So you are thinking about getting married in Big Sur, California? I am all about it. I may be just a tiny bit biased, since my husband and I eloped here in 2021, but it’s seriously such a perfect place for an Elopement (aka soon to be your own). If we are going smaller with just the two of you or bigger with family, there is a place at Big Sur for you. The cliffs overlooking the waves – you simply cannot beat it. It is just incredible.
Sidenote: If you’ve never visited Big Sur and just happened to stumble on this blog post- you have to add it to your bucket list asap.
We were originally drawn to the area due to a family connection, but we soon realized that the unreal California coastline, undeveloped beaches, and plenty of fun things to see and do meant it was just ideal for our day (and we did end up honeymooning in the same area).
Searching for a meaningful, fun, drop-dead gorgeous place to elope on the West Coast? Look no further – here’s how to Elope in Big Sur California.
The Big Sur region is found on the Central Coast of California, spanning between Carmel and San Simeon. It’s most well-known for its pristine coastline, considered the longest and most undeveloped stretch of land anywhere within the US – so cool! You can literally drive up and down the coast for hours on end. Big Sur is huge. Pull off and boom, the perfect place for your elopement. You can’t go wrong. My husband and I didn’t find the actual spot we would get married until the MORNING OF- so no need to stress! Big Sur is just all-around pretty.
As you can imagine, Big Sur is all about the outdoors, with plenty of amazing beaches, parks, hikes, and scenic lookouts. It’s not all about nature, though, since you’ll also find plenty of funky Airbnbs, cute cocktail bars, and delicious locally-owned restaurants.
Plus, the whole area is just so romantic! I’d be happy to give you some elopement ideas for Big Sur California, based on my own experience.
You’ll want to have a car to get around, so I recommend flying into Monterey Regional and then renting a car for your trip. It’s a large region and can be a little confusing, but don’t worry. I’m all about helping you plan your elopement itinerary in Big Sur California. My husband and I rented a fun Tacoma Truck and got a fun “Just Married” sticker to go on the back. Find that decal here. The decal is super easy to use.
Decal Tip: Grab a credit card to help flatten the sticky part to the window! It comes off with ease so no worries there.
I also recommend renting a fun vintage car during your stay. You could rent it for the day of your elopement as well for those awesome photos. (Honestly, wish we did that). We rented the car for a half-day. Was roughly $400 but we drove it all up and down the coast and it was the highlight of our honeymoon. Splurge. I dare you. Elopements are great because of the fact that you have extra spending money especially if you honeymoon in the same location you tied the knot.
Hands up if you’re super interested in tying the knot in Big Sur! If you’re ready to do this thing, here’s how to make Big Sur California elopements happen. It is a lot easier than you would think. Don’t be scared or intimidated because I sure was when I first started. It is a normal feeling but once we get the ball rolling you will feel more excited than constant overwhelm. Have realistic expectations though because overwhelm is so normal and natural. I promise that once we start checking some things off you’ll be more excited than ever. Most of my clients are intimidated from the get-go so you are not alone. Spreadsheets are your best friend. My husband and I made one and it was so helpful with the planning process. Want ours to start you off? Inquire today and I will send it straight to you.
You can elope anytime, but Big Sur’s peak season is from April–October, as these are the warmest and sunniest months. Here’s a hot tip, though! September and October offer great weather, little rain, and fewer crowds, since all of the summer vacationers have left by then (BIG WIN). My husband and I eloped in early September! Fog does accumulate over the coast but this is nothing to cause concern, as the fog moves rather quickly but I can’t say it didn’t stress me out once we got up there. We did run a tad bit behind schedule but eventually, the fog disappeared and it was like something out of a movie. Fog creates that dramatic effect and I am so into it.
As an elopement photographer in Big Sur, I can help you get the most beautiful photos in early autumn, thanks to the dreamy fall foliage and little bits of fog. Next up, the date.
In the peak spring and summer seasons, all of the parks in and around Big Sur can be pretty packed. If you can, consider a midweek elopement so that you have more space to yourselves. Especially if it is only the two of you, you don’t have to rely on anyone else’s schedule.
We eloped on a random Monday and there were zip people except for Mr. Photographer doing a couples session right below us. I guess they didn’t get the hint to skedaddle. Overall, weekdays are your best bet, especially at a location as popular as Big Sur. Now the plus side is that if you do have to do a weekend, Big Sur is so big there is PLENTY of room. We might have to do some extra driving or have awkward conversations for people to move their booties along but we will find the perfect spot for you. Normally people are super sweet about moving for us.
It’s a pretty important role (and quite an intimate one), so you need to make sure you pick someone who suits your vibe and personality. I highly recommend meeting beforehand – even if it’s just over Skype or Zoom – to make sure that you click and know what to expect. Officiants are super knowledgeable about all you need paperwork/legal wise so don’t be afraid to ask them questions.
We loved working with Brian Borgia, our officiant in the Big Sur, as he was super knowledgeable about all things legal/permit-related. Rates vary quite a bit, but most charge around the $200–$500 mark for this service. We recommend him to everyone.
When we started planning our Elopement, it was crazy to see how expensive some of the resorts in the area were (I’m talking thousands per night). Instead of spending a big chunk of our budget on hotels, we checked out local Airbnbs and were so much happier!
Budget Wise/Airbnb Tip: Our stay was around $275 a night. If you’re thinking about honeymooning in the same area, I recommend opting not to stay at your Airbnb the whole time. For Cameron and I, we stayed out of our Airbnb the night before and the night of our Elopement. After that, we switched gears and stayed at an adorable Inn for the honeymoon part. Airbnbs can quickly add up, especially with the service and cleaning fees.
We found the cutest, most romantic little Airbnb (The Mermaid Bungalow!) and it added so much fun to our wedding adventure. I highly recommend Airbnbs. They give you privacy, more space, and (bonus!) great photo ops, as many are styled with super cute decor.
The thing about Big Sur, as the name implies, is that it’s pretty massive. You can elope just about anywhere in the region. We didn’t realize when we eloped there that there were so many amazing options. But wherever you pick, you really can’t go wrong – we’re talking next-level natural beauty.
Tip: One thing I would change if I could, is I would plan to fly in an extra day before the elopement. We flew in on a literal day before we got married. We scouted the Big Sur area the DAY OF OUR ELOPEMENT. Are we nuts? Kinda. It ended up working out but I wish we had that day to just relax before the big, big day. Just a thought.
Elopement photography in Big Sur is really incredible. Definitely take the look and feel of your location into consideration when it comes to photos. Here are a few top places to check out for an Elopement in Big Sur:
In the northern part of Big Sur, you’ll find this amazing state park. Think incredible cliffs, dramatic views, and those quintessential Big Sur vibes. It’s easily accessible too, so you can literally pull over and tie the knot anywhere!
Bear in mind that Garrapata is pretty popular, especially at sunset. But even if you hold your ceremony elsewhere, it’s still a great place to stop for some wedding photos. Cameron and I eloped at Garrapata and it was great. Again – weekdays are the way to go.
Another dreamy elopement location is Pfeiffer Big Sur, which I love for its coastal views and redwoods. As a photographer and elopement planner in Big Sur California, let me tell you – you absolutely can’t miss the redwoods!
This park doesn’t offer direct beach access, so it’s better for a forest wedding than a beach vibe. This place definitely gives different energy and is a great one to check out nonetheless. If you wanted both looks you could opt to elope in the redwoods then take your bridals in Garrappata for example!
Beautiful beaches? Pristine, undeveloped land? Peace and quiet? Yep, Andrew Molera has it all, so this is an awesome under-the-radar spot for a beachside elopement.
There are also plenty of venues you can rent out for both a ceremony and reception, like Loma Vista Gardens, which can be a good idea if you’re bringing a few others along. Or you’ll find plenty of delicious restaurants nearby with an emphasis on local produce and California wines.
One important thing to know about Big Sur weddings: public land, such as the parks mentioned above, requires a permit for weddings and elopements within their space.
For state parks, you’re generally required to pay a fee (this varies from park to park). You can contact the park directly to find out costs and requirements, but please please PLAN AHEAD!
If you’re booking an elopement in a private space, like a hotel, they’ll generally help you with any permits as part of their wedding packages. It can take up to six months (in some cases) for permits to be approved, and I really don’t want you to miss out on your dream location. However, my husband and I went through this, so I am super happy to help you as part of my elopement packages in Big Sur California.
You truly can’t go wrong with a Big Sur Elopement – it was the best decision my husband and I could’ve made for our wedding, and we just loved everything about it. If you’re thinking of eloping in Big Sur and have any questions, thoughts, or crazy out-there ideas (I want in on it), please reach out on Instagram or through email (email@example.com).