You’re looking for dramatic, epically beautiful, jaw-dropping elopement locations, right? California has it! Steep cliffs, expansive valleys, rocky coastlines, forests that can make you feel as tiny as a bug, cascading waterfalls, rugged mountains… The list goes on and on. California even has cute towns that give an international vibe. California’s location variety mixed with all that the state has to offer will really let you create the elopement of your dreams!
You have dreamed up your elopement day 1,000 different times now. This time, picture yourself starting with a sunrise ceremony. You wake up in the morning jittery with excitement. The stars are still twinkling down as you get ready for one of the best days of your life. You spent the night in Yosemite Valley, so as you step out into the crisp morning air, you see towering, moonlit rocks surrounding you. We all make our way to a steep, sheer, dramatic cliff and you take a deep breath. You are about to see your partner, the love of your life, for the first time on your big day.
The sun is starting to rise, so you feel the welcome of fresh light hitting your face. The wind is calm, and you are stoked to be in nature. You and your partner lock eyes for the first time, and it’s as if everything – excitement, nervousness, adrenaline, anticipation, and love – all suddenly settle and you feel nothing but calm and content. You are held by the hands you love most, and you’re about to say your vows in one of the most epic places that exist.
Woah. That sounds AWESOME. An experience like that for your elopement speaks for itself, but there are so many other reasons to choose California as your elopement destination. The diverse landscapes have something to offer for any elopement dream. There are also elopement activities that can fit any agenda, from backpacking and climbing to whale watching and surfing, and even city activities like a rooftop dinner or watching a symphony. California really has it all.
The state is a huge state, and our favorite California elopement locations are peppered throughout the entire region. If you’re planning on eloping in California, it’s a good idea to make an “elopement week” out of it where you expand your adventures beyond the day that you say “I do”. Spending a week will allow you to take in more scenery and create memories that are sure to last. Read on to check out our favs.
Yosemite easily speaks for itself as one of the best California elopement locations. The area is filled with epic, breathtaking beauty, and there is something for every level of adventure. You can be surrounded by towering rock faces and flowing waterfalls while you’re down in the valley, or you can feel on top of the world by standing near a cliff’s edge. Whether you want to hike all day or not hike at all, Yosemite’s beauty is accessible to everyone.
Yosemite requires a Special Use Permit which can be applied for between 21 days and one year in advance. This permit is $150, and all guests (including those getting married) are expected to pay park entrance fees. Yosemite has a list of designated ceremony sites that are allowed for your ceremony. If you have less than 11 people total, you are not limited to the ceremony locations with the exception of open meadows and riparian environments. Yosemite sees a lot of nature lovers every year, so they have more rules in place to protect the environment. Be sure to familarize yourself with these regulations to help do your part to protect the park.
Sequoia is easily our second favorite when it comes to California elopement locations. There is something so serene about being in the forest of these massive trees– and I mean GIANT. Sequoia is such an incredible space to be one with nature. Sequoia was one of America’s first national parks, and the area is filled with nature’s beauty. Fun fact – in 2016 I renovated a small bus (think hotel shuttle bus). This thing was OLD, and she broke down in the Giant Forest. Our tow company bailed on us, so the rangers let us stay in our camper in the Giant Forest overnight. It was so dark that I put my hand in front of my face, and I couldn’t see it. Truly an incredible experience!
Sequoia, like many national parks, requires a Special Use Permit which is $150. This national park also has a list of designated ceremony sites. Some of these sites are very large and can even accommodate up to 75 people. Friendly reminder – Special Use Permits do not grant you exclusive access to an area, so you might have other nature lovers soaking up the views with you. Sequoia also requires wedding participants and guests to pay entrance fees into the park.
Dramatic cliffs and Cali beaches? Yes please! Big Sur is an awesome place to elope in California. This area has gorgeous, blue ocean views paired with an incredible rocky coast. You can also make the most of your elopement here by renting a vintage car and taking a drive on the Pacific Coast Highway! The area is surrounded by cute towns, yummy food, and awesome nature. Perfect for an elopement!
Big Sur holds multiple state parks, and each park has their own permit system. It’s important to make sure that you are obtaining the proper permit and following the regulations for the exact location that you are eloping in. We can help with this!
Located in Northern California in McArthur-Burney Falls State Park, Burney Falls is a stunning place to hold an elopement. You can get up close and personal with the waterfall which is paired with lush, green vegetation and beautiful blue water. Burney Falls is also close to Mt.Shasta, which means you could extend your elopement adventure and explore both on your day!
This area is ADA accessible and accessed via a short hike on a paved trail. That means it’s a great location to bring along your loved ones!
Redwood National Park is another elopement location that should be at the top of your list. Like Sequoia, Redwood is another area to find serene, breathtaking forests. While sequoia trees are large in volume and have huge trunks, redwoods are the world’s tallest trees. The giant trees, lush greenery, and occasional fog make for a really magical elopement setting!
Like many national parks, Redwood NP has a permit system, approved ceremony locations (see the drop down menu on the permit page), and regulations in place to protect the environment.
This is a gorgeous mountain area located in northern California. It’s relatively close to Burney Falls, so you could include both locations in your elopement adventure if you wanted to! Mt.Shasta is technically a volcano. How cool to say that you eloped at a volcano! This is a great area for hiking, biking, skiing, and snowboarding.
Mt. Shasta has a very easy permit system. If you have less than 75 guests, no permit is needed.
The Lost Coast is a great area to find rocky coastlines and blue water with a little less crowds than Big Sur. This area is in Northern California and is filled with beautiful hiking trails. You can also find similar landcapes in Half Moon Bay near San Francisco.
When it comes to California elopement locations, Catalina Island is overflowing with romantic vibes. Its architecture is almost remnant of Italian coastlines, and the sailboats complete the beach vibe. With beautiful blue water and sandy beaches, you can’t go wrong with a Catalina Island elopement. Also, this area does not allow any cars! You can have even more fun on your elopement exploring the island in a golf cart. This island is off the coast of Los Angeles and provides the perfect escape from the city.
Fort Bragg is another coastal, beach area that showcases more of California’s rocky coastlines. It is set apart by Glass Beach which is located in Mackerricher State Park. This beach is full of sea glass of all colors. You can finish off your elopement with a sunset walk on the beach taking in the sights and looking for harbor seals!
Located within Monterey Bay, this cute beach town is one you don’t want to miss! The architecture is brightly painted with Mediterranean style buildings. The town is also full of local artists and live music in the summers. This area has gorgeous beach views of Monterey Bay, and is also a very popular spot for fishing, boating, and surfing.
Important Info: This area was hit hard by storms in the beginning of 2023. The area may still be recovering.
We already know California has epic mountains, rocky beaches, stunning forests, cascading waterfalls, and incredible cliffs. To add even more diversity to the landscape, California also has beautiful deserts! Joshua Tree National Park provides a landscape like no other. The unique rock formations combined with the Joshua trees create a stunning backdrop for an elopement. This area also has really unique rentals for accommodations!
Keeping with the desert vibe, Death Valley is another to be considered. Unlike Joshua Tree, this desert landscape is almost other worldly with the colorful hills. The volcanic deposits rich in iron and chlorite paint the landscape and create gorgeous scenery!
Both Joshua Tree and Death Valley get extremely hot in the summer (even dangerously hot). We recommend eloping during other seasons.
We couldn’t help but include a major city in the list of California elopement locations. San Francisco has a vibe unlike many other cities and provides awesome landscapes with the Golden Gate Bridge and bay area beaches. There are tons of opportunities for city fun and outdoor adventure in this area. You can find stunning architecture and breathtaking landscapes all within one city. It’s a win-win!
If you’re interested in haveing a legal ceremony during your elopement, there are some steps that you need to follow. We can help to make sure all of your ducks are in a row! If you aren’t interested in having a legal ceremony or want to take care of the nitty gritty at a different time, that’s cool too! Symbolic ceremonies are just as important and hold just as much meaning as legal ceremonies. Either way, you are committing yourself to the person you love.
In order to have a legal ceremony, you need a marriage license in the state of California. You can get married the same day that you obtain your license, and it’s good for 90 days. The cost of your marriage license will vary by county. In order to have a legal ceremony, you need an officiant and one witness. California also allows non-clergy marriage (similar to self-solemnization) which requires a few more steps.
Many of the California elopement locations we listed are extremely popular and will book up well in advance. If you’re interested in one of these spots, you might need to put some extra planning and preparation into your day. This includes planning ahead for special use permits, and for accommodations. We recommend eloping during the weekday to have a better chance at snagging the spot you love!
We would love to go on an adventure with you! Michael and I are a traveling adventure elopement photo, video, + planning team. We chase loving souls and deep emotion, and we go wherever the wind takes us. Check out our blogs below for recent work, or reach out to plan your epic day. We can’t wait to get you in front of our lens!
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