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Utah is one of the most popular destinations for an adventurous elopement in the United States. Over the last few years especially, the state has seen a rise in visitors, and elopements here are gorgeous!
If you’ve never been to Utah before or are looking to make the most of your elopement experience, this guide is for you! The why, when, where, how, and what of planning your Utah elopement experience is here for you to help guide your plans and create a smooth experience. Let’s get started!
Why Have an Elopement in Utah?
A better question might be, “why not have an elopement in Utah?!”
Utah has some of the most incredible scenery and landscapes that I’ve ever visited, and in the US, this state is unmatched. There are FIVE national parks in Utah, as well as 43 state parks and recreation areas, and other land managed by the BLM.
The weather in Utah is beautiful year-round (even though it does get cold), so planning an elopement here is a great choice.
When to Have an Elopement in Utah
Winter and summer are on opposite sides of the harsh weather spectrum in Utah. Summertime can see temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and winter can drop to the negatives depending on where you are. While it isn’t impossible to plan an elopement during these months, spring and fall are going to be the most comfortable for weather.
Utah doesn’t see a lot of precipitation on average, so the spring is a safe bet for getting a dry day with mild temperatures. In the fall, Utah explodes into a ton of beautiful colors! The fall foliage gives lots of vibrant reds and yellows. Fall is an especially beautiful season to visit Utah for your elopement.
To get the best of the season you want, here’s some general rules of thumb:
- In the winter, head south, to a place like Moab. Winter will be milder here.
- For a summer elopement, head north, where the heat will be less extreme
- For the best fall colors, Antelope Island State Park or Zion National Park have incredible views (there are lots of others, too)
- In the spring, you can pretty much go anywhere!!
Aside from the weather, taking the tourist season into account is important, too. Because the summers are so hot and the winters so cold, spring and fall are recommended to everyone as the best times to visit Utah. Because of this, and because there are five big national parks here, these seasons may be busier.
However, the state has so much to explore and is so expansive that it won’t be hard to find a little privacy during your Utah elopement!
How to Have an Elopement in Utah (Legally)
Marriage Licenses in Utah
In Utah, you’ll be able to apply for a marriage license at any county clerk’s office. There’s no waiting period once you have your license, and you have 32 days from the time you obtain the license to get your marriage solemnized.
If you decide to get your marriage license in Utah, you will have to apply in person at the clerk’s office, so that will have to be factored into any travel plans. Requirements for the info you’ll need to have with you at the time of applying can be found here.
To have your marriage solemnized, a variety of people can fill that role. A minister, priest, rabbi, county clerk, spiritual advisor, mayor, governor, certain judges and commissioners, and other legislative members are authorized to preside over your ceremony. You’ll also need 2 witnesses over the age of 18 to sign your license.
Permits for Elopement Locations
All national parks in the US require a special use permit to hold a marriage ceremony there. Usually, there is also an application fee, and specific, varied timelines for when you should turn in your application and how long it might take for approval.
National and state parks usually also have a list of restrictions, rules, and requirements for what you can and cannot have at your elopement or wedding. These are designed to protect the park and its wildlife, not to dampen your fun! Since there are 43 state parks in Utah, I won’t be able to hit all the requirements for every possible location. But here’s what you can expect from each of the 5 national parks:
- Bryce Canyon National Park: obtain your permit and pay the $100 fee here. Park entrance fees are waived for the couple and officiant, but any guests attending still must pay.
- Arches National Park: obtain your permit and pay the $385 fee here. Entrance fees still apply for everyone at Arches, so carpooling is recommended!
- Zion National Park: obtain your permit and pay the $100 fee here. Additional fees might apply depending on the size of your group attending.
- Capitol Reef National Park: obtain your permit and pay the $100 fee here. Normal park entrance fees will also apply for everyone.
- Canyonlands National Park: obtain your permit and pay the $385 fee here. Normal park entrance fees apply, and additional monitoring fees may be added depending on group size and elopement location.
All these national parks have recommended timelines and processing times for applications, so be sure to read through these pages carefully if you want to have your elopement at any of these parks!
Where to Have an Elopement in Utah
There are so many amazing locations for an elopement in Utah that it would be impossible to detail all of them! In this guide, we’ll go over some of the most iconic, grouped by general region! Don’t hesitate to ask me in the planning stages of your elopement for more ideas — I’m so excited to help you cater your experience specifically to your ideal day!
The Moab Area
To reach elopement locations in the Moab area of Utah, you can fly directly into the Moab airport. However, this does tend to be more expensive for flights, so I also recommend flying into Salt Lake City and renting a car. It’s just under a four hour drive from SLC to Moab.
There are 5 elopement locations in the Moab area that I especially love:
- Arches National Park: the most famous in the Moab region. There are more than 2,000 sandstone arches to explore here. There are hikes here for any level of adventure, from a few hundred feet to over 7 miles. Good for a relaxed or adventurous elopement!
- Canyonlands National Park: rivers divide this park into its 4 regions — Island in the Sky, The Needles, The Maze, and the rivers themselves. Island in the Sky is most accessible, while The Needles and The Maze will require more backcountry experience.
- Dead Horse Point State Park: lots of canyons and woodlands to visit here! Your experience can be wild or laid back and low effort.
- Monument Valley: a red-sand desert with big sandstone buttes. You can get pretty much anywhere via the 17-mile Valley Drive road, making this an easy-to-access, low-effort location!
- Manti-La Sal National Forest: This forest is absolutely huge! There are three regions: The Manti Division, the La Sal Division at Moab, and the La Sal Division at Monticello. This is a true escape from modern life in the wilderness, and it’s oh so beautiful.
The St. George Area
For all Utah elopement locations in the St. George area, I recommend flying into Las Vegas, and renting a car to make the drive. It’s about a 2 hour drive, and there are also bus routes that will take you from Vegas to St. George!
Here’s my recommendations for location in the area:
- Zion National Park: Zion is a great place to get married because of its unique geology! The park offers a variety of stunning locations for outdoor ceremonies, including red rock cliffs, waterfalls, and lush green valleys. Its diverse landscapes and rich history make it a one-of-a-kind setting for a wedding ceremony.
- Snow Canyon State Park: stunning red rock cliffs, sand dunes, and varied landscapes. This is a peaceful and serene setting; combined with its natural beauty, it’s a perfect place for couples to exchange vows in a more intimate and memorable ceremony.
- Coral Pink Sand Dunes: this area (you guessed it) is known for its coral-colored sand dunes surrounded by dramatic red rock cliffs. A less-visited spot than a national park, this is going to be best for a more private ceremony. Since it’s a desert, be prepared for extreme weather conditions!
- Bryce Canyon National Park: perfect for a hiking-intensive elopement! Hikes vary in difficulty so you can find one to suit any level. The colorful rock formations (called hoodoos) make for one of the most unique elopement backdrops in Utah. Since it’s higher elevation, the temperature in the summer is more mild, too.
The Salt Lake City Area
For all Utah elopement locations in the Salt Lake City area, the SLC Airport will be your best friend!
For a Salt Lake City area elopement, I recommend the following locations:
- The Bonneville Salt Flats: Located about an hour and a half away from Salt Lake City, this is a low-effort location with unbelievable views as a reward. A perfect option for those looking to elope with guests, those looking for something accessible, or anybody looking for an incredibly unique, minimalist landscape that’ll keep all eyes on you and your love.
- Wasatch Mountains: for more adventurous terrain, the Wasatch Mountains are a perfect rugged adventure. This is a popular ski location in the winter, so would make a great elopement location year-round.
- Antelope Island: lots of hikes and scenic drives make this a laid back, scenic spot to elope. It’s relatively secluded, so good for a more private experience.
- Little Sahara Sand Dunes: a popular spot for off-roading adventures and sandboarding! The dunes are made of fine white sand with the striking red cliffs in the background, so it’s a stunning elopement spot.
- The Church of Dirt: a super laid back outdoor “church” less than an hour from Salt Lake City. To reserve this place for your elopement, you just write your name and date on a slab of wood! That’s it. Hiking and great scenery make this a cool wedding spot.
- Big Cottonwood Canyon: there are so many recreational opportunities here for an adventure elopement, in any season! Waterfalls, forests, huge cliffs… you can see it all here.
- Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest: If you’re looking to turn your elopement into a camping adventure, this is a great place to go. You can hike, fish, rock climb, mountain bike, and more.
As you can see, it is truly impossible to detail all the amazing things about the great elopement locations in Utah. Beyond what I’ve already listed, here’s a few more that you can check out on your own:
- Goblin Valley State Park
- Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
- Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument
- Lake Powell
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Amangiri Resort
- Gunlock State Park
- Cedar Breaks National Monument
- Glen Canyon National Rec Area
- Pine Valley Reservoir
- Sand Hollow State Park
- Bear Lake
What to do in Utah During Your Elopement
Whether you want the focus to be on something adventurous and exhilarating, or maybe something relaxing and slow, Utah has so many options for you to add some activities into your elopement experience. And this is one of the best parts of choosing to elope! Creating strong memories through unique experiences and new traditions with your partner is such a special part of elopements.
In Utah, here’s what I recommend for some activities beyond your ceremony:
- Off-roading (check out this guided Hell’s Revenge UTV Tour, this East Zion UTV Slot Canyon Tour, or this Monument Valley Jeep Tour!)
- Base jumping (check out Base Jump Moab here!)
- Rock climbing
- Skydiving (check out Skydive Utah or Skydive The Wasatch)
- Exploring slot canyons
- Hot springs
- Helicopter touring (Zion Helicopters for Zion & Bryce Canyon area, or Moab Heli X for the Moab area)
- Hot air balloon rides
- Sand boarding
- Horseback riding
All of these activities allow you to see something new in beautiful Utah, maybe try something new too, and spend some quality time with your partner to bond and soak in the beginning of a new chapter.
Utah Elopement Packages
Though I am based in Seattle as an adventure elopement photographer, I am so passionate about adventuring with every single one of my couples wherever their elopement takes them. Beyond just photography, I love serving in a capacity that helps in all of the planning stages, finding vendors, and making an effort to keep your elopement as sustainable as possible.
To browse more details about my elopement packages, go here!
To inquire about photography for your Utah elopement, reach out to me here. I’ll be super excited to kick off this planning process with you!