunset during their Sedona elopement

Arizona Elopement Planning Guide


Do you want to elope in Arizona? Well, you've come to the right place. Wild desert spaces, cactus filled deserts, impressive slot canyons, red rocks and arches, turquoise waterfalls, breathtakingly vast canyons, lakes, rivers, painted desert, and even mountain ranges- Arizona truly has all the best places to elope.


An adventure lover's paradise, Arizona has it all, and makes for the perfect elopement destination. Whether you want to hike, go off-roading, climb, ski (yes!), backpack, camp, skydive, kayak, chase the best sunsets imaginable, star gaze, or white water raft, there are endless activities you can do on your elopement day.


Hi, I'm Kathleen, an Arizona elopement photographer, and your new friend. I put together this Arizona elopement planning guide with adventurers like you in mind- informing you on everything you should know before you elope 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.


***Leave No Trace Disclaimer***


We have a massive privilege in being able to access such amazing public lands in general and for your elopement day. Instead of paying thousands of dollars for a wedding venue, public lands are able to be used for nearly free. With that comes great responsibility- not only to care for the land, but to ensure it's protection and longevity.


Leave No Trace is a set of outdoor ethics and best practices that we should all follow to not only enjoy our public lands, but to protect them as well. Simply put, leave it better than you found it!


Why should you care?


If you're getting married outside, it's probably because you're drawn to nature's beauty and love being outdoors. To keep nature beautiful, we must ensure that we enjoy it sustainably and responsibly. We're all in this together.


The seven principles of Leave No Trace are:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

  3. Dispose of Waste Properly

  4. Leave What You Find

  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts

  6. Respect Wildlife

  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

I encourage you to learn more about how to keep our outdoors safe and best practices for recreating outdoors at https://lnt.org/.


Alright, now into the good stuff...


Your Arizona Elopement Planning Checklist

 

1. Find a Arizona elopement photographer

I may be biased, but hiring an elopement photographer is one of the most important things to do to get started planning your Arizona elopement! It is important that you find someone that you truly connect with- you're going to be spending your entire wedding day with them. Hire someone that you & your partner both feel comfortable around and get along with.


I would also highly consider booking a photographer that specializes in elopements! Elopement photographers are much more involved in the planning process than a typical photographer is. They should be able to help you with location scouting, logistics, planning, and give you helpful advice. It's important to also choose someone who knows the Arizona area well, and is experienced not only with elopements, but with the kind of adventure you want to have.


Additionally, find someone who will tell the story of your elopement in an authentic way and is experienced with photographing in different sceneries, weather, and lighting conditions. Your photographs will be your only lasting, tangible memories of your day- you want to invest in your photographer and find someone who is the right fit for YOU! Luckily, I know a pretty great Arizona elopement photographer... and I'd love to connect with you and help you get started on planning your elopement or adventure wedding. If you want to elope with me, contact me and we can get started!


2. Pick a date

After you find a photographer, set that date! In my opinion, you'll definitely want to avoid the summer months here in AZ. 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 mid September-December and February-April. Check out below where I go into the best time of year to elope in Arizona in more depth!


3. Pick a location

Next, you'll want to decide on a specific location to elope! Where you have your elopement should feel right for YOU. You deserve to say your vows somewhere that will make you feel excited, happy, at peace, and in-love. A place where you can be in the moment, enjoying every single bit of your experience.


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. These resources are fantastic for you to utilize as well! Note: I only disclose my "local secret" spots to my couples- become one of them by contacting me.


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 guests or just the two of you

  • Figure out what you want your ceremony to look like, and start writing your vows

  • Get ideas of How to Make Your Elopement Ceremony Extra Special

  • Go shopping for your elopement dress or attire

  • 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 personal details you may want to include.

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 What do You Do on Your Elopement Day for timeline examples & activity ideas!


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, videographer, 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 special use 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 (if you're traveling from another state) 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

Yay! It's finally here- 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.

A couple kisses in front of an Arizona sunset during their adventure engagement session

Best Time of Year to Elope in Arizona

 

Like I said above, the best times to visit Arizona in my opinion are February-April and mid September-November. In my opinion, it's definitely best to avoid the summer months. Most of the state will be very hot and it will be unpleasant to be outside for long durations of time. Save yourself the headache (literally) and pick a cooler month to elope! While the majority of the country is freezing cold, Arizona is nice & perfectly warm.

Besides monsoon season, most days in AZ are bright and sunny. Great weather is in abundance, rain is rare (besides monsoon season in the summer) and the chances of you being in sunshine is high. Fall offers the chance for stunning autumn colors, and spring offers an abundance of wildflower blossoms.


Since the Phoenix area, Sedona area, and Northern Arizona area can vary so much in temperature, I wanted to include a chart of the average high/low monthly temperatures in various AZ locations. What may be a great month to elope in one area, may be too warm or cold for you in another!

Phoenix

Sedona

Page

Grand Canyon

February

72/48

64/36

52/33

46/20

March

77/52

69/40

62/40

53/24

April

86/59

76/45

71/47

61/29

September

100/75

91/61

86/62

76/43

October

89/64

80/51

71/50

65/33

November

76/51

68/41

56/38

52/24


A couple kisses in front of a vintage Mustang at sunset during their Lost Dutchman State Park engagement photos in Arizona

Making It Legal

 

If you're signing your paperwork on the day of your elopement, you want to ensure it's legal!


Quick Facts:

  • Arizona marriage licenses are $83

  • 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

  • All marriage licenses must be signed by the officiant and two witnesses (min. age is 18)

Note: 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.

A couple enjoys the view at sunrise during their Lake Powell elopement as they hug

Best Places to Elope in Arizona

 

Arizona is hands down one of the most underrated states (and elopement destinations) out there. There's incredible beauty to be discovered, adventures to be had, and desert to explore- not to mention the best sunsets in the world! 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, even 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.


If it isn't obvious, I love my home state and could talk about why for hours on end (which is why I'm so stoked to share these epic locations with you!). Here are just a few places to consider for your Arizona 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!

Photo from Unsplash
Photo from Unsplash
Photo from Unsplash
Photo from Unsplash

Sedona

Sedona is a magical place, when you go there you can just feel it. Full of red rocks, overlooks, caves, greenery, incredible views, vortexes and unbelievable 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.


P.S. Check out this stunning Sedona elopement inspiration (it even includes an airplane!).

A couple hugging and cuddling into one another at sunset and sharing an intimate moment during their Sedona elopement
Red Rock Crossing in Sedona
A couple cuddling on the wing of an airplane during their Sedona wedding

Lake Powell

Split between Utah and Arizona, Lake Powell is truly a sight to be seen. A stunning oasis in the desert, this would make an excellent choice for any elopement! You could go off-roading to an incredible overlook for sunrise or sunset, relax by the beach, go paddle boarding in the lake, rent a house boat, or even kayak to a hidden slot canyon!

A couple enjoying the view at sunrise during their Lake Powell elopement
A couple laughing and talking with one another during their Lake Powell elopement
A couple laughing and talking with one another during their Lake Powell elopement

Monument Valley

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!

Photo from Unsplash
Photo from Unsplash

Page

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. 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.


Pro-Tip: If you love Page, also consider the close-by Kanab in Utah!


Horseshoe Bend in Arizona
Slot Canyon in Arizona, Page
Slot Canyon- Buckskin Gulch in Utah

Northern Arizona

There are SO many not very well known, unique places in Northern Arizona. Be aware that many of these locations also require special, highly coveted permits or hiring a local guide to visit- so be sure to plan well in advance!

Photo from Unsplash
Photo from Pixabay
Photo from Unsplash
Photo from Unsplash

Logistics: Getting There, Places to Eat, Places to Stay & Things to Do

 

If you're flying into Arizona, 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 you can easily choose the cheapest dates to fly by looking at the monthly view. 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. When deciding on a location, know your comfort level with tricky roads and make decisions accordingly. Don't drive on any roads that you don't feel comfortable on and get yourself into any bad situations!


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:


Sedona

Quaint, Modern A-frame Cabin in the Woods

Creekside A-frame Cabin

Cozy Cabin Mountain Retreat

Luxury A-frame Cabin

Sedona's Open Heart Cabin-Great Views

Renew Cabin- the coolest tiny home I've ever seen


Grand Canyon/Northern Arizona

Nomad's Pad Grand Canyon: The Grand Nomad

Road Runner's Roost

A-frame Road Runner Ranch

A-frame Mountain View Cabin

Vermillion Cliffs House

Northern AZ Getaway


If you're looking to add in a little more adventure to your trip or actual elopement day, 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 & Backpacking- 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.


Paddleboard or Kayak at Lake Powell- Lake Powell would be an incredible place to go paddleboarding or kayaking! There's even a secret, hidden slot canyon that you can only access this way! Another fun option to see the lake would be to rent a house boat!


Arizona is the perfect destination for adventure weddings and elopements.

 

Want More Resources?

Learn How an Elopement Ceremony Works.


Unsure on what to wear during your adventure elopement? Check out my guide of all the Best Elopement Wedding Dresses!


Why do People Elope? Check out these 6 Reasons to Have an Elopement.


Check out this Sedona Elopement Inspiration!

 

Pin It For Future Planning!

How to elope in Arizona


Hire a Photographer for Your Arizona Elopement


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! You can also check out my Arizona Elopement Packages.


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.


Get in touch with me and let's start planning your dream adventure.


CONTACT ME HERE!

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