Are you looking for the best guide on how to elope in California? You’ve found it! After visiting California several times and being engaged ourselves, we’ve come to know the state very well from the northern to southern borders. To help you find the best elopement ideas California has to offer, we thought it was time to put together a detailed guide on the best places to elope California style and how to elope to California.
Whether you want to plan a romantic and adventurous elopement for your wedding day or need a California national park elopement guide, our guide covers every bit of information you may need including the legalities of eloping to California, Southern California elopement locations, Northern California elopement locations and California elopement packages.
***Some of the links in this post are affiliate links meaning we earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. This does not change the fact that we only recommend products, stays, activities and attractions we are satisfied with and all opinions expressed here are our own.
How do you elope in California: Legalties
If you’ve just started planning your elopement in California, you may be wondering what do you need to elope in California? All situations are different and a lot of what you need to do to elope in California will depend on the rules in your home country or home state. In this section, we guide you through the paperwork. Always remember to check with your home authorities to receive the most accurate and up to date information.
Can you elope in California?
The short answer is yes, you can elope in California. Eloping usually refers to going abroad to get married either just the two of you or with a minimal list of guests. Eloping also includes two situations. The first one is when you are already married legally in your home country and you are eloping solely for the ceremony. The second is when you are eloping for both the ceremony and the actual act of getting married.
In most cases, it is easier to get legally married in your home country and then elope than getting legally married in your elopement country. Before getting legally married in California, you should always check whether your home country recognizes the marriage certificate issued by the state of California.
Do you need a marriage license to elope in California?
It depends on what your situation is. If you are eloping while already married in your home country, you won’t need a California marriage license. That is because, even though you are having a ceremony to exchange vows, you are not actually getting legally married in California. It’s more of a mock ceremony.
If you intend on getting legally married in California, you will need a marriage license. You will need to obtain the marriage license from the County Clerk’s office. You can get an marriage license from a different county than the one you’re getting married in.
You will likely need to apply for your license online. Afterwards, you will need to book an appointment to retrieve your licence. The appointment has to be in person. The cost of the license varies depending on the county but it should be around $100.
The marriage licence is valid for 90 days form the date of issuance and there is no waiting period which means you can get married on the day of issuance.
Do you need an officiant and witness when eloping to California?
Yes, you will need both an officiant and two witnesses if you want to legally marry in California. If you are already married legally in your home country, then these rules don’t apply to you.
How old do you have to be to elope in California?
To marry in California, you have to be 18 years old. However, minors can marry, including marry an adult, if they obtain consent from at least one parent or guardian and permission from the court.
Not that for your marriage to be recognised in your home country, you will likely have to comply with your home-country’s rules as well.
Can you elope without getting married?
Yes, most couples get legally married in their home country before eloping for the ceremony.
What do I need to elope in California?
To elope in California, you will need to:
- determine whether you want to get legally married in your home country or in California
- pick a location
- book an officiant and two witnesses if you’re legally getting married in California
- organise your marriage license application and appointment
- book vendors if you would like some
- book an elopement planner if you would like support
Why you should elope in California
Eloping in California is a popular choice for many couples. We love California and having visited twice, we can confirm that California is an absolute gem with lots of different sceneries and venues to cater for all couples’ preferences. In the below list, we share some of the main advantages to elope in California:
- Wide variety of landscapes and unique sceneries: California offers a diverse range of beautiful landscapes to exchange your vows, each with its own unique charm. From the rugged California coastline and national parks to Napa Valley’s stunning vineyards sceneries and the charming cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara, California offers a large range of unique and picturesque venues. Whether you want to elope in the mountains, on the beach, in meadows, in redwood forests or in the city, you can pick whichever you prefer or even all of them!
- Availability for all couples: California is known for being progressive and welcoming, making it an inclusive and accepting place for all couples to get married, no matter their background or beliefs.
- Lots of amenities: From charming cities with picture-perfect venues to top-notch hotels and spas, California has all the amenities you need for a luxurious and memorable elopement experience. You can also use these amenities for your honeymoon or to entertain yourself after your elopement!
- No blood test: Unlike couples who elope in Montana, you don’t have to take a blood test to get married in California.
Best places to elope in California
Where do people elope in California? That’s a good question, one we are answering in this post! Whether you’re looking for free elopement locations near me while in California or you’ve never stepped foot in the state, you will definitely find a Californian elopement location you like in this section.
To make things easier for you, we split the list of locations between Northern California and Southern California. But rest assured, whether you’re looking for mountains, lakes, rivers, cities, towns, meadows, forests or beaches, you’ll have plenty of choice in both regions!
At the end, we also included more elopement locations in California’s national parks, including any requirement for permits and restrictions.
Where to elope in Northern California
Whether you’re looking for northern California beach weddings or to elope in the Californian mountains and unique landscapes, you’ll find what you’re looking for in this section. In the below list, we share 18 elopement locations in Northern California.
1. Elope in California wine country
California if definitely known for its wine, even all the way to my native France, which should mean something! If you are thinking about eloping among wine leaves with mountains in the background and the sun shining on your love, then eloping in California’s wine country might be just what you’re looking for!
Though the first thing that comes to mind is eloping in Napa Valley California, there are other wine country destinations you may want to consider for your big day. Each destination offers a unique character and atmosphere that will make your elopement special and memorable.
As mentioned, one popular location for eloping in California wine country is Napa Valley. Known for its world-class wineries and stunning scenery, you’ll find rolling hills, vineyards, and charming towns that provide a beautiful and romantic setting for your elopement day. You can’t really go wrong here!
Another option is Sonoma Valley. To elope in Sonoma California isn’t the most common thing we usually hear about, couples usually choosing to stick with the classic locations. However, it’s definitely a destination to consider. With its variety of vineyards, historic town squares, and scenic views, you’ll find Sonoma to be a peaceful and intimate setting for your elopement.
If you prefer a more laid-back elopement location, Dry Creek Valley might be just what you’re looking for. This peaceful and picturesque region, known for its Zinfandel wineries and rolling hills, offers stunning scenery and a relaxed atmosphere.
Russian River Valley, also part of the Sonoma area, is famous for its Pinot Noir vineyards and charming towns like Healdsburg. With similarities to the other locations, it stands out by its size!
Ultimately, the best place to elope in California wine country will depend on your personal preferences and the specific atmosphere you’re looking for on your elopement day. Your budget and the degree of intimacy you would prefer will also be factors in making your decision, Napa having a tendency to be more expensive.
2. Elope in San Francisco
A San Francisco elopement can only be a good idea! San Francisco is one of Marie’s favourite US cities because of its vibe and beauty! There are endless possibilities of elopement locations in the city but here is a selection for you:
- The Golden Gate National Recreation Area
- Sausalito (a top pick for us!)
- Pier 39 with the seals
- Half Moon Bay
- San Francisco City Hall
- Baker Beach
- Mt. Tamalpais State Park
- Muir Woods National Monument
- The Painted Ladies
Of course, there are also endless private venues in San Francisco!
If you decide to elope San Francisco style, note that the city is always busy meaning you’ll need to plan enough time to reach your location due to traffic. Note also that San Francisco’s weather is generally windy and colder than other parts of California. Spring can especially be a lot colder than you would expect! You will likely need a permit but that will depend on the location you decide on.
3. Lake Tahoe elopement, the best Northern California elopement location for outdoorsy couples
Located north of Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe is a popular place for anyone traveling to California. But it’s especially a gem for elopements. The lake is absolutely majestic and offers a range of landscapes including beaches, mountains, pine trees, pink and purple skies. Whether you want to elope in the mountains or on a beach with the mountains in the backdrop, Lake Tahoe has got it all!
Summer is the busiest period in Tahoe with prices going up and crowds pretty much everywhere. Fall and spring are just as beautiful with good temperatures and weather and are not as crazy. Winter can be beautiful as well but be aware of closed roads due to weather conditions.
You will likely need a permit depending on your exact elopement location in Lake Tahoe. You can find more information here.
4. Big Sur elopement guide
Have you thought of having a Big Sur California elopement? Big Sir is actually a very popular elopement location. It is located near San Francisco right on the coast. It is the home of several state parks including Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and Andrew Molera State Park.
In Big Sur, expect rugged cliffs, tall rock formations, the beach and the ocean. Depending on the time of the year, you can also experience fog, a mystic atmosphere or pink skies. The clearest time of the year is between September and October while summer can get more foggy. Summer is also the busiest time of the year. If you’d like to elope here, don’t forget to bring some layers as the weather can get chilly quickly.
To elope in Big Sur, you’ll need to purchase a permit which usually costs around $350. You can find more information here.
5. McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park
Located near Redding, the McArthur-Burney Falls Memorial State Park is absolutely stunning for an elopement! One of its main features is the Burney Falls which stand tall over a lake and are surrounded by greenery. You may want to exchange your vows a bit farther from the water as the waterfall can be quite loud. But this spot makes for amazing photos! Burney Falls are easily accessible by a 5 minute walk on a paved trail.
You will likely get wet on the day so be ready for that. As this is a state park, you will likely be required to apply for a permit and you can do so here.
6. Mt. Shasta
Located near Redding, Mount Shasta is an incredible location and a popular one for elopements! The mountain is actually a snow covered volcano, that is still active and that is surrounded by pine trees and lakes giving the most beautiful views you’ve ever seen. If you want to feel like it’s just the two of you in the whole world, this is the perfect place to elope.
In the area, you can choose to exchange vows at the top of a mountain or simply by a river with Mount Shasta in the backdrop. The area has got lots of different spots for you to pick as your ceremony location.
The site is accessible all year-round though winter can be tough due to the high amount of snow. You won’t need a permit if you have less than 75 guests. You can find more information here.
7. Mammoth Lakes
Mammoth Lakes is probably one of the most impressive elopement locations in this list. Located in the Sierra Mountains, this is a mountain town that offers lots to fo but especially stunning sceneries. We’re talking about large rivers, meadows, beaches, lakes, snow covered mountains and incredible views. Top elopement locations include June Lake, Convict Lake, the Forest Chapel.
The best time to elope in Mammoth Lakes is during the summer. The park is so large that it’s easy to find a spot with no-one there. Winter can be good if you don’t mind the cold and the snow!
You will likely need a permit to elope in Mammoth Lakes which costs around $230. You can find more information here.
8. The Lost Coast for beach weddings in Northern California
If you’re looking for an easily accessible site that still flies under the radar, the Lost Coast might be just what you need. Located near Eureka, this site is not well known of people and definitely not on most tourists’ maps as they prefer to focus on famous sites like Big Sur, Lake Tahoe or national parks.
However, it is absolutely stunning! The Lost Coast resembles the Oregon Coast with dark sand beaches, cliffs and views on the coast. The fog is also part of the game here!
Something to note is that the area can be cold even during the summer months. You will also need a permit that costs about $100 if you have more than 50 guests. Otherwise, no permit is needed! You can learn more about it here.
9. Klamath National Forest
Whether you’d like to hike or not, Klamath National Forest can be a great spot to elope in Northern California. Think about North American landscapes with pine trees, lakes, rivers and mountains. The forest even extends into Oregon which could be a great honeymoon idea!
The Klamath National Forest doesn’t get super busy so the summer months are a great time to elope here. Summer also offers the best weather. Fall and winter are pretty rainy in the area and can make the forest a dangerous place.
If you’re planning on elope here, note that cell reception in the forest is pretty much non existent and that roads may require 4WD high clearance vehicles.You won’t need a permit if you have under 75 guests so that makes it a cheaper and more convenient elopement location!
10. Bishop, one of the cutest towns to elope in California
Located between Yosemite National Park and the Death Valley, Bishop is a city that still flies under the radar. Its beauty however has got nothing to hide for. Think about being in Yosemite but outside of Yosemite. Bishop has got tall mountains reminding you of Glacier Point, large meadows that are just as beautiful in the summer and in the winter, large rivers and colourful trees in the fall.
No matter your elopement season, you definitely should consider Bishop for your elopement location.
If you have under 75 guests, you won’t need a permit. We recommend checking this link in case you want to elope in surrounding national forests.
11. Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Are you looking for an East Coast kind of vibe but with the Californian weather? Then Pigeon Point Lighthouse might be just what you’re looking for! This lighthouse is located near San Francisco and San Jose and is one of the tallest lighthouses in the USA.
The area stays pretty foggy all year-round and gives this mystical vibe to your ceremony. It’s a gorgeous area that is more suitable to elope to in spring or fall to avoid the summer crowds.
You can contact the lighthouse directly to learn more about permit rules.
12. Patrick’s Point (now known as Sue-Meg State Park)
Are you looking to elope in California while getting some Oregon and Washington State vibes? Then Patrick’s Point is your pick! There you’ll find a large beach similar to Cannon Beach, lush forests, large and tall cliffs, greenery and of course, fog!
This is a stunning place to hold your ceremony along with taking beautiful photos.
The best time to elope in Patrick’s Point is during the summer or one of the shoulder seasons. Winter is a bit more tricky with lots of rain.
You will need a permit to elope here which costs $250. You can apply here.
13. Mendocino County and Mendocino Headlands State Park
Mendocino is an absolute beauty with gorgeous beaches and coastal views. The area also is home to redwood trees which adds to the uniqueness of the scenery. The area includes Sue-Meg State Park the state park, Montgomery Wood State Preserve and endless wild spots that could work great for an elopement.
The weather in Mendocino is more or less always the same throughout the year which makes it a great year-round elopement location. Depending on the location you pick, you may need a permit.
14. Fort Bragg, elope Northern California style
Between Sacramento and Redding, you’ll find Fort Bragg. Fort Bragg is a small town that offers dramatic cliffs, beaches, hills and forests. It’s best to elope here during the summer to avoid the winter rain. Expect fog and a mystic atmosphere! You’ll need to get in contact with Fort Bragg city to organise your elopement and see if you need a permit.
15. Glass Beach, Fort Bragg
If you’re looking for “glass beach elope California”, not much comes on and that’s why we are here: to fill in the blanks! Glass Beach is located in Fort Bragg, and is a beach covered in small pieces of polished glass. To reach the beach you’ll just have to follow the blue sign that indicates Glass Beach.
The beach looks the best at sunset when the sun light can reflect on the glass and create fun effects!
California generally requires a permit to elope on a beach so you’ll need to contact the city of Fort Bragg to check whether you need one or not.
16. Alabama Hills
For a unique elopement, the Alabama Hills are definitely a great pick! This site offers dramatic mountain views in the backdrop and rugged rock formations all over. Close to looking like a desert, it’s definitely a unique setting for an elopement! The site has been featured in numerous movies and definitely gives a western vibe!
The best time to visit is outside winter as the hills get really cold at that time of the year.
17. Lovers Point, Pacific Grove
With stunning views of Monterey Bay, beaches and cute cliffs, Lovers Point is a stunning spot for exchanging vows. It’s a typical ocean site that is even more beautiful at sunset. The access is easy and this spot is great all year-round.
18. Inyo National Forest
The Inyo National Forest extends over several other sites that we have included in this list, meaning it offers a range of various landscapes each more beautiful than the last! From lush forests to lakes, desert looking sites and volcanic area, there is something for everyone in the Inyo National Forest.
Anyone National Forest’s top spots for elopements include Lake Isabella, the Joshua trees area and the June Lake Loop.
Best places to elope in Southern California
If you’re wondering where to elope in Southern California, you’ll love this section of our guide to elope in California.
In this section, we share 20 elopement locations Southern California has to offer from beaches to get married on in California and coastal California weddings ideas to forest, desert and mountain scenery elopement locations.
19. San Diego beach elopement and park elopement
San Diego is one of the best places for elopements for several reasons including its year-round beautiful weather, stunning landscapes, and wide variety of romantic settings to choose from. Whether you prefer the ocean, a botanical garden, or a park with a view, including Rose Garden and Desert Garden, San Diego has it all.
One of the best San Diego elopement locations is Balboa Park. Elopements and ceremoies including vow renewals require a permit regardless of the number of guests you’re bringing with you. You can find more information on this page. Overall note that you will need to obtain a permit through the San Diego Park and Recreation Permit Center and that fee is $177.16 for four hours. The fee may change every year or so so don’t hesitate to reach out to them for updated fees. While eloping in the park, you can have an arch and up to 50 chairs, as well as a battery operated sound system.
With stunning Spanish Colonial Revival buildings, ponds and greenery everywhere, Balboa Park is definitely a lovely pick for an elopement. I love visiting the park and walking around was very enjoyable. When I visited, Balboa Park was quite lively with live performers sharing their passion with the crowds. I even got to hold a parrot! There is no doubt that you can also get beautiful photos in the park, especially at sunset.
San Diego also has a diverse range of indoor venues so you’ll be able to plan a beautiful ceremony no matter what your elopement style and the weather are.
If you’re looking to elope San Diego beach wedding style, you may want to look at Bahia Hotel, and Catamaran resort.
20. Elope in Santa Barbara, for a laid-back elopement in Southern California
Are you looking to elope Santa Barbara style? That’s definitely a great idea! Santa Barbara is a great place for couples to elope for several reasons including its stunning natural beauty, charming coastal vibe, and romantic atmosphere. If you’re wondering what you could do after eloping in Santa Barbara, check our recent list of things do to there for couples.
Santa Barbara is located on the California coast and is surrounded by rolling hills, pristine beaches, and lush vineyards. This makes it the perfect backdrop for an intimate and unforgettable elopement ceremony. The city also offers a range of indoor venues, including historic buildings, stylish event spaces, and chic hotels, that are ideal for a cozy and romantic elopement, especially if you decide to elope in the winter, when temperatures tend to drop a little.
Santa Barbara offers a range of elopement locations but tw in particular stand out. First, San Ysidro Ranch, located on the Montecito foothills, is perfect if you’re looking for a lush Californian elopement with loquat tress falling on the ceremony area, a wine cellar and flower fields. Second, Butterfly Beach is a public space that allows for small events like elopements and weddings. To avoid the crowds, you’ll be better off coming here early morning or late afternoon. The beach is stunning with views on the coastline and offers the possibility of seeing whales and dolphins while you exchange your vows!
21. Best places to elope in Los Angeles
There are plenty of Los Angeles elopement locations in LA County but in this sub-section, we are sharing some that are in Los Angeles city itself. These are perfect for couples who love city vibes, being surrounded by music and don’t want to adventure too much outside the city of LA.
The best place to elope in Los Angeles is in our opinion Venice Beach and Venice Canals fi you’re looking for a fun elopement. Venice Beach has got this crazy vibe to it but most of all, it’s super lively, excentric and unique! The beach itself is super long so it’s easy to find a spot away from people. The canals are wonderful and especially for the after ceremony photos. You can wander along the canals and on the wooden bridges. It’s super cute and charming!
One of the pretty places to elope Los Angeles is Santa Monica. The Santa Monica Pier marks the end of Route 66 so it’s also a bit of a historical place. The beach is wide so you can find a cute spot with views on the pier and the coast.
If you’re wondering where to elope in Los Angeles for stunning views, the Griffith Observatory and Hollywood sign are two very good places. The hills of Bel Air are also a good option but you’ll need to explore a bit in advance to find the right spot with the right view.
And finally, Disneyland is always an option, especially as one of the best places to elope with kids. It’s located in Anaheim, close to the city of Los Angeles and easily accessible!
22. Long Beach elopement
Are you thinking to elope Long Beach style? That’s a great idea and has definitely been done before so you can find plenty of packages helping you organising it. To elope in Long Beach, you will need to obtain a permit. Any wedding or elopement taking place on a beach in LA County requires a permit. You can find more information here.
Long Beach is a vibrant coastal city located about 20 miles south of Los Angeles. It offers endless locations for an intimate and memorable elopement ceremony. With its sunny weather, beautiful beaches, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean, it’s the perfect place for a relaxed elopement while benefitting of some of the best landscapes out there.
Long Beach offers a range of indoor and outdoor locations for elopements, including romantic beachfront venues, charming parks, and elegant event spaces. Long Beach is also a lot less crowded, in general, than other places like Santa Barbara, Santa Monica or LA itself. This means that you can have a more intimate ceremony, even when having it on a public beach.
In addition to its beautiful elopement locations, there are lots of things to do in Long Beach for couples which makes it a great destination for a honeymoon as well. When I visited Long Beach, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do there but the atmosphere and the views made it the perfect place to have a walk and take in the relaxing vibe. While in Long Beach, don’t forget to get up for a walk on the pier and take photos with your partner at sunset both on and under the pier!
23. Orange County elopement ideas
Are you looking to elope in Orange County CA? Orange County is one of the most beautiful countries in California. I remember driving through Orange County for the first time at 19 and seeing how beautiful it was contrasting with landscapes we had just come from. It was just exceptionally beautiful. With lots of grass, hills and soon beaches and the coastline, I remember thinking to myself “Now THIS is California!”. On top of its undeniable beauty, Orange County is also rich in history swith many historic sites and landmarks, including the Mission San Juan Capistrano, which dates back to the late 18th century. It has got a lot to do for couples on their honeymoon as well including, dining experiences, luxury accommodations, shopping, museums and art galleries. There is definitely something for any couples here!
There are several places in Orange County that are perfect for an elopement:
- Newport Beach: What could be more beautiful than a Newport Beach elopement? Newport Beach was made famous through the famous TV Show and has been a dream for many of us to see with our own eyes. Newport Beach is known for its stunning harbor, excellent dining, and beautiful beaches. The city offers a range of outdoor and indoor locations for elopements, including romantic beachfront venues, stylish event spaces, and charming gardens such as Crystal Cove State Park. If you’re thinking about eloping in the sand with bare feet, a cute boho picnic and spending sunset around the fire, Newport Beach is a great option!
- Laguna Beach: Laguna Beach is located south of LA on your way to San Diego. It’s a stunning area, a bit out of the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles and its fast paced environment. More relaxed and remote, Laguna Beach is just as charming with tall cliffs in the backdrop and protected beaches that offer golden sand, blue skies and blue waters. If you want to elope Laguna Beach style in a idyllic scenery, Laguna Beach is definitely a top pick! You can find more information on fees and schedule here. Note that you’ll have to schedule your ceremony at low tide!
Other top elopement places in Orange County include:
- Crystal Cove State Park
- Three Arch Bay Beach
- Thousand Steps Beach
24. Malibu Beach elopement
Malibu is an incredible haven of peace just west of Los Angeles. The best part about eloping in California’s Malibu area is that you can choose between eloping on public land or private land when it comes to beaches. Malibu offers a range of different sceneries from rugged beaches to stunning pieces of land and golden sand beaches!
If you’d like to tie the knot or say your vows by the Pacific Ocean, public beaches include El Matador Beach, Point Dume State Beach and Malibu Lagoon State Beach. If you’re prefer holding your ceremony on a private beach, you can choose to so at The Surfrider, Casa di Pietra or Cypress Sea Cove.
If you’d prefer saying yes in the mountains above Malibu, there are endless options including Malibu Creek State Park, Topanga State Park, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Leo Carrillo State Park and Rocky Oaks Park. Again there are some private mountain locations including The Gesner Cocoon, Malibu Rocky Oaks and Secret Garden.
Most of the elopement locations in Malibu don’t require a permit if you have less than 25 guests but you’ll need to check for your specific locations in case requirements have changed or if yours specifically requires one.
25. Pismo Beach elopement
Pismo Beach is a sought-after location for elopements due to its gorgeous coastal scenery and various intimate elopement venues and known for its wineries and gorgeous coastal trails. The beach presents a beautiful setting to exchange vows, while the nearby cliffs and dunes offer stunning views. Psimo Beach is home to the Monarch Butterfly Grove which shelters Monarch butterflies during the winter. On top of this beautiful areas, Pismo Beach is also home to the Dinosaur Caves Park and the Chumash Park’s wetlands which both offer a number of trails that can make for beautiful elopement locations. Pismo Beach is also known for its mild weather and central location on the California coast, making it a hassle-free and convenient destination for couples who want a Pismo Beach wedding elopement in a relaxed and stunning environment.
26. Catalina Island California elopement
Known as a slice of Hawaii in California, Catalina Island is located just off the coast of California. With a number of beaches, palm trees, charming villages and cute harbours, it is one of the perfect sceneries to elope in California. To reach Catalina Island, you’ll need to hop on the Catalina Express which departs from Long Beach, San Pedro, and Dana Point several times a day. Tickets are priced at $76 per person. If you would like to make the experience even more memorable, you could also take a helicopter from the coast to the island!
The island isn’t short of things to do for couples including zip lining across the island, snorkelling around the reef or simply enjoying some relaxation time at the beach or wandering the streets.
Places where you can plan your elopement include the areas around Two Harbors and Avalon. Two Harbors is more suited for couples who like the outdoors and a bit of adventure while Avalon is more suited for couples wanting a beach elopement. Further spots include:
- Lover’s Cove
- Little Harbor & Shark Harbor Trail
- Garden to Sky Trail
- Cottonwood Beach
- Wrigley Botanical Garden
27. Glamis Sand Dunes, elope Southern California style
Fancy getting married in the dessert? If you want the ultimate vibe for your elopement photos, eloping in the Glamis Sand Dunes might be just what you’re looking for! Also known as the Imperial Sand Dunes, the dunes are located near the Mexican border and are over 40 miles long giving you plenty of space to hold your ceremony.
Note that the summer heat in the dunes is pretty much unbearable so if you decide to elope in Glamis Sand Dunes, pick winter, fall or spring instead!
You will need a permit to elope in the dunes. The fee is around $100 and you can apply here.
28. Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, for stunning and cheap beach weddings in California
Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is one of the elopement locations near San Diego City and in San Diego County. The ocher coloured cliffs fall into the ocean and deliver incredible views on both the coast and the ocean. With a mix of wild flowers and rugged areas, the cliffs provide different scenery for photo options.
The park is usually crowded, especially during summer and at sunset. If you’re looking for an intimate elopement, aim to come here at sunrise instead so you can have more room and less curious eyes on you!
You’ll need a different permit depending on the area that you plan on holding your ceremony even if it’s just you two. You can find more information here.
29. Santa Cruz
Between redwood forests, the beach and the charming downtown areas with dining and entertainement, Santa Cruz is a stunning place for a Californian elopement.
Santa Cruz is easily accessible and delivers a range of landscapes including the beach, giant redwood trees, sea cliffs and stunning sunsets.
Summer is the busiest time of the year for Santa Cruz so if you’d like to avoid crowds, spring or fall are better options.
30. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Would you like to elope in the desert without having to fly to another continent? Then Anza-Borrego Desert State Park might be just what you’re looking for! This is the largest state park in California and it offers miles on end of rugged cliffs and desert like areas. The best time of the day to elope in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is sunrise or sunset when the sky is coloured in pink!
As the park is huge, it is always possible to find a location with no-one there ensuring that you have all the intimacy you need to exchange your vows! Some of the top elopement spots in the park include Borrego Palm Canyon, Erosion Road Scenic Areas and Font’s Point but feel free to explore yourself and find one that really suits you!
You can contact the park directly regarding required permit as rules may change depending on where you are holding the ceremony.
31. Lake Elsinore
South of Los Angeles, you’ll find Lake Elsinore, a stunning area perfect for couples who are looking to elope in a blooming scenery. Surrounded by hills and wildflowers, you’ll enjoy the peaceful and remote elopement locations that Lake Elsinore offers. One of the best time to elope here is spring as that’s when poppy flowers bloom and turn the green grass into a colourful patch!
Some of the top elopement places around Lake Elsinore include Walker Canyon and Ortega Falls.
32. Angeles National Forest
Located just a few miles outside Los Angeles, you will find the Angeles National Forest. This is one of the easily accessible national park looking areas close to LA that is also perfect for an elopement. With wildflowers, snow covered mountains in the backdrop and even views overlooking the city, this national forest offers a range of locations to say your vows.
Some of the best spots in the Angeles National Forest includes:
- Millard Canyon Falls
- Switzer Falls
- Big Horn Mine Trail
- Potato Mountain
Depending on where you’re holding your ceremony, you may need a permit. You can check this website for updated information.
33. El Matador State Beach, Malibu
We have already covered Malibu as a whole but this beach specifically deserves its own section. El Matador State Beach is a gem that presents unique rock formations and incredible sunsets, setting the perfect scenery for an elopement ceremony.
The best time to come to this beach to elope in California is during the weekdays as weekends tend to get very busy.
34. Lake Arrowhead
Lake Arrowhead is a mountain town located near San Bernardino. It’s a heaven for couples who love the outdoors as you can go fishing, paddling, skiing, hiking and more in this area.
Lake Arrowhead is a beautiful elopement location in Southern California if you would like a real North American looking elopement. With pine trees, lake, and a few mountains in the background, the vibe is laid-back and beautiful giving you the space to focus on your love and magic of the moment.
As for the best time of the year to elope at Lake Arrowhead, fall is absolutely a winner. The colourful pin trees around the lake just make for the best elopement location in California!
35. Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake is a mountain town located on the San Bernardino National Forest. It is also a ski resort that attracts lots of visitors every year. The area offers a range of landscapes from snow covered mountains in the winter to lake beaches and large fields in the summer. Whether you’re looking for fall foliage or a winter wonderland, you’ll find it here!
36. Palm Springs and Mt. San Jacinto
Palm Springs is definitely a hip place to elope in California. With fields of windmills, desert like areas, palm trees and cacti everywhere, you’ve got so many options here when it comes to great elopement locations!
One of the top locations is Mt San Jacinto which you can access by riding the Aerial Tram up. Up there, you’ll get sceneries from cute meadows and forests to snowy winter wonderlands depending on the time of the year. The ride up only takes 10 minutes and no physical effort which is perfect for an elopement! Tickets costs $26 per person.
37. Fossil Falls
In the Sierra Nevada, you’ll find Fossil Falls, a set that still flies under the radar while being one of the most impressive in the state. This site is made of lava that was carved by a river. The area looks like a rocky desert and can be a great alternative to the Death Valley National Park if you’re looking to stay away from crowds. Here expect to see volcanic rock formations, dry lake beds, and mountain views.
We would recommend avoiding summer to elope in Fossil Falls as this is the driest and hottest season making it somewhat unbearable to just stand there for an hour. Shoulder seasons like spring and fall are better options.
38. Red Rock Canyon State Park
Located near Bakersfield, Red Rock Canyon State Park is filled with unique and gorgeous rock formations, desert like areas and even Joshua trees so you can kill two birds with one stone! With gigantic ocher and orange coloured cliffs, rugged surfaces and greenery, it’s a beautiful place to hold your ceremony and take a lot of photos of your big day.
Summer here is quite hot so other seasons are more suitable for bearable temperatures. As other parks, you will need a permit which costs around $150 for a few hours. You can find more information here.
National Park elopement in California
This California elopement guide would not be complete if we didn’t include a dedicated section on how to elope in California’s national parks. California is a state with nine national parks and 280 state parks which definitely provides endless possibilities when it comes to finding the perfect Californian elopement location.
We’ve included our top picks of national parks for an elopement in California and you’ll find a national park elopement guide for each of them including the best spots to elope in the parks and information about the required elopement permits.
39. Death Valley National Park, for a memorable elopement in California
The Death Valley National Park is a stunning national park you should add to any USA road trip on the west coast regardless of the reason why you are here with your partner. The park is absolutely mind blowing with areas that makes you feel like you’re on a different planet. I absolutely loved visited the Death Valley National Park and especially Artist’s Drive with all the natural colours of the rocks.
I visited the Death Valley in August and the temperatures was above 100 degree Fahrenheit in Badwater Basin so we wouldn’t recommend heading there at that time of the year for an elopement. Instead, aim for spring or late fall to enjoy more average temperatures.
Some of the top elopement locations in the Death Valley include Artist’s Drive, Badwater Basin Dante’s View and Zabriskie Point. But the park is huge so you could also stop as soon as a spot feels right to you. Dante’s View gives you an incredible view on most of the park though so that can definitely be a great elopement location!
Note also that the park is pretty isolated with nothing to buy there for miles and miles on end. So you’ll want to bring lots of water and food with you noting that phone reception is pretty much non existent as well. You’ll need a permit to elope in the park for around $200. You can find more information here.
40. Yosemite National Park, elope in California in one of the most grandiose national parks
When we visited Yosemite National Park, we were blown away by the incredible landscapes the park offers. The park extends on a range of different landscapes including top spots such as Tunnel View, Glacier Point, Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and Sentinel Dome.
It is possible to elope in Yosemite National Park with a permit though not all points are easily accessible. Places like Yosemite Valley and Yosemite Falls are easily accessible even for couples who are not too adventurous. There are several spots in Yosemite Valley that would make for amazing elopement ceremony locations in California. Yosemite Valley is a large area and allows you to get away from the crowds. Other points such as Glacier Point require you to take a shuttle to the top and that can make your elopement plans a bit more complicated as you’ll have to juggle the crowds.
Mariposa Grove is an area of the park with giant sequoia trees and is just as beautiful as the rest of the park. It’s a bit of a mix between Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks.
All together, Yosemite National Park is a great Californian elopement location all year-round. The park doesn’t get too hot including in the summer and provides plenty of forests and shade for sheltering you on hot days. That said, summer is the busiest time so if you don’t want to see anyone on your elopement day, avoid July and August for sure. Yosemite Valley is, however, big enough so there is always some ways to get away from the crowds (and closer to bears!).
You can find more information about permits here. The permit cost is around $100.
41. Joshua Tree National Park, perfect for a boho elopement in California
In my opinion, it doesn’t really get much better than a Joshua Tree elopement if you’re a folk adventurous couple who love California. Joshua Tree National Park is absolutely gorgeous and offers a range of different sceneries so you can make the most of the experience and get varied photos.
From rugged and rocky grounds to cacti gardens and yuka trees, it’s a beautiful and romantic place for couples to elope to in California. What’s also great about it is that the park has got hug rocks that can shelter you from the wind so you don’t have to deal with the dust. Some of the top places to elope in Joshua Tree National Park include:
- Hidden Valley Picnic Area (not permitted March-May)
- Quail Springs Picnic Area (not permitted March-May)
- Cap Rock
- Rattlesnake Picnic Area
- Live Oak
- Split Rock
September and October are the busiest months of the park while summer is the hottest time of the year. To avoid crowds and blasting heat, aim to elope here around fall or spring to get the best of both worlds!
Joshua Tree National Park even has some really cool Airbnbs that you can stay at and enjoy your first few days as a married couple away from the world.
You will need to get a permit which costs around $120. You can find more information here.
42. Sequoia National Park, for a peaceful elopement in California
Sequoia National Park is one of my favourite USA National Parks. It’s got everything one could want for an elopement or just a regular visit. The main attraction of the park is obviously the giant sequoias including the biggest tree of all, the General Sherman. Seeing these in person really made me see things in perspective. We felt so little next to the giant sequoias that have been around for much longer than us!
On top of how impressive the park is, it’s simply beautiful. It’s got meadows, forests, and sequoia tunnels that all make for stunning elopement ceremony locations or elopement photos.
You can find our full guide about Sequoia to find the location in the park that you’d love the most. Note that there are bears in the park so just be bear aware before coming. I saw several bears during my visit and though they minded their own business, they can get curious (which could possibly make for fun elopement photos!).
The weather in Sequoia National Park is not as hot as the Death Valley or Yosemite. The trees also provide a lot of shade to shelter you from hot summer days. Overall, Sequoia National Park is great all year-round for an elopement. Note that during the summer, fires can make certain spots inaccessible. In the winter, it is the snow that can cause some roads to close. If you want to have the best shot as having a smooth elopement, spring and fall will provide the best weather and the least crowds.
The permit to elope in Sequoia is one of the cheapest for a national park at just $50. You can find more information here.
43. Redwood National and State Parks, for an enchanted forest elopement in California
Do you want to elope California Redwoods style? Redwood National and State Parks are an absolute dream of elopement locations. From rugged coastline views, prairies, fern forests, wild rivers to giant Redwood trees and mystic vibes, the parks offer endless possibilities for an elopement.
Redwood National and State Parks are perfect if you’re looking for an enchanted forest type of elopement and are looking for a quiet ceremony away from crowds.
The winter season is usually rainy so there is less crowds which can offer a more peaceful elopement experience though you will need to account for the rain in your props. Between April and end of September is the best time to elope in Redwoods as it offers a mix of good weather and foggy weather which both make for incredible photos and atmospheres!
You will need a permit which differ depending on your location. You can find more information here.
On top of being an incredible place to elope in California, the parks are also super close to the Oregon border so you can head there to continue your honeymoon.
44. Lassen Volcanic National Park, for a unique way to elope in California
This National Park is one of our favourite California elopement locations from this list. Think about Yellowstone National Park but with less crowds, just as beautiful sceneries and more forests. With geysers coming out of the ground, forests and desert like areas, Lassen Volcanic National Park offers a range of unique landscapes for a memorable elopement!
Eloping in Lassen Volcanic National Park is best between May and September as the park gets a lot of snow that makes it completely inaccessible the rest of the year. The park is also home to a lot of wildlife including mountain lions and bears so proceed with caution if holding your ceremony in a more remote part of the park. Note that you may be restricted as to where you can hold your ceremony for those reasons. The permit costs $75 and you can find more information here.
45. Channel Islands National Park, the perfect California location for a remote elopement
The Channel Islands National Park is located off the coast of California and accessible by ferry from Ventura Harbor. The park includes five islands: Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, Santa Barbara, and San Miguel. The islands are small and perfect if you’re looking for a unique and more remote elopement location in California. The islands also don’t allow cars so it makes the experience even more unique and peaceful. To get around you can use kayaks or walk.
As for the type of scenery, expect some rugged cliffs with grass on top and darker sand small coves. This destination is bets suited for active couples who love to kayak, snorkel and hike!
Top spots to elope in Channel Islands National Park include:
- Lobo Canyon Trail (Santa Rosa Island)
- East Anacapa Island Trail (Anacapa Island)
- Potato Harbor Trail (Santa Cruz Island)
You will need a permit to elope in California’s Channel Islands National Park which costs about $250. You can read more about it here.
Best places to stay for an elopement in California
There are obviously some gorgeous stays in California. We share our favourite ones in this section. We bet it will be hard not wanting to book them all! We’ve included some cheap places to get married in California along with some accommodations that are more like airbnb elopement California ideas.
Romantic stays in Joshua Tree
Romantic stays in Californian cities
- This estate is one of the most beautiful stays in San Diego. It’s a modern villa with city views and a year-round pool and sauna. It’s a super romantic place right in the city.
- With fabulous ratings, this is a romantic hotel Santa Barbara offers that won’t disappoint you. Located on the oceanfront and nearby the main attractions of the city, this hotel offers modern rooms decorated with taste that will make your stay super relaxing. On top of the stunning rooms, it also offers a pool and hot tub with views on the ocean along with spa services. This is our absolute top pick for a romantic stay in Santa Barbara!
- Located on the oceanfront, this Inn offers romantic and modern rooms along with a pool, a hot tub and access to all the main landmarks by foot. The hotel also offers a complimentary two hour bike rental so you can explore the city during the day.
- Stay in this beautiful house in Sausalito with views on the Golden Gate Bridge and experience the quiet side of this stunning city!
- For great value, location, comfortable and large rooms and a pool, we highly recommend this very nice hotel.
- For a bit of luxury and access to a rooftop pool and bar, we suggest this hotel on Manhattan Beach.
- For a unique experience, you can stay at this hotel right on Venice Beach which is great if you want a boutique hotel, great vistas of the sea and to be in a central location.
- We also recommend this hotel right by Manhattan beach and close to the airport as well.
Romantic stays in Yosemite National Park
More romantic stays in California national parks
- Located close to Sequoia National Park, this ranch is a popular accommodation for travellers with a lower budget but who want to stay the night close to the Ash Mountain Entrance. The ranch features a pool and also offers horseback riding experiences which is quite romantic for couples. You can check if your dates are available here.
- Close to Sequoia National Park and with an outdoor pool, a hot tub and modern rooms, a suite at this hotel is great for couples who are looking to relax after exploring the park. Check available dates here.
Romantic stays in California state parks and stunning sites
- This house in Big Bear will blow your mind and is the perfect couple retreat for an elopement! You’ll get the whole house to yourself which is located just on the lake! Say hello to lake views, time in the hot tub and stargazing sessions with your partner!
- This stunning chalet in Mammoth Lakes will be able to host you and your guest if you have any. The views on the mountains are unbeatable and so is the comfort of the hot tub!
Romantic stays in the California wine country
Best activities for couples who elope in California
Though there are beautiful places to elope in California, we highly recommend taking some additional time off to enjoy more of California than just your elopement location. The best place to elope in California will be one that has got activities to offer that you both enjoy! Check out the below activities that we recommend booking to do on your Californian elopement! These are perfect for romance, adventure and making beautiful memories with your forever partner.
Weather when eloping to California
There are lots of romantic places to elope in California whether that be on the coast, in the north or south of the state or more in the interior. But with the differences of altitudes and sceneries also come different types of weather!
If you’re going for a beach elopement California offers, the weather will usually be sunny and warm in the south of the state while it will be more foggy and chill in the north. On the coast, you’ll have to expect wind as well. San Francisco is warm in the summer but relatively cold the rest of the year with lots of fog, wind and rain.
Depending on your location, the terrain may determine the weather as well. For example desert like landscapes tend to be really cold in the winter and really (almost unbearably hot) in the summer). This is the case for the Death Valley.
For each of the location listed in this post, we included information about the best time to elope there and what the weather is like.
Cheapest time to travel to California
The cheapest time to travel to California is outside of summer. During summer, everything, including elopement venues California offers is more expensive. That is because it is the high season for California meaning this is when most people travel to California for a vacation. Hotels, flights, restaurants, everything is pricier then.
Shoulder season is usually less busy so prices are more affordable. Most couples also tend to elope when they can take time off from work which is usually between late spring and early fall so that’s also when elopements are more expensive.
If you can plan your elopement during a time where the location you choose isn’t as busy, you may even get a discount!
How long is a typical ceremony for couples who elope in California?
When you elope in California, it usually involves a simple elopement ceremony that lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to a few hours. You can choose the location of your ceremony, whether it’s a beach, park, or private venue. You’ll exchange vows and rings, and may have a few close friends or family members in attendance. After the ceremony, you can celebrate or go on a romantic getaway.
The exact length and details of your elopement in California will depend on your personal preferences and plans. Elopement packages in California usually lasts at least two hours with some including a few days of celebration as well. Your location and special use permit, if you need one, will also determine how long you can be in said location for.
Best airports to fly onto to elope in California
There are five international airports in California, see as follows:
- Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) – located in Los Angeles
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO) – located in San Francisco
- San Diego International Airport (SAN) – located in San Diego
- Oakland International Airport (OAK) – located in Oakland
- John Wayne Airport (SNA) – located in Santa Ana
The best airport to fly to will depend on your elopement location as California is a big state. If you need to book your flight tickets but are still hesitant on the location, then flying into LAX will give you the most options. It’s an enormous airport that connects with most of the world. It’s also easy to get a rental car or take shuttles from LAX.
If you’re flying domestically, from another state, the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank is also an option.
Should you elope in California on a weekday or the weekend?
The best elopement locations in California are usually also quite busy on the weekend. That’s the case for beaches, popular national parks like Joshua Tree or popular lakes or resorts like Lake Tahoe. If you would prefer a more intimate ambiance for your elopement we recommend going to these locations on a weekday instead.
Alternatively, if you can only elope on the weekend, we recommend choosing a location that’s just as beautiful but less known such as Bishop or Lassen Volcanic National Park.
What to wear when eloping to California
Just like we always say, you can absolutely wear whatever you’d like on your elopement. The only thing you’ll have to be mindful in California is the weather. In most of California, we recommend wearing light clothing such as a sleeveless wedding dress and a light suit. That said, if you elope in Northern California or in one of the forests, the temperature tends to go down so think of bringing a few layers either to wear with your outfit or to wear on top of your clothes in between photos.
In the winter, don’t get tricked by the California sun. Even LA gets cold sometimes! I remember visiting in April thinking it will be beach hot and oh was I wrong! I was wearing my coat, scarf and gloves! Be prepared and layer under your dress and suit if that’s easier!
How much does it cost to elope in California?
The cost of your Californian elopement will depend on several factors. If you choose to hire an elopement planner, you will have the choice between:
- cheap elopement packages California style which are usually short in time, with no vendors, no guests and with the minimum you need to make your elopement happen
- affordable elopement packages California style which usually lasts a bit longer and might include the bride’s bouquet and a couple of guests
- luxury elopement packages California style which can include locations such as large mansions, over 75 guests, and several vendors
California elopement packages usually start around $2,000 and can go as high as $26,000 depending on the number of guests and days your elopement lasts.
If you’re not into California budget elopement packages and want to organise your own elopement, expenses to consider are as follows:
- officiant, if getting legally married: around $400 on average
- photographer: usually around $2,000 but will depend on the number of hours
- videographer: usually around $2,000 but will depend on the number of hours
- venue permit: for state parks and national parks, the permit usually costs around $100 with some costing up to $250.
- marriage license: about $100
The cost of your elopement will greatly vary depending on the number of vendors, location, time length of your elopement, etc…
Elope in California packages
You may be thinking that organising your own elopement will be too much work. That’s when elope California packages come in handy! Let’s see what kind of packages you can expect to elope in California.
California elopement photographer
If you don’t need to get legally married in California and only want to hold your ceremony there, a photographer can usually help you. They’ll sometimes even offer all inclusive wedding packages in California as they have relationships with vendors in the state. All inclusive elopement packages California are not for everyone and can often costs multiple thousands of dollars but they are worth looking at to get an idea of how much your elopement planner can do.
Elopement packages in Southern California
From all-inclusive elopement packages Southern California and beach elopement packages California to specific elopement packages Los Angeles or San Diego elopement packages, there are several companies you can hire to help you plan your Southern California elopement. Check these out:
Elopement packages northern California
Note that most of the above vendors can travel through the state so they could also offer California beach elopement packages for example!
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