First off, major congratulations are in order! Eloping is one of the best decisions you can make. It's a way of celebrating your love that's better for the planet, more authentic and heartfelt, and you can do whatever you want for your wedding day. There's also few better places to elope than Utah - between 5 stunning National Parks, oodles of public lands, overlooks with expansive red rock desert views, cozy evergreen forests in the mountains, and nearly everything in between (if you know where to look). By the end of this jam-packed How To Elope In Utah guide, you'll be well on your way to planning your own incredible Utah elopement. Let's dive in!
Let's start with when you should elope in Utah
The best thing about eloping in Utah is that no season is off limits - it really just depends on what you're looking for!
Summer in the desert can be HOT. Between June-September, I don't recommend it unless you're down to get up early for those sunrise elopement vibes (or consider a desert location like Bryce Canyon National Park, which is a little bit higher elevation). The good news is - we've got a big state here, and you still have the whole northern half in the mountains to consider for summer. As far as winter? While the northern half with get a lot of snow in the winter, the average temperatures still ain't too cold. The desert gets a little bit less snow (but trust me, it still gets snow!). Let's look at the average temperatures in Salt Lake City, which is tucked right up against the mountains of the Wasatch Front, and the average temperatures of Moab, one of our iconic desert towns:
Salt Lake City Average Temperatures
Moab Average Temperatures
It's super important to think about what you activities you both want to do and let your elopement planner, or photographer, know! We'll know what month of the year makes the most sense for you. Alternatively, if you have an exact date you want to get married on, let us know that too and we can base our recommendations on where we know you'll have the absolute best experience. What my own boo & I always say is that "there is no bad weather, just bad gear."
If you choose to have a snowy desert elopement, for example, I'll make sure you're prepared and give you gear advice! That means a thick warm Pendleton blanket to wrap up in, thick tights under your wedding attire, and wool socks to keep your toes warm while we romp around! If you want to climb and get rowdy during your elopement, I'd recommend we stay up north if you want to elope in summer. If you really want those red rock cliffs, I'd recommend a fall/spring elopement so you don't melt off the wall! I mean it when I say that anything is possible, we just need to pick the right time of year and make sure you have the right gear.
Next up! Where should you elope in Utah?
Let's be real - this is a big, huge, outstanding, (almost) overwhelming question because of how many incredible locations there are in this state! Rest assured, once you reach out and I get to know you & what you're imagining for your elopement, I'll be able to narrow down the list to a few options that will just feel right for you and your partner! I love this area so much that I moved here all the way from Wisconsin, and I can't wait for you to fall in love with it too. Here are a select few favorite locations!
· Canyonlands National Park - Not quite as popular as our iconic Zion NP, but my personal favorite National Park, out of any state. There are a few places where elopements are allowed in the park: Grand View Point, Green River Overlook, Mesa Arch, Shafer Canyon Overlook, Pothole Point, and a few of the campsites in The Needles! If you're a big hiker - once you've read your vows together with the incredible views at one of the locations listed above, let me take you on one of my absolute favorite hikes in the whole world - Chesler Park Loop.
Drive time from Salt Lake City: 3-5 hours
· Zion National Park - One of the most iconic national parks in all of the US, and for good reason. The views that Zion offers up definitely feel like you're a part of something truly grand, and there's a good chance of seeing wildlife too! If you're looking to include a few close family & friends, here's the list of approved ceremony locations: Temple of Sinawava, Menu Falls, Zion Lodge Lawn, Nature Center North Lawn, South Campground Amphitheater, and Timber Creek Overlook. And of course, we can always venture out to a more secluded location for more photos & adventure if it's just the three of us! Zion's views can't be beat, so does get extremely busy - I highly recommend eloping here early in the morning, and in the off season.
Drive time from Salt Lake City: 4.5-5 hours
· Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park - If you want to feel like you're eloping on a different planet, Coral Pink Sand Dunes is the way to go. I love romping around the dunes here, and the permit for a small wedding is less than those from the National Parks! Sunrise in the Dunes is lovely, and I know of the perfect camping spot that's only about 15 minutes away if you're looking to camp for your elopement as well! There are no specific approved locations here, which means we can wander around together and find a ceremony location that feels perfect to you.
Drive time from Salt Lake City: 5 to 5.5 hours
· Big Cottonwood Canyon - The past few locations have featured those Southern Utah, desert vibes, but Big Cottonwood Canyon is all about those rustic, evergreen, mountain vibes! The hiking in Big Cottonwood is some of my favorite in the state, and while the canyon does get relatively busy, if you choose to elope during sunrise on a weekday (something I recommend anyways), chances are you'll be nearly alone the entire time! Whether you'd like a wintery ski resort elopement, or an alpine hike full of wildflowers, Big Cottonwood is pretty much perfect.
Drive time from Salt Lake City: 35-45 minutes
· Bonneville Salt Flats - What would this Utah Elopement Guide be without the Salt Flats? This is the kind of rugged, beyond unique location where you can really let your creative juices flow - if you want an incredible floral arch, vintage rugs galore, a picnic for just the two of you, anything your heart desires, this is the location I'd recommend for you (just remember, whatever you bring in, we've gotta bring out!). The salt flats are best for sunset elopements, so you could totally begin your day with some urban exploring in Salt Lake, or a cozy day at your AirBnB.
Drive time from Salt Lake City: 2 to 2.5 hours
This location list barely begins to scrape the surface on what's possible in Utah! There is over 22.9 million acres (yes, you read that correctly) of public land in the state, which means there are limitless places where you could adventure.
Once I get to know you better, I'll be able to recommend unique, beautiful locations. Who knows? Maybe the perfect spot for you is someplace that no couple has ever exchanged their vows at before! Scouting for couples is one of the major perks that comes with hiring an elopement photographer over a traditional wedding photographer, so it's 100% worth finding someone who will invest the time to find the perfect location for you.
The legal stuff
The great news is that getting legally married in Utah isn't too difficult. If you want the most intimate ceremony possible in Utah, it can literally just be the three of us. I'm an ordained minister through Universal Life Church, which is recognized here! You'll want to pick apply for and pick up your marriage license before the day of the ceremony (even though you can literally pick it up the day of in Utah). I recommend arriving in Utah a day or two early that way you're not stressing about it the day of your elopement! You can apply for your license at the County Clerk office of the county where your elopement is taking place. The license is good for about 30 days, so Utah locals, don't get it too early in case we need to reschedule for any reason! If you get your marriage license in Utah County, it may be used anywhere in the state! Here are the documents and information you'll need:
· Personal information - full names, addresses, dates of birth, and places of birth. You may also need to also share the names and birthplaces of both of your parents, including their maiden names, so have this information available! · Social security card
· Valid photo ID - driver's license, passport, birth certificates all work
· Money to pay the fee (around $40 to $60 depending on the county) The day of your ceremony, you'll need to sign the license, I'll need to sign it, and we'll need to find two witnesses - they could be guests if you include them, or two random folks we find on the trail! You or I will also need to return the license within 30 days of your elopement, so keep that in mind when you're booking flights/travel. If you choose to do this, I recommend doing this the day after your elopement so you don't forget!
One final note - if you don't want to worry about the legal stuff during your trip, you don't have to. Before you leave for your elopement, or after you get back, you can swing by the courthouse in your city and do it then if you want. Your marriage is truly about you two celebrating your love & committing yourself to each other, so if you want to leave the legal stuff 'til later, you absolutely can.
Those sweet, sweet, vendor recommendations
I'm all about finding the best, most eco-friendly (if possible) & LGBTQIA+ friendly elopement vendors I can for you - you can keep your elopement as simple as you like, or you can choose to go all out and include Hair & Makeup Artists, Florists, Private Chefs, and more. Because there's such a diverse amount of options for where you could elope in the state, I create custom vendor recommendation lists for each couple! For lodging, you've got plenty of options. Utah's AirBnB scene is super cool - click here for my favorite AirBnBs. You can also camp! The options are endless for camping on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land. Whenever my boo & I adventure we nearly always camp, so I have plenty of personal recommendations that I can give you - including some spots that would be absolutely perfect for photos of you & your partner under the stars, cozied up by a bonfire, makin' smores together! I'm a big believer in Leave No Trace and I don't want to avoid these locations getting too busy, so my camping recommendations are reserved for couples who choose to adventure with me! If you'd like to scout for your own locations, I really recommend The Dyrt app.
Avoiding the crowds
Chances are, you've seen one of those images floating around the internet of Zion National Park with an absolutely jam-packed, people-filled hike. Those images are definitely accurate - because Utah is so dang beautiful, tons of folks come here every year. I'm stoked that people are getting out and enjoying everything Utah has to offer, don't get me wrong! But remember how I said earlier that Utah boasts 22.9 million acres of public land? You don't need to go somewhere crowded if you don't want to - here are my top recommendations for keeping your intimate experience, well, intimate.
· Elope on a weekday. People often take long weekends to visit the desert/national parks, so a Tuesday through Thursday elopement is your best bet! · Pick a little known location for your actual ceremony (your photographer will help you with this!)
· Elope at sunrise - even if you're not a morning person, there's something about getting up at 3AM & giddy to be married that feels like an adventure in itself, y'know?
· Elope in the off season for your location - wintery desert elopements can be incredible, trust me. Plus, you won't sweat your booty off!
· Do something super unique like renting a jeep or a helicopter to take you someplace otherwise unattainable
Have an awesome elopement
I'm going to be honest - this guide just scratches the surface on what's possible here. Utah is truly incredible, so much so that I packed up my little life in Wisconsin and moved all the way out here to experience it, and share those experiences with my couples. If you'd love to come out here and have an adventurous, eco-friendly elopement, I'd love to hook you up with my favorite places, cool vendors, unique AirBnBs, and more!
Kira McGrigg Photographer & Guide is based out of Utah and specializes in elopements that connect couples more deeply to the planet through sustainable practices and incredible experiences.