An elopement with family in the high desert
Jeff and Laura chose Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California for the backdrop of their intimate and dreamy desert elopement.
Laura was kind enough to share some insight on what it was like to plan their elopement, so I’m going to let her tell most of this story. Read on for her beautiful words.
I am so grateful to be connected to these two and will always look back on their Joshua Tree elopement adventure fondly. I hope their story inspires anyone else out there who may be on the fence about eloping or deciding to go ahead and do things their own way.
Dreaming of a Desert Elopement
When Jeff and I got engaged and started imagining what our wedding day would look like, we knew it wouldn’t be average. Right away, we decided we wanted to be married outside, surrounded by the beauty of the earth.
We love the outdoors and envisioned tall trees, clean air, with only the sounds of birds and our footsteps. We looked at pictures of Yosemite, Tahoe, Mammoth, Arrowhead, etc, but always found a fault with each location.
And then we found ourselves looking at pictures of Joshua Tree. Still, for multiple reasons, we would always talk ourselves out of it. “It’’s too hot,” or “nobody is going to appreciate it like we do.”
A Joshua Tree Elopement
I have a large family, so no matter how we trimmed the list, we had close to 100 guests. I read a few photography blogs, featuring stunning photos of couples who were brave enough to elope.
But deep down, I was terrified to actually do it.
We tried so hard to make a decision on a location with a shorter guest list. It became stressful, difficult, and frustrating. Finally, after exploring what seemed like every possible “easy and affordable” idea, we reached our limit.
We got emotional and honest and made the decision that this is OUR life, OUR day, OUR decision. And we wanted to do it OUR way.
Family Wedding Weekend
Jeff and I rented an airbnb with two houses next to each other for our Joshua Tree elopement. We had our own space to keep the focus on our love and intimacy. The kids could still be close by and included in the process. We arrived the day before and had a BBQ, sat outside under the stars, enjoyed the view and had a fire. It was so calm and peaceful.
The morning of the wedding, Jeff and I took Cassidy out to explore the desert. We wanted to answer any new questions and make sure she understood the promise we were all making together.
Spending the Morning Together
We all got ready together. Jessica and I styled each other’s hair. Jeff sipped coffee on the sidelines and observed all the girls in their girliness. One of my favorite parts of the day was when Jeff helped me into my dress and made sure my jewelry was on straight.
We incorporated crystals throughout our day. Each one was chosen for its unique energetic qualities, colors, and strengths. Jessica got a necklace with emeralds, her birthstone. Cassidy got a bracelet with amber, carnelian, and aventurine.
I had a combination of quartz, aquamarine, and amethyst. Rose quartz, blue calcite, and raw diamond were also tied onto the ribbons of my bouquet.
An Intimate Ceremony in Joshua Tree
Jeff and I drove together to the ceremony site where we met Matt and the kids. Seeing everyone in the parking lot together was the perfect reminder of why we chose to elope. We all walked into the Joshua Trees, found our chosen spot, took some deep breaths and began.
The most important aspect of our wedding day was our children witnessing our unconditional love for each other. And also the kind of flowers and photos to provide us with memories to last a lifetime. Once we made this decision, it all fell into place. The universe worked with us to create the most perfect intimate wedding.
An unconventional wedding party
The commitment to share your lives together is truly sacred. We didn’t like the idea of a stranger marrying us. We wanted someone who would appreciate the intimacy of our choice to elope with our children.
So we asked Jeff’s best friend, Matt, to be our officiant. I now refer to him as “Brother Matt.” He truly made the day so special and there was such a level of comfort and ease with him being a part of our ceremony.
We didn’t have wedding parties. Cassidy, our youngest, was the flower girl. Jessica was my Maid of Honor, our wedding planner, and my hair dresser. And Ralis was the Best Man. During the ceremony, the girls wrote poems to read to us. It was so touching and meant so much to us.
Staying true to themselves
Jeff and I are both far from “traditional” in most aspects of our life. Both us and our kids have been through so much. When our families came together, we were all able to start healing and growing together. Every decision we made in regards to our ceremony, the morning of and night before was based off one simple question. “What would mean the most to us?”
Our inspiration was natural beauty, earth elements, simplicity, pure love and a little of my bohemian roots. We both have a love for the earth, for our family, and for the energy that connects us all. We wanted ourselves and our children to feel our strength together and know that this is eternal.
Inspired by the Joshua Tree Desert
It was important to us to use small business or local vendors where we could. There was not a lot of florists to choose from in Joshua Tree but when we found Amber at Oak and Amble, it felt like the stars aligned for us.
I sent her a few pictures and told her I wanted to incorporate crystals, lots of texture, and soft desert colors. Her excitement and passion was palpable. We never actually spoke on the phone. Our first meeting was a few hours before our ceremony when she delivered the flowers. And I don’t believe I will ever see such a beautiful bouquet again.
The Perfect Joshua Tree Elopement Dress
I wanted a dress that was bohemian, effortless and comfortable. I searched all over San Diego, Riverside, the internet, Pinterest and a dozen wedding dress stores. I went with my sister and my mom a few times, but I couldn’t find anything.
I also struggled knowing my vision of a dress was completely opposite to what my families thought. After talking to Jeff, he of course offered to come with me.
I know there are all kinds of superstitions to Jeff seeing my dress before the wedding, but I decided I didn’t care. He is my best friend and he knows me better than anyone. He knows my style, our wedding vision and he is honest to his core.
The Toyota Landcruiser
Jeff didn’t have much for accessories, but he did get to show off his 1987 Toyota Landcruiser. It’s been in his life a long time and is sentimental to him. He has taken impeccable care of it and appreciates the simplicity of the truck.
It’s not easy to drive and it doesn’t have electronic gadgets. It can’t speed up hills and it’s a bitch to keep smogged. But it’s strong, reliable, and can get you through the worst of weather. It also looks really good in the desert. 🙂
Falling in love in the desert
Jeff proposed to me under a moonless night in the Anza Borrego desert by the glow of a silicone ring and a campfire. No one was around for miles. Before meeting Jeff, I didn’t spend a lot of time in the desert and didn’t appreciate what it had to offer.
In my few years of knowing Jeff and seeing the desert through his eyes, I too fell in love with the raw, unforgiving, open space. He has a way of making me feel safe with his knowledge of the outdoors and his capability as a man. I can experience the peacefulness of just the two of us in the middle of nowhere, rather than fearing isolation.
We didn’t have a wedding reception or a big dinner. Instead, we ate cake, popped some bubbly and enjoyed the moment. It was such a neat ending to the day.
You, Paige, were there with us, tired and hungry too. It felt like you were a part of the family.
Last Piece of Wedding Advice
Be true to yourselves. No really, be TRUE to the core. With each decision, ask yourself, “Is this really what we want?” You will often find you’re actually making decisions based off of what others want or you think they want.
The truth is, whether you are planning an intimate wedding or a block party, you will never please everyone. YOU are the most important. It’s so important to start your marriage off with honesty. Put your own desires first and you will create an unbreakable foundation.
Their Vendor Team
Dress: Yanique, Dreamers and Lovers // Girl’s dresses: Tea Princess, Australia & Anthropologie // Florals: Oak and Amble // Engagement Ring: Harold Stevens Jeweler // Shoes (Bride): Free Bird by Steve Madden // Photo: Paige Nelson Photography // Wedding Bands: Ken and Dana Design // Venue: Joshua Tree National Park, CA
If you love this Joshua Tree Elopement, check out Haley and Andy’s Big Bear elopement.
Love love love your story! Which area of Joshua tree did you guys elope at? Hidden valley picnic are or big rock?
Paige Nelson said:
I believe this is the Hidden Valley Picnic Area!