Real Couples // Stylish Intimate Airbnb Desert Elopement: Kelly & Lee

Number of Wedding Guests: 30

The Couple: Kelly is from Santa Barbara, California. She is first generation Mexican-American, and she loves traveling; she's been to over 30 countries. She now works as a U.S. domestic flight attendant. Lee is a British graphic designer and painter from Plymouth, England. He loves travel, music, and has a positive outlook on life.

How They Met: “We were both traveling in Europe; our paths crossed in a shared dorm room at a Montmartre hostel in Paris. We chose to align our continued travels, and eventually that led to Lee immigrating to the Unites States. We were both open, free and happy souls (and still are!) — this was key to falling in love with each other. The timing was perfect.

The Proposal: Lee proposed in the same Paris hostel that we met in. This time we were in a private room instead of a multi-bunk dorm; our room was directly above the room we met in nearly two years before. We found both of our rings via Etsy stores. Both were handcrafted and chosen with meaning.

The Wedding: For our wedding venue, we wanted a fairly remote location that was new for all of our guests. The Mojave desert, and more specifically Yucca Valley and the Joshua Tree area, seemed perfect for our intimate dinner. We knew our guests could either drive from southern California or fly into Los Angeles easily. We found an incredible high-desert home via Airbnb. It’s a dreamy vintage place with lots of land that had panoramic views of the desert below. It also had a pool and hot tub.

We spent some time researching the vibe we wanted using Instagram and Pinterest. We were seeking a rustic DIY feel, and we stumbled across the vendors we went with due to their consistently great shots on social media, which then linked us through to their websites for further information and pricing.

We had previously eloped at the San Francisco Court House wearing really colorful, non-traditional clothes, so we wanted to go more "classic wedding traditional" for our desert celebration. Kelly wore a white Jarlo London wedding dress, and Lee wore a black suit from Zara. Lee chose some brown Chelsea Desert boots from Aldo to set off his look.

Lee's friend Luke was the DJ for the night, and it was honestly mostly Spotify tunes — we created some playlists, and others we found and used. We winged it mostly, but it was great!

The ceremony part of the evening was super basic, just how we wanted. We set up a decorated archway at the front of the rental property and arranged chairs for the guests. We had cool accessories around and performed a small sand ceremony, where both of our mothers handed us a jar of colored sand. We mixed both of our colors together within a vase to symbolize the coming together of our two families. Our officiant was Kelly's Auntie Bertha. She did an amazing job and wrote some really loving things about the both of us and our story.

We opted for Mexican cuisine linking to Kelly's heritage. Soho Taco came through with an amazing food cart featuring various vegetarian and vegan taco options and a wide array of sides. We had lots of beer, wine, and spirits for people to help themselves too.

The one thing that really stood out at our wedding was the view! Our location was everything we wanted it to be, and the table decoration was beautiful: put together from various vintage thrift store finds and plants we sourced from the LA flower market. During the months leading up to our wedding we collecting various vintage plates, silverware and glasses. All mix-and-match. They were all gorgeous. We flew them down in various suitcases before the event; thankfully most made it un-smashed! We also had a few items from our home including rugs and small vintage accessories. Lee hand-made some cool custom Joshua Tree matchboxes which were given out to guests and used to light all of the candles we had around.

At the end of the night, Kelly pushed Lee in the swimming pool, Bertha pushed Kelly in the swimming pool, and everyone got drunk. It was perfect.

Words by Kelly and Lee, as told to Amber Marlow
photos by Clara Rice

Desert wedding ceremony site
the bride's white dress hanging in the airbnb
Bride getting into her gown
groom getting ready
Bride ready with friends
Bride looking out at the gathering crowd
Entering the wedding ceremony together.
Sand ceremony at wedding
desert wedding sand ceremony
Desert wedding ceremony
First kiss at wedding ceremony
Desert wedding ceremony
desert wedding photos at sunset
desert wedding photos at sunset
Bride posing with a Joshua Tree
bride in Joshua Tree
Bride and groom in Joshua Tree
Bride and groom at a desert wedding in California
vintage mis-matched dinnerware
Cafe lights for outdoor desert wedding
small wedding cake from Half Baked Co. in California
Yucca Valley AirBnB wedding venue 
tapers and outdoor chandelier
Intimate outdoor wedding
Nighttime outdoor wedding
Intimate wedding toasts
Cheers at a backyard wedding
cake cutting
mid-century modern wedding decor
desert wedding with eucalyptus bouquet
Joshua Tree wedding photos
Joshua Tree wedding photos on rocks
Joshua Tree wedding with eucalyptus bouquet
Joshua Tree portraits
Epic Joshua Tree wedding photos
desert wedding with eucalyptus bouquet
Intimate wedding in the desert
Hip bride in sunglasses in the desert
Very cool groom in a tuxedo in the desert


Photography | Clara Rice
Furniture rentals | Planks & Patina
Catering | Soho Taco food cart
Wedding cake | Half Baked Co.
Dress | Jarlo London
Venue |
Graphic design, art & invitations | Lee Robson Spence

Clara Rice Photography


Clara Rice has been at this since high school, taking over the darkroom (and now the computer) from portraits to weddings to relentless cat photos. This has manifested itself into taking photos of the coolest couples doing the coolest things! She loves the challenge of capturing a personal relationship while also creating a beautiful and lasting piece of art.