Best Places to Elope in California

Couple elopes on beach in Mendocino, CA

California is filled with breathtaking landscapes and romantic cities that make for beautiful backdrops for your intimate California elopement. Whether you envision exchanging vows in the majestic redwoods, on a sun-kissed beach, or in a bustling urban setting, there are hundreds of incredible places to elope in California. 

As California elopement planners here at Michelle Angeli, we love planning California elopements. Today, we’re sharing our top six places to elope in California. Each offers its own unique setting, and you can’t go wrong with any of them.  

Why Elope in California?

There is truly something for everyone in California! With a variety of location options and an unrivaled natural beauty, it’s safe to say that a California elopement will be stunning. From the striking peaks of the Sierra Nevada to the remarkable coastline along the Pacific Ocean, you can find any type of terrain and climate within California. If you’re looking for a place that combines natural wonders, variety, and endless possibilities, you should elope in California!

Here are our favorite places to elope in California:

San Francisco

Elopement in California at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco

Things You Should Know About Eloping in San Francisco 

San Francisco offers a variety of options within the city. From redwoods to rooftops, San Francisco is filled with tons of iconic elopement locations. The ideal couple for a San Francisco elopement might already live there and not want to drive hours to another city, or the couple may have a history in San Francisco that they want to embrace for their wedding day. Either way, it’s an amazing spot for elopements!

Best Places to Elope in San Francisco 

San Francisco City Hall elopement. Photography by Michelle Angeli

There are dozens of options to choose from! One of the most popular San Francisco elopement locations is the San Francisco City Hall. Take a look at this San Francisco City Hall elopement to see the photos for yourself! The dramatic and classic architecture of the building makes for a gorgeous backdrop. After the ceremony, you can explore the city together with your photographer since it’s centrally located.

If you’re looking for a unique indoor elopement location, you might consider the Sunnyside Conservatory.  This octagonal redwood conservatory makes for a delightful ceremony space, and you can rent it by the hour. The floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the one-hundred-year-old garden outside. On weekdays and Sundays, you can rent the space for $105 per hour, and on Saturdays, it costs $819 for two hours.

Californian wedding elopement champaign celebration

Lastly, if you’re looking for some adventure, The Presidio is the place for you. Connected to the Golden Gate Bridge, this spot has it all. It overlooks the lovely coastline and beaches and offers a fabulous view of the city skyline, and it’s a gateway to the city’s many trails. Take a look at this fun elopement at the Sutro Baths in San Francisco as it incorporates both beautiful coastal and city views.

Best Time to Elope in San Francisco 

We recommend planning your San Francisco elopement anytime from September to November. Fall is the best season because it’s still decently warm and there are fewer crowds. Another good time could be spring since it’s typically a mild temperature and rain-free. 

From June to August, Karl the Fog comes out. If you don’t mind a potentially chilly and overcast day, a summer elopement could also work for you!

San Francisco Elopement Permits

Permits aren’t a huge thing in the city, so planning your San Francisco elopement will be easy. For outdoor park areas, you may need to get a permit through Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Most permits require ten business days to process and have a $60 application fee. 

If you choose a place like San Francisco City Hall, there are several different areas, such as the fourth floor, that you can rent for your elopement ceremony. If you go this route, there is a ceremony fee ($90), and you will need to reserve your time and date. Another option is to bring in your own officiant and have your ceremony there without a permit or reservation. Here at Michelle Angeli, we offer all-inclusive San Francisco elopement packages and can serve as your officiant!  (let us plan it all for you!)

Take a look at this San Francisco intimate wedding that took place at the San Francisco City Hall as well as many other landmark spots around town.

Big Sur

Coastal cliffs elopement in Big Sur, CA

Things You Should Know About Eloping in Big Sur

Eloping in Big Sur is a magical experience! The awe-inspiring cliffs, pristine beaches, and enchanting redwood forests make it special. However, Big Sur has become a popular elopement destination, so it’s important to consider your plan well in advance. 

Couples that elope in Big Sur love the adventure and nature aspects of the location. It’s a bit more rugged, offering lots of hiking trails and state parks. 

Best Places to Elope in Big Sur

Contrary to popular belief, your Big Sur elopement doesn’t have to be on the beach or along the coast. You can go inland into the forest area for an enchanting forest elopement setting. Glen Oaks is one of our favorite lodges for intimate elopements or small weddings with up to 100 guests. If it’s just you two and a photographer, you can have an elopement ceremony along the nearby trails at no extra charge if you’re a registered guest of the lodge. It’s such a romantic elopement venue!

Garrapata State Park is an option for couples looking to have their toes in the sand while they say their vows. It’s located just off Highway 1 and has splendid coastal views. You can have up to twenty-five guests in the restricted area of the park, but more guests can attend if the ceremony is on the beach. A permit is required for elopements here.

Private land or private businesses are other venue options for your Big Sur elopement. It’s less hassle permit-wise, and you can find a venue (Airbnb, VRBO, a restaurant, or a lodge) with all the space and amenities you and your guests need.

Best Time to Elope in Big Sur

Big Sur is the sunniest and warmest April through October. The summer months are usually busy with tourists, so avoiding the peak summertime is key. In the springtime, Big Sur is known for its pretty wildflowers. Fall in Big Sur is another dreamy weather period, but it’s also wildfire season. 

Overall, Big Sur is absolutely phenomenal, but the weather can be unpredictable, so it is important to have a backup plan in case of inclement weather. 

Big Sur Elopement Permits

Big Sur permits are complicated. If you are having your elopement on Big Sur public land, you’ll likely need a special events permit or a wedding permit, which will cost you roughly $400. You should apply for these over sixty days in advance of your elopement to avoid a rush processing fee. Additionally, for most state parks, you’ll have to pay $10 per vehicle to enter the park.

Mendocino Coast

Boho elopement in Northern California

Things You Should Know About Eloping on the Mendocino Coast

We think the Mendocino Coast is so underrated! It’s less popular than Big Sur but just as appealing. Couples that will enjoy eloping here are ones that love the Big Sur vibes but want fewer crowds. The landscapes here are absolutely astonishing and so romantic! Take a look at this elopement in Mendocino to see the sights for yourself!

Best Places to Elope on the Mendocino Coast

Glass Beach is a hidden gem along the Mendocino Coast. Over the years, the ocean has transformed discarded glass bottles into smooth, colorful sea glass pebbles that now adorn the shoreline. As part of MacKerricher State Park, it makes for a vibrant backdrop for your California elopement. 

Another one of our favorites is Mendocino Headlands State Park. It’s a coastal park known for its rugged cliffs, dramatic views, and exquisite trails. There are a few options within it for elopement locations.

Private inns, bed and breakfasts, and rustic cottages are all common in this area and they make for wonderful elopement venues or accommodations for your guests if you have them.

Best Time to Elope on the Mendocino Coast

April to November is a good timeframe to plan a Mendocino Coast elopement. The transitional seasons of spring and fall offer mild weather and fewer crowds compared to the peak summer season, so if you’re looking for a more intimate ceremony, we recommend avoiding the summertime months.

It can get quite cool and foggy along the Mendocino Coast, so it’s important to think about bringing layers and having an inclement weather plan. Depending on the time of year you elope, you may even see seals along the rocks!

Mendocino Coast Elopement Permits

Similar to other California State Parks, you’ll need a special event permit and you should apply over sixty days in advance. 

Want to elope in Mendocino? Check out our all-inclusive Mendocino elopement packages.

Palm Springs

Things You Should Know About Eloping in Palm Springs

Palm Springs is a colorful, mid-century modern, queer-centric city that’s perfect for a California elopement! The stunning desert scenery offers sweeping views of natural beauty like mountains, palm trees, and desert flora. 

Couples should consider Palm Springs if they’re wanting to have an outdoor elopement with a unique backdrop! It’s also extremely welcoming for LGBTQIA+ couples. 

Best Places to Elope in Palm Springs

From luxurious resorts and boutique hotels to modern villas and private estates, there are plenty of options to suit your style and preferences. Whether you’re looking for a sleek and contemporary setting or a vintage-inspired backdrop, Palm Springs has it all. 

One cool elopement spot is the Palm Springs Windmills. It’s an iconic area in the open desert overlooking thousands of windmills. The cool part? The windmills actually bring the temperature down around them, so this location could work even in the summer heat. It’s a secluded area close to the hustle and bustle of downtown Palm Springs.

For couples looking for a luxurious and sophisticated elopement experience, The Parker Palm Springs is absolutely gorgeous. It’s a boutique hotel with a mid-century modern design, lush gardens, and elegant decor. With amazing amenities and service, it makes for a fabulous elopement venue.

Best Time to Elope in Palm Springs

Palm Springs is known for its year-round sunshine! However, it can get very hot in the summer months. For this reason, we recommend that couples elope in the fall (September to November), winter (December to February), or early spring (March to May) when it’s milder. These are all the off-season peak times in Palm Springs, so there should be fewer tourists, too. 

Palm Springs Elopement Permits

Some locations such as national parks will require a permit, while privately owned venues likely will not.

Joshua Tree

Things You Should Know About Eloping in Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park is always a great place to elope in California. There’s way more to it than just the desert! It’s known for its distinctive Joshua trees, towering rock formations, and vast desert landscapes. If your elopement is happening in the evening, you can stay for nighttime to experience the impressive starry night skies that the park is renowned for. If you’re looking for an iconic elopement destination, this is it!

Best Places to Elope in Joshua Tree

In Joshua Tree, there are 11 approved locations to have a Joshua Tree wedding. These approved spots are the only options for an elopement ceremony in Joshua Tree, and each of them offers something unique.

There are several picnic areas that are great if you’ll be having guests at your Joshua Tree elopement. We love the Hidden Valley Picnic Area because it has lots of seating and shade. Here you’ll be limited to 35 people and 8 vehicles. Other picnic areas are Rattlesnake Picnic Area and Quail Springs Picnic Area

Porcupine Wash is a magnificent area that has the quintessential Joshua Tree rugged rock formations and wide open space. This spot is limited to ten people only, though!

Best Time to Elope in Joshua Tree

May to December is the peak season, but it can get quite hot in the summer. In the dead of winter, it is very cold in Joshua Tree, so we don’t recommend the winter months. Fall and spring are your best bets for a Joshua Tree elopement. We love it in the spring when there are wildflower blooms that add pops of color to the desert scenery. 

Joshua Tree Elopement Permits

A Special Use Permit is required, and you’ll need to apply at least thirty days in advance of your elopement ceremony. It costs $120, and it covers your photographer as well.

Tahoe Area

Things You Should Know About Eloping in Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is known for its beauty, with crystal-clear water surrounded by mountains. It makes for an outstanding place to elope, no matter if you choose a beach, a mountain peak, or a forest. 

The Sierra Foothills have a lot of adventure options, but there are also places with epic views that you can get to without hiking 100 miles. Take a look at this elopement in Pinecrest, located in the Sierra Foothills, that had amazing scenery! We think Tahoe and other Foothilll locations make for a great alternative to eloping in Yosemite.

Best Places to Elope in Tahoe

Emerald Bay State Park is an iconic, picturesque location in Lake Tahoe. It features a beautiful turquoise bay. The surrounding granite cliffs and lush forests only add to the beauty. 

D.L. Bliss State Park is on the western shore of Lake Tahoe and it’s known for its sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and secluded coves. It’s easy to access and has a plethora of recreational activities nearby, too. If you’re eloping during peak season, it’s best early in the morning to avoid the crowds. 

Looking for a mountain-top elopement? Heavenly Mountain Resort offers a scenic gondola ride up to the top of the mountain where you can exchange vows overlooking Lake Tahoe. Choose among their outdoor ceremony locations and wow your guests (if you have them) with unbelievable views.

Best Time to Elope in Tahoe

Tahoe is a year-round destination, but it can get quite cold and snowy in the winter. June to August is a popular time to elope because of the warm weather, but that time is peak tourist season so popular locations may be more crowded. September to November is another good time for a Tahoe elopement thanks to the mild temperatures and autumn foliage. March to May is also an option, especially if you want the snow caps on the mountains in your photos!

Tahoe Elopement Permits

You will likely need a permit should you choose to elope at Lake Tahoe. Permits can range from $400 to $1200 depending on the location you choose.

We hope this guide to places to elope in California has provided you with a glimpse into the nearly unlimited elopement options in California. From the marvelous redwoods of Big Sur to the sun-kissed beaches of the Mendocino Coast to the bustling streets of San Francisco, California offers a plethora of incredible options for couples seeking an intimate and unforgettable elopement experience. Each of the six areas we covered here has its own unique charm, providing the perfect backdrop for your California elopement.  

Things to Consider When Choosing a Place to Elope in California

There are several important factors to consider when choosing your California elopement location. First, think about the atmosphere you want. Do you prefer the tranquility of nature or the vibrance of a city? With either preference, you’ll need to think about how busy the area is. Will you have a peaceful and intimate ceremony, or might there be crowds of onlookers? Striking the right balance between privacy and ambiance is key for your California elopement. 

Once you have that narrowed down, you can begin to think about the logistics of your California elopement. It’s important to consider if you’ll be having guests at your elopement and how many. Sometimes, certain venues and areas restrict the number of guests permitted, so it’s important to know that before beginning to plan. If you are planning to have guests at your elopement, consider if you will need certain accessibility options for your guests and if there are accommodations nearby. 

Lastly, don’t forget to consider the time of year that you’ll be eloping. The weather across different parts of the state can vary drastically, and each region has its own climate. Think about your vision for the day and choose a time of year that aligns with it. You may be longing for a snowy Sierra Mountains ceremony backdrop or a warm and sunny Santa Barbara beach elopement, so understanding the seasons and weather swings that come along with them will help you choose the perfect time for a California elopement. 

Choose Michelle Angeli for your California Elopement

Here at Michelle Angeli, we are California elopement planners and photographers offering wedding planning, elopement planning, photography, videography, and floral packages. We specialize in all-inclusive elopement packages for convenient, stress-free elopements. Our services are ideal for couples looking for a destination wedding or elopement. Get in touch today, and we can help you choose the perfect spot for your elopement anywhere in the state.

Check out our package options for California elopements:

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   ALL IMAGES © 2008 - 2024 MICHELLE ANGELI