Planning a Wedding in Joshua Tree National Park

Last Updated: 12/11/2017

With breathtaking and often otherworldly scenery, Joshua Tree National Park is a gorgeous place to have a wedding. Here’s the basic information and steps you’ll need to take to get married in the park, as well as some concerns and restrictions that come with having a wedding in this remote and relatively undeveloped National Park.

We shot Tabitha & Shaun's elopement video in Joshua Tree National Park

1. Determine if a National Park Wedding is Right for You

Getting married in Joshua Tree National Park is best if you are having an intimate, simple and more casual wedding ceremony with a small number of guests. Because you cannot have receptions in the park, you’ll need a second location for the reception if you’d like to have one.

When you are deciding if the park is the right place for you, make sure to consider:

  • Weather in the desert tends toward extremes and you will be outside with no protection from the sun, high temperatures, cold, high winds (which are frequent), or rain.
  • There is no running water, and no power, and you cannot bring a generator into the park.
  • You are not allowed to use microphones to amplify the bride, groom and officiant during the ceremony, which means your guests may not be able to hear the ceremony very well — especially if you have more than a few guests, or if it is windy that day.

If you are dreaming of floral arches, a big wedding party, or even amplified music for your wedding, you’ll want to consider other options. Check out our post, Getting Married in Joshua Tree and The High Desert for beautiful Joshua Tree venues that have more options and flexibility.

Another option is to have your wedding elsewhere, and then head to Joshua Tree for a video shoot, like we did with Erika and Heath in this film.

2. Choose a Spot

Weddings and elopements are allowed at several locations in the National Park.

You can get married year-round at:

  • Indian Cove Amphitheater
  • Live Oak Picnic Area
  • Cap Rock
  • Split Rock
  • Rattlesnake Picnic Area (don’t let the name put you off — it’s a beautiful location that’s hardly ever used).

Hidden Valley and Quail Springs are also available part of the year but not during February through May as that is the busy season in Joshua Tree.

We filmed Amanda and Mike's elopement at Cap Rock in Joshua Tree National Park, as well as at their airbnb.

3. Apply for a Permit

If  you know you want to have your wedding in Joshua Tree National Park, apply for a special use permit right away to make sure you can secure your date. You can apply year-round.

The special use permit application form is at the bottom of the Permits & Reservations page of the Joshua Tree National Park website. You can apply for and pay for the permit online, so it is an easy process even if you live outside the United States.

The special use permit fee is $120, and it takes about 5 – 15 business days to process, although simple elopements may be processed quicker.

If you plan to have a photographer and/or filmmaker there to document the wedding, it is an additional license fee of $120 per company.

4. Trim Your Guest List

In most of the areas in the park where you can get married you can have a maximum of 30 people. This number includes your photographer, filmmaker and any other vendors as well as guests.

If you have a bigger guest list, you can reserve the Indian Cove Amphitheater for up to 100 people. You will need to pay a $200 facility fee (in addition to your permit fees), and if you have more than 50 people, you’ll need to pay for a Park Monitor to be present. This costs an additional $50 per hour.

Your special use permit does not include entrance fees for your guests. The current entrance fee is $25 per vehicle, which can be paid at the gate by cash or credit card.

You’ll want to either let your guests know to expect this, or buy them passes before they head into the park.

5. Make Sure Your Guests Know Where to Go

There is no cell phone reception in the park, and GPS often does not work, so it it crucial that you make sure all of your guests know exactly where to meet you for your wedding. If they get lost, they won’t be able to contact you if they are in the park.

A good solution for this is to stop by one of the park visitor centers for some free Joshua Tree National Park maps, or download and print a one from the park website. Highlight the ceremony spot on each map before giving them to your guests.

You should also give directions from the ceremony location in the National Park to the reception location.

6. Bring the Essentials

The are no amenities in the park besides pit toilets, so make sure to bring water, hand sanitizer and spare toilet paper just in case.

There won’t be any mirrors so if you need a last glimpse of yourself before heading down the aisle, you’ll want to bring one of those as well.

7. Leave Your Fur Babies at Home

While pets are allowed in the park, their activities are very restricted. They must be on a leash at all times and cannot be more than 100 feet from a road, picnic area, or campground; they are prohibited from trails, and they must never be left unattended — not even in a vehicle. Considering this, along with the extreme weather in the park, and hazards such as cacti, it’s probably best to leave dogs at home.

You can learn more about restrictions on where dogs can go in Joshua Tree National Park on the pets section of the National Park website.

8. Invite a Musician

Amplified music is not allowed, but a single acoustic instrument such as a guitar or a violin is OK. Find a musician you love and bring them along, or invite friends and family to serenade you down the aisle with their singing.

9. Plan a Simple Wedding Ceremony

To protect the natural environment, the only plants or florals that you can bring into Joshua Tree National Park are those in a bouquet, and a few to decorate an arch if you have one. The flowers and plants must be fresh, not dried.

Don’t bring any confetti, balloons, birdseed, or anything of that type.

You can bring chairs along for your guests, and a small arch if you would like.

If you do bring a small arch, you won’t be allowed to secure to the ground so you’ll want to make sure it won’t blow away — high winds are common in the park.

 

10. Pack It Up

Be respectful of the park staff and other park visitors and make sure to pack out everything you bring in with you, including trash. If the park has to clean up after you, they will send you a bill for the clean-up.

Be sure to bring more trash bags then you think you’ll need with you, and delegate a few members of the wedding party to clean up. With frequent high winds, it’s easy for things to blow away so be vigilant.

11. Head to Your Reception

Weddings in Joshua Tree National Park are strictly ceremony only, so choose another spot for your reception. One bottle of champagne for a toast is OK, but otherwise no food or drink is allowed.

Check our blog post, Getting Married in Joshua Tree and The High Desert for local venue options for your reception. Or, if you’re having a very small wedding, you may be able to reserve tables at a local restaurant. Another popular option is to head to Palm Springs after the wedding.

12. Ask Questions

Have more questions about getting married in Joshua Tree National Park?

Contact:
Jeannie Wilson at (760) 367-5518
jeannie_wilson@nps.gov
Joshua Tree National Park Special Park Use Coordinator

Phone is best if you want a quick answer, as they receive a lot of emails.

Good luck planning your Joshua Tree National Park Wedding! If you have tips you’d like other couples to know, please leave a comment below. If you’re looking for more advice and resources on getting married here in the high desert, check out our some of our other posts:

Getting Married in Joshua Tree & The High Desert — Everything from venues to getting a marriage license to our favorite vintage stores.

How to Dress for Success at a Joshua Tree Wedding (For Brides, Grooms and Guests) — What to wear so you don’t sink through the sand, get stuck in a cactus, or freeze in the cold evening winds!

Comments (6)

  • Samantha says:

    Hi there! Thank you so much for this helpful post. So much good insight.

    I wanted to see if you had any intel on getting married in Palm Desert? Out off of a side-road near the windmills, type of area?

    I’m having such a hard time finding this online & figured you may have shot something like this!

    Please let me know if you have any thoughts —

    • Hi! We have shot couples portrait video by the windmills but never a wedding or elopement — it is often so windy there it seems like it would be a difficult spot to get married (once we took a bride there and she couldn’t get out of the car because the wind was so strong it was blowing off her fake eyelashes). However, if you are looking for cool spots in the desert to get married, we recommend getting in touch with Trish from Desert Pop-up (https://www.desertpopup.com/) — she knows this area really well and can help point you toward some good spots.

  • Kay says:

    Just attended a beautiful wedding ceremony at Indian Cove but I wish someone had thought about how hot the benches would be! I slightly burned the skin on my bum through my thin dress sitting on them. Highly recommended some kind of seat cover for guests.

  • Courtney says:

    Hey there! Thanks for this super helpful post!
    Wondering if anyone can shed light on parking for a wedding at Indian Cove Amphitheater in the park! The website says there is no parking provided and that guests must be shuttled in, but we were hoping to avoid hiring a shuttle and to find parking within a walkable distance for our helpful drivers! We would just need two vans, so hopefully this isn’t impossible!

    • Hi Courtney! During the busy season, parking can be extremely difficult everywhere in the park. If you’re getting married mid-week in the off season, you might be OK. We’re not that familiar with Indian Cove as we haven’t shot a wedding there yet. I recommend getting in touch with a local planner, such as https://www.desertpopup.com/ — they have a lot of experience planning weddings in the park, including at Indian Cove and will know the parking situation better than we do. Hope that helps!

  • Rachel says:

    Does anyone have additional info on the various sites within the park? Pros/cons for the various locations? For example, no parking available at Indian Cove Amphitheater, stuff like that. Trying to decide which site I should submit a permit for!

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