Have you ever been standing in a place that you’ve dreamt about for months (or even years) and you had to do a double take because you weren’t sure it was real? This Las Vegas Desert Elopement was EXACTLY that for me (and I’m sure for the bride and groom as well!) Brienne and Josh didn’t let the pandemic and COVID-19 stop them from getting married!
Bri and Josh have spent almost a decade together, first meeting on a dating app and then quickly making it official in person. Since then, they’ve faced all sorts of highs and lows, and like many couples, weathered it all to make it their amazing wedding day.
But if you would have asked Brienne or Josh just a year ago if they ever thought that they would have a Las Vegas desert elopement, they would have laughed at you. You see, like many couples in 2020, this was not their original plan. But thanks to the pandemic and concerns for health and safety, their plans to hear wedding bells changed.
I first met Brienne and Josh through a mutual friend, sweet Emily, a local photographer and maid of honor in this wedding. Since Emily was already carrying the responsibilities of being a maid of honor, it didn’t make sense to also ask her to photograph her best friends’ wedding day. So, she reached out to me and we all met at Brokerage Brewing in West Lafayette, Indiana to chat about their plans. Originally, the plan was get married at Hidden Hollow Farm in Crawfordsville, Indiana. It was planned to quite the party with hundreds of their friends and family invited.
When the pandemic first began, Brienne had reached out to me and had asked about alternatives and I assured her (early on) that things should be fine and that there was nothing to worry about. Of course, that changed when restrictions began. Even though the restrictions have mostly lifted in Indiana, the concern for health of the elderly and young was present and as guests began returning RSVP’s of “unable to attend”, they decided that the best thing to do would be to just elope.
I met with Bri and Josh about two months back after Bri had called me on the phone, crying that some of her best friends were unable to attend her wedding due to health concerns and their children. So I came up with the solution of hosting a Las Vegas desert elopement. Immediately, the skies cleared and Bri and I began planning.
You see, Bri’s grandparents LOVE Vegas and Bri also loves Las Vegas. So getting to spend a little time in her favorite city made sense. After conferring with her grandparents, she gave me the green light to plan their elopement in just under two months.
The first and most important thing when planning an elopement is to be able to get travel and accommodations. Since I’m such a fan of Las Vegas and have been 4 times now (three for weddings, elopements, and engagements), I was able to point them in the direction of some great stays both in AirBnB and on the strip. Bri’s grandparents are Diamond Status members of Caesar’s resorts which means NO RESORT FEES! So they booked their stay at The Paris on the Las Vegas Strip, and bought round trip plane tickets out for just around $250 a person. (for a last minute booking, that’s a good price!)
Next, we needed a place for them to get married. We discussed wedding chapels such as Paradise Wedding Chapel but ended up settling on a Las Vegas desert elopement feel. Since I’m apparently the master of the Las Vegas desert, having adventured to it multiple times this year, we settled on the Jean Roach Dry Lake Bed. Nestled between the town of Jean and Las Vegas, it was only a short 30 minute drive from their hotel to this beautiful spot. Furthermore, it was made even more enticing because it’s owned by the Bureau of Land Management which means it doesn’t require permits for activities, photography, or weddings.
Bri and Josh had an officiant already so it was just a matter of finding a hair and makeup artist. I was able to connect them with my talented friend, Chloe Darling of Chloe Darling Photography, who also specializes in hair and makeup. Chloe, again, knocked the hair and makeup OUT OF THE PARK and it was perfect!
Accompanied by their closest friends and family members, 13 of us rode from The Paris to the desert for this desert elopement in Las Vegas. Since I had just arrived that day, I took Josh and some of the crew out to the desert to find a spot and he and the fellas arrived early to set up a ceremony area. He even created a very authentic and lovely aisleway for his soon to be bride to walk down from pumice like rocks from the lake bed.
I drove up with the ladies and kept Bri in the car (and in the air conditioning since it was 120 degrees at the time) until it was time. We then had everyone queued and ready to walk and the ceremony began.
“Wild Horses” a Rolling Stones cover by The Sundays greeted everyone in the desert as the ceremony began and as Fireman (their officiant) walked down, I couldn’t help but feel such a sense of pride and accomplishment at seeing the fruits of our efforts pay off. Exactly how I had always envisioned it and how Bri had dreamed it. “Emmylou” by First Aid Kit proceeded the processional and finally it was time for Bri to walk down the aisle. Accompanied by her grandfather, Josh kept his back turned until she was at the end of the aisle he had created for her. Just as Lana del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” began playing, he turned around to see his desert bride walk down the aisle in her beautifully fitted lace gown and boots.
What made their ceremony so unique and sweet was that their vows were handwritten, meaningful, and intimate. There were no rehearsed lines or tired cliches. Everything about their vows and promises to one another were from the heart. After their vows were exchanged, they were presented with locks and keys which they joined together forever before tossing the keys into the great dusty desert.
Finally, after all of the hours of planning, Josh and Bri kissed their first kiss as husband and wife. This perfect Las Vegas desert elopement had come to an end and with it, the beginning of a new life together as husband and wife.
We spent the rest of the evening photographing their portraits at the dry lake bed, watching the sunset there and letting of beautiful purple smoke bombs, and enjoying some crisp Bud Lights in as the sun slid behind the mountains to the west. After it was dark, we all loaded into our vehicles and went to the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign and took portraits there. We finally ended our night on Fremont Street, which apparently, as I learned, is packed on a Saturday night holiday weekend.
Since Fremont was unbearable, we nixed that idea and instead left for Fries’N’Pies, a poutine and pizza place a few blocks off the strip with a dozen different poutines and the best damn cheese sticks you’ll ever eat.
Thank you, Josh and Brienne for allowing me to not only photograph and capture your day, but to help you plan it, iron out the details, and to help create a memory that you’ll cherish forever. I had the best best best time with you at your perfect Las Vegas desert elopement. I am so grateful to have you both in my life to call you friends and family.
A special thanks to:
Chloe Darling Photography for Hair and Makeup
The Paris Hotel on the Las Vegas Desert
If you want to chat with me about a Las Vegas Desert Elopement — or just any type or location of travel wedding, elopement, or microwedding, send me a message here! Also be sure to read the How to Elope in Las Vegas Blog!
Check out these really amazing AirBnB options in Las Vegas for your stay!