Escape the stress of planning a big wedding, and fly over the remote Utah backcountry to an intimate elopement ceremony in the desert.

By Redtail Air Adventures

It’s time to plan your big day! Keyword: YOUR big day. 

When deciding how you want to enter a lifelong commitment, the only people that should have a strong say in how you honor the moment are you and your partner. 

Contrary to popular practices, you don’t have to have a giant, chiffon-covered event filled with dad’s business partners and Aunt Joane’s book club. Instead, you can walk away from the stressful event planning, endless list of reception expenses, and other people’s opinions to plan a day that reflects the unique and intimate love you and your partner share. 

For many, that day is best spent in the wild expanse of the Southern Utah backcountry. Couples can literally escape wedding stress by flying over stunning, sandy red cliffs, arches, and plateaus before landing for vows and a celebration with an unforgettable desert backdrop.

Simple, timeless, and beautiful — just like your new life with your best friend in hand. 

Are you ready to plan an elopement in Southern Utah? Here is everything you need to know about eloping in Moab!

couple walking toward airplane during backcountry elopement

In this post, learn everything you need to know about planning a unique elopement in the desert:

Why Elope in Moab?

Giant frilly weddings aren’t for everyone. Have you considered the benefits of eloping in Moab? Here are just a few that have helped many couples realize that their ideal wedding was waiting for them in the Utah backcountry.

It’s Less Expensive

Did you know that the average wedding price in 2021 and 2022 was $28,000? 

While that budget is well worth it for some, others may want to keep those dollars towards building a new life together. Or, splurge on an epic honeymoon. 

The average elopement costs between $5,000 and $15,000, so you can still have an unforgettable, gorgeous ceremony without the hefty price tag.

Less Stress

You don’t need to spend weeks picking out the perfect napkin color if you don’t want to. Planning an elopement in Utah’s backcountry means letting go of 99% of the stress-inducing decisions that come with planning a formal wedding. So you can let go of the venue-picking, dinner menu, decorations, or anything else that doesn’t bring joy to you and your partner. 

With a Southern Utah elopement, you can take on as little or as much planning as you want. No matter what, the gorgeous scenery will create a stunning ambiance for your big day.

drone shot of couple walking near airplane during backcountry elopement

No Obsessing Over the Guest List

One of the most important gifts an elopement can give you is a very great excuse to keep your guest list incredibly limited. You can skip the drama of coming up with a JV and Varsity guest list, going through hundreds of potential invites, or navigating the guilt of not inviting your second-cousins-twice-removed. 

Whether you want a very small group of loved ones or want to escape with your partner and a single witness, you can take full advantage of the elopement excuse when your great-aunt asks if she can have seven ‘plus-ones’ for her knitting club. 

More Intimate

When you skip the wedding plan and guest stress, there is so much more room in you and your partner’s mind to appreciate the elopement for what it is—a day to celebrate your shared love and commitment to each other. The more intimate your ceremony, the more you can tap into the wonder that you have found someone with whom you want to spend the rest of your life. 

More Budget for a Honeymoon, House, and Life Together

Let’s face it: the housing market ain’t what it used to be. So if that is something you and your partner are working towards, choosing an elopement over spending money on a formal wedding can help you keep a significant chunk of money in your “dream home” fund. 

Whether it’s a house, a home renovation, a European travel vacation, or a kid’s college fund, every partnership has milestones they want to reach together. A day of luxury and lavish celebration is a blast, but it will never feel as good as being that much closer to achieving life goals with your partner.

couple holding hands and looking at the camera during their backcountry elopement

Stunning Photos

Here’s a not-so-secret: a Southern Utah elopement leads to stunning wedding photos. There’s something so magical about a flowy white dress or crisp tux in stark contrast against the vibrant red rock. Every shot will depict you and your partner as the main characters, with nothing but the wild desert scenery in the background. 

You Can Easily Recreate the Moment in the Future

Your Southern Utah elopement will be something you wish you could relive again and again—and it’s entirely possible! A fantastic anniversary gift idea for your partner is a chance to recreate your precious moments together by revisiting the scene of your vows. Want your first-anniversary gift to be a sure win? Take your partner back to the magical day with a scenic flight tour and picnic a year later.

Unique Wedding and Elopement Locations in Utah

With the entirety of the desert landscape at your fingertips, there is no shortage of stunning backdrops for when you say, “I do.” Here are some of our favorite Southern Utah spots with elopement-worthy scenes. 

Bonus: Most of these are reachable by private plane with Redtail Air! 

Happy Canyon Elopement

With a towering plateau in the background and an abandoned mining camp in the foreground, there are many vistas to work with for a stunning wedding photoshoot or ceremony. Pose in front of giant rock formations and historic mining shelters, or incorporate our picturesque planes for a unique wedding backdrop. 

While this destination is a 5-hour drive and hike from Moab, it is only a 35-minute flight.

two small dogs sitting inside small airplane

Angel Point Elopement

If you want views that go on for several miles ahead of you before disappearing into the distance, Angel Point will deliver and then some. The sheer cliff drops and vistas of the Henry Mountains set a dreamy and moody scene perfect for artistic photos and a dramatic ambiance for a ceremony. 

While this destination is a 4-hour drive from Moab, it is only a 45-minute flight. 

Mineral Bottom Elopement

The Mineral Bottom airstrip lands at the foot of dramatic rock formations. Parties can enjoy the immediate scenery, take a short walk to some historic mining shelters for a distinctive photoshoot, or snap some gorgeous shots in front of the Colorado River, where the green hues of the sparkling water and surrounding foliage complement the red rock perfectly. 

No matter where you decide to celebrate your love, you will have a stunning backdrop to make the moment unforgettable.  

While this destination is a 1.5-hour drive from Moab, it is only a 20-minute flight. 

Elope in Arches National Park

There’s no need to bring an arbor to your ceremony with this elopement destination— the arches are included at this location. 

The most iconic desert scene for wedding photos is one of the many staggering arches in Arches National Park. There’s a reason this area is so famous for wedding and engagement photos. The gravity-defying formations create incredibly dramatic shots—perfect for capturing the big kiss! You must obtain a permit for an Arches National Park wedding

couple in wedding clothes sitting in an open door of landed airplane during their elopement

Elope in Monument Valley

Escape it all with a trip into the untouched beauty of Monument Valley. You will find the most stunning formations and so much beauty at every angle. From posing in front of the famous Mittens to the sky-scraping Totem Pole, you will find endless options for a perfect elopement backdrop. 

You can even plan an overnight flight tour and spend your first night as a married couple in Goulding’s Lodgea beautiful desert resort with every amenity you need just minutes from Monument Valley Tribal Park.

While this destination is a 3-hour drive from Moab, it is only a 60-minute direct flight.

How To Plan an Elopement in the Utah Backcountry

Create Your Guest List

With an elopement, the guest list is entirely up to you! Some choose to invite close friends and immediate family. Others may decide that you and your partner are all the participants you need. 

When you book a Redtail Air flight for your Southern Utah elopement, you can invite up to 14 people to join you for an exciting and beautiful aerial journey to your elopement destination.

Hire a Photographer or Videographer

If there is any splurge you should include in your elopement budget, it is undoubtedly an expert photographer to capture the moment. From stunning drone videos to emotional close-ups of an embrace, your elopement photos will be the third most precious thing you bring back after your elopement—second only to your memories and your new spouse.

Our recommended local photographers are The Hearnes. Abbi & Callen Hearne are Moab locals with a love for the desert and for aviation. After over five years of living on the road and traveling all over the American West, they settled down here in Moab while still spending summers in Alaska. They specialize in small weddings and elopements with an emphasis on adventure. The elopements they put together are often inspired by their own passions, such as hiking, pack rafting, flying, rock climbing, jeeping, biking, and ice climbing.

Their partnership with Redtail began when Callen got his own pilot’s license a few years ago, and has since grown as we’ve ventured into adventure weddings together. Their knowledge of aviation, photography in the Utah desert, uniquely flexible local scheduling (around weather & flight conditions), and vast understanding around elopement planning has created some incredible wedding days for couples so far. We can not recommend them enough.

aerial drone shot of couple standing next to airplane in a backcountry elopement

Choose Your Date and Time

Consider the time of year and time of day in your elopement planning. For most elopement sites, a pre-11:30 AM schedule is best to beat the crowds and get the best weather. You could also consider a romantic sunset scene. Make sure you schedule your day well enough to be on-site, prepared, and staged for the best light possible. 

Be Flexible With Your Vision

Getting married in the wild desert means that you have to expect the unexpected. Always have a plan B for when weather strikes, or life gets in the way. There are so many ways to plan a stunning elopement in southern Utah, so plan a couple of options to account for how the desert constantly keeps us on our toes. 

Arrange Your Travel & Accommodations

Planning an overnight stay in the area? Have all the transportation, accommodations, and dinner reservations taken care of so you don’t need to scramble at the last minute. Even if you and your partner are a “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of couple, you will both be happy to have a set place to prepare before the ceremony and celebrate after. Here are some of our favorite hotels, restaurants, and transportation services that will make planning your Moab itinerary a breeze.

wedding dress hanging on airplane wing
aerial view of airplane

Plan Some Memorable Activities

Your elopement experience doesn’t have to start and end with the vows! When you say “I do” in Moab, you have many Southern Utah romantic getaway ideas at your fingertips. From unique desert wineries to romantic sunset views, you can make your dreamy wedding bliss last for days. 

Pack Your Getaway Bag

Preparing for everything will maximize your chances of executing a smooth and stress-free Moab elopement! Whether it’s pre-wedding hiking shoes, extra deodorant, a comb, or champagne for a post-vow toast, ensure you have everything you need to feel fresh and confident before your desert elopement.

We recommend making your “go bag” list several days in advance, so you have time to double-check you have everything you need to make the day special.

While eloping in Utah’s backcountry avoids a vast majority of formal wedding stress, there is still quite a bit of planning to do for your big day. If you don’t know where to start, reach out to our team for help planning the Moab elopement!

wedding couple and a couple guests pose for a photo with Redtail pilot
couple kissing in front of airplane during backcountry elopement

Photos © The Hearnes

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