Why New Mexico is one of the best states to elope in
Are you thinking of eloping in New Mexico? Our state isn’t called “The Land of Enchantment” for nothing! I mean, have you seen the sunsets?! This state has so much to offer – diverse landscapes, rich culture, tasty food, friendly people, and yes, some of the best sunsets you’ll ever see. But why elope in New Mexico?
- It’s a hidden gem! While many other areas of the southwest are overrun with tourists, it’s easier to find a quiet spot in the New Mexican outdoors. And traveling through the state can be a lot more economical than many other popular southwestern elopement destinations.
- It’s easy to get a marriage license. Exact requirements differ based on the county, but in New Mexico you may pick up your marriage license immediately and be married the same day.
- Diverse landscapes – mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, rocky cliffs, open deserts, slot canyons, lava rocks, dormant volcanoes – we’ve got it all!
- There’s plenty of outdoor activities! Not only do we have amazing landscapes, but there are so many fun activities to do outside. Read below for some ideas!
How to Travel to New Mexico + Where to Stay
Unless you’re driving, you’ll likely fly into Albuquerque International Sunport to travel to New Mexico. Albuquerque is the largest city in the state, and it has by far the “biggest” airport, but you can also fly into Santa Fe or La Cruces (usually more expensive flights). If you’re driving, you can follow the nostalgic Route 66 through the state, or take one of the faster interstates.
And once you’re here, head to Albuquerque, Santa Fe, or Las Cruces for city activities and shopping or head out to the small towns of New Mexico for a cozy and quaint stay. Explore Old Town Albuquerque from the Route 66 El Vado Motel, roast marshmallows from your vintage Airstream at Hotel Luna Mystica in Taos, or hang out with your friends and family at Entrada Azul, a Santa Fe adobe Airbnb home.
Things to do in New Mexico
You won’t be bored! Here are some outdoor activities to do on your trip to New Mexico or even as a part of your awesome elopement wedding day:
- Whitewater raft down the Rio Grande River
- Ride horses through desert hills
- Explore 4×4 roads in a Jeep or ATV
- Taste local foods
- Camp under the stars
- Hike or trail run
- Mountain bike on trails or tracks
- Watch birds in Bosque del Apache
- Fish in New Mexico’s lakes and rivers
- Ride the tram to Sandia Crest
- Ski, snowboard, cross country ski, or snowshoe in snowy months
- Rock climb on ancient stone
- Soak in thermal hot springs
- Sled down sand dunes at White Sands National Park
- Drive the Enchanted Circle
- Enjoy local art and culture
- Visit National Park Service sites
- Learn about Native American culture
- Ride the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad or Railrunner
- Float in a hot air balloon
- Kayak or canoe along lakes and rivers
New Mexico Marriage License + Laws
New Mexico is one of the easiest US states to be married in, which is awesome! Both partners (18 or older) must be present and bring to the county clerk’s office a photo ID and social security card to obtain their marriage license. After giving your information and paying a $25 fee, you’ll walk about with the license in hand and ready to go! In some counties, you’ll have up to 90 days to do your ceremony and fill out the license.
You’ll need an officiant (see below who can marry you in New Mexico) and two witnesses to sign with you. If you’re having a super private ceremony and don’t have witnesses, don’t worry! I’m always up for signing (a perk of being an elopement photographer!), and we can usually find a happy hiker in the area to be your second witness. Once everything is signed, you’ll need to drop off or mail your license back to the clerk’s office to receive your marriage certificate. Marriage licenses in New Mexico are also available in Spanish.
Each county has their own specific marriage license requirements and laws, so be sure to look up the information of the county you plan to elope in. Here are some links to popular counties:
Bernalillo County Marriage License Information (Albuquerque area)
Santa Fe County Marriage License Information (Santa Fe area)
Lincoln County Marriage License Information (Ruidoso area)
Taos County Marriage License Information (Taos + Red River area)
Colfax County Marriage License Information (Angel Fire + Eagle Nest area)
Rio Arriba Marriage License Information (Abiquiu area)
COVID-19 update: Some New Mexico counties are not currently issuing marriage licenses in person or are requiring an appointment. Call or find your county’s information online to find out what you’ll need to do to be legally married.
Who Can Perform a Marriage in New Mexico?
Here’s something awesome: anyone who is licensed, ordained, or certified to perform a wedding ceremony can marry you in New Mexico! So what does that mean? Yes, you can hire an officiant or schedule a ceremony with a judge, but you can also be married by a friend or family member. New Mexico recognizes Universal Life Church ordination, which anyone can quickly and easily receive online. If you want your ceremony to feel intimate and be led by someone you love, this is a great option for your elopement or micro wedding.
Places to Elope in New Mexico
Whether you want to elope at a New Mexico wedding venue or have an outdoor micro wedding, there’s a gorgeous spot just for you! And if you’re lost on where to elope in New Mexico or overwhelmed by the options, let me help! A huge part of my job as an adventure elopement photographer (besides photographing epic outdoor wedding days) is to guide you through that process, do research, and make ceremony location suggestions for you so that you don’t have to worry about finding them. To get you started in the right direction, here are some of my favorite places to elope in New Mexico!
White Sands National Park Elopement
If you’re looking for somewhere incredibly unique to elope, check out White Sands! The pure white dunes make an incredible backdrop for your elopement ceremony, and sunsets at the park are absolutely incredible.
Elope in Taos, New Mexico
Stand in awe of the impressive Rio Grande Gorge and the big horned sheep that call it home, or head to the mountains for some serious hikes on your elopement day. The Taos Ski Valley boasts the state’s tallest peak along with many other impressive mountains, beautiful forests, and even several colorful lakes.
Santa Fe Elopement
Desert meets mountains and forests in New Mexico’s capital city of Santa Fe. On the outskirts are bush dotted desert hills, but drive into the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (part of the Rocky Mountains) for amazing peaks and shady forests of aspens and pines.
Elope at Sandia Crest
Albuquerque’s Sandia Mountains are a beautiful place to elope and overlook the city. If you’re looking to hike to your ceremony spot, several trails offer beautiful woods and great views. Or find an easily accessible spot by the parking area or Sandia Peak Tram stop. Either way, stay for the sunset!
Elope in Ruidoso, New Mexico
If you’re looking to elope in green Mountains with amazing views, Ruidoso is the place! The area is full of fantastic hiking trails and mountain views you can drive to (plus some fun 4×4 roads). There are also a few lakes in the area, and Ruidoso is a cute little town to explore.
Albuquerque Elopements in the Sandia Mountain Foothills
In the shadow of the Sandia Mountains is a beautiful desert landscape on the outskirts of Albuquerque. Various areas in the foothills showcase cacti and desert rocks along with up-close mountain views. If you’re staying in Albuquerque and don’t want to travel far, elope in the foothills!
Angel Fire, New Mexico Elopement Wedding
A popular stop along the Enchanted Circle of northern New Mexico, Angel Fire is a great area for cozy elopement ceremonies with mountain views and grassy meadows. There are plenty of places to stay year-round at the ski resort and surrounding area.
Jemez Mountains Elopement
This is one of my favorite places for hiking (and elopements) in New Mexico! The area is full of great trails, beautiful waterfalls, forests of aspen and pine trees, mountain views, hot springs, rivers, and even a lake for kayaking and fishing. There are also some killer camping spots!
Elope in Abiquiu, New Mexico
Many couples come to New Mexico for a lovely desert scene for their elopement, and the Abiquiu area is the perfect place! Open skies and interesting rock formations dot the landscape at this ideal elopement location. You can also hike and elope at the nearby Ghost Ranch, frequented by painter Georgia O’Keeffe.
Small Wedding Venues in New Mexico for an Elopement or Micro Wedding
Desert Harbor Retreat near Albuquerque
Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu
Brush Ranch River Lodge near Pecos
Los Poblanos Historic Inn + Farm in Albuquerque
Permits for Weddings on New Mexico Public Lands + Native American Reservations
New Mexico boasts some incredible public lands that are perfect for your elopement or micro wedding, but some of these areas require a permit to hold a ceremony and/or for photography. Any Bureau of Land Management locations require a permit for both a ceremony and photography. Some of the National Park Service sites also require permits, but check with each park individually (I always recommend calling and chatting with the permit department for accurate information). Much of our beautiful mountains and forests are a part of National Forest Service land. Check with the specific region you’re looking at to see what their regulations and permit policies are. And when it comes to pueblos and Native American land, please ALWAYS check with the tribal government to see if you may be married and photographed in an area. This land is sacred to them and should be respected and appreciated. Many pueblos do not allow photography except in designated areas (or none at all), so it’s very important to check. And with all land, please treat it well (follow the Leave No Trace principles as best you can) and leave it better than you found it.
When to Elope in New Mexico
Honestly, New Mexico is lovely year-round, but we certainly have pros and cons to each of our seasons. Fall is definitely my favorite time of year and (in my opinion) the best time to visit New Mexico, but the state has lots to offer throughout other seasons.
Spring is definitely a mixed bag when it comes to the weather and temperatures! Temperatures often begin to warm up around mid February and continue into the end of April or beginning of May before becoming especially hot. But in that time period, the weather can fluctuate a lot! Expect snow, warm sunny days, maybe even some rain, and lots of wind in a New Mexico spring. Average daytime temperatures range from 50°F to 75°F – we get a lot of wonderfully warm sunny days, but we also see unexpected snowfall and extremely windy days. And let’s talk about wind for a minute. New Mexico is unique in that we often get many VERY windy days in the spring. We’re talking so much dust in the air that you can’t see views that are usually very clear. Now, not every day in spring is like this, and there are certainly windy days that are less drastic, but it is something to keep in mind. During our spring, trees sprout their leaves, snow melts in the high elevations, and (with some rain) the desert greens up a bit.
Summer is hot hot (but a dry heat)! From May to September we’ve got plenty of sun and very hot days (New Mexico boasts 300+ days of sun a year). With low humidity, the heat isn’t so bad, but it’s definitely a consideration. Just a few minutes out in the direct sun can leave you dehydrated, tired, and sunburned. But evenings are delightful, most days are sunny, and the mountains are green. We do have a monsoon season that lasts from about the second week in July through August and into the beginning of September. What does that mean? We get very little precipitation throughout the year, but when we do get rain, it’s now. The day may start out without a cloud in the sky, but by afternoon big fluffy clouds are crowding in and you’ll likely get an intense rain and thunderstorm in the afternoon or early evening. Many times these storms last only 15 or 20 minutes, but they dump a ton of rain! Because of all the moisture, this is when the desert comes alive! The landscape turns from neutral colors to vibrant greens, and desert and mountain wildflowers bloom. It’s beautiful!
Fall is a magical time in New Mexico! Temperatures are cooling down and the cottonwood and aspen tree leaves are turning to beautiful golden colors. In the higher elevations of northern New Mexico (like Taos, Santa Fe, and the Jemez Mountains) the peak leaf time is a short one week window around the last week in September or the first week in October, depending on the location. The colors work their way down and hit the cottonwood trees around Albuquerque and the lower elevations from mid October to mid November. Often, snow holds off until mid November or into December, but occasionally the fall leaves will collide with an early snowfall.
Winter is a great time to get out in the desert or enjoy the mountain snow! If you love winter sports like snowshoeing, snowboarding, cross country skiing, or sledding, you’ll find plenty of opportunities in the northern parts of the state and high mountain elevations. Angel Fire Resort, Ski Santa Fe, and Taos Ski Valley are just a few of the popular winter sports spots. And if you’re dreaming of eloping in the New Mexico desert, this is a great time to do it! You don’t have to worry about heat or rattlesnakes and are free to explore the vast wildernesses of interesting rocks and cacti.
How to Plan Your New Mexico Elopement with the Weather
As with any time you’re out exploring nature, it’s important to be well prepared for anything that might come your way.
- Temperatures can change quickly, so bring layers to warm up or cool down as you need. Even in the summer, high elevation areas can be pretty chilly.
- And speaking of elevation, you’ll want to bring sunscreen anyway, but especially when you’re in the mountains.
- Expect the unexpected with weather, and definitely prepare for strong winds in the spring and big storms in July and August afternoons.
- Bring LOTS of water (more than you think you need) any time of year. With low humidity in New Mexico, it’s easy to lose water without realizing it. And you’ll be happier on your elopement day if you’re well hydrated. (Bonus tip: save some plastic by bringing a reusable water bottle and refills!)
- Choose desert locations in the winter and cooler months, and save mountain spots for the hot summers.
- If you do want to hit up a desert location in a warm month, plan for the cooler temperatures at sunrise or sunset.
- Our winters do include snow, although most of it melts quickly in urban or low altitude areas. If you’re interested in a winter elopement in the mountains, be prepared to trek through quite a few feet of snow!
Are you ready to start planning your New Mexico elopement? Eloping in the “Land of Enchantment” is guaranteed to be an amazing, gorgeous, and adventure-filled experience. If you’re wondering where to start with planning or where to elope in New Mexico, I would love to chat with you and answer those questions. And if you’re looking for a local adventure wedding photographer for your New Mexico elopement, let’s connect! Just fill out the form below and I’ll be in touch. Here’s to your rad elopement wedding in New Mexico!