Death Valley National Park Elopement + Wedding Guide
On the east side of California, bordering Nevada, you’ll find a stunning desert valley – with layers of colorful rocks, dramatic rocky ridges, salt flats, and a truly unique landscape! If you’re looking for a wedding experience that’s carefree, fun, and truly unlike any other, a Death Valley elopement might be just the thing. To help you plan, this guide has everything you need to know to tie the knot at Death Valley National Park!
What you’ll find in this Death Valley Elopement Guide:
- Why you should elope in Death Valley
- The Best Places to Elope in Death Valley
- Best Time to Elope in Death Valley
- The Legal Stuff: Permits, Officiants, and Marriage Licenses
- What to Do
- Where to Stay
- Example Timelines
- Alternatives to Death Valley
- The Cost of Eloping in Death Valley
- Death Valley Elopement Packages – Are you ready to elope Wild & Free?
Why You Should Elope in Death Valley
Before we start planning your elopement in Death Valley National Park, you’ll need to decide if this is the right spot for you! Here are just a few reasons why we love Death Valley.
The Night Sky
Death Valley is incredibly remote – it’s far from city lights and light pollution, which means it’s an incredible place to see the sky! As if the views weren’t jaw dropping enough during the day, if you stick around after the sun sets, you’ll get some amazing views of the night sky. What better way to end your elopement day than under the stars?
Of course, the best reason to elope in Death Valley is the scenery! The unique landscape is truly one of a kind, and makes for a really incredible backdrop. The national park is made up of sand dunes, colorful layers of rocks, salt flats, canyons and even meadows of desert wildflowers!
For a lot of couples, eloping in Southern California has the added bonus of giving them a break from cold weather in other parts of the world! We’ll talk about the best time to elope in Death Valley National Park later in this guide, but throughout the year, the weather is much warmer and sunnier than the rest of the northern hemisphere.
The Best Places to Elope in Death Valley National Park
This is the most exciting part – choosing the best spot to say your vows! Here are a few of the best places to elope in Death Valley National Park!
Zabriskie Point is known as one of the most amazing views in the park! It’s an incredible place to watch the sunrise or sunset, as the yellow and brown striped hills seem to glow in the light. Beyond the layers of rock that make up the hills, you can see the salt flats, with snow capped mountain peaks towering above!
If you’re inviting guests to your elopement, Breakfast Canyon is the only spot in Death Valley National Park that accommodates bigger ceremonies! Breakfast Canyon has the advantage of being gated off, so it’s a private area of the park – which means you’ll have it completely to yourself for your elopement. The vast salt flats bordered by mountains make a beautiful place to say your vows!
This is one of those places you have to see to believe! The hills are bright pink, purple, and blue – a result of metals oxidizing in the soil to create this watercolor-esque landscape. You can take Artist’s drive, a scenic road through the park, and hop out at this must-see spot to say your vows!
Secret Wild & Free Spots
Death Valley National Park is vast and remote, which means there are tons of lesser known spots that are tucked away, making the perfect place to say your vows in complete solitude! Part of our job as elopement photographers is to make sure every couple finds a spot that’s perfect for them – so while these popular spots are awesome, we’ve got some secret ones that offer more privacy.
We’ll give you a personalized list of recommendations for your elopement location, so that you can find that place that just feels right! Get in touch to learn more about our Death Valley elopement locations.
The Best Time for a Death Valley Elopement
Death Valley National Park has it’s ominous name because in the summer, it’s one of the hottest places on earth! The intense heat means you’ll need to plan ahead for your elopement date, so let’s talk about what you can expect throughout the year, and the best time to elope in Death Valley.
Winter in Death Valley
Death Valley stays pretty warm in the winter, with daytime averages in the 60s and even 70s. Mornings and evenings are significantly colder, so you’ll definitely need to be prepared for nights in the desert! This is the “rainy season,” but the national park averages less than an inch of rain each month in the winter – when it does rian, it’s usually a shower that passes quickly.
Snow is very rare in Death Valley, but not unheard of, so you could get lucky with a dusting of snow in the desert!
Spring in Death Valley
Spring is one of the best times for a Death Valley elopement – because of the stunning wildflowers that cover the desert! The blooms begin in mid-February, and usually last through June or even July, peaking in March and April.
Temperatures start rising in the spring, and by May it can get into the hundreds – so definitely be prepared to beat the heat with plenty of water and snacks, and plan your ceremony for sunrise or sunset, when it’s cooler.
This is also the busiest time in Death Valley, but we’ll give you some tips to avoid the crowds!
Summer in Death Valley
For most couples, summer isn’t going to be a good time to elope in Death Valley. It’s one of the hottest places on earth this time of year, with temperatures frequently reaching above 110 degrees! One perk of this is that there’s barely anyone around, but these high temperatures can be dangerous.
Fall in Death Valley
Along with spring, fall is one of the busiest times at Death Valley National Park. The temperatures get much more mild, so it’s a better time to elope! It’s not quite as busy as winter, but starting in October, the crowds come back to the national park.
Elope on a weekday!
No matter what season you choose for your Death Valley elopement, planning your ceremony for a weekday will help you avoid crowds! Weekends are always busier, so by getting married while people are at work or school, you’ll have an easier time finding some privacy.
The Legal Stuff – Getting Legally Married in Death Valley
To get legally married in Death Valley, and to make sure your ceremony in the park is allowed, there’s a little bit of paperwork to do!
Death Valley National Park Wedding Permits
For self uniting, zero guest elopements, you do not need a permit to have your wedding in Death Valley. Get in touch with us to hear more about this!
If you have guests joining you on your day, you’ll need a permit to have your ceremony in the park. A Death Valley wedding permit (also called a special use permit), costs $300, and you can find the application here.
Processing a permit application takes 30 – 60 days, so be sure to apply early! You can send in an application up to a year in advance of your ceremony date, so we recommend doing this as soon as possible to ensure you don’t have to stress about getting it in time.
Death Valley Marriage License
To get legally married, you need a marriage license, no matter where you elope! This needs to be obtained in the state where you’re getting married, so for Death Valley National Park, this means California. If you live here, you can find a county clerk’s office close to home to get your marriage license, but if you’re traveling, the office closest to Death Valley is in Inyo County.
You can print out the application and fill it out ahead of time, but you’ll need to go to the county clerk’s office in person to sign it and get your marriage license. You’ll need your photo IDs and $52 – the Inyo County office only accepts cash, check, or money order.
For more info on California marriage licenses, check out this guide.
Death Valley Elopement Officiant
An officiant is required to sign the marriage license to legally marry you, and you have a few options for this. You can hire a professional, but we are actually ordained and can sign for you!
Consider a self-uniting ceremony.
We know how important privacy and freedom are for elopements, so we’re ordained and can sign your marriage license to legally marry you. This way, you can have a self-uniting ceremony instead, exchanging vows on your own without worrying about hiring a stranger to officiate. You can learn more about self-uniting ceremonies here.
What to Do When You Elope in Death Valley
Death Valley is full of amazing adventures – and when you plan your elopement day, think about what would make this day truly unforgettable! It can be something you love doing, or a new activity you want to try, but the important thing is that your elopement is about the experience.
Take a Hike
Hiking in Death Valley is a great way to explore! Because of the desert landscape, there are plenty of flat trails that aren’t too difficult, but if you do want more of a challenge, you can climb some of the hills and sand dunes along the more strenuous trails. Be prepared with more water than you think you need – it gets hot!
Death Valley National Park has miles of roads that will take you to the most remote spots! You can rent a 4×4 and explore on your own, or take a tour and go off-roading.
See the Wildlife
If you’re interested in wildlife, Death Valley National Park is a fun place to see some unique species! These critters, big and small, survive in the dry heat, and you can see everything from big horned sheep to reptiles and tortoises.
Death Valley Elopement Inspiration
For inspiration for your own Death Valley elopement, check out this Pinterest board! You can find ideas and pin from there, or follow along for more elopement resources and planning tips.
Where to Stay in Death Valley
When you elope in Death Valley National Park, you’ll need a place to stay! Here are a few of the best places to stay nearby, or in the park.
A Lodge or Resort
If you want to stay in the park, there are several options for lodges and resorts!
The Oasis at Death Valley has two locations – a historic inn that’s upscale and luxurious, and a ranch that’s made for adventurers!
The Panamint Springs Resort has private cabins, a bigger cottage, and plenty of rooms in the lodge.
Camping in Death Valley
Unlike most national parks, you can actually camp in the backcountry at Death Valley! There are some established campgrounds where you can stay, but for a more private experience, you can find a spot far from everyone else! For backcountry camping, you need to be at least a mile away from any paved road, but within 50 feet of a dirt road.
Airbnb is always a good place to look when you need somewhere to stay! Right outside of Death Valley National Park, you can find cabins and homes to rent for your elopement.
Sample Death Valley Elopement Timelines
Part of our job is to create a timeline for your day – this is totally customized to the two of you, your elopement, and what you want to do! To get you inspired, here are some sample Death Valley elopement timelines.
Breakfast Canyon Elopement With Family
9:00 Breakfast & coffee at Airbnb
11:00 Hair and makeup begins
1:00 Put on ceremony attire
1:30 First look outside Airbnb
2:30 Drive to Breakfast Canyon
3:30 Picnic lunch
5:30 Photos with family
6:30 Family goes back to Airbnb, couple takes photos
7:00 Drive to Zabriskie Point for sunset photos
8:30 Back to Airbnb for dinner and toasts
“Just Us” Camping Elopement
Day before: drive Airstream to camp spot
10:00 Coffee and breakfast
12:00 Hair and makeup begins
2:00 Put on ceremony attire
2:30 First look & couples photos
3:30 Drive along Artist’s drive, photos along the way
5:00 Arrive at Artist’s Palette, snack break
6:00 Couple’s photos at sunset
7:30 Drive back to campsite
8:30 Dinner and s’mores over campfire
Chat up an expert
When it comes to getting married outside, especially with an open desert landscape like Death Valley, lighting is so important! Harsh sun is terrible for photos (and you don’t want to be squinting during the ceremony), so when we make your timeline, we’ll make sure that everything is planned around the light.
Alternatives to a Death Valley Elopement
If you love the desert but aren’t sure if Death Valley is right for you, here are some alternative elopement locations that offer a similar experience!
Joshua Tree National Park is a little south of Death Valley, offering a unique desert landscape. The boulder piles, rock formations, and bristled Joshua Trees make for a gorgeous, boho backdrop.
Alabama Hills is in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and the climate is much less harsh than Death Valley! With desert views and mountains in the backdrop, this spot is perfect for an elopement.
Valley of Fire State Park
Located in the desert of Nevada, Valley of Fire State Park is smaller and less popular than Death Valley. But the views are just as beautiful, with red rock formations and gorgeous colors!
The Cost of Eloping in Death Valley
Your elopement budget should be spent on the things that are important to you! When you elope instead of throwing a big party, you have so much flexibility to prioritize the things that matter – whether that means flights, a spa day, a private chef, or a custom dress.
Here are a few things that might be in your Death Valley elopement budget.
- Travel – Do you need flights or transportation?
- Accommodations – You’ll need somewhere to come back to after your adventure so whether it’s a campground, trendy Airbnb, or an upscale resort, find something that fits your vibe!
- Meals – Don’t forget about food! You can pack a picnic, stop at a local eatery, or even hire a private chef.
- Marriage License – Fees vary by county, but average around $90 across the state.
- Wedding Permit – If you need a permit, depending on the park and area will average between $200-600.
- Wedding Attire – Dresses, suits, or whatever you’ll be wearing when you tie the knot!
- Hair and Makeup – You can totally do your own, but hiring a professional is so worth it and helps ensure things stay put throughout your adventure – this usually ranges from $300 to $1000.
- Florals – Add a bouquet, flower crown, boutonniere, or floral decorations to your day! A professional florist ranges from $300 to $1500.
- Photographer – Relive your memories over and over by investing in a photographer you love! Elopement photographer packages average from $3000 – $12,000
You’ll never regret investing in good photos
Photography is a pretty large chunk of the elopement budget, but we can guarantee it’s worth it! When you look back at your photos, you’ll feel all those incredible feelings all over again, with memories of the best day of your life flooding back.
But a good elopement photographer isn’t just about taking photos – they’ll also be your guides in planning the whole day!
Death Valley Elopement Packages – Ready to Elope Wild & Free?
Every couple deserves an elopement day that’s absolutely everything they dreamed of – a day that’s stress-free, fun, and full of laughter and love. We’ll be there to hype you up as you make the brave decision to elope, we’ll be there to give you personalized location recommendations and ideas for things to do, and we’ll be there adventuring with you on the big day!
Death Valley Elopement Packages Include:
- Photography coverage
- Options from 6 hours to 2-days of photography coverage with Joni, who has over 13 years of experience
- Photographer’s travel covered to your destination
- A fun photo experience where you’ll feel comfortable in front of the camera in no time and have all of your special moments captured
- Location Lookbooks to show you ceremony and portrait spots for the dreamiest photos
- Creative timeline design to make everything flow perfectly on your day
- Exclusive planning tools to help you design the best day
- Our helpful magazine + a self-paced planning checklist to guide you through designing your elopement from start to finish
- Questionnaires for us to get to know you and your unique vision
- Vendor Lookbooks to build your dream team
- Alternative reception ideas for those looking to celebrate out-of-the-box
- Sustainability and Leave No Trace education for a wedding day you can feel good about
- Officiant signature for self-uniting ceremonies
- Amazing photos + free downloads
- 3-5 sneak peek images within one week of your day so you can share your gorgeous portraits with friends and family right away
- Your full story in hundreds of edited digital images delivered within two months to relive the entire adventure over and over again
- Your own personal gallery to share your images with family and friends
- Free high-resolution digital downloads for everyone (no paying per photo or per download!)
- Printing rights to all photos
- Access to professional quality prints, wall art, magazines, and albums conveniently available for purchase a la carte right inside your gallery
Elopement packages start at $5600
Ready to elope Wild & Free? Contact us, and let’s start planning your wild, one-of-a-kind elopement day!