Why you Should Choose to Elope in Arizona

Arizona is a dreamy, adventure filled, elopement friendly state.  We have same day marriage licenses, easy access to locations & permits (mostly), a ton of awesome vendor options, and a seemingly never ending list of gorgeous backdrops to choose from! Thousands of couples choose AZ’s southwest lovers’ dream landscapes to say their wedding vows.

If you ever watched an old Western movie or cartoon depicting the southwest desert, odds are high you grew up dreaming about visiting Arizona landscapes.  The AZ desert has captivated imaginations for generations with it’s rock formations like Monument Valley and images of towering saguaro cacti.  

Did you know Arizona is also home to six separate biomes including mountainous terrain with evergreen pines, areas of lush green forests, snow capped mountain peaks, and summer wildflowers galore?  And what does all this have to do with planning a wedding?  It means that we have fantastic options all 12 months of the year for your dream elopement wedding!

Wedding couple sitting on a red rock looking at the views of Bell Rock during their Sedona elopement

Get expert help from a local Arizona Elopement photographer & planning consultant to help you scout locations and guide you through the planning process.

Let’s schedule a time to chat about your dream wedding day to find an Arizona elopement package that fits your needs!

Best Places to Elope in Arizona

Are you looking for the best place to elope in Arizona? With so many beautiful Arizona elopement locations to choose from, I created this list to help you decide where and what time of year to elope in Arizona. Even better news? This is only the tip of the iceberg! There are even more spectacular hidden gems!

Northern Arizona

Sedona

Sedona is one of the most popular places to elope in Arizona because of its jaw dropping red rock formations. It is also relative close proximity to Phoenix (1-2 hours) with 360 red rock views, reasonable access to vendors, a ton of breathtaking ceremony locations, plenty of lodging, and mild weather most of the year. All of this makes Sedona an easy choice for many eloping couples.  Popular ceremony locations include Cathedral Rock, Bell Rock, Merry Go Round and Red Rock Crossing. 

  • Permits: May be required depending on your chosen location and number of guests, but reaching the land managers is usually an easy process.
  • Mood: Mid-sized high desert arts and crafts town surrounded by red rock canyons and rock formations with a mix of cactus and juniper pines

Sedona is my elopement hub. I’ve put together this Step by Step Guide to Planning Your Elopement in Sedona to help couples with everything from finding the best location for your Sedona Elopement, things to do during your day, my favorite vendors, and so much more!.

For more information on Eloping in Sedona:

Bride and groom embrace on the ledge of Merry Go Round during their Sedona, Arizona elopement

Grand Canyon National Park

As one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, the Grand Canyon National Park is one of those places where words and pictures can never fully encompass the grandness, but we can sure try!  The feeling you get standing on the edge of one of the earth’s largest natural canyons has a strange sensation of making you feel both incredibly small and insignificant and simultaneously like a great adventurer who has discovered a land untouched by man.  It is a truly humbling experience, and a wonderful way to celebrate combining that with your launch into the next great adventure of your lives together!

  • Permits: The park limits ceremonies to specific locations and guest count, and permits are required.
  • Mood: Small remote historic village overlooking the Grand Canyon and Colorado River below
Couple dancing at the edge of the Grand Canyon during their elopement

Flagstaff

Flagstaff is a gorgeous mountain town just over two hours north of Phoenix. It is surrounded by evergreens , aspens and summer wildflowers, so you could be forgiven for forgetting you were in Arizona.  Just north of Flagstaff is Mt. Humphries, the tallest of the San Francisco peaks, and highest peak in Arizona (for all you fellow peak baggers out there!). Nearby Arizona Snowbowl has dense vegetation covering the forest floor, vast open fields with peaks in the background, and snow most of the winter. In the summer months it is the perfect place to beat the sizzling heat of the lower Arizona elevations.  In the winter it turns into  a snowy winter wonderland- there is even a ski slope up at Arizona Snowbowl!

  • Permits: May be required depending on your chosen location and number of guests, but reaching the land managers is usually an easy process.
  • Mood: Mid-sized mountain college town with ponderosa pine forests, aspen groves, and mountain views
Groom leading bride in the rain as they step on a log in the forest in Arizona

Page 

On the border of Arizona and Utah sits the small desert City of Page- home to multiple eye catching locations including Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and Lake Powell.  

The Glen Canyon/ Lake Powell area extends up into Utah and offers some of the most surreal, otherworldly, mind blowing elopement spots I’ve ever seen.  Want privacy?  If you are willing to spend a bit of time driving down a lesser traveled dirt road or navigating up the endless water channels by boat or kayak, there are numerous overlooks, slot canyons, and waterways for you to say “I Do!” with very little or no onlookers!  

  • Permits: Permit needs vary depending on land ownership and number of guest and can be somewhat confusing. Apply early.
  • Mood: Desert lake vacation town surrounded by canyon overlooks, slot canyons, multi colored rock formations, and wide open expansive landscapes

For more information on Eloping in Page:

Couple saying their vows at the edge of Horseshoe Bend during their Page, Arizona elopement

The Mogollon Rim

The Mogollon Rim, or Rim Country, is a geologic feature that separates northeastern Arizona from the low desert of southeastern Arizona.   It quickly takes you out of the desert and into a forested wonderland of deep cavernous cliff edges as high as 2,000 feet in some areas.  The Rim has epic overlooks, Ponderosa pine lined lakes, and is generally less trafficked than more popular locations like Sedona and Flagstaff.  It’s a great place to find a bit more seclusion with a mountain feel, while still staying within 2-3 hours of Phoenix.  Most people consider the easy to reach FR 300 just north of Payson as The Rim, but the Mogollon Rim region, extends diagonally across the state just north of Sedona, to Happy Jack, Strawberry, Pine, Young, and all the way westward into New Mexico.  Elopement location options can range from an easily accessed overlook off a forest road, to a backpacking trip into one of the remote canyons with lakes and streams.  

  • Permits: May be required depending on your chosen location and number of guests, but reaching the land managers is usually an easy process.
  • Mood: More rustic small mountain towns with forests, lakes, deep canyons, and expansive views of the desert below along the rim

For more information on Eloping on the Mogollon Rim:

Beautiful elopement couple embracing framed by pine trees in northern Arizona

Prescott

Prescott is surrounded by rolling grassy hills, and a much less travelled National forest, but my favorite views in the area are the nearby lakes- Watson Lake, Goldwater Lake, Willow Lake and Lynx Lake. Watson Lake (my personal fav), or the Granite Dells as locals call it, is a surrounded by giant granite boulders jutting from the waters edge and dispersed throughout like little islands.  The trail encircling the lake goes all the way around, so you can find private spots even when it is busy. I love this location for couples eloping with family- or even a great outdoor venue with rental options for large groups.

  • Permit: Permit and reservation fees are required depending on group size and use area through the City of Prescott.
  • Mood: Mid-sized historic town with rolling hills and several unique lakes with unique granite boulders 

Monument Valley

Monument Valley is located at the top northeast corner of the Arizona/ Utah border by the town of Kayenta.  Made famous by old westerns and movies like Forrest Gump, the unique land formations are synonymous with the Southwest. Monument Valley is out in the middle of the desert, so access to vendors and amenities are limited.

  • Permits: Permit and reservation fees are required process can be a bit more of a process to navigate because it is on Navajo Nation land. Visitors are also required to hire a tribal guide for many of the most iconic locations.
  • Mood: Remote tribal lands surrounded by iconic red desert formations and wide open skies

The White Mountains

The White Mountains of Eastern Arizona are what I would consider a bit of a local’s secret. If privacy in a surreal mountain setting is your priority, and you are willing to drive a few hours to get it, you are in luck! The White Mountains surrounding Show Low and Greer may be the perfect setting for your enchanted forest wedding.  Summertime will grace you with lush greens, babbling rivers, and colorful wildflowers. Fall boasts vibrant changes of the season, and the winter months bring snow covered pines and iced over lakes.  This remote wilderness is inhabited by wild animals ranging from birds and bunnies, to elk, deer, and black bear!  I have personally experienced visits from all of the above while visiting.

  • Permits: May be required depending on your chosen location and number of guests, but reaching the land managers is usually an easy process.
  • Mood: More rustic small mountain towns with ponderosa pine forests, rivers, lakes and rolling mountain views

Central Arizona- Phoenix Area

The Superstition Mountains

Probably the most underrated mountain range in all of Arizona, the Superstitions are one of my personal favorite locations with their edgy jagged peaks rising above the cactus lined desert floor.  Access is either by Lost Dutchman State Park or the Tonto National Forest.  They are mesmerizing any time of day, but they are especially magnificent at sunset when the light hits the face of the rocks and creates a vibrant reddish purple glow.  

  • Permits: May be required depending on your chosen location and number of guests, but reaching the land managers is usually an easy process.
  • Mood: Desert landscape, tall saguaros, jagged rock background with easy access to major city
Elopement couple watching the sunset as the Superstition Mountains glow behind them

Lake overlooks along the Salt River

As the Salt River winds down and to the west, there are several mid-sized reservoir lakes in a row- Roosevelt Lake, Apache Lake, Canyon Lake, and Saguaro Lake.  These desert lakes have various overlooks and picnic areas that can make a picture perfect backdrop for a desert elopement or micro wedding.  Love the water?  You could even get married out on the lake on a boat!

  • Permits: May be required depending on your chosen location and number of guests, but reaching the land managers is usually an easy process.
  • Mood: Desert cactus landscape with lake and mesquite trees close to major city

The Salt River

The lower Salt River is a well known summertime river rafting location, but is a beautiful and easily accessible backdrop year round for wedding portraits or as your elopement location.  You could even catch a glimpse of the wild Salt River horses if you time it right!  

  • Permits: May be required depending on your chosen location and number of guests, but reaching the land managers is usually an easy process.
  • Mood: Desert cactus landscape with a flowing river and mesquite trees close to major city
Bride at the Salt River in a black wedding dress

Boyce Thompson Arboretum

If you are choosing to elope with family, choosing an intimate venue like Boyce Thompson Arboretum allows you and your guests to enjoy stunning desert landscapes while having on site amenities and easy trail access for family and friends with physical limitations. 

  • Reservations: Ceremonies require a reservation and there are several garden areas to choose from based on the size of your group.
  • Mood: Lush desert landscape, with various cacti, gardens, and jagged rock background with easy access to major city

Southern Arizona

Saguaro National Park

Do you love these towering giants that have become synonymous with the desert?  Saguaro National Park has some of the most majestic saguaros anywhere in the world.  This enchanting desert location is what most people think of when they imagine the Southwest.

  • Permits: Ceremonies require a permit, but they are available for couples with little to no guests. They require a minimum of 4 weeks to process applications.
  • Mood: Desert landscape, tall saguaros, jagged rock background with easy access to major city
Couple saying their vows under towering saguaros during their Arizona elopement

The Santa Catalina Mountains

The Santa Catalina Mountains are home to Mt Lemmon, the highest peak in the Coronado National Forest.  Only an hour out of Tucson, the Mt. Lemmon Ski Valley is to southern Arizona what Snowbowl is to Flagstaff in Northern Arizona.  

  • Permits: May be required depending on your chosen location and number of guests, but reaching the land managers is usually an easy process.
  • Mood: Ponderosa pine forests, aspen groves, and mountain views near a major city

Tucson Botanical Gardens

The Tucson Botanical Gardens is a gorgeous desert oasis nestled in the middle of the city of Tucson.  The gardens offer a nature-inspired sanctuary, insulated from the hustle and bustle of the city, without compromising access to food, lodging, and airport options nearby.

  • Reservations: Ceremonies require a reservation and there are two garden areas to choose from based on the size of your group.
  • Mood: Lush desert landscape, with various cacti, gardens within a major city

For more information on Eloping at the Tucson Botanical Gardens:

Bride and groom walking through Tucson Botanical Gardens during their elopement

Yuma area- Sand Dunes

While technically not in Arizona anymore, Glamis Sand Dunes are located just outside Yuma, Arizona.  The Dunes are the barren sand landscapes similar to what we grew up seeing in movies like Aladdin and Star Wars.  Glamis resembles a stark unforgiving ocean of sand that gives a feeling like you two are the last humans in the world. They are one of my personal favorite places to visit and let the sand flow between my toes.

  • Permits: May be required depending on your chosen location and number of guests, but reaching the land managers is usually an easy process.
  • Mood: Desolate sand landscape, near a mid sized town

For more information on Eloping at the Glamis Sand Dunes:

Glamis elopement couple walking hand in hand at sunset

Choosing the Best time of year for your Arizona elopement

Arizona’s diverse landscapes, biomes, and elevations means there are drastic differences in temperature and weather depending on what part of the state you are visiting.

The table below is based on the average temperatures and precipitation according to ((insert credible source)) each of the four seasons so you can get a quick visual

Arizona color-coded location Weather key by season

Very Cold= Below 50 °F
Cold= Average highs between 51F-69 °F
Mild= Average highs between 70F-89 °F
Hot= Average highs between 90-99 °F
Extreme Heat= Average highs above 100 °F

LOCATIONSPRING(ish)
March – May
SUMMER(ish)
June – August
FALL(ish)
September – November
WINTER(ish)
December – February
SEDONAMostly mild with occasional rainHot with Summer monsoon StormsMostly mild with occasional rainCold with very slim chance of snow possible
FLAGSTAFFCold with snow common throughout April, then Mild in MayMild with Summer Monsoon StormsMild in September, turning to Cold in October and snow November onVery Cold with snow likely
PRESCOTTCold with chances of snow throughout April, then Mild in MayMild with Summer Monsoon StormsMild early with Cold and possible snow mid November onCold with possible snow
PAGE, GLEN CANYONCold with chances of snow throughout April, then mildHot with Summer monsoon StormsMostly mild with the possibility of Cold stormsCold to Very Cold with occasional snow
GRAND CANYONCold with chances of snow throughout April, then Mild in MayMild with Summer Monsoon StormsMild early with Cold and possible snow November onCold to Very Cold with extreme winds and possible snow
MONUMENT VALLEYCold with chances of snow throughout April, then Mild in MayMild with Summer Monsoon StormsMild early with Cold and possible snow November onCold to Very Cold with occasional snow
MOGOLLON RIM
(Happy Jack, AZ)
Cold with snow common throughout April, then Mild in MayMild with Summer Monsoon StormsMild early with Cold and snow likely November onCold with snow likely
WHITE MOUNTAINS
(Show Low, AZ)
Cold with snow common throughout April, then Mild in MayMild with Summer Monsoon StormsMild early with Cold and snow late October onCold to Very Cold with snow likely
SUPERSTITION MOUNTAINS
(Apache Junction, AZ)
Mostly mild through April, then Hot in MayExtreme heat with Summer monsoon StormsHot through September, then mostly mildMild with occasional cold snaps
SALT RIVER
(Roosevelt, AZ)
Mostly mild through April, then Hot in MayExtreme heat with Summer monsoon StormsHot through September, then mostly mildMild with occasional Cold snaps
BOYCE THOMPSON ARBORETUM
(Superior, AZ)
Mostly mild through April, then Hot in MayExtreme heat with Summer monsoon StormsHot through September, then mostly mildMild with occasional cold snaps
SAGUARO, CANYON, or APACHE LAKE
(Ft McDowell, AZ)
Mostly mild through April, then Hot in MayExtreme heat with Summer monsoon StormsHot through September, then mostly mildMild with occasional cold snaps
SANTA CATALINA MOUNTAINS
(Mt Lemmon)
Cold with snow common throughout April, then mild Mild with Summer Monsoon StormsMild early with Cold and possible snow November onCold to Very Cold with snow likely
SAGUARO NATIONAL PARKMostly mild through April, then Hot in MayExtreme heat with Summer monsoon StormsHot through September, then mostly mildMild with occasional cold snaps
TUCSON BOTANICAL GARDENSMostly mild through April, then Hot in MayExtreme heat with Summer monsoon StormsHot through September, then mostly mildMild with occasional cold snaps
YUMA
(Sand Dunes)
Mostly mild through April, then Hot in MayExtreme heat with Summer monsoon StormsExtreme Heat to Hot through September, then mostly mildMild with occasional cold snaps

Arizona’s Fifth Season- Monsoon Season

June 15- September 30

Yep- Arizona is so extra we have a 5th season to watch out for!  During the monsoon season we are hit with some pretty torrential rain and wind storms.  Ever heard of a haboob?  Let’s just say you don’t want to get caught out without shelter in one of these rolling walls of dust.  I have.  It’s not pretty.  I’m pretty sure I had sand in my hair, nose, ears, and teeth for a week.  

The monsoon rain storms are something to be seen.  Every year motorists and hikers get caught in precarious situations because they didn’t plan for the sudden flash floods that can come out of seemingly nowhere- even when there isn’t a cloud in the sky.  Watching the meteorological reports is especially important during monsoon season to be sure the location you choose isn’t going to put you in physical danger. Slot canyons, trails along a wash, or trekking into deep canyons are all a no go with rain in sight anywhere upstream.

Shadows of bride and groom dancing while their dog walks towards them from above during their elopement in Arizona

Elopement Packages Arizona

Four (4)+ hour to Multi-day Arizona Elopement Package Options Available

Bride and groom embrace during their Sedona offroad wedding

Every Arizona Elopement package includes:

  • Access to my jam packed Client Elopement Guide with over 100 pages of pro-tips, vendors, timeline examples, and more!
  • Location Scouting, Timeline creation, and help answering questions along the way!
  • Personalized Client Portal to keep everything organized and on track
  • Digital gallery to view, download and share high-resolution digital files with personal printing rights
  • Package upgrades to include Adventure Session (engagement/ day after hike/ etc.), second shooter, albums, wall art, and more!
  • Officiant Signature- I am able to be your signature if your ideal ceremony involves the two of you saying your vows to each other without a ceremony
  • No added travel fees- I’m Local!

Starting at $2400

Choosing your Arizona elopement photographer

If you haven’t already chosen your photographer and planning helper for your Arizona Elopement, I would love to be considered!

Hi! I’m Shannon Durazo

and I would love to be your Elopement Photographer!

The Grand Canyon State is where I have called home for the last 20 years, and I love sharing my love and knowledge for the desert with couples ready to explore the beauty of Arizona. The way your marriage begins matters. I would love to help you tell your story through a wonderful experience and epic photographs so you can relive the moments for years to come!

Shannon Durazo- Arizona Elopement Photographer

Planning your Travel

Airports

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is the largest major airport in Arizona, and is centrally located in downtown Phoenix. It is generally the airport used for any central or northern Arizona destination elopements, and may also be the most cost effective choice even for southern Arizona elopements.  All major airlines fly in and out of Sky Harbor. There are car rentals on site.

Tucson International Airport is smaller than Phoenix Sky Harbor, but worth checking out if you are planning to elope in and around Tucson, or in Southern Arizona.  There are car rentals on site.

Flagstaff Airport is a small regional airport with limited flights in and out each day about 45 minutes north of Sedona or 2 hours south of Page.  It is worth checking pricing if you are planning an elopement in northern Arizona at the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Page, Flagstaff itself, or Monument Valley.  There are limited car rentals on site.

Las Vegas Harry Reid International Airport may be the most economical option for international travelers coming to a northern Arizona location. Depending on your final destination, the drive time may be similar with the benefit of going out on the town in Las Vegas. There are car rentals on site.

Bride and groom laughing surrounded by etched red rock formation during their Arizona elopement

Transportation

Arizona is a very spread out state with limited public transit options. I highly suggest renting a vehicle when you visit to get to the places you you want to visit.

Lodging

Most of Arizona has a a large selection of hotels, resorts and vacation rental options.

Silhouettes of eloping couple dancing in the light of the sunset during their northern Arizona elopement

Getting legal- How to Elope in Arizona

How to Legally get married in Arizona

Arizona requires a MARRIAGE LICENSE, an OFFICIANT and TWO (2) WITNESSES to sign your marriage license. 

  • Both parties must be 18 or older.
  • You do NOT need to be an Arizona resident to apply for an Arizona marriage license.
  • Both parties must be present with valid ID to apply for your marriage license, which is $83.
  • There is NO waiting period and the marriage licenses are valid for 1 year after receiving it.
  • The time you have to turn back in after signing varies by county.

For a more detailed list of steps and links to where and how to get your marriage license, and how to file it, visit the link below.

Tips and Tricks from your Elopement Photographer to make your Arizona wedding unforgettable!

  • Plan for a weekday if having an elopement in the wilderness.  Elopements in nature are best when the least amount of tourists are around, meaning weekdays will be much less busy than weekends.  This helps with everything from parking, traffic, and privacy during your ceremony.
  • Choose a location based on what YOU love.  Unless part of what you two love to do together is to hike massive mountains, don’t feel pressured into a hike that would be strenuous on a normal- non wedding day.  Just because you CAN hike 6+ miles straight up, doesn’t mean you want to be sweaty and out of breath on your wedding day.  If you do- awesome!  I’ll huff and puff my way up to the peak with you!  Just kidding- kind of 😉 but just because you saw someone else hike a crazy mountain for their elopement does not mean that your 1 mile stroll to an epic overlook is any less perfect!  
  • Plan your day around the best lighting for the most important part, for most couples this is either their ceremony or couple’s portraits, then work forward (sunrise) or backwards (sunset) to build out your timeline..  Harsh midday sun is not a deal breaker, but it adds hurdles to getting those gorgeous golden hued images you see on Pinterest and Instagram.  Good news- this is part of the service I offer!
Couple kissing at the end of their Sedona, Arizona elopement at sunset
  • Don’t try to rush your day.  Eloping is about freedom.  Don’t add unneeded stress back in by trying to cram too much into an unrealistic timeline.  Leaving space to get from place to place and enjoy time with each other is an important part of your overall experience on your wedding day.
  • Pick a dress, shoes, hairstyle, florals and other wedding attire knowing that you will be out in the elements getting dirty, windblown, and climbing around.  Embracing nature on your elopement day will create a much more stress free atmosphere. Try not to worry too much about getting dirt on your dress or fly away hairs.
  • Pack your patience!  Life happens.  Flights get pushed, luggage gets lost, weather interferes, vendors make mistakes, traffic causes issues, kids get grumpy, etc…  Knowing that we will problem solve whatever comes up together will help your adventure stay positive. We will get those epic photos and you will have a great story to tell your friends and family!

Leave No Trace

What are LNT principles, and how do they affect my wedding? 

Leave No Trace (LNT) is a simple set of principles designed to help you leave public places as good as (or better!) than you found them.  This means following common sense principles like not popping confetti on the trail or leaving trash behind. Yes, this includes those that advertise themselves as biodegradable! And ones you may not think of, like not spreading non-native flower petals in an area or walking off trail on cryptobiotic crust.  Don’t worry- I’m not here to be a party pooper. I WILL help you find ways to have your perfect day while also helping ensure you can still come back and visit your wedding location 10 years from now!  

Not sure if an elopement or mid-larger wedding is right for you?

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Resources & inspiration for planning unforgettable Arizona elopement

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