Desert Wedding Details From This White Sands Elopement
“We both enjoy spending time in and exploring nature, and it feels more romantic and more sacred to make our commitment to each other surrounded by natural beauty rather than as part of a social event. It’s probably not for everyone, but this just felt like us in a way that a traditional reception or even city hall elopement didn’t.” [Amy, The Bride]
Paul and Katie McPherson, the photographers of Shutterfreek, enjoy capturing elopements and intimate sessions because it’s less stressful and less demanding on the couple.
“Many brides have imagined themselves standing at the altar, Prince Charming by their side, in a gorgeous dress, from the time they were a little girl. While this is a fairy-tale moment, it is just that – a moment, or thirty minutes. It passes, and you have several hundred photos to document Prince Charming and the dress, but were you present? Were you really there?” [Paul, The Photographer]
These two were definitely there during this gorgeous overnight elopement in the desert. We asked both the photographers and the couple to share their insight on this magical day.
If you want to skip the details, then jump to the photos from this White Sand desert wedding day.
Day of Experience in the White Sands National Park
This elopement was such an adventure! The two camped overnight in the desert with their team of vendors. They didn’t have to worry about much since a cohesive plan was already in place. Thus, all they had to worry about was enjoying their day to the fullest.
These two experienced a lot during their elopement from running through the sand to a romantic sunset dinner. Amy, however, tells us the ceremony was their favorite part.
“We didn’t have a venue schedule to stick to, people to coordinate, or props to account for, so our photographers and coordinator were able to pick an ideal ceremony spot on the fly and catch the perfect light. Standing on the vast, sweeping dunes at sunset and promising forever to each other was so romantic, intimate, and felt uniquely like us.” [Amy]
Their ceremony was on the quiet dunes, with the sun sinking slowly on the horizon as their officiant pronounced them husband and wife. After their ceremony, they enjoyed a romantic candlelit dinner with homemade Mediterranean food. Their first dance was surrounded by lanterns and tiki torches as they danced in the quiet darkness under the stars. After their fun-filled day, the two slept in their tent and awoke to breakfast, Thai massages, and dune sledding before leaving White Sands National Park!
For the photographers, their favorite moment was witnessing the couple enjoy the moment.
“Seeing the joy and release of all their worries and cares of the world as they sat down for a gourmet dinner under the stars. Hot, exhausted, and completely enveloped in an experience that would take a lifetime to fully wrap their heads around. Seeing that joy on their faces as they dove deep into reflection made all the planning and sacrifice worth it.” [Paul]
3 Tips From the Bride and Groom While Planning Your Elopement
This elopement turned into a two-week adventure for this couple as they traveled across Texas and New Mexico. They explored multiple cities and national parks along the way.
As far as planning this desert elopement, Amy shares some tips that couples should consider when planning and getting ready for their special day.
1) Prepare to Plan, but Go With the Flow.
A desert elopement is completely different from a traditional wedding. Amy, the bride, reminds other couples that this type of wedding should be enjoyed without trying to control the details. There are some details that you won’t be able to control, such as the weather.
“Eloping is best experienced by fully embracing the adventure and whatever comes with it—rain, shine, and everything in between. No matter what happens, it will be one of the most memorable days of your life.” [Amy]
2) Hire Vendors You Trust.
If you want to have a desert wedding like this one, then experienced vendors are a must. Find vendors you trust, and who share the same creative style as you.
“Once you secure them, trust in their talent. Be open to their ideas. Work with them to figure out the plan, give input when they ask for it, but ultimately trust their expertise. Don’t over plan, go with the flow, focus your energy on the few details you need to, and above all else, enjoy the ride.” [Amy]
3) Tell Your Family and Friends Before If You are Worried.
Couples decide to elope for various reasons. If you are nervous about what they will think about your decision, then Amy suggests to tell them before.
“If those closest to you know it’s your intention from the start, they’ll be much more understanding and less likely to feel left out after the fact. It may not be the easiest discussion to have, but a little honesty upfront goes a long way, and you can fully enjoy your big day without any difficult or awkward discussions looming over you.” [Amy]
Preparing for an Adventure Elopement
The vendors who put the elements of this overnight desert wedding experience together wanted Amy and Kevin to be completely immersed in the landscape and void of all possible human interaction, according to Paul, the photographer.
The experience of this couple’s special day was fun and detailed, but it did come with its own set of challenges, including transporting hundreds of pounds of outfitting gear and styling essentials through a half-mile of thick sand.
“Ramond, from Desert Harbor Retreat, built a basic wood frame with tube-based wheels that could navigate the sandy terrain and mounted it on the bottom of a full-size canoe. It took 3 full canoe loads to pack everything in. On the third trip, one of the wheels popped halfway forcing us to schlepp by hand the remaining supplies. We all thought we were going to die.” [Paul]
According to the couple, you can plan during your elopement, but you should always keep an open mind that things will not always go according to plan.
“We left our marriage license in the car, the canoe we used for getting our things out to our camping spot got a flat tire (yes, a flat tire), we brought an extra change of clothes for some photos we didn’t end up taking, but all of those small things that maybe didn’t go 100% according to plan became part of the amazing story of our big, incredible day, and there’s not a single thing I would have changed.” [Amy]
Some items to consider packing and preparing for an overnight elopement glamping adventure include gear, florals, plenty of food and water, chairs, tarps, lanterns, fun games, shade from the sun, and styling elements.
Advice from the Photographer
Even though planning for elopements can be less stressful than a traditional wedding, there are still questions you need to ask yourselves. According to Paul, budget, date, accommodation, and location should be the questions you should answer to develop a foundation for your elopement adventure.
“Where do you want to elope? This is one of the most significant stories that will be told about your life. What is the setting you envision it unfolding in? Desert? High Desert? Low Desert? Water? Lake? River? Ocean? No Water? Trees? Mountains? For us, we love it when couples say something like, ‘We would love to go on an epic adventure in Moab, or Palm Springs or New Mexico (or wherever)’ And then, as part of your package it’s our job to go to that place and scout a unique location that we’ve never taken anyone too before and create a magical universe within that spot to house your experience. I love taking couples to places they’ve never experienced before. That adds so much more excitement and anticipation to the narrative.” [Paul]
Elopements give couples the power to enjoy the day and focus on each other. Paul stresses how important it is to be mentally present and absorb every aspect of your special day.
“We believe these Elopements are magic. There are few experiences like this elopement that exist on earth. We believe the greatest gift we can give is exposure to our couples. We love taking couples to these types of places, outfitting them in a meticulously designed glamping experience, and allow them to just BE there – in the quiet, grandeur and immensity of it all.” [Paul]
Check out their gorgeous desert elopement film to get the full live details!
What did you love about this desert wedding elopement? Share what you loved, or what you are planning to do for your elopement in the comments below.
Are you ready to start planning your overnight elopement? Check out our Elopement Planning Resources.
Planning, Styling, and Coordination | Raymond Linam from Desert Harbor Retreat
Photo and Video | Paul & Katie McPherson from Shutterfreek
Hair and MUA | Genica Lee
Glamping | Desert Rover
Florals: Jenn | Floral Fetish
Massage & Site Build | Jesse Thomas
Bocce Balls | Trek Light Gear
Wedding Dress | Rue De Seine Bridal