Imagine spending your wedding day in a place where the waves crash into the cliff below you, the wind sweeps your hair all around you, and you say your vows surrounded by coastal Redwood trees, ocean breeze, and sweeping coastal views. If you’ve got chills as I do, consider tying the knot with a Big Sur elopement! If you get married in Big Sur, California, you’re guaranteed a dreamy location and a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know to get married in Big Sur, and to make sure your wedding day is one of a kind, and an absolute once-in-a-lifetime experience. Here’s what you. Here’s how you plan a Big Sur elopement:
The Best Time to Get Married in Big Sur
One of the first steps in planning your Big Sur elopement is to decide on a wedding date! You don’t have to get specific yet – keeping it general can help when it comes to finding your elopement vendors, but every season brings something different to the California coast, so it can definitely help to decide on a season, time of year, or a general timeframe food when you want to get married in Big Sur.
Summer Elopements in Big Sur
Summer is definitely the most popular time to get married in Big Sur, and the most popular time for visitors in general. The weather is pretty hard to beat – with lots of sunny days and very little rain, it’s definitely a great time to elope! But, the great weather means there are lots of crowds, so it can be harder to find a private place to tie the knot.
One thing to know about summer elopements is that California is very often affected by wildfires, and Big Sur is bordered by national forest land and lots of woods – which means smoke and fires can definitely reach the coast, creating some not-so-great air conditions. If you plan to get married in Big Sur in the summer, I recommend early in the season, because late summer, when everything is dry and hot, is the most common time for fires to begin.
Fall Elopements in Big Sur
Fall is one of my favorite times for a Big Sur elopement! The summer crowds start to clear out, and it’s much easier to find a private spot to exchange vows. The temperature is pretty mild throughout the year, so fall days tend to be warm. The rainy season officially begins in December, but late fall can be pretty rainy too.
Winter Elopements in Big Sur
Though Big Sur isn’t too cold in the winter (but chilly enough that you’ll definitely want a cozy jacket), this season is pretty rainy! The weather along the coastline is known for being moody, with dramatic clouds and spontaneous rain showers. On the bright side, the gloomy weather means that there are way fewer people around, and this is the best time to get married in Big Sur if your goal is avoiding crowds!
One thing to be aware of in the winter is that the rain means hiking trails tend to get really muddy. You’ll need waterproof boots, and because there’s only one main road through Big Sur, mudslides can sometimes make it impassable.
Spring Elopements in Big Sur
As it starts to warm up in the spring, this can be a great time for a Big Sur elopement! Early spring tends to be pretty rainy, but by April sunny days are more frequent. This is another great time to elope if you want to avoid the crowds, but keep in mind that the weather can be a little unpredictable and trails are usually still muddy. March and April give you the opportunity to spot whales traveling off the coast of Big Sur, while May brings colorful wildflower blooms to the hillsides of Big Sur!
Choosing a Big Sur Elopement Photographer
Once you’ve decided on a season or a timeframe for your elopement, it’s time to contact a Big Sur elopement photographer!
Speaking of which, I’m Evangeline – your Big Sur elopement photographer and expert guide to the area. Hiring a photographer early on in the elopement planning process will make all the next steps waaay easier! Because my job goes beyond documenting your magical day and making sure you have the dreamiest wedding photos ever. I’m also here to help you plan a day that’s unique, meaningful, authentic, and absolutely perfect for the two of you.
I’ll start with location recommendations based on what you’re looking for, then help you get the right permits, find the perfect little cabin or big bungalow, recommend the best Big Sur elopement vendors, and create a timeline for your day.
Contact me to start planning your Big Sur elopement!
Where Can I Elope in Big Sur? – Big Sur Elopement Locations
Big Sur is a big place – so couples often wonder, “where can I elope in Big Sur?” It’s not always as simple as picking a beach and going, so to get you inspired, here are some of the best Big Sur elopement locations!
One tip that I have for getting married in Big Sur is to consider tying the knot on private land. Big Sur is popular, and it’s often hard to get any privacy on the beaches, especially if you elope in the summer. Private land can give you a more secluded spot, and can also be great if you have a few guests! Choosing a lesser-known location can help avoid crowds as well, and you can definitely consult your elopement photographer for tips.
Big Sur Beach Elopement Locations
Some of the best places to elope in Big Sur are on the beach! If you want to tie the knot right next to the ocean, here are the best Big Sur beach elopement locations.
Pfeiffer Beach is a great spot, with rocky formations poking through the water and access to the beach. No wedding permit is required, but this location is pretty busy, so they only allow elopements between Labor Day and Memorial Day – not in the summer season.
Garrapata State Park and Andrew Molera State Park are less popular, but still pretty well known. The former gives you quick access to the beach, while at Andrew Molera there is a short walk through the forested area and out to the beach!
Point Sierra Nevada Dunes Beach (shhh… I’m letting you in on a lesser known, secret spot) is a secluded beach that requires a little hike – but you’ll be rewarded with privacy, and often, you can get this spot to yourself!
Big Sur Cliff Elopement Locations
Some of the most epic places to get married in Big Sur are on the cliffs, where you can stand over the water with the waves crashing below! Here are some of my favorite Big Sur elopement locations for cliffside views.
Garrapata State Park and Andrew Molera State Park offer some cliffside views as well as beach access, so these are some of the best places to elope if you want the best of both worlds! Both parks offer hiking trails, which take you through different views.
The Jade Cove Trail is short, and will take you along the coastal bluffs for views of the water, and the hike ends with a steep descent down to the beach!
Big Sur Forest Elopement Locations
While the ocean views are some of the most sought-after views in Big Sur, there are also some incredible forests to see. The coastal Redwood trees make for a magical Big Sur elopement location – so here are some places to elope for forest views!
Limekiln State Park is one of the best places to hike, and one of the best places to elope in Big Sur for forest views and bonus points you don’t need a permit to elope there!
If you want to hike, the Coast Ridge Road Trail is almost 8 miles long, beginning in the Redwood forest and taking you up to the mountain ridge for views of the ocean. This one is less popular, so it’s a good place to find some secret spots to exchange vows!
For an easily accessible, but lesser known spot, head to the Plaskett Creek Ridge Road. This road is bumpy, but doable without 4-wheel drive (if it’s not too muddy), and you can take it up to the mountain ridge – along the way, you’ll see some stunning forested spots, and as you climb through the woods, you’ll reach the top for incredible mountain views.
Big Sur Inns and Private Elopement Venues
For more privacy, elope at one of Big Sur’s incredible elopement venues – the inns, cabins, and private land offer some incredible places to tie the knot.
Wind and Sea is a really great small elopement venue, offering a 3 bedroom home right by the ocean. The space is designed for comfort while offering some incredible views. There’s even a scenic stairway to the beach! This elopement venue offers maximum privacy, as you’ll be the only ones here.
Glen Oaks Big Sur is a really popular elopement venue, and one of the best places to elope in Big Sur if you want a forest wedding. There are cabins tucked in the Redwood trees, some cottages, rooms in the Lodge, and a bigger house that can be reached by crossing a suspension bridge over the Big Sur River. There are spots around Glen Oaks that can accommodate bigger ceremonies, along with some secluded spots for a small ceremony!
For a luxurious getaway, consider a Ventana Big Sur elopement. This Big Sur elopement venue offers a relaxing resort, with a spa, outdoor swimming pools, and more! There are also glamping tents that offer outdoor views with all the modern amenities.
One of the best places to elope in Big Sur is Point 16 – a wedding venue so private they don’t even have a website. It’s located on a dramatic mountain ridge, with absolutely jaw dropping views of the coast. The venue is tucked on one of the least populated, least developed, and least visited stretches of Big Sur’s coastline, so it’ll truly feel like you have the entire place to yourself!
Big Sur Wedding Permits – Do You Need a Permit to Elope in Big Sur?
When you’ve decided on a Big Sur elopement location and chosen the best place to tie the knot, you might need to get a wedding permit! Big Sur wedding permits depend on the location you choose – the area is made up of different state parks and private lands, all operated by different offices and people. To find out if you need a Big Sur wedding permit for your elopement, do some research and look up the rules for your location! Private land doesn’t require a permit since you’re paying to rent the spot, but many public lands do.
As a Big Sur elopement photographer, part of my job is helping couples with this, so don’t worry, I won’t leave ya hanging!
How to Elope in Big Sur – Get Legally Married in Big Sur
Another part of your magical elopement day is the legal stuff. This section is about how to elope in Big Sur, guiding you through getting a marriage license.
Your marriage license needs to be obtained in the state of California – so if you live here, you can go to any office close to you. If you’re traveling for your Big Sur elopement, the most convenient office is in Monterey. You can submit the application online, then go to the office in person to pick up the marriage license.
When you go to get your license, bring a photo ID and $90 for the fee. Once you get the marriage license, it expires after 90 days, and there’s no waiting period – so you can get married right away!
To get legally married during your Big Sur elopement, an officiant and one witness is required to sign the marriage license.
Tips for Your Big Sur Elopement
Eloping is so different from a traditional wedding (that’s kind of the point!), so there are different things to consider and to keep in mind when you get married in Big Sur. This is one of my favorite places in the world, so after tons of exploring I’ve got some tips for making the best of your wedding day, and some advice for your Big Sur elopement!
Prepare for No Cell Service
Big Sur is pretty remote – once you drive away from the developed towns on the California Coast, there’s very little cell service along the way. So, it’s important to prepare! My biggest tip is to download offline maps before you go so that you can get to your elopement location and navigate around Big Sur even if you lose service.
Be sure to coordinate with your vendors as well as any guests, making sure that your meeting spots are all super clear – there’s a good chance you won’t be able to reach each other once you’re in Big Sur (until you reach your cabin with wifi), so come up with a plan to make sure you find each other!
Embrace the Wind & Weather
When you elope by the coast, you can usually expect some ocean breeze – and a lot of the time, this “breeze” feels more like full blown wind! But, the best thing to do is to embrace it!
Windswept hair looks great in photos and adds to the wild, adventurous, carefree vibe of your elopement day. To add to the effect, if you’re wearing a dress, consider one with a loose, lightweight skirt that will blow around dramatically! Another alternative is a fun cape or shawl. This looks amazing in photos too!
Big Sur may be in California but keep in mind that it’s not Southern California style aka 75 degrees and sunny weather so expect cool mornings and evenings (bring layers!) and the potential for fog, especially in the summer. Personally, I LOVE foggy Big Sur days it just adds an extra level of romance and mystery and typically burns off (but sometimes not ’cause weather wants to keep you on your toes!).
Avoid Harsh Sun
On sunny days, Big Sur sun can be harsh – this isn’t ideal for photos, because it creates dramatic shadows and lines all over the place. Smooth, even lighting (think sunrise and sunset light) is best for photos, and it looks beautiful in person too!
If you’re getting married in Big Sur, I recommend sticking to forested locations with lots of shade during the day, and heading to the open beaches and the cliffs where there’s no tree cover in the mornings or evenings, closer to sunrise and sunset. This way, you get the best lighting throughout the day, and can tie the knot without squinting into the sun! I create a custom timeline for all my couples – and since lighting is sort of my thing as an elopement photographer, I can help you figure out the best time for your ceremony and how to schedule all your adventures.
The Best Big Sur Wedding Vendors
So because of how remote Big Sur is there aren’t a ton of local vendors to choose from. I often recommend clients get a little creative by picking up flowers or cake along their way or I suggest vendors in nearby Carmel and Santa Cruz. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Naomi, celebrant– The first time I saw Naomi perform a ceremony I was quite simply floored. It was the first time I saw someone create such an intimate and grounded space for my clients. Her depth and creativity are unparalled. I recommend her to everyone. She’s absolute magic and worth her weight in gold.
Big Sur Bakery– Have you really even been to Big Sur if you haven’t been to the bakery!? Not only is it a great place to stop for lunch or dinner it’s also perfect for picking up pastries for your elopement picnic! Try the bacon claw and their croissants are better than any croissant I’ve tasted even in San Francisco, there I’ve said it!
Big Sur Elopement Packages
If you’re convinced that the magic of Big Sur’s sweeping cliffs, crashing waves, majestic Redwoods, and rugged beauty is right for you, it’s time to start planning your elopement!
My Big Sur elopement packages are designed to ensure you have a day that’s stress free, laid back, and meaningful. I’ll be there every step of the way, cheering you on, helping you with every part of the planning process, and making sure you feel empowered to break the rules and do your thing!