If you're looking for an elopement destination with amazing sunsets, unique natural features, and amazing weather from November to March, you absolutely need to add Arizona to the top of your list! With so many diverse environments to choose from and exciting experiences to share together, you're sure to have the fun and memorable wedding day of your dreams! But where to start is certainly the big question on every couple's mind...
1. Choose Your Wedding Day or Timeframe
Before anything else, you need to think about when you want to elope because timing in Arizona is everything.
Summer - as you can expect, the summers in Arizona are (in my opinion) unbearably hot. Unless you're from that region and used to the dry heat, you're likely not going to enjoy your experience there to its full potential because of that. In addition, it's when most people choose to travel, making the parks and attractions crowded and giving you less of an opportunity for an intimate experience.
Fall - September provides lower hotel rates in Southern parts of Arizona, like Tucson because it's still fairly hot, but the crowds will die down more once the kids are back in school, so less crowds to battle with. Late fall can bring much better temperatures, and in places like Flagstaff and the Mogollon Rim you'll even catch some fall foliage!
Winter - My favorite trip to Arizona was in January after a big snow covered the West, and seeing white-capped mountains in Tucson and in Sedona was a beautiful experience! The temperatures are perfect that time of year, but that makes it a bit more popular with tourists. And while snow in the Southern part of the state is fairly rare, in Sedona, Flagstaff, and the Grand Canyon it can be quite common. So you'll need to be mindful of that and cooler temperatures when planning (but for me it would be an added bonus personally!)
Spring - How does getting married with cactus flowers blooming in the backdrop sound? The flowering season in Southern Arizona can start as early as February and last through May, but March and April are the best months in the year to catch the wildflower bloom. Temperatures are rising the closer you get to summer, but May is another time of year when accommodation rates are low, so a small added benefit!
2. Find the right person to help you plan the perfect day!
Planning a wedding from afar can be difficult, especially when you're planning an adventure wedding that's way out of the spectrum of what "normal" wedding consists of. That's why you have to find a trusted professional who specializes in adventure elopements and had experience working in different environments, climates, and scenarios. That way they can be prepared for anything that comes their way, and they can offer advice that relates to your circumstances.
When couples choose to work with me, they're not getting a photographer who just wants to travel. They're getting both a photographer and an elopement guide with years of experience helping couples curate their wedding experience from miles & miles away. Someone who will scour resources to find the exact perfect spot and trail for their dream wedding day. Someone who will help couples navigate the process wherever they need help, whether it's finding local vendors, the right permits and licensing, putting together a timeline, or just offering advice on how best to prepare for the environment you're traveling to. And someone who will be there on the day of the wedding to ensure that your experience is the exciting, low-stress day that you deserve. Beyond amazing photos to remember the day - that's what sets Wild North Weddings from the average wedding photography experience!
And for couples looking to take a step back from planning and let a professional guide them the whole way through, hiring a full-service elopement planner will allow you to relax and enjoy the ride! Our collab with Wynn Events not only provides guidance with the adventure, but will also help to find unique accommodations for your stay, restaurant, venue, or catering research and booking for you and your guests to celebrate after the adventure, setup and teardown of decor and rentals, and so much more. They'll elevate your wedding experience and ensure a smooth planning experience from beginning to end.
3. Choose the right location for your dream wedding!
Let's talk about the most important decision in this whole process - where the heck are you getting married?? There are SO many things to consider when you're searching for the right location, like...
What type of scenery speaks to you?
How far do you want to travel from an airport and what airports can you fly into?
How far do you want to hike?
How busy is this place and how much privacy will you have during your ceremony?
Does this area have the right accommodations and restaurants or caterers for your celebration?
If you have guests, how far can they walk/hike and do they have mobility issues?
All of these things factor into how successful the day is, and a lot of research goes into that process!
But let's skip to the good part... location ideas!
These are general ideas and the exact place you'll get married will require a lot more research, but here are some of my favorite locations for elopements in Arizona!
A great location for a winter or spring elopement if you love giant saguaro cacti and mountains! This will also be a great spot to see the cactus flowers bloom, and their Mexican food scene is top-notch! Plus it's a great spot to park your Airstream or pitch a tent for a romantic night under the stars.
The Mogollon Rim
This region of AZ is perfect if you love the mountain aesthetic, camping and fishing! In the fall you'll have colorful leaves and while there may be snow in the winter, it's a great alternative to places like Colorado and Montanna where roads can be impassable that time of year.
Well known for its unique red rock formations, Sedona is a huge tourist destination for travelers! The town has cute little shops, great dining, and really cool resorts and vacation rentals to choose from. Plus there's nowhere on earth with hiking views like it! Unfortunately, it's also incredibly busy year-round, so you may find yourself competing with other wedding couples for scenery and are not likely to have privacy for your ceremony unless you book an actual venue. Parking is a huge issue as well, so be prepared to take a shuttle, rideshare, or wait a while for a spot to open. But if you don't mind dealing with these battles, then the views are certainly worth the sacrifice! And if you have the right person helping you plan, then they'll help you find the right trails to avoid those scenarios.
Just North of Sedona is the historical town of Flagstaff with its Ponderosa pines, aspen forests, and mountain views. I love that it's close enough to Sedona that you can experience both the red rock formations and the beautiful mountain peaks together in one trip. This is a great destination for summer because though it's still a bit hot, it's at a much higher elevation than the southern part of the state so it's not as overwhelming. But of course, fall and spring would bring the best weather for you and your guests.
At the very top of the state near the town of Page, you'll find Lake Powell which is shared with Utah. It's an incredible feature because not only can you do fun activities, like swimming, boating, or kayaking, but you can also explore the slot canyons together! A wedding on a houseboat on Lake Powell would be an incredibly unique experience for you and your guests, and the photos to go along with your journey would be amazing! If you plan around water activities, late summer would be the perfect time to be there. But it does get very hot, so if you're looking for more bearable temps, consider June or September for your elopement.
Choose the right vendor team
Your vendor team will be key to planning the experience that you want! With elopements, you can take the budget you'd spend on a big wedding and put it towards an amazing experience for the two of you! Plus any guests you may bring with you as well. Spend the extra money to have a beautiful picnic set up for you in the middle of the desert, or to take you and your guests out for an off-road Jeep adventure!
Elopement Planner or Day-of-Coordinator
I love working with elopement planners and DOCs because they help ensure my couple can actually have the low-stress experience they dream of. And choosing someone who specializes in elopements is important because you want someone who understands the nature of why you're eloping, that things need to be flexible, that's used to working in natural environments, and that's knowledgable in helping couples plan from afar. Plus they can share travel tips and trips! If you're planning a simple day for just the two of you, and you're just heading to a restaurant after the day's adventure, maybe a planner isn't something that you'd need. But if you have family coming into town, if you want a picnic setup for the two of you out in the woods, if you want decor and chairs for your guests to watch your ceremony, if you want a private chef to come to the vacation rental and cook dinner for you - these are all scenarios where a wedding planner will help make the day SO so much less stressful for you. They're the person running around picking up your cake and accepting rental deliveries. They're the person making your vision come to life. They will literally save the day, save you from stress, and save you from tears when anything goes wrong. Don't put these things on yourself or your family on your wedding day. Let a planner or DOC do it! Wynn Events is my favorite elopement planner to work with because not only is she great at connecting with couples and staying communicative with them, but she's on top of wedding and travel trends and helping couples think creatively to include their personalities into their wedding!
Our job on your wedding day is to document the experience. I want my couples to truly have their best day ever - not feel like they're going through an 8-hour photo shoot. In 20+ years, you want to look back at your wedding photos and remember how happy & in love you were, and what an exciting day it was! You also want someone experienced in documenting adventure weddings and who will be prepared for any scenario that comes your way that day. Additionally, this person will be with you all day so you have to like their personality or they can kill the whole vibe!
Editing style is an important factor when choosing as well! You want someone whose editing style can complement the environment that you're getting married in. Editing images with red rocks can be challenging and not everyone's style suits those colors. The color green can also vary by photographer, so pay attention to that aspect of their work. You may also notice that some photographers edit moody, warm, or with pastel colors, so you'll want to choose someone whose style speaks to you. I love color and I want my couples to remember the natural environment they saw in person, so I edit my images with a "true-to-life" mindset.
You want to hire someone who has a unique, creative vision and also an incredible knowledge of working with the right flowers for your environment. It's easy for flowers to die out in the dry heat, and you have to be mindful of what's in season as well as what plants can be harmful to certain environments. I love working with Wild Botanical - based in the Southwest - because Marah has all of those qualities! Her designs are forward-thinking, have beautiful textures, and she can create designs that both complement the environment and add the right pop of vibrance.
When hiring an officiant, you have to keep in mind the environment where you'll be getting married. Be sure to choose someone who is willing to hike as far as you are! Some officiants are new to the concept of adventure weddings, so you want to keep them well-informed of your vision.
Hair & Makeup Artists
Choosing someone who regularly works in Arizona will be important because they'll be able to set you up for success in the battle against the elements! They're knowledgeable about what your hair and skin will need to fight the dry heat and wind. I've also worked with hair & makeup artists that will travel around with you on the day of your elopement to ensure that your hair & makeup stay touched up!
If having video documentation of your big day is something that's important to you, then it's definitely worth the investment! But be sure to choose someone who's adventurous and has the same mindset as your photographer, otherwise, they'll knock off each other's groove. For me, I shoot weddings candidly and try to spark real moments for my couples. But when a videographer comes in who's inexperienced or works in a more cinematic way, then we're battling each other and you may feel like you're on a movie production set rather than your wedding day. Additionally - videographers who specialize in elopements will travel light and are fast-moving on their feet, whereas others can carry a ton of equipment that slows the day down.
No matter what kind of day you plan, there's one thing that will be true, and that's that you gotta eat! Your dining experience is totally up to you, and it's one place you can definitely choose to splurge or save. But just know that you have many options! You can choose a private chef to come to your vacation rental and cook for the two of you or for your group. If you do have a large group, you can book a small venue or a private room at a restaurant. Or you can simply make reservations for the two of you/order takeout and eat by the campfire! My favorite idea though - You can have a charcuterie or lunch picnic set up for you in the wild!
Depending on the day you plan, finding a reliable rental company can be incredibly important! They can help elevate your experience and make the day feel very special. For your ceremony, they'll bring seating for your guests and structures for your "altar". They can provide you with tables, plate ware, utensils and candles that fit the aesthetic you dream of. They often have lounge seating, pillows, rugs, and even charcuterie boards for your evening picnic in the wild! But be sure that you have someone to pick these items up or that the company will deliver to the location you're getting married. You'll need to make sure there's a space for things to be dropped off and set up that won't harm the environment and the delicate plants that grow there. And be sure to get permission from the parks or venue where you'll be setting up. This is another place where an elopement planner would be helpful!
Other Fun Adventures
Typically you don't think about doing "fun stuff" on your wedding day, but this is what sets an adventure wedding apart from a normal wedding! Plan an off-road Jeep excursion for you and your guests, and ask if you can get married out there! I talked about a wedding on Lake Powell - find a company to rent boats or kayaks from, or to captain the boat for you! Want to go rock climbing? You definitely can, and do it in a white dress! Some couples choose to do helicopter tours or hot air balloon rides too. There's no limit to the adventures you can share that day, but be sure that when you're talking to these companies, you tell them the nature of your day. They might have more suggestions or tips to share with you to make it even better!
Make it legal!
Alright - how do you actually get married in Arizona though? The great thing about getting your marriage license in Arizona is that there's no waiting period from when you pick up your marriage license and when you have your ceremony. Your officiant should be able to guide you through this process, or if you're one of my couples I can help as well!
First - find which courthouse you'll apply for your marriage license at, and if needed, make an appointment. You can apply at any courthouse in the state and still get married anywhere within AZ. You'll need to apply in person and you will both need to be there. You'll need also need a government-issued ID (driver's license, passport, etc.) and the cost for a marriage license may vary by county, but in Maricopa and Yavapai counties it's $83 paid by cash, money order, or card. You must get married within 12 months after you apply for the marriage license.
After the wedding ceremony, you'll either send in the marriage license signed by your officiant, or the officiant will do it for you.
Alternatively - you can always make things legal in your home state and have your elopement day be about love, romance, fun, and excitement! But you'll need to remember that your legal anniversary will be different than your celebrated anniversary.
Another legal aspect... Permits!
You always want to make sure that you have approval from the owner of the land that you're getting married on at least 30 days before your wedding day. Whether it's a national park, state park, national forest, or BLM (bureau of land management) owned, you'll need to speak with the local parks office and find out what paperwork and fees are required. You'll likely need to give them a rundown of the plans as well so they understand the scale of the event. And you'll need to assure them that you'll follow Leave No Trace principles most importantly!
Doing all of this might sound overwhelming, but you're not alone in this!
The best thing you can do right now is to start the conversation! Talk about what you and your partner/fiancé want your wedding day to look like, or reach out to an elopement pro (like me!) to discuss all of the exciting possibilities and what might work best with your wedding vision.
Visit wildnorthweddings.com for all-inclusive photo, planning, and officiating packages anywhere in Arizona, anywhere in the U.S., and anywhere in the world! Ask about our partnership with Wild Botanical and their Southwest elopement package add-on as well!
Hey there! I'm Carly D'Angelo-Hall - a photographer specializing in documenting weddings and elopements across the U.S. If you love the idea of a wedding with adventure, excitement, and a little romance sprinkled in, let's talk about how I can help you create and capture the wedding day of your dreams! Visit wildnorthweddings.com to view all-inclusive wedding day and adventure session photography packages, and fill out the contact form to get connected!
Wedding and Elopement Photographer documenting weddings in Arizona,
including Tuscon, Saguaro National Park, Phoenix, Lake Powell, Sedona, Flagstaff, and more!