About Kate
Lifelong “sporto.” Traveler. Organized optimist. Adventure accomplice.  And, with my whole soul, I believe that you and your partner should marry in a way that feels like you. SO... Four years ago, I completely reworked my photography business to honor that vision. I changed course so that you can too.  Ready to explore eloping?!  Let's Chat!
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7 Things You MUST Know for a California Elopement

How-To & Tips

California elopements offer tantalizing natural beauty, romantic charm, and boundless adventure. All of this makes California an enticing option for couples who want an intimate wedding experience with unforgettable adventures.

Unless you’ve driven the entire length of California, you might not understand the potential of a California elopement. But the landscapes are diverse: redwood forests, pristine beaches, picturesque vineyards, mountain tops, vibrant cities, and everything in-between.

With its endless options, you can create a wedding experience that is as unique as your love story. In this blog, you’ll find everything you need to decide if California is the location for you, how to plan a seamless experience and discover all the magical possibilities waiting for you in the Golden State.

Why a California Elopement Could Be for You

A California elopement has a special allure that is different than other states. Not only does it offer radical choices of landscape and backdrop for your wedding experience, but its mild climate ensures that your California elopement can happen year-round. Plus, California is a cultural epicenter, giving you options to mix urban and wild adventure into one action-packed (or slow and cozy) itinerary.

The reigning reason why you should consider CA for your elopement is because it gives you every option you could think of. Now, the extremely vast options might feel overwhelming, but it makes nothing off limits. And, if it does feel overwhelming, I can help you navigate that…because you SHOULDN’T feel that way. With so many options, you get to create the experience that reflects you and your partner in the loudest, most you way.

Navigating the Magnitude of a California Elopement

California is over 1000 miles long with multiple different terrains, so when creating your ultimate California elopement, you want to be strategic about navigating the magnitude of the state.

Image Courtesy: Total Escape Destinations

My greatest advice is to think about the region where you want to say your vows and plan your adventures around that spot. If you want to do things on the North Coast and in San Diego, you will have to spend a good chunk of time traveling. Instead, there are similar experiences to explore closer to your vow location.

The above map breaks down California into smaller chunks but to not bore you with too many details, I’m going to explain the California regions in 5 focus groups:

Northern California:

From the very top of the state to the San Francisco Bay Area, Northern California has towering Redwood Trees in Humboldt County, Mendocino’s rugged coastline, the coveted vineyards of Napa and Sonoma Valleys, and concluding at the unique city of San Francisco.

Central Coast:

Stretching from SF to Santa Barbara County, the central coast has charming seaside towns and world-renowned wine regions. Big spot names like Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Santa Ynez Valley, and Big Sur reside within this region. With the coastal vistas and wine enthusiasts’ dream vineyards, the Central Coast gives a charming opportunity for a California elopement.

Central Valley:

Central Valley runs down the center of the state and is known for its agricultural production. With vast expanses of farmland, cities like Fresno, Bakersfield, and Stockton are surrounded by crops of fruit, vegetables, nuts, and cotton. This is not what typically comes to mind when considering a California elopement, but there is still endless adventure to be explored!

Southern California:

This area is south of Santa Barabra County and includes Los Angeles, San Diego, Palm Springs, and the Inland Empire. Known for its forever sunshine, vibrant people, captivating beaches, and famous attractions like Disneyland and Joshua Tree National Park. You’ll find beaches, desert landscapes, and mountainous terrain.

Sierra Nevada:

Along the eastern edge of the state, the Sierra Nevada range is home to some extremely classic California spots: Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe, and Mammoth Lakes. This is a big draw for my couples who are outdoor enthusiasts because it’s a prime spot for hiking, skiing, camping, and all kinds of outdoor recreational activities.

The Best Places for Your California Elopement

Here are 15 classic California elopement locations:

  1. Palm Springs
  2. Yosemite
  3. Joshua Tree
  4. Big Sur
  5. Mt. Shasta
  6. Sequoia National Park
  7. Glamis Sand Dunes
  8. Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
  9. San Francisco/Bay Area
  10. Lake Tahoe
  11. The Redwoods
  12. Lake Arrowhead
  13. Big Bear Lake
  14. Mammoth Lakes
  15. Death Valley National Park

But if surprising spots are more your style, check out this next section to learn the Hidden Gems of California.

The Secret Spots for a California Elopement

If a green, moody, fern-covered canyon is your vibe… Check out Fern Canyon. (I swear, if fairies are real, they are living here!)

Image Courtesy of Reed Geiger

If you couldn’t possibly decide between skiing or surfing, and a dream would be to do both all in 1 day… Take a peek at Big Bear Lake.

If your dream elopement would include secluded whale watchingTrinidad is your spot. (It’s also pretty close to Fern Canyon, so why choose?!)

Image Courtesy of Mark Dickinson

If beach is your vibe but you want something a little more secluded and unique… Glass Beach in Fort Bragg has your name written all over. (Seriously, a whole beach that is just tumbled glass pieces)

Photo Courtesy of Joshua Sortino

If epic stargazing is speaking your language… check out Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

California Elopement Legal Requirements

One thing that California makes easy is the legal requirements of eloping in California.

There are 3 legal things to consider when eloping in California:

Marriage License, Witness, and permits

If you’re going to go into the county clerk’s office to obtain your marriage license, both you and your partner need to show up together with a valid ID. Typically, you can get your marriage license the same day that you apply. PRO TIP: During the pandemic, California allowed couples to register for their marriage license online and some counties still have some virtual filing available, so check out your county’s website before you go into the office!

You need at least one witness to sign your marriage license to ensure that you two legally got married.

Surprisingly, California allows you to self-solemnize, meaning that you don’t need an officiant!

You want to double-check with your location on any permits you might need.

How Timing and Tourists Impact Your California Elopement

With it’s moderate temperament, an elopement in California could happen any time of year, but you want to consider a variety of options to tailor your wedding experience to have the most desired atmosphere.

California can get snow in the mountains, scorching temperatures in wine country, and there is a fire season that you want to consider.

In the spring, NorCal has stunning wildflowers blooming and a gentle breeze. SoCal does get some gustier winds. Fire Season begins in April.

The summers in Southern California are bright and warm with the sunshine, white Northern California is cooler and has pleasant breezes. This is the most classic California weather. You do want to be aware of the fire season during the summer heat.

The fall can bring some colder weather, although, the sunshine doesn’t go away. Fire season ends in October. As the season changes, the leaves turn in northern California.

Winters in California bring the rain, freezing temperatures in the desert, and snow-capped mountains.

Tourists are something to consider

If you’re going to the more popular places in California, you want to keep in mind that tourists are likely. The peak tourist season for California is June to August.

By picking less populated times (early mornings, later evenings) or by traveling during shoulder season (the season before or after peak tourist times).

Booking your California Elopement Vendors and Accommodations

When planning your California elopement, selecting the right vendors is crucial to bringing your vision to life and creating an unforgettable experience.

If you’ve found my content before, you know that I believe the right vendors are the ones who join your team. It isn’t about finding someone who can do their job well – most vendors can do that. The secret to creating your perfect elopement experience is to find vendors that catch your vision and join your team to create the most incredible experience possible.

California is filled with vendors that can do just that. From bakeries, personal chefs, boat captains, equipment rentals, and epic accommodations there are vendors for you.

When it comes to photographers, I am obviously biased, but for good reason! All (most) photographers take great pictures, but not all photographers are prepared for your adventure or are willing to jump all in on your full experience. Through my elopement concierge service, I would support you (and all my clients) in curating a complete itinerary for your wedding experience. I help vet other vendors, too! Learn more about it here.

Turn Your Elopement into Your Honeymoon

Turning your California elopement into your honeymoon is a seamless way to extend the magic of your special day into a romantic getaway.

By evolving your elopement into a honeymoon, you can avoid having to get permits for your vows and can still enjoy the locations with pesky permits or limitations!

After saying “I do” amidst the breathtaking scenery of your chosen elopement location, embark on your life journey by discovering the wonders of the Golden State together.

Eloping in California Might be the Answer You’ve been Looking for

Ranging from the towering redwoods of Northern California to the sun-drenched beaches of Southern California and everything in between, California’s landscape has what your dream elopement would include. Whether you desire a snowy mountaintop ceremony or a sun-soaked coastal exchange of vows, it’s waiting for you in the Golden State.

By hiring a photographer like me to be a part of planning your California elopement is an invaluable investment in capturing the essence and beauty of your special day. With years of experience and a deep passion for storytelling through photography, I am dedicated to preserving the intimate moments and unique details that make your elopement truly unforgettable.

I am committed to ensuring that every aspect of your elopement is documented and planned with authenticity and artistry. Together, we can create the most epic California elopement for you. Book a call with me here.

How much does it cost to elope in California?

Your California elopement could cost anywhere from a couple hundred, to thousands. It all just depends on the kind of elopement experience that you want. Check out this blog to learn about elopement budgeting and how much a wedding typically costs.

How far in advance should I plan my California elopement?

I am a firm believer that no matter how long your timeline is, it can absolutely work. My clients are often in of 1 of 2 groups: They are engaged roughly 6-8 months before their elopement date
OR They have been engaged 2+ years. You can go as fast or as slow as you would like.

Hi! I’m Kate, 

and I’m in your corner.

Lifelong “sporto.” Traveler. Organized optimist. Adventure accomplice.

With my whole soul, I believe that you and your partner should marry in a way that feels like you.   SO... Four years ago, I completely reworked my photography business to honor that vision.  To create a safe space for couples to create a wedding experience that feels right.

I changed course so that you can too.

Freeing couples to get married exactly how they want to, with no limits on what that looks like.   Is that bold?!?  Maybe, but you're ready!  

Reach out below and let's get started🙌

Let's build your elopement adventure!

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