THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO eloping in california WITH TIPS, VENUES AND LOCATION IDEAS
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there are no rules that are usually associated with big traditional weddings which follow traditions that are somewhat outdated in the modern age.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.
First, let’s be sure we’re talking about the same thing:
1) What is an elopement?
Eloping these days isn’t what it used to; instead, an elopement is an intentional, private and secluded wedding specially crafted for the couple at a location of their choosing and may include a few close friends and family in attendance. Having an adventure elopement presents a one-of-a-kind experience for the couple to integrate their personalities and ideas into the wedding. Elopements are beautiful adventures that allow the couple to craft the day according to their dreams without the external pressure that comes with having a big, traditional wedding.
Having an adventure wedding is an excellent way of testing and fortifying the grit you have as a couple. An adventure elopement is bold, risky, and often an intimate experience. When you are out in the great outdoors, you will learn to depend on each other and learn how to overcome challenges together, which is pretty much how the entire marriage will be; it’s a good starting point. Given how California is a natural state, it’s the perfect location for your elopement ceremony given its miles upon miles of white sandy beaches, ancient redwood trees, granite cliffs, expansive deserts, incredible coastlines, mountain peaks, ethereal National Parks and forests, and a range of other amazing landscapes worth exploring. This place just screams adventure!
2) 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.
3) Why you should consider eloping 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.
4) 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.
5) The Best Time For Eloping In California
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.
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.
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.
6) What is the cost of eloping in California?
Travel to and from California: $700
5 nights in a high-end accomodation // $2 500
Elopement photographer // $12 000
Private chef or full board // $1 000
Elopement permit (if necessary) // $500
Florist // $500
Rentals // $500
Wedding dress and accessories // $4 000
Suit and accessories // $1 000
Total for a high-end elopement in New Orleans: $22 700
Travel to and from California: $700
5 nights in an airbnb // $700
Elopement photographer // $8 000
Food // $250
Elopement permit (if necessary) // $500
Florist // $200
Wedding dress and accessories // $2 500
Suit and accessories // $500
Total for a budget elopement in New Orleans: $13 350
7) 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.
8) California Elopement Checklist
Think about where you’d like to go
Amazing elopement spots are in abundance in the Golden State regardless of the season you are thinking about. This part is exciting since you envision what you want and choose a location that really speaks to you as a couple. Brainstorm with your partner on what environments and landscapes the both of you will enjoy. Depending on the vibe you’re going for, your adventure elopement destination can be in the gorgeous beaches or mountain and desert landscapes. Make sure you have acquired a permit beforehand since most of the elopement locations in California mandate this.
Pick a date
No matter the season you choose, you are sure to find some pretty amazing locations. However, the date you pick will depend on the sort of location you choose and the seasonality it is experiencing. For instance, you don’t want a summer elopement in inland California, where temperatures can rise to triple digits. Also, you’ll need to select a date that works for you and your guests if you decide to invite them. When picking a date, there are logistics that you just have to consider to narrow down a date.
Find more informations about travel visas and wedding documentation
If one or both parties planning to get married in California aren’t U.S. nationals, then S/he will need to provide a valid passport or travel Visa for the marriage to be valid. Wedding documentation you’ll need to elope in California include:
i). You and your partner’s address, full names, date, and place of birth
ii). Birthplaces and names of each of your parents
iii). Valid Government-issued picture ID. Such as State issued ID, military ID, passport, or driver’s license
iv). $90-100 application cash fee. The amount varies in each county
v). Copy of divorce decree if previously divorced
Book your accomodation
If you are traveling from elsewhere, book your flight and lodging. We recommend that you leave a couple of days before and after the elopement day free in case rescheduling is necessary. Consider booking your accommodation close to the elopement location and other essential amenities.
Book your photographer
The photographer is the single most important person in the entire event. Booking a photographer will play to your hand since S/he will know those epic elopement spots that the general public isn’t aware of. You will find that the places you find online are heavily trafficked and won’t give you the privacy and seclusion you want for your California elopement. You can tell your photographer what you prefer, and S/he will assist you in figuring out the best spots you can elope to get those scenic shots you want.
Find a place to exchange your vows
When saying your vows to each other, select a place that speaks to you. The environment you’re surrounded by will complement what you’re saying with your words. The place you decide to tie the knot really matters because it will be the spot you officially begin your lives together.
Book your other vendors
Once you have picked out an elopement date and booked your accommodation, the next step is booking your vendors. Just like traditional weddings, elopements are just as special, which is why you need to plan the details of the wedding from the florals, ceremony archways, table décor, officiant (if not self-solemnizing), hair and makeup, and any type of vendor providing a service you need. Your list of demands can be as short or as long as you like. The vendors you have at your ceremony is entirely up to you.
Plan your travel
How are you planning to get to California and thereafter? You can drive or take a flight depending on your geographical location and financials. You can optionally enlist a travel agency’s services to deal with your itinerary and travel booking on your behalf, which will allow you to focus on the big day and your partner. Fussing about your travel plans is the last thing you want to be thinking about.
Live your dream elopement
It’s the big day, enjoy it fully!
9) Galleries of elopements
- Marine & Etienne – An overnight post-wedding session near Lyon
- Kristina & Tyler – A chateau Challain elopement followed by a 10-days honeymoon in France and Italy
- Imogen & Paul – An overnight mountain elopement near Switzerland
- Elodie & Dean – A post-wedding session in Scotland
- Laura & Ben – A forest elopement in the Highlands
- Misha & Chris – A 5-days elopement in the Japanese forests
Eloping in California can prove to be exactly what your marriage needs as a kick-starter. Regardless of the adventure elopement you may be looking for, California has the landscapes and resources you need to hike, camp and backpack, stroll the seaside, off-road, and just about any outdoor activity you can imagine. Undertaking the ups and downs that come with different adventurous activities can really show what you’re made of and will also help you understand what it really means to have a soul mate that will be with you in the thick-and-thin of things. By choosing to elope, you will be guaranteeing yourselves of no pressure, no stress, no distractions, and no regrets – just the unification of two gentle and adventurous souls.
Look at it this way; life is an adventure that should be cherished every chance you get! And there’s no better place of doing this than in California!
How to plan your peaceful elopement in California with me
Schedule a non-sales call
Everyone truly hates sales calls (me included) so I refuse to do them. We simply chat about what your dream day and travel plans look like to see if we’re a match!
Book your date
We find the perfect date together and you’re officially booked!
I’ll plan your dream elopement
From itinerary planning to vendor suggestions all the way to helping you with permits, I plan everything.
Live your adventure
You live a peaceful, meaningful wedding day on an itinerary that’s custom created just for you.
Relive this day forever
I deliver your pictures and your choice of album from my collection, to remember this adventure, and share it for years to come.
Let’s plan your peaceful elopement
Where you can be you. Feel. Breathe in each other’s love.
Experience a place close to your hearts, or a bucket list dream.
Need more inspiration for your elopement?
Check out this brand new article about the best places to elope IN THE WORLD