Eloping in New Mexico

There are so many great areas to consider when eloping in New Mexico. Whether you are looking for a desert, mountain, forest, or a river elopement, you will find it here!

First, what is an elopement? Everyone has different definitions for that term these days; some say an elopement is when it is just the couple and some say under 25 guests. I consider it to be an elopement when it is under about 10 people; 10-25 would be more of an “intimate wedding” to me. Whether you are having 0 or 25 guests though, you are doing something different! I hope these tips can help you plan your New Mexico elopement.

bride and groom looking at each other

Locations

Taos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Las Cruces are a few of the major cities to look into when deciding where you want to elope.

Taos is a great option if you are looking for something a little cooler than your typical desert. Even in the summer, Taos is significantly less hot than the more central or southern areas in New Mexico. If you and your partner like to ski, this is a great place for it!

bride and groom holding cow skulls in Taos
Photo By Fender Photography

Santa Fe is so pretty and artsy. If you are looking for a true New Mexico vibe, the plaza would be a great option for portraits! There are also beautiful mountains and forests in Santa Fe.

The Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque are so beautiful; especially at sunset when they glow pink! There are many trails along the foothills, some more popular than others, so you can be as secluded or as out in the open as you want.

Las Cruces is located in southern NM, so it is much hotter than Albuquerque and the more northern areas. This would be a great spot to consider if you are eloping in the fall or winter months if you want a desert scene but don’t want to freeze! (Yes, New Mexico gets cold AND snows!)

The Rio Grande River goes through many of the major cities and can be a beautiful and fun option for an elopement. During the spring and early summer the river is much fuller than later summer and fall; so consider the time of year when planning your river elopement.

bride and groom walking through the rio grande river in Albuquerque

Permits

When eloping in New Mexico, always make sure to check and see if there are permits required for your photography or “event”. Many monuments and parks require either a special use permit, a photography permit or both.

Some permits can take a couple weeks to be approved, and some you can get the day of. Make sure you or your photographer allow enough time to get whatever permit(s) you need before your elopement.

husband and wife holing each other in a forest

The Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument (between Albuquerque & Santa Fe) is such a unique hike! There are beautiful slot canyons that you walk through in the beginning and then you gain elevation at the end to view it all from above. It is $5 per vehicle to enter, and they require a permit for any type of photo shoot; read more about that here.

El Malpais National Monument is another beautiful and unique area in New Mexico near Grants, NM. They require a $100 special use permit for an elopement which covers the event and photography.

The red rocks at the Jemez Pueblo, just northwest of Albuquerque, are quite a sight! If you are considering eloping there, they require a permit for hiking/photography that is $5 per person.

groom kissing brides forhead in a red rock canyon

White Sands National Monument is just under an hour from Las Cruces. This national monument is breathtaking! They require a $25 special use permit for a wedding or elopement. There is only one spot that can be reserved for a wedding day. Though you can get married anywhere in White Sands, the other areas are open to the public. If you plan to elope, I would not worry too much about having the reservation!

The open spaces and trails on the Sandia Mountains in Albuquerque do not require any permits for photography or eloping. Some of the areas Such as Elena Gallegos and Pino Trail have a $1-$2 entrance fee per car; prices vary for weekends and weekdays.

Vendors

When planning your elopement, think about what is important to you. Just because you are not having a big wedding doesn’t mean you can’t have beautiful photos to remember your day or a stunning bouquet to run around with!

If you are traveling to New Mexico for your elopement, finding vendors that you cannot meet ahead of time can sound intimidating. Whether you are looking for a photographer, videographer, florist, hair and makeup artist, or anything you want to include for your elopement, Wedding Collective NM is a great resource to start searching for New Mexico vendors.

bride holding bouquet in the desert
Bouquet By Floral Fetish ABQ

If you have a photographer that you just LOVE, that is a good place to start! They will have recommendations for other trusted vendors they have worked with to send your way. Photographers are really good at helping you plan, from your vendors to scouting location options!

For my elopement, our photographer is as far as I had to go for planning. She sent me a florist, HMUA, and even picked the perfect spots for our first look, ceremony, AND portraits. Read more about our elopement here.

wedding stationary and calligraphy
Calligraphy By Letters And Such

Marriage Licences

When eloping in New Mexico, obtaining your marriage licence does not require a waiting period. There will be a $25 fee and both parties have to be present with identification at The Clerk’s Office. See more information on what you need to bring with you here.

You must obtain your licence before your ceremony and an officiant and two witnesses need to sign. If you plan to have a photographer they could be a witness! If you do not plan to have anyone present at your elopement you can always ask a hiker or someone random in the area to sign for you.

Any other vendor you may have involved during your day might be able to sign as a witness if you are worried about not being able to find someone random. It never hurts to ask!

After you have your ceremony and all the signatures you need, your officiant will then return your paperwork to the Clerk’s Office to be processed. Yay, now you are married!

eloping in New Mexico

Leave No Trace

Many people do not realize the impact that they have while out in nature and on trails. LNT (Leave no trace) principles are something that I, and many other photographers in the industry, strongly believe in.

When you are out on a trail or in a park (during your elopement or not) be conscious of where you step; trails are there to protect and preserve plants and wildlife. You want to leave it the way it was when you got there; unless there is trash, throw that away if you can.

bride and groom about to kiss in front of a mountain

An example. Say you went off trail to take some photos and stepped all over what was growing there, not too much harm done, right? Wrong. Now those photos that you just had to get off trail for will be shared. They will probably be geo-tagged on instagram. People will see that awesome shot and follow in your footsteps. Now 100+ people have done it and everything in that area is dead or a new trail is made that was not supposed to be there.

That may have sounded dramatic, but it is not. It is the best way to get a couple points across about LNT. It is so true for so many places. Geo-tagging specific locations, especially when they are not popular, is something that I do not agree with. I am sure you have heard of Horseshoe Bend in AZ, right? Of course, everyone has…. well not before geo-tagging. That is just one example of a beautiful location that is now overcrowded.

On your elopement day, be kind to the area your are in and think about the impact you could have by doing or not doing something.

To learn more about LNT principles and what you can do to keep our beautiful places beautiful, check out https://lnt.org/.

husband and wife walking in the desert

If you are eloping in New Mexico, I hope these tips helped you with your planning! There are so many places to explore, your options are truly endless. Whether you are from NM or out of state, a planner or photographer is a great resource to help you plan a perfect stress free day for you!

how to elope in new mexico

All photos taken by Crystal Cousin Photo unless otherwise mentioned.

  1. Rebekah says:

    Genius! Love these suggestions – your imagery is incredible too!!

  2. Alycia says:

    Man this is making me want to get married again!! New Mexico looks like a fabulous place to elope

  3. Fantastic article. Love the detail you’ve written here!

  4. Jacqueline G says:

    WOW! This is chalked full of AMAZING information!! I have yet to visit New Mexico but it is high on my states travel list!!

  5. Joanna says:

    Ummm can I get married again and elope in Mexico??? These are all gorgeous and beautiful suggestions!

  6. Stephanie says:

    Girl!!!! These tips were spot on! I want to elope now to New Mexico!! Great job!

  7. Rhianna May says:

    Such a great resource for anyone looking to Elope in New Mexico! Beautiful work as well!

  8. DarrenHendry says:

    I love your guide for eloping in New Mexico! Your article is thought out and the images are incredible. Thanks for putting this together!

  9. Wow, there are so many helpful links in this post! So amazing that you’ve made the process seamless by adding details like permit price, locations, and how to leave no trace. This is an epic resource on eloping in New Mexico!

  10. Wow! This is so informative and helpful! Now I want to travel to New Mexico, haha! Thank you for sharing!

  11. Liv Hettinga says:

    These tips are so practical and helpful! And all the imagery just makes it feel so real for any bride planning her elopement! Well done 🙂

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