Mar 2, 2022

How To Elope In California

Looking for help planning your California elopement, or trying to decide if you want to elope here in the first place? If so, I’ve got you covered! I’m so passionate about helping couples plan the elopement of their dreams, no matter what that looks like. I decided to put together a comprehensive blog post sharing all my experience with California elopements so that you have everything you could possibly need to know!

5 reasons you should elope in California

The variety of state & national parks

Between Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Big Sur, Redwoods, and so many more, California has such a diverse selection of parks for your elopement. And most of these parks are open all year round! State parks like Big Sur offer multiple different landscapes for you to choose from, ranging from beaches to forests.

The beautiful weather

California is known for their sunny, warm weather all year round. Although you might encounter windy days or some rain here and there, you can pretty much count on mild weather at any time of the year here. 

The warm beaches

Ugh, don’t even get me started on the California beaches! From the Central Coast all the way to Southern California, there are beaches all along the coast that would be perfect for your elopement. The best thing is that there’s almost always activities nearby such as hiking, kayaking, or other adventurous things to do. 

The honeymoon spots

If you’re planning a California elopement, you may have an elopement & honeymoon destination all in one. SoCal is a honeymoon spot in itself with all the beautiful places to visit! You can find so many different places to spend post-elopement in California, your options are virtually limitless. 

The vineyards

If you’re a fan of wine/wine tasting, California is known for their fruitful vineyards, especially in the valley. Scheduling a wine tour could be such a fun activity for you and your partner! The weather in the Napa Valley wine country is beautiful all year round and the scenery is to die for.

Best time to elope in California

As I mentioned before, the weather in California is mild all year round. Unless you’re talking about the mountains in the wintertime, because the weather in that region can be a bit finicky. If you’re planning your elopement on the central coast or Southern California, spring would be the most reliable time of year! The warmest months are usually between July and October, so avoid those if you don’t want high temperatures. If you want to elope somewhere in the desert like Joshua Tree, the best time to do that would probably be between the months of March & May or October & November, when the temps don’t usually get above 100 degrees.

Figure out the legalities

In California, there are two different types of marriage licenses to be aware of; a public one and confidential one. Here are the differences between the two:

Public marriage license

  • Available for public record
  • Anyone can request an informational copy 
  • The couple & specified relatives can request a certified copy
  • Requires the signature of at least one witness and an officiant
  • No restrictions on where the couple lives

Private marriage license

  • Not available for public record
  • Only the couple (and and a judge in the case of a court order) can obtain a copy
  • No witnesses required other than the officiant
  • Couple must be living together prior to their marriage

Both of these licenses are valid for 90 days after they’re issued. You do not need to be a California resident to obtain a marriage license.

Create a budget

It’s time to create your California elopement budget! Even though you’re eloping instead of having a traditional wedding, there are still things to keep in mind in terms of finances. For example, although you probably won’t need a big, expensive venue, you’ll still need to think about where you’re getting ready the morning of your elopement. Here are a few more things you should consider:

  • Travels fees
  • Wedding attire
  • Photographer/videographer/florist/decor
  • Airbnb/mini venue
  • Food

Have an honest conversation with your partner early on to determine what’s a comfortable budget for the both of you. Decide if you want to be strict with that budget, or if you have some wiggle room!

Find a California elopement photographer

Once you have a budget in mind, start looking for a California elopement photographer. Start by browsing Instagram and getting a feel for which photographers you really connect with. Take note of their editing style and be sure it’s consistent throughout their photos. Stalk their website, read their blog posts, and take your time making a final decision!

What do you want to do on your elopement day?

Start thinking about what you want to do before and after your California elopement. Do you want to take a sunset walk on the beach? Or head to a local bar to celebrate? The options are endless when you elope, so take your time to think about what you truly want to do. If you and your partner are the adventurous type, you could go hiking or even rock climbing before or after your elopement! 

Have a backup plan

Come up with a backup plan that you’re equally as happy with as your original. Although it’s unlikely anything crazy will happen, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. I would much rather you be over prepared than under! Especially if you’re planning an elopement somewhere like Big Sur where there can be unexpected road closures on the 101, a backup plan is very necessary!

Research permits in the area

If you’re getting married anywhere other than a traditional venue, be sure to research what permits you’ll need for the location you’re eloping. Most national and state parks require both a ceremony and photography permit, so be prepared to purchase those in advance! Look up local rules and regulations for permits at least 3 months prior to your elopement to give you plenty of time to apply. 

Best places to elope in California

Mount Shasta 

60 miles south of the Oregon border lies Mount Shasta, the infamous ice-topped NorCal volcano. For all your adventure lovers, Mount Shasta has almost every activity you could dream of! This is the perfect place to spend the weekend and fully immerse yourself in the experience.


California is home to some of the largest redwood forests in the US. There are countless redwood national and state parks throughout the state, so definitely something to take into consideration when planning your California elopement. And if camping is your jam, I wouldn’t rule out making a little camping trip out of your elopement in the Redwoods. 

How To Elope In California

San Francisco

The iconic northern California city of San Francisco would give you a unique elopement experience that you can’t get anywhere else! Truly unlike any other city in California, SF is filled with the energy of a big city with the soul of a historic town. Plus, there’s so much diversity depending on the vibe you want for your elopement! Here are a few of my favorite spots to get married in SF:

How To Elope In California

Lake Tahoe 

One of the top winter getaway spots for California natives to experience a snowy climate, Lake Tahoe is also a pretty great elopement spot. Even if you’re not a fan of the winter climate, you can elope at Lake Tahoe any time of the year and it would be equally as beautiful.

How To Elope In California

Big Sur

Big Sur is an amazing elopement spot because of the diversity of scenery while still having access to secluded, private venues. If you want to start your elopement in the depths of the forest and still make it to the beach for a west coast sunset, head to Big Sur!  

How To Elope In California

Mammoth Lake

Wanna go skiing then head straight to the hot springs right after your elopement? Located just 45 minutes away from Yosemite, Mammoth Lake is nestled in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. You can get some pretty incredible views if you decide to tie the knot here, so don’t overlook it!


Within Yosemite National Park lies some of California’s most awe-inspiring wonders. Not only are the sunrises and sunsets to die for at Yosemite, but there are so many peaks and points to view them from! You can plan your summer or winter elopement here and not regret it either way.  

How To Elope In California

San Luis Obispo/Santa Barbara

These quaint, historic towns located on the Central Coast of California are the best low-key elopement spots the state has to offer. Although not impressive in size, the beauty and aura of these towns make up for it tenfold! Both these towns offer both widespread and secluded beaches that no one would hesitate to elope at. 

How To Elope In California

San Bernardino Mountains 

Heading southbound and inland, we have the highest peaks in Southern California. The San Bernardino Mountains reach an elevation of 11,000 feet and are home to the infamous Big Bear Lake. If you’re passing through LA, the mountains are only 93 miles northeast of Los Angeles County!

How To Elope In California

Laguna Beach

If you visit Laguna Beach, California, you’ll be met with an activity-filled weekend in this coastal town. You can start your day at one of the many fine art galleries and end the evening somewhere like Crystal Cove State Park! A classic, SoCal vibe here for sure. 

Palm Springs/Joshua Tree

Palm Desert is HOT in the summertime (we’re talkin’ upwards of 100 degrees) so I wouldn’t recommend planning a summer elopement in this region. But in more bearable temperatures, the Palm Springs/Joshua Tree area is a must-visit! Palm Springs has a plethora of luxurious resorts if you want to have the most boujee elopement possible, and Joshua Tree has the ultimate desert elopement vibe so many couples crave.

How To Elope In California

Death Valley 

Although Death Valley is quite literally one of the hottest places on earth some parts of the year, it’s an epic elopement spot in the right temperature! This park is located in California but dips into Nevada in some parts as well. The views that Death Valley has are come that you seriously can’t beat, and you could get some pretty amazing photos here. 

How To Elope In California

Lassen Volcanic National Park

This lesser-known national park is the ultimate, off the map elopement location! You can only visit this park through the months of July and October due to the road closures from snow, but that’s still a great timespan for eloping. All the lakes located in the park are 100% swimmable, so pack a bathing suit if you’re planning your elopement here! 

My tips on how to elope in California

Those are all my tips on how to elope in California! Planning an elopement is no joke, so I hope you found this guide helpful. If you want to inquire with me about your date, you can do so by filling out my contact form! In the meantime, check out my A-Z guide on How To Plan An Elopement. And if you’re trying to decide between in eloping in different locations, I have blogs covering Washington and Oregon as well!

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about the author / photographer

I'm jenny :)

Hi guys! Welcome to my blog. 
I am a travel elopement and wedding photographer who happily helps my couples plan their big day. 

There are so many ways to customize a wedding day experience that is unique to you and a true reflection of the things that you value in life. 

I am here to document this milestone in an artistic and meaningful way while being there to assist my couple in anyway possible. 

If you would like to learn more about me and my services, go here! 

hello, it's so nice to meet you!


hey! my name is jenny 

A Little About My Spirit

Hi guys! Welcome to my blog. 
I am a travel elopement and wedding photographer who happily helps my couples plan their big day. 

There are so many ways to customize a wedding day experience that is unique to you and a true reflection of the things that you value in life. 

I am here to document this milestone in an artistic and meaningful way while being there to assist my couple in anyway possible. 

If you would like to learn more about me and my services, go here! 


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