how to elope

Big Sur has become one of the top destination locations for couples wanting to elope. And for good reason! With it's giant redwoods, beautiful beaches, lush mountains and rocky cliffs–no matter what direction you look–there are epic views for miles. If you are up for an amazing adventure, Big Sur is the ultimate location to elope and capture your love story. So, how do you decide where to elope in Big Sur?!?! Let me help you plan the perfect day!

Don't know where to start and already feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed? I got you! This is where I come in and this is my specialty! I have spent countless hours scouting Big Sur for the most amazing and epic locations to take my couples on their wedding day. I have also photographed TONS of elopements and have a great relationship with all of our local vendors. All of my Elopement Packages include:

  • A zoom consultation call to really get to know one another, make sure we're a good fit and help to start planning your dream day!
  • Questionnaire to get to know you better and to find out exactly what you are looking for on your wedding day
  • A guide on where to stay while you're in Big Sur, plus an interactive map of the area
  • A location guide covering all of the multiple locations I photograph at including photos and details about each spot
  • A blog all about where to find your wedding dress for a Big Sur elopement
  • My locals vendor guide that includes hair and makeup, florals, officiants, bakeries, plus SO much more
  • The option to forgo an officiant and just have me sign your wedding license since I am officially ordained!
  • A HUGE guide covering what to wear, how to include family that isn't actually present on your wedding day, what types of activities you can include on your wedding day, plus SO much more
  • Permit and marriage license assistance
  • A personalized timeline for your wedding day based on our communication
  • My "Things to Do and Places to Eat" Guide for all the best restaurants and attractions while you are visiting our coast!
  • An elopement checklist to make sure you don't forget to pack any of the important things (like your vow books and rings!)

big sur locations

So, how do you decide on what the best location is for you and your partner? I tell all of my couples to sit down together, close their eyes, and envision where they say "I Do". Is that surrounded by giant trees in a redwood forest? On the cliffs overlooking the Pacific ocean? On the beach with seagulls flying overhead? Once you narrow it down from these terrain choices, then we can really start to talk about exact locations and why they may or may not be right for your big day.

elopement versus micro wedding

So, what really is the difference between an elopement and a micro wedding? Is it really that important to distinguish between the two? When it comes to planning a wedding in Big Sur–the answer is YES!

Planning an elopement versus a micro wedding involves considering various factors to ensure that the couple's preferences and needs are met. Here's a comparison between the two options:

  1. Intimacy and Privacy: Elopements are known for their intimacy and privacy, allowing the couple to exchange vows in a secluded and meaningful setting.
  2. Minimal Planning: Elopements typically require less planning and coordination compared to traditional weddings or micro weddings. Couples often opt for simple ceremonies with minimal guests, focusing solely on their commitment to each other.
  3. Budget-Friendly: Elopements are often more budget-friendly compared to larger weddings. With fewer guests and fewer details to organize, couples can save on expenses such as venue rentals, catering, and decor.
  4. Flexibility in Location: Elopements offer the flexibility to choose any location that holds significance for the couple, whether it's a remote mountaintop, a picturesque beach, or a secluded area under a redwood canopy.

Micro Wedding:
  1. Intimate Celebration with Guests: Micro weddings allow couples to celebrate their special day with a select group of guests, typically ranging from 10 to 30 people. This option allows for meaningful interactions with loved ones while still maintaining an intimate atmosphere.
  2. Personalization: Micro weddings offer the opportunity for personalization and customization, similar to traditional weddings. Couples can still incorporate elements such as personalized vows, unique decor, and special touches to reflect their personalities and love story.
  3. Venue Options: While elopements often take place in non-traditional locations, micro weddings can be held at a variety of venues, including intimate restaurants, an Air BNB overlooking the coast, or scenic outdoor settings. Couples have more options to choose from based on their preferences and vision for their wedding day.
  4. Moderate Planning: Planning a micro wedding requires more coordination than an elopement but is typically less overwhelming than planning a larger wedding. Couples can still enjoy the process of selecting vendors, designing their wedding day, and creating memorable experiences for themselves and their guests.

Ultimately, the decision between eloping and having a micro wedding depends on the couple's desires, priorities, and vision for their special day. Whether they choose the simplicity and privacy of an elopement or the intimate celebration of a micro wedding, the most important thing is that the day reflects their love and commitment to each other. In this blog, I am only focusing on Elopement locations.

1. Glen Oaks

Eloping at Glen Oaks in Big Sur provides couples with a cozy and intimate setting surrounded by redwoods and natural beauty, and is one of my favorite redwood locations for multiple reasons. As long as you are registered guests at Glen Oaks, you are allowed to have your ceremony anywhere on property for free. However, if you add even one extra guest (not including your photographer or officiant) then they will charge you a venue fee. Here's what you need to know:

  1. Natural Setting: Glen Oaks is located in the heart of Big Sur, surrounded by redwood forests and peaceful creeks. Couples can exchange vows in various scenic spots, such as by the creek, a ring of redwood trees, or on a grassy meadow surrounded by Maple trees.
  2. Simple Ceremony Spaces: Glen Oaks offers several ceremony locations, including cabins, the redwood grove, and the grassy meadow. These spots provide a simple yet beautiful setting for couples to get married.
  3. Accommodations: Couples can stay in cozy cabins or lodge rooms at Glen Oaks before or after their elopement. These accommodations offer a rustic charm and comfortable stay for couples looking to extend their celebration. Glen Oaks has done an amazing job of creating accommodations that still have the "Big Sur" rustic cabin vibe, but are also upscale with a touch of luxury for your wedding night. Just make sure to ask my advice on which cabin to stay in! Some are definitely better than others!
  4. Beautiful Property for Portraits: The grounds at Glen Oaks are very well maintained, yet still super natural. There are so many different types of foliage ranging from ferns, ivy, pine trees, to redwood trees. There is picturesque opportunities down by the river, gorgeous sun rays that pick up the campfire smoke coming through the leaves, and a fallen tree over the river that makes for some epic photos!
  5. Nearby Attractions: Glen Oaks is conveniently located near popular attractions like Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and Bixby Creek Bridge. Couples can explore these landmarks before or after their ceremony.
  6. Privacy: Glen Oaks provides couples with privacy and seclusion, allowing them to enjoy their special day away from crowds and distractions. There are no dogs and no children allowed to stay at Glen Oaks, so you can be sure this is a very quiet and calm place to stay on your wedding day!

Overall, eloping at Glen Oaks offers couples a simple and intimate wedding experience surrounded by the beauty of Big Sur's natural landscape.

2. Limekiln

Eloping at Limekiln State Park in Big Sur offers couples a serene and natural setting for their intimate ceremony. This gorgeous state park offers both redwood and beach locations. It's about 2 miles past Lucia, so just beware, it's definitely a little further of a drive than some of the other Big Sur elopement locations. Here's what you need to know about eloping at Limekiln State Park:

  1. Scenic Beauty: Limekiln State Park is renowned for its stunning coastal scenery, towering redwoods, and picturesque waterfalls. Couples can exchange vows amidst the park's natural beauty, with the sound of the Pacific Ocean in the background and the lush forest surroundings creating a magical ambiance.
  2. Intimate Ceremony Spaces: Limekiln State Park offers several beautiful locations for elopements, including secluded beaches, shaded groves, and scenic overlooks. Couples can choose the spot that speaks to their hearts and provides the perfect backdrop for their special moment.
  3. Rustic Charm: The park features rustic amenities, including picnic areas, hiking trails, and historic lime kilns. Couples can embrace the park's natural charm and incorporate it into their elopement, whether they choose to exchange vows on the beach, beneath the redwoods, or overlooking the rugged coastline.
  4. Accessibility: Limekiln State Park is easily accessible from Highway 1, making it convenient for couples and their guests to reach. However, it's important to note that parking may be limited, especially during peak seasons, so couples should plan accordingly and arrive early to secure a spot. The Entrance fee to the park is $10 per car/per day.
  5. Permits and Regulations: Like most state parks, Limekiln State Park requires permits for weddings and elopements. Couples should contact the park office in advance to inquire about permits, fees, and any specific regulations or restrictions that may apply to their ceremony.
  6. Photography Opportunities: Limekiln State Park offers countless opportunities for stunning wedding photos, from sun-dappled forest glades to dramatic coastal vistas. Couples can work with their photographer to capture the beauty and romance of their elopement against the backdrop of this breathtaking natural setting. This park is also one of the few that allows dogs, so this is a great choice if you want to bring along your furry friend!

Overall, eloping at Limekiln State Park offers couples a unique and unforgettable wedding experience surrounded by the beauty of Big Sur's coastal landscape. With its scenic beauty, intimate ceremony spaces, and rustic charm, Limekiln State Park provides the perfect setting for couples to begin their journey together as spouses.

3. pfeiffer beach

Pfeiffer Beach is located in the heart of Big Sur and is one of the most iconic beaches in California. Known for it's Keyhole arch and purple sand, this is beach is truly visually stunning.

  1. Natural Beauty: Pfeiffer Beach is famous for its unique purple sands, rugged cliffs, and stunning sunsets. Couples can say their vows with the Pacific Ocean as their backdrop, enjoying the peaceful atmosphere and stunning views.
  2. Seclusion: Pfeiffer Beach offers couples a secluded and private location for their elopement. The remote setting allows couples to focus on each other without distractions, making for an intimate and meaningful ceremony. However, I will not schedule elopements on the weekend at certain times of the year at this location. Guests to the beach must park in a parking lot and once that lot is full–it becomes a waiting game for other beach goers to leave. The parking lot accommodates 65 vehicles and is usually full on summer and holiday weekends. When available, parking is $15 per vehicle.
  3. Iconic Landmarks: The beach features landmarks like the Keyhole Arch, which frames the sunset at certain times of the year. Couples can also explore natural rock formations and sea caves, adding to the beauty of their ceremony. And if you're up for an adventure–I can lead you up to the top of a cliff that overlooks the entire beach! One of the best views you'll ever see!
  4. Accessibility: While Pfeiffer Beach is off the beaten path, it is accessible by car via a narrow road off Highway 1. Couples should plan to arrive early to secure parking, especially during busy times. It takes about an hour to get to Pfeiffer Beach from Carmel.
  5. Permits: That's the awesome thing about this location - no permits are needed!!!
  6. Dog friendly: Yep! That's right! Pfeiffer Beach is definitely dog friendly, so feel free to bring your pup along for all the fun.

Overall, eloping at Pfeiffer Beach allows couples to exchange vows in a beautiful and secluded location, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

4. Garrapata state beach

Garrapata State Beach is one of my favorite locations because it has so much variety to offer in terms of landscape. There is the gorgeous beach, visually interesting rock structures, wildflowers, mountains, Calla Lily valley and a secret rock cave. It's also pretty easy to navigate for couple's not wanting to climb rocks or hike up mointains.

  1. Natural Beauty: Garrapata State Beach is renowned for its rugged coastline, sandy shores, and dramatic mountains. Couples can exchange vows with the sound of the waves crashing against the shore and the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean in the background.
  2. Secluded Location: Garrapata State Beach is less crowded compared to other beaches in Big Sur, providing couples with a more private and intimate setting for their elopement. The expansive shoreline allows couples to find a secluded spot to say their vows away from other beachgoers.
  3. Accessibility: The beach is easily accessible by car via Highway 1, with parking available near the entrance. Couples should arrive early to secure parking, especially during peak seasons or weekends.
  4. Scenic Photo Opportunities: Garrapata State Beach offers plenty of opportunities for beautiful wedding photos, with its rocky coastline, golden sand, and stunning sunsets providing the perfect backdrop for couples to capture their special day.
  5. Permits and Regulations: Permits for Garrapata State Beach cost $400 for up to 25 people or $550 for up to 50 people, with a $75 rush fee for permits requested less than 60 days prior to the event date. For the most up to date, detailed information, click here.
  6. Flexible Ceremony Locations: Couples have the flexibility to choose their ceremony location along the beach, whether they prefer a spot near the water's edge, atop a rocky outcrop, or nestled among the sand dunes. This allows couples to personalize their ceremony to suit their preferences and vision for their special day.

Overall, eloping at Garrapata State Beach offers couples a serene and picturesque setting for their intimate ceremony, allowing them to exchange vows surrounded by the natural beauty of Big Sur's coastline.

5. garrapata state park

Looking for epic views and dramatic scenery?! Look no further, THIS is the place you want to say "I Do". Garrapata State Park is a large expanse consisting of cliffs overlooking the ocean, wildflowers, huge mountains, and tons of intimate areas for your ceremony. It is located only 12 minutes from Carmel, so it's an easy drive.

  1. Breathtaking Views: The cliffs at Garrapata State Park offer panoramic views of the rugged coastline and the Pacific Ocean. Couples can exchange vows with the majestic ocean as their backdrop, creating stunning and memorable photographs.
  2. Secluded and Intimate Setting: The cliffs at Garrapata State Park provide a secluded and intimate setting for elopements. Couples can enjoy the serenity of nature and the sound of crashing waves, away from the hustle and bustle of more crowded beaches.
  3. Natural Beauty: Garrapata State Park is known for its stunning natural beauty, with rocky cliffs, glimmering Pacific ocean, and vibrant coastal vegetation. Couples can explore the park's trails and discover hidden gems for their ceremony location, surrounded by the beauty of Big Sur's coastline.
  4. Flexibility: The cliffs at Garrapata State Park offer couples flexibility in choosing their ceremony location. Whether they prefer a spot overlooking the ocean, nestled among wildflowers, or beneath a canopy of cypress trees, there are plenty of options to suit every couple's vision for their special day.
  5. Romantic Sunsets: One of the highlights of eloping at Garrapata State Park is the opportunity to witness breathtaking sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. Couples can time their ceremony to coincide with the golden hour, capturing the magic of the setting sun as they exchange their vows.
  6. Accessibility: Garrapata State Park is easily accessible by car from Highway 1, with parking available near the trailheads leading to the cliffs. Couples and their guests can enjoy a scenic drive along the coast before arriving at the park for their elopement ceremony.
  7. Permits and Regulations: Permits for Garrapata State Park cost $400 for up to 25 people or $550 for up to 50 people, with a $75 rush fee for permits requested less than 60 days prior to the event date. For the most up to date, detailed information, click here.

Overall, eloping at Garrapata State Park on the cliffs offers couples a romantic and picturesque setting for their intimate ceremony, surrounded by the natural beauty and tranquility of Big Sur's coastline.

6. Bixby bridge

Eloping at Bixby Bridge in Big Sur offers couples a uniquely iconic and picturesque setting for their intimate ceremony. Here's why it's a fantastic choice:

  1. Iconic Landmark: Bixby Bridge is one of the most famous and photographed bridges on the West Coast, known for its dramatic arches and stunning coastal backdrop. Eloping here allows couples to exchange vows in front of this iconic landmark, creating timeless and memorable photographs.
  2. Scenic Beauty: The bridge is set against the backdrop of Big Sur's rugged coastline, with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains. Couples can say their vows with the sound of waves crashing against the cliffs and the golden glow of the setting sun casting a romantic ambiance.
  3. Accessibility: Bixby Bridge is easily accessible by car via Highway 1, with parking available at designated pullouts near the bridge. This accessibility makes it convenient for couples and their guests to reach the ceremony location, allowing for a stress-free elopement experience.
  4. Seclusion and Privacy: While Bixby Bridge is a popular tourist destination, eloping here offers couples a sense of seclusion and privacy. Couples can choose a quiet spot along the bridge or the nearby cliffs for their ceremony, away from the crowds of tourists, and enjoy an intimate and meaningful celebration.
  5. Versatility: Bixby Bridge offers couples versatility in choosing their ceremony location and style. Whether they prefer a simple ceremony on the bridge itself, a romantic exchange of vows on the cliffs overlooking the bridge, or a scenic backdrop for their elopement photos, there are plenty of options to suit every couple's vision.
  6. Historic Charm: Built in 1932, Bixby Bridge exudes historic charm and architectural elegance, adding a sense of significance and romance to the elopement ceremony. Couples can embrace the bridge's rich history and timeless beauty as they begin their journey together as spouses.

Overall, eloping at Bixby Bridge offers couples a truly unforgettable and magical experience, surrounded by the stunning natural beauty and historic charm of Big Sur's coastline.

7. my secret spots!

The great thing about hiring a local photographer is that we know about secret locations in Big Sur! I have spent countless hours scouting our gorgeous coastline and redwood forests for beautiful spots to take my couples who want a little more privacy. I have found fairytale forests with rivers running through them, a hidden cave at the beach-only accessible when it's low tide, epic rocky cliffs off the beaten paths were you won't see a soul in sight.

where to stay in big sur

So, now that you've decided where you want to have your ceremony, the question is "where should we stay in Big Sur?" When eloping in Big Sur, there are several accommodation options that offer romantic and memorable experiences for couples. Here are a few recommendations:

  1. Post Ranch Inn: Known for its luxurious cliffside accommodations and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, Post Ranch Inn offers a serene and romantic retreat for couples. The resort features beautifully appointed rooms and suites, as well as private cottages and treehouses nestled among the redwoods. Couples can enjoy gourmet dining, spa treatments, and stargazing from the property's infinity hot tubs.
  2. Ventana Big Sur: Situated amid towering redwoods and overlooking the rugged coastline, Ventana Big Sur offers an idyllic setting for couples seeking a romantic escape. The resort features luxurious accommodations, including cozy cabins, suites with private decks, and secluded villas with ocean views. Couples can relax and unwind at the spa, enjoy farm-to-table cuisine at the restaurant, and explore the nearby hiking trails and beaches. They also have a glamping site right next to the resort that I absolutely LOVE! The glamping tents are full on luxury in the redwoods and I can't think of a better way to end your wedding night, than with S'mores by your own personal campfire.
  3. Glen Oaks Big Sur: For couples seeking a more rustic and intimate experience, Glen Oaks Big Sur offers charming cabins and cottages nestled among the redwoods. The property features cozy accommodations with modern amenities, as well as a restaurant serving locally sourced cuisine. Couples can explore the nearby trails, relax by the creek, and enjoy the tranquility of nature. Glen Oaks is by far one of my favorite places for couples to stay. It's the perfect mix of that "rustic, Big Sur vibe with a luxury twist".
  4. Treebones Resort: Perched on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Treebones Resort offers unique and eco-friendly accommodations for couples looking for a memorable stay. The resort features yurts with ocean views, cozy cocoon tents, and rustic campsites for a glamping experience unlike any other. Couples can enjoy yoga classes, whale watching, and outdoor dining at the resort's oceanfront restaurant. Just be aware, Treebones is a little further down the coast so the drive is about 2 hours from Monterey to the resort.
  5. Ripplewood Resort: Nestled in the heart of Big Sur, Ripplewood Resort offers affordable and comfortable accommodations for couples eloping in the area. The resort features rustic cabins and cottages surrounded by towering redwoods, as well as a campground for those seeking a more adventurous stay. Couples can relax by the creek, explore the nearby hiking trails, and enjoy the tranquility of the forest.
  6. Deetjen's: Staying at Deetjen's Big Sur Inn offers couples a unique and charming experience amidst the beauty of Big Sur's redwood forest. Founded in the 1930s by Norwegian immigrant Helmuth Deetjen, Deetjen's Big Sur Inn is a historic landmark known for its rustic charm and cozy ambiance. The inn's quaint cottages and rooms are nestled among towering redwoods, providing a secluded and romantic retreat for couples.

These are just a few options for accommodation in Big Sur that offer romantic and memorable experiences for couples eloping in the area. Whether you prefer luxury cliffside resorts or cozy cabins in the woods, Big Sur has something to offer for every couple's taste and budget.

best time of year to elope in big sur

There is literally no bad time to elope in Big Sur! The weather is great all year around! It just depends on what you're looking for.

The best time of year to elope in Big Sur depends on your preferences for weather, scenery, and the overall atmosphere you want to capture in your photographs. Here are some considerations for each season:

  1. Spring (March to May): Spring in Big Sur brings lush greenery, wildflowers, and mild temperatures. The landscapes are vibrant and full of life during this time, making it an excellent choice for colorful and fresh-looking wedding photos.
  2. Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in Big Sur, as the weather is generally warm and dry. We are definitely still seeing a ton of fog in June and early July, but honestly the fog is my favorite backdrop! The days are longer, which means golden hour goes until about 8:30pm, so be prepared for your session till last a little later than usual. There is a little less of a wind chill late July and August, and there are still even some wildflowers from the super bloom!
  3. Fall (September to November): Fall in Big Sur offers a mix of green and golden tones as the plants and landscape change colors. The weather is generally quite warm during this time, with fewer crowds than in the summer. Fall can provide a cozy and warm ambiance for your wedding photos. This is typically when you'll get those really "golden" warm images. Fall can be a fantastic choice if you want to capture a mix of coastal views and fall colors in your wedding photos.
  4. Winter (December to February): Winter in Big Sur is the rainy season, but it can also bring dramatic coastal scenes with moody skies and misty landscapes. If you prefer a more unique and atmospheric setting for your wedding photos, winter could be a great choice. However, be prepared for the possibility of rain and cooler temperatures.

Ultimately, the best season for your wedding photos in Big Sur depends on your personal preferences, the type of scenery you want in the background, and your comfort with potential weather conditions. Discuss your ideas with your photographer and consider your own preferences to choose the season that aligns best with your vision for the day.

Now that you have all the info, are you ready to start planning the best day ever?!?!