When it comes to eloping, few places rival Utah. With its five stunning National Parks, vast public lands, breathtaking desert vistas, serene mountain forests, and everything in between, Utah offers a beautiful array of choices for your elopement. After this comprehensive crash course on how to elope in Utah, you'll be ready to plan your own remarkable Utah elopement. Let's dive in!
WHEN SHOULD YOU ELOPE IN UTAH?
The great thing about Utah is that every season is open for elopements – it all depends on what you're looking for.
Summers in the desert can be scorching from June to September, so consider sunrise elopements or higher-elevation desert locations like Bryce Canyon National Park. However, the northern mountainous areas offer cooler summer options. As for winters, the northern half of the state receives more snow, but the temperatures remain relatively mild. In the desert, you'll still see some snowfall. To give you an idea, here are the average temperatures in Salt Lake City, nestled against the Wasatch Front mountains, and Moab, one of Utah's iconic desert towns:
Salt Lake City Average Temperatures
Moab Average Temperatures
It's super important to think about what 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 based on what you want your best adventure yet to look like. 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 locations where we know you'll have the absolute best experience.
What my own partner and 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! Anything is possible, we just need to pick the right time of year and make sure you have the right gear to have an incredible time.
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 Utah for elopements. The right photographer and planner will be able to get to know you & what you're imagining for your elopement, and narrow down a list of a few amazing options that will just feel right for you and your partner. I love Utah so much that I lived there for a few years before moving to Washington, and I can't wait for you to fall in love with it too. Here are a select few favorite locations.
Not quite as popular as our iconic Zion NP, but my personal favorite National Park, out of any state, anywhere. There are a few places where elopements are allowed in the park:
Grand View Point
Green River Overlook
Shafer Canyon Overlook
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
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
Zion Lodge Lawn
Nature Center North Lawn
South Campground Amphitheater
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 be warned that it 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
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 costs 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
The past few locations have featured Southern Utah desert, 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 anyway), 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 perfect.
Drive time from Salt Lake City: 35-45 minutes
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. The salt flats are best for sunset elopements, so you could 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 of what's possible in Utah! There are over 22.9 million acres of public land in the state, which means there are limitless places where you can adventure.
Once I get to know you better, I'll be able to recommend unique, beautiful locations that speak to your souls. 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 great news is that getting legally married in Utah isn't difficult. If you want the most intimate ceremony possible in Utah, it can even include just the three of us. I'm an ordained minister through Universal Life Church, which is recognized in Utah. You'll want to apply for and pick up your marriage license before the day of the ceremony (even though you could pick it up the day of in Utah). I recommend arriving in Utah a day or two early, so you're not stressing about this 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)
On the day of your elopement 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 hikers we find on the trail. I will return the license within 30 days of your elopement.
One final note: If you don't want to worry about the legal process for getting married 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 sign papers then. Your marriage is truly about the two of you celebrating your love & committing yourself to each other, so if you want to leave the rest until later, you absolutely can.
UTAH ELOPEMENT VENDOR RECOMMENDATIONS
I'm all about finding the best elopement vendors I can for my couples - 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, a good photographer will create custom vendor recommendation lists for each couple based on their personalities and aesthetics. For lodging, you've got plenty of options. Utah's AirBnB scene is wild - 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 partner & 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, drinking brews together, living the best life. 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.
AVOID CROWDS DURING YOUR UTAH ELOPEMENT
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 accurate - because Utah is so damn beautiful, tons of people visit every year. 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 can help you with this)
· Elope at sunrise - even if you're not a morning person, there's something about getting up at 3 AM, giddy to be married that feels like an adventure in itself, y'know?
· Elope in the off-season for your location - E.g. a desert elopement in the winter
· Do something super unique like renting a jeep or a helicopter to take you someplace otherwise unattainable
HAVE AN INCREDIBLE ELOPEMENT
I'm going to be honest - this guide just scratches the surface of what's possible in Utah.
Utah is truly incredible, so much so that I packed up my little life and moved there for a few years. It's one of the best places to elope, and I can't wait for you and your love to start your biggest adventure yet in Utah.
Kira McGrigg Photo is based in Bellingham, Washington, and specializes in inclusive outdoor elopements and couples photography.