Big Sur Cliffs Elopement

Couple standing on a large rock on the beach in Big Sur on wedding day with leather jacket

If you’ve been doing some research about getting married in Big Sur you may have read (or you’re learning this now) that the weather can be a little wild and unpredictable with wind and fog. I love that warm California glow there’s nothing that inspires me more than foggy weather at the beach and that’s just one of the many things that made this romantic elopement in Big Sur so special. 

A sweet note from the couple:

As an elopement photographer, I’m so grateful to work in this beautiful environment and get such sweet reviews from my clients!

“I’m crying. You captured our day so beautifully looking at the photos brings me right back to our wedding day. Thank you so much for calming our nerves and being so easy to work with. We’re obsessed with these photos!”

Groom getting ready in the dark in Big Sur
Bride getting ready in the dark next to her Tesla in Big Sur

I’m always so grateful when my clients are excited about meeting up for sunrise because I just absolutely love that time of day! It’s especially important for couples who value their privacy yet want to get married in a popular wedding location because, well, it’s popular for a reason-it’s so so gorgeous! I created the timeline with extra padding time included because you just never know and my mom still loves to remind me of the girl scout motto “always be prepared” (thanks mom!) so we met at dusk while it was still dark out. Adam arrived mostly ready and just needed some finishing touches before I tucked him away down the path. Sarah changed into her dress with the glow of their Tesla (lovingly named Draco) lights illuminating the foggy morning ahead. Not a soul was on the road except for us. You may have been wondering how it’s possible to do a First Look when you’re eloping with two of you and now you know this one way (yes there are other options)

Bride getting ready in front of her Tesla on the side of the road in Big Sur
Bride with long veil and lantern walking a path in Big Sur
Bride in a long veil and Sarah Seven wedding dress walking down the coast of Big Sur
First look on a bridge at Garrapata State Park

Let’s set the mood: The sky was still thick with fog and the sun had just peaked up as the seals were making their morning music in the ocean below. After she was fully ready I ran off to Adam to fill him in on the game plan and that Sarah would be arriving momentarily. Sarah had a wonderful dramatic walk down the” aisle”  with her veil billowing and her gorgeous Sarah Seven Dress and met with Adam over the sweet little bridge.

Since it was still very early we had the cliffs all to ourselves during our time there. Their ceremony was beautiful and emotional just the two of them exchanging vows on the cliffs as the waves crashed below.  Such an iconic moment for their elopement!

Couple walking the cliffs of Big Sur on their wedding day
Bride and groom saying vows on the cliffs of Garrapata State Park
Bride emotionally saying vows at Garrapata State park in Big Sur
Up close of bride and groom holding hands during ceremony in Big Sur
Full moon in Big Sur
Ring ceremony during elopement on cliffs of Big Sur California
Black and white photo of couple on cliffs of Big Sur California
First Kiss of Bride and Groom on Big Sur Cliffs

Sarah and Adam added so many thoughtful details which created a ceremony of the senses! Some of the ideas were discovered by purchasing one of the wonderful Owl & Rose Ceremonies templates, which I highly suggest to all of my couples who want ideas for creating a meaningful day.

Couple standing on cliffs during Big Sur wedding ceremony

Scents have the power to transport us to different moments in time. They sprayed some of their favorite cologne that was a scent they both wore when they first started dating as a way to ground and mark the start of the ceremony

wedding day letters from friends and family
Couple laughing as reading vows on their wedding day in Big Sur
bride reading letters from family on her wedding day on cliffs of big sur california
Groom wiping away tears of Bride at Garrapata State Park
Bride and groom dancing on the cliffs of Big Sur

Did you notice that they read some letters during their ceremony? These were well wishes from loved ones and the tears started flowing.

A strategically placed speaker played the most beautiful song (preloaded onto their phone) as they danced their first dance above the Pacific Ocean below.

Couple embracing on wedding day in Big Sur
Couple dancing on wedding day on cliffs of big sur
Couple hugging on wedding day in Big Sur
Couple holding hands on their foggy wedding day in Big Sur california

Picking locations for your elopement can be challenging because there are just so many beautiful iconic spots as well as off-the-beaten-path trails that are less traveled. BUT that’s why they hired me as their (I know all the best spots!). We hit up some of my favorites that are romantic and breathtaking. Sarah grabbed her favorite leather jacket and sunglasses to switch up her look and we had so much fun playing with her veil in the wind (give me allllll the veils in Big Sur please). Here are a couple of places we visited during their day:

Bixby Bridge

Garrapata State Park

Couple on top of the cliffs of Big Sur in their wedding outfits
Bride and Groom looking at ocean on the cliffs of Big Sur
Bride in leather jacket hiking on wedding day Big Sur
Couple eloping on a foggy beach in Big Sur
Couple kissing under her veil in Big Sur California
Bride playing with her veil in the wind of Big Sur California
Up Close of Bride behind Veil in Big Sur
eloping couple kissing in front of Bixby Bridge in Big Sur

We eventually made our way back to their cabin at Glen Oaks and gathered the yummiest elopement cake from my friend Nicole of Nicole Bake Cakes for a cake picnic. I always suggest picking up one of her cakes or treats for my clients coming to Big Sur from Southern California because she’s the best and will pack it up for you perfectly for your wedding day.

While we focused most of their elopement on the cliffs and beaches of Big Sur it was nice to end up in the forest among the beautiful trees!

Glen Oaks Big Sur Cabin
Big Sur Forest Leaves
Light shining through the Big Sur forest on a beautiful bride
Couple waking through the Redwood forest holding wedding cake on their wedding day
Sun shining on a small wedding cake sitting on a bohemian rug
Couple feeding each other wedding cake in the Big Sur forest
Couple lying down in the redwood forest at glen oaks on their wedding day

 One of my favorite parts of getting married here is because there’s so much diversity in the environment you can have a beach or cliff wedding or a Redwood forest wedding or both! 

Often it’s my client’s first time visiting and it’s a place they’ve only dreamed about. For some, it’s an iconic stop on a California road trip!

Another reason why it’s a great place to get married is that it’s fairly accessible but it also feels otherwordly. This is because it’s only a little over a 2-hour drive from San Francisco Airport and a little under a 2-hour drive from San Jose airport but it’s got that remote vibe as in you lose cell service once you hit Garappataxa State Park (which is just north of Big Sur) buuut there’s really one main road so you can’t really get (that) lost.

You won’t find big hotels or chains in this area it’s very tranquil, peaceful, and full of spiritual energy. If cabins and charming rooms are more your vibe then you’ll be happy there! Theres luxury cabins, tree houses, and places you can stay if you really want to throw down some money (where celebrities frequent) and of course plenty of places to camp. Below are some links to my personal favorites.

Glen Oaks– My favorite place to stay. Luxury cabins with outdoor soaking tubs and rooms in a very quiet peaceful setting in a Redwoods grove.

Ventana’s Glamping– If you’re into glamping then this is the best spot in the area.

Post Ranch.- For folks wanting an unforgettable luxurious ($$$) stay in a tree house or ocean-view room. They have an amazing restaurant on site and infinity pools.

Deetjens– Incredibly charming rooms for history buffs and Hunter S Thompson lovers and my favorite brunch.

 You can also stay in nearby Carmel which opens up a lot more options but remember that it’s a 30-45 minute drive away. 

One thing to note is there are occasional mudslides and road closures which can typically occur during winter and fire season. The good news is, should the worst-case scenario happen there are very beautiful areas within a few hours to pivot to.

While It’s not the best place for a large wedding it’s the perfect spot for an elopement or small wedding, especially for couples who love nature, dramatic views, epic sunrises, and sunsets, and aren’t afraid of a little wind in their veil!

Couple kissing in the Redwoods at Glen Oaks in Big Sur
Couple sitting on the porch of their Glen Oaks Big Sur Cabin on their wedding day

You’ll need a permit and or pay a fee to get married in most state parks and public land and you’ll have to contact the specific park for instructions as they are all different

Getting married here requires careful planning and working with someone who is knowledgeable about the area so hire a local Big Sur elopement photographer (subtle hint hint that’s me!). Because of its location, the vendors who work there will likely charge a little more and you might not find as many options. This is just another reason why getting married there is so special. Not everyone can do it but those that do know just how lucky they are.

Want to read more details about how to get married in Big Sur? Check out my guide here.

If you have any questions or would like my guidance I’d be happy to help you just reach out to me through my contact form here or fill it out below and let’s get the magic started!

Let's chat about your day!