Your dream California elopement – the ultimate planning guide
UPDATED FOR 2024-2025
More and more modern couples are moving away from the notion that they are obliged to make a big announcement about getting hitched. If anything, getting married the traditional way will only cost money that would have otherwise been spent elsewhere, cause a tremendous amount of stress, anxiety, and even sleep deprivation as you meticulously plan for the guests that will be in attendance, including their sitting positions and what they’ll eat. You’ll end up focusing on all the superficial factors of the wedding such that you forget what that day is truly meant to symbolize – your love! Why not consider eloping?
The best part about eloping is how there are no rules that are usually associated with big traditional weddings which follow traditions that are somewhat outdated in the modern age. Eloping means you’ll capture and experience some beautiful moments of the wedding you have always dreamed of, not the one you feel coerced by society. Eloping will provide you with an authentic experience aligned to your vision and values as a couple! And if you are looking for this beautiful experience, there’s no better place to enjoy it than in California. As popularly referred, the Golden State is among the most strangely diverse states in the U.S. and the ideal destination for your elopement.
Let’s dive in…
How to elope in California – a quick checklist
- Choose the best time of the year to elope
- Choose your elopement location
- Choose the duration of your stay (I recommend anywhere between 7 to 15 days to fully discover the island)
- Book your flights
- Book your accommodation
- Book your activities
- Get your wedding license
- Need help? Check out my California elopement packages
Why elope in California?
Scenery & Landscape
When it comes to California’s scenery, it’s absolutely superb and just exudes a magical vibe!!! Its diversity in terms of the natural amenities it possesses is totally unreal and beautiful, making it ideal for an elopement ceremony. This State truly has every landscape you can possibly think of – sunny seasides, massive deserts, snow-capped mountain ranges, lush forests, enormous granite cliffsides, you name it. With endless options for selection, this expansive natural State is perfect for a couple who wants everything! It has everything you’ve ever dreamt of so much more. California is the best place for your first among many anniversaries to come.
The weather conditions are a significant factor to consider when planning your elopement. The season you choose to elope will directly translate to the sort of experience you’ll get. California is a very BIG State, so big that it experiences varying weather conditions from place to place. However, the best part about eloping in California is that it experiences excellent weather all year round from January to December. So regardless of the location choose to elope, you are guaranteed favorable climatic conditions for your special day. There’s no wrong time to elope to California.
Arts & Culture
California is home to Hollywood! And as such, it’s expected that this diverse region is culturally woke and artsy with sculptures, classic paintings, and decorative arts that feature ancient and European works. You will find the art to be immersive and interactive, and precisely the flare your elopement needs for a memorable experience.
How to Get Legally Married in California
Although the purpose of this article is to help you find the best destinations for eloping in California, we are also dedicated to ensuring that we assist you with other particulars of your CA elopement, which includes your marriage license. You should note that each State’s marriage regulations vary, and that’s why it’s important to consider and familiarize yourself with the marriage laws and procedures of California marriage regulations before pulling the trigger on your elopement plans.
Can we self-solemnize?
Yes, you can! California is among the few states you can self-unite legally. Self-solemnizing refers to the act of the couple officiating the marriage without requiring the oversight or signature of a judge, celebrant, or third-party officiant. This means you can essentially marry yourself. If you decide to elope in California, for the marriage certificate to be deemed valid, you’ll need the signature of at least one witness as well as your partner’s, officiant’s, and your signature. Additionally, as long as you are 18 years or older, same-sex marriage in California is permissible. Note that when applying, you’ll have to appear in person.
The Best Places For Eloping In California
Eloping in California entails so much more than you may think considering how there are a variety of pristine locations up for selection for your intimate ceremony. If there’s a particular landscape you have envisaged for your dream elopement, you can bet that you’ll find in the Golden State! With over 100 state parks and 9 national parks (more than any State), California is everything you’ve ever envisioned for your adventurous wedding day. It doesn’t matter what you’re looking for, California truly has it all; it’s all a matter of if you have the time and perseverance to challenge and push yourselves to the absolute limit.
Let’s look at the best regions in California for eloping:
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is a classic California icon that is distinctly appealing regardless of the time of year. Summertime is the best for outdoor pursuits; spring brings with it gushing waterfalls, fall is symbolized by colorful trees and beautiful scenery as wildflowers bloom, while winter turns into a snowy wonderland for snowshoeing and skiing. So whether you’re hikers, rock climbers, or want to lounge by a river in summer, Yosemite is definitely the place for you.
The park features deep valleys, vast wilderness, giant sequoias, and majestic viewpoints that are simply second-to-none. Renowned spots in the park you can host your ceremony include Taft Point, Half Dome, and Glacier Point. Whether it’s enormous waterfalls, old-growth forests, or granite cliffs you seek, Yosemite won’t disappoint. I really can’t think of a more magical place to have your wedding than this! Nothing can beat taking a photo in front of the towering waterfalls that cascade from the steep cliffs of Yosemite National Park. Your Instagram feed will be filled with a flurry comments regarding the magical land you are having your elopement.
You can’t go wrong by choosing Big Sur as your elopement destination. Picture the rugged coastline, dramatic sea cliffs, hot springs, towering redwood forests, wildlife, and an endless barrage of breathtaking views—just the perfect setting for your elopement. Consider visiting Big Sur from September to October. You can watch the sun sets over the Pacific Ocean with your beloved while standing cliffside. The view is absolutely unreal!
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley is the most epic and craziest elopement location in California and a place filled with natural beauty. It features enchanting sand dunes, gorgeous slot canyons, mountains, rock formations, dry lake beds, and a mesmerizing night sky that makes this wonderland ideal for eloping. Pro Tip: Elope here during the cooler months when the temperatures aren’t intense like summer.
Bishop/Mammoth Lakes Area
Located southeast of Yosemite, this place is hands-down, the most epic and stunning location for your elopement in California. The mountain views of this area are awe-inspiring, not to mention the little hot springs as well, which is ideal for adventurous spirits. Make sure you have reached out to a ranger to give you a rundown of the permit rules.
Sequoia National Park
We recommend eloping to the Sequoia trees of California if you’re looking for a ‘big landscape, tiny humans’ vibe. They’re unlike anything you’ve seen, towering way above everybody walking through the trails. It has designated ceremony locations that you can choose from for your elopement. The cost of the permit needed is significantly less compared to what you’d pay in a park like Yosemite, making this place among the cheapest locations to elope.
Santa Cruz provides a fascinating mixture of landscapes. With picturesque beaches right out of a postcard, sea cliffs, and breathtaking giant redwood forests, you are sure to find the best of both worlds. You can decide to elope to Santa Cruz at any time of the year.
Did you know?
California is a vast and diverse state, offering a multitude of unique and unexplored destinations beyond the typical tourist hotspots. When you entrust me with planning your California elopement, I’ll curate a personalized list of 4 to 5 extraordinary off-the-beaten-path locations that perfectly suit your desires and vision. Let me guide you to the hidden gems of California, where you can exchange vows in secluded and awe-inspiring settings, far from the crowds and clichés.
When to plan your California elopement
Before deciding on the place you’re going to elope, the seasonality will play a significant factor in your CA elopement. One thing about California is that it’s a very, very big State! It occupies more than half of the States’ west coast, meaning that it also has a variety of climates and landscapes that greatly differ from one another, even if the seasons are the same. You can expect to find inland California during the summer to be a complete scorcher, whereas the coastal towns in the north are pretty enjoyable during this period.
This State isn’t like other states in America where you know what every season will bring; California can’t really be classified under that category. And with endless possibilities you can choose, planning your elopement in CA can prove to be a tad complicated. You really can’t afford to elope in the wrong season as it will make for a pretty terrible elopement.
The inland desert areas are the top places to elope during the winter months. The temperatures in these places are more bearable during this period, making exploration that more enjoyable on your elopement day. If you’re looking for a California desert vibe, then a winter elopement is what you should go to avoid the uncomfortable heat of summer and spring.
If you are looking to elope in spring, southern California is a fantastic place to consider. Like fall, the temperatures during spring are much milder. Also, having a springtime elopement will allow you to avoid crowds in the peak tourism months. You can consider eloping to places like Santa Barbara, Malibu, and La Jolla, where the temperatures are more favorable. Spring will provide picturesque backdrop photos with the most ethereal wildflower meadows you’ll ever get to see.
Considering how California has incredible mountains, I believe that summertime is the best time to plan your escape to the mountainside. In colder months, high elevation roads and mountain passes are usually closed but are opened up again during summer. If you’re thinking about eloping in the Golden State in the summer, you should consider places such as Sequoia and Kings Canyon, Yosemite, Lassen Volcanic, etc. We advise that you avoid inland California due to the high temps and scorching sunshine during this season.
The fall season is the best time to enjoy southern California’s sandy beaches. It isn’t too cold or too hot—perfect conditions for an elopement with comfortable temperatures that you and your boo will enjoy. The peak tourism season runs from June all through to August; eloping during the fall allows you to escape the crowds and focus on yourselves. Late September and October are excellent times to elope near Big Sur. Chances of rainfall are minimal, and the temperatures are a bit cooler compared to summer.
Unique Things to Do When You Elope in California
California offers a wealth of unique and adventurous off-the-beaten-path activities for those looking to explore beyond the typical tourist destinations. Here are five incredible experiences to consider during your visit. These off-the-beaten-path adventures in California offer a taste of the state’s diverse landscapes and hidden treasures. Whether you’re into geology, stargazing, or hiking, these unique experiences allow you to discover the lesser-known wonders of the Golden State.
Slot Canyon Exploration in Anza-Borrego Desert
Venture into the otherworldly slot canyons of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. These narrow, winding canyons, such as The Slot and Wind Caves, provide an exhilarating opportunity for hiking and photography. Be prepared to squeeze through tight spaces and marvel at the natural sculptures formed by water and wind erosion.
Visit the “Bathtub Ring” at Mono Lake
Discover the eerie beauty of Mono Lake, located near the eastern Sierra Nevada. The lake is known for its striking “tufa towers,” limestone formations that rise from the water. Explore the lesser-known South Tufa area and witness the “Bathtub Ring,” an unusual geological phenomenon created by the lake’s changing water levels.
Joshua Tree Night Sky Photography
Head to Joshua Tree National Park for an unforgettable night photography experience. The park is designated as a Dark Sky Park, making it an ideal location for capturing stunning shots of the Milky Way, stars, and the unique Joshua Tree landscape under the night sky. Join a guided astrophotography tour for expert guidance.
Lava Beds National Monument Caving
Embark on a caving adventure in Lava Beds National Monument in northern California. This lesser-known park boasts over 700 lava tube caves to explore. Bring a flashlight or headlamp and explore the subterranean world, encountering unique geological features and lava formations.
Hiking and Soaking in Sykes Hot Springs
Located deep within the Ventana Wilderness in Big Sur, Sykes Hot Springs is a hidden gem accessible via a challenging 10-mile hike along the Pine Ridge Trail. After the hike, you’ll be rewarded with a soak in natural hot springs amidst the lush surroundings of the Santa Lucia Mountains.
What To Wear When Eloping In California
Even if you’re deviating from traditional wedding practices, there are things like the wedding dress that are non-negotiable. You will need to consider its mobility, size, and if it can be packed. Princess dresses are not feasible when it comes to an adventure elopement. Instead, go for modern dresses that are sturdy, lightweight and flowy, so that it isn’t a hindrance when traversing the terrain.
Since most of your time will be spent traversing, the best shoes to wear are hiking shoes. You can pack your polished shoes and heels and wear them when you reach your elopement spot. But when it comes to trekking, pull out the big guns that have good tread, are sturdy and slip-resistant. Choosing the right wear for your adventure elopement is key.
For the groom, the suit selected will largely depend on the weather or season. A 3-piece suit may not be ideal for an elopement in summer. You can wear a tuxedo that comes with accessories like cummerbunds, white shirt, black bow tie, and matching boutonnieres with the bride’s bouquet.
Typical food and dishes from California
You might want to integrate into your elopement day
Cobb salad, a classic American creation, is a vibrant medley of flavors and textures. Crisp lettuce, tender chicken, smoky bacon, creamy avocado, and tangy blue cheese unite in perfect harmony, creating a symphony of taste with each forkful. The combination of fresh ingredients and a zesty dressing makes cobb salad a refreshing and satisfying choice, whether enjoyed as a light lunch or a fulfilling dinner.
Cioppino, a beloved Italian-American seafood stew, is a celebration of the bountiful treasures from the sea. This fragrant medley combines the essence of fresh fish, succulent shellfish, and tangy tomatoes, harmonizing into a delightful symphony of flavors. With each spoonful of Cioppino, the briny essence of the ocean transports diners to coastal villages, evoking a sense of warmth, togetherness, and culinary bliss.
California pizza, an inventive twist on the traditional Italian pie, is a fusion of flavors that embodies the sunny spirit of the West Coast. With its thin crust and an array of unconventional toppings, such as avocado, artichokes, and sun-dried tomatoes, California pizza embraces a bold and eclectic culinary adventure. Whether enjoyed at a beachside café or under the palm trees, each bite offers a tantalizing journey of creativity and a taste of the vibrant Californian lifestyle.
California elopement packages and pricing
All my packages include:
- From 1-2 locations to a full 7 days honeymoon and elopement adventure photography coverage
- Custom planning by a travel agent and elopement planner with:
- A list of 3 to 4 location recommendations based on your vision (waterfall? redwoods? beach? cliffsides? mountains? You name it!)
- Complimentary transportation for your day(s)
- Concierge service for vendors, accommodation, restaurants, you name it! And the option of having it all included in your package
- Help with anything related to accessibility, permits and rules
- A printed “how to elope” guide with everything you need to know
- A custom timeline for your day(s)
- The possibility to get legally married by your photographer (we’re all US ministers!)
- Online gallery you can share with the world
- Travels feels to anywhere in California are already included!
- Starting at $10.750
Are you eager to start planning your elopement in California? I’m here to help you envision, plan and immortalize this beautiful adventure! Contact me now for a free consultation!
Welcome to the Adventure of a Lifetime
Hey there, I’m Amber! I’m your elopement photographer and planner – your one-stop-shop for absolutely everything you need for a magical, incredible elopement day.
I offer all-inclusive elopement packages for couples who want to relax and let me handle absolutely everything, as well as options for couples who like a little bit of DIY! I’ll find the perfect place for you to exchange vows, recommend vendors, help you figure out travel and lodging, make a timeline, and more – personalizing each part of your elopement day to perfectly suit the two of you. And of course, I’ll be there to take the photos and document this once in a lifetime adventure.
You aren’t like every other couple, and your wedding day shouldn’t be either! I’ll help you craft a day that’s true to you, authentic, and real, allowing you to immerse yourselves in the experience as you say your “I dos.”