Eloping in Arches National Park

Arches National Park - Utah is known for its arches. There are more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches in the park and even more in the surrounding Moab, Utah area. Among the arches are other amazing geological formations that make for very unique backdrops in your wedding photos. It is a popular destination for travelers who love the desert or who appreciate geology. When people think about Utah or think about Moab, Arches National Park probably comes to mind, but there is a lot that I could tell you from personally experiencing the area as a portrait photographer. After this blog, you will know whether or not you should/can elope in Arches National Park.

To start, Arches National Park is not as large of a park as I had originally expected, and you certainly won't see 2,000 arches in the park. There is one main road that you take in and out of the park that ends up being a 36-mile round trip. Because it is just one road with several pull-offs, it can get fairly crowded. As of 2023, there are strict requirements that you must meet before going to the park. You must pre-plan your visit and you must have your wedding approved ahead of time and obtain proper permits. All of the national parks that I know of require permits to get married in them. Some are easier than others, but all take a bit of planning time. Arches in particular also require that your guests pre-plan their trip. Guests must reserve their tickets online. The park has a ticket release schedule so make sure to go check it out beforehand. If you are getting married outside of park hours (7 am to 4 pm daily April 1 through October 31), then you will not need to have tickets reserved for yourself or your guests. 

Find the special use permit to get married here.

Learn more about the ticket reservations for you and your guests here.

Reserve your tickets here.

Although that may have sounded overwhelming...

All of these things have one easy solution - find the perfect time to get married in Arches National Park. A sunrise wedding has so many positives! Sunrise light is beautiful on red rock. The photography and videography that you will take home will be no less than stunning. The light is much softer in the early morning. This means it will not cast heavy shadows on you or your guests. We may even get pastel-colored skies, depending on how lucky we are. Moab gets very hot and dry in the summer/fall. Sunrise weddings allow you to beat the heat and avoid crowds. It may sound like an odd timeline, but hey! This is your wedding and there are way more pros than cons with sunrise weddings. After a sunrise ceremony, you could go to brunch and then have the entire evening alone to soak up the fact that you just got married! If sunrise isn't your jam, consider getting married in the off-time. Winter can be a great time to get married. It does snow in Moab and the snow can make for an extra unique view in the desert landscape. There will be fewer people and there are more opportunities to grab shots at all of your favorite views! Check the weather because it can get chilly in Arches, but it may be the perfect opportunity to allow you to have your wedding in the afternoon or around sunset. Sunset could be the best time to get married in Arches National Park, but they also have their limitations. If you prefer to get married at sunset then it will most certainly have to be on a weeknight when the park is less crowded. The biggest limitation to sunset weddings is the time. Once the sun goes down there is no more time for photos and getting back to the car could be a challenge. Whichever day, time, or season you plan your wedding for, make sure there is plenty of time for the entire experience (ask your photographer if you are unsure), and make sure that you limit the tourist interactions to ensure an intimate wedding.

On the topic of guests, let's talk about requirements and limitations. In the state of Utah, you must have two witnesses over the age of 18 to sign your marriage license. If you are having a completely private wedding with no guests then Roy and I are happy to sign the marriage license for you. Other vendors are also usually happy to help, just make sure to ask them beforehand so that they plan on actually being there. Sometimes vendors may send a helper or set up and get out of the way. Asking beforehand ensures that everyone knows their roles and the event continues smoothly. I will also be attaching a chart that shows the park's limitations for guests. Certain arches only allow for a specific number of people.

The Legalities of it all... It's actually pretty simple!

Knowing how to get married in the general area is also important. To start, Arches National Park is in Grand County. Grand County, like all other counties in the United States, has its own rules that must be followed to be legally married there. Make sure to book an appointment for your marriage license at the County Clerk/Auditor's Office between the hours of 8 am and 4:30 pm. Both applicants must be present and you will both need to bring the following:

  • $50
  • driver's license or passport
  • birth certificates
  • social security number
  • divorce decree if you were previously married and divorced
  • death decree if you were previously married and are now widowed
  • parental consent if you are underage.

The cost is a non-refundable license fee of $50. Once you receive your marriage license, you must be married within 32 days of the date it was issued and the county recommends that you get your license 10-14 days before your wedding, although they say there is no waiting period once you get the license.

The Need-to-Know Basics for ANP:

Weddings in Arches National Park require a special use permit. In this paragraph, I will explain some of the stipulations you must follow if you wish to get married in the park in the year 2023. If you find this blog in the future, make sure to check out the NPS web page to ensure that the rules are still the same. A special use permit costs $185 and you must apply for that at least one month in advance. Weddings can be planned up to one year in advance, but for those of you who are wanting to elope quickly, keep in mind that the fee approval period could take around four weeks. They also want the couple getting married to be the one who applies for this permit, not a third party. Below I will attach a chart for the locations where you are allowed to get married in and how many people are permitted to attend the wedding at each location. Typical wedding decor such as tents, tables, chairs, bouquets (dried plants, including grasses, are prohibited in bouquets), balloons, arches, or any other type of decorations will not be authorized. Your photographer and videographer are not permitted to fly a drone in national parks. There is a time limit of 15 minutes for your ceremony. These are the main conditions that must be followed, but you can read more specifics on the NPS page here.

Let's Start Planning!

The rules may sound intimidating, but by following these rules you can still have a beautiful and simple wedding. You can still dress up as fancy as you would like. There are many florists out there who create bouquets and boutonnieres out of artificial materials. I love the trend wood flowers. They look so real, but you can keep them forever. When couples choose to have their wedding in a National Park it is already such a treat for guests. It is like a destination wedding. After the wedding, they can go explore and enjoy the area. A decorated arch isn't needed to get married under when you already have such a beautiful background (and real, natural arches). 

We would love to work with you! Roy and I (Annie) have a passion for elopements. We offer photo and video options, plus, all of our couples receive a free elopement planning guide. Tell us all about your plans here. Fill out a quick questionnaire and we will get back to you about pricing and information shortly.

Need a Plan B?

There are a lot of things to consider when choosing to elope in a national park. If these stipulations are not sounding like they will work for your wedding then consider "Option B". Instead of legally getting married in Arches, what if we just did your wedding formal photos there? Your actual wedding could take place in an area with fewer hoops to jump through, but you would still get beautiful photos from the park. Several locations allow us to set up a ceremony, bring in flowers, and choose the time that works best for you. I have written another blog that talks about all of my favorite locations around Moab that you can find here. I know that you could find the perfect location that could complement your Arches bridal photos! If these stipulations seem manageable then let's get to planning! Roy and I offer both photography and videography to all of our clients. Our clients also receive a free elopement planning guide that allows you to take the process step-by-step to ensure that everything is taken care of. Send us a message using the link at the bottom of this blog. Or if you already have another photographer in mind, but still are interested in our planning guide, then head on over to Etsy to download your copy today!

Moab 101

Some of the basic facts about Arches National Park are unknown to people traveling to the park. Arches National Park sits outside of the town of Moab, Utah. Moab has a little more than 5,000 residents so it is a fairly small town. Even though it is small, the town runs off of tourism. There is something for everyone in Moab! Many go there to seek adventure, but others go to connect to nature. There are several hotel options, a range of different Airbnbs, and a ton of great restaurants, more and more are popping up every year! The Colorado River runs through Moab and I just recently went on a boat tour and dinner with Canyonlands by Night and Day that was super fun and educational. Something very special about Moab that Roy and I love is that they are part of the Dark Sky Association. This means that the surrounding area offers great opportunities for astrophotographers and stargazers. Did you know there is also a second national park close to Arches? Canyonlands National Park is also a must-see in the area and it has very similar rules for weddings.


Moab offers quite a lot for such a small town, with dozens of great restaurants and a variety of places to stay, there is something here for everyone's travel desires and needs! Depending on your elopement you may need different kinds of stay accommodations, so we listed below a list of places with different kinds of highlights.

Luxury Oasis: Moab Sage Creek

For those seeking the pinnacle of indulgence, Moab Sage Creek stands as the epitome of luxury in Moab. Nestled amidst the breathtaking scenery, this upscale establishment offers lavish suites with panoramic views, ensuring you wake up to nature's splendor every morning. Pamper yourself with top-notch amenities like a spa, fitness center, and a stunning pool area, providing the perfect setting to unwind after a day of exploration.

Family Friendly: Field Station Moab

Planning a family getaway to Moab? Look no further than Field Station Moab, renowned for its family-friendly atmosphere and abundant amenities catering to all ages. Kids will have a blast at the designated play areas and children's pool, while parents can relax in the serene surroundings. [Hotel/Resort Name] also offers spacious family suites, ensuring everyone has ample space to unwind and make cherished memories together.

Pet Friendly: My Place, Moab

We love this hotel for our furry friends! They are very pet friendly, in fact, every room is pet friendly! This hotel offers a cool hiking trail that is pet friendly and your pets can even accompany you out to the pool area. With great staff and great pricing, it's hard for us to find better when it comes to traveling with our dogs. Highly recommended!

Food is also in abundance when it comes to Moab. We love the cuisine here, and there really is something for everyone! Our most fun place to go is the Sunset Grill. They offer panoramic views of Moab along with great eats and good alcohol selections! For Mexican food, you can't beat Fiesta Mexicana. They have great serving sizes as well as amazing margaritas! We have also enjoyed the great array of diners that all offer great breakfast food. Moab is a busy little place, so if you can get reservations you should! Also! Don't forget to check the closing time of the restaurants, We have been out late adventuring and have squeaked in to grab a bite a few times, so a little planning goes a long way! Moab has a lot to offer their travelers and it has been one of the best and simple places for us to plan a stay.

Leave No Trace

When choosing to elope in a beautiful location such as Arches National Park, you are choosing to do it because you appreciate how amazing nature is right? One thing I have to mention in this blog is the practice of leaving no trace. Leave No Trace or LNT are principles that photographers are becoming more aware of. We also hope to inspire our couples to do the same. You can go and read all about it on their website, but I will also list seven of the most important principles.

  1. Plan and prepare
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces (make sure to stay on designated paths)
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find (such as nature)
  5. Minimize campfire impacts
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of others

In other words, follow the rules of the park and know they are there for a reason. With close to TWO MILLION visitors in Arches National Park each year, your footsteps matter. Just think, if everyone left a piece of trash and everyone started walking off of the trails, our park would be ruined within a year. If you are reading this, I know you love the park and want to keep it looking nice so let's all just do our part. Here's a quick article that I found that properly explains a little more about LNT.