Thinking about planning to elope in Big Sur National Park? You’re in the right place! This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to plan your elopement in Big Sur National Park. This serene, preserved piece of nature lining the California coast is one of my favorite places to visit and one of the coolest places to elope in the US.
Everything you need to know about eloping in Big Sur. First off, what is Big Sur? Big Sur is a beautiful region of the coastline in California. Big Sur is made up of lush forests, grasslands, and rugged cliffs that line the water. In the past couple of years, Big Sur has become an extremely popular elopement destination for couples because of its beautiful and serene nature, paired with its ease of access of only being less than an hour away from some of the larger cities in California. This is also why Big Sur has also become such a popular tourist destination within the past couple of years.
Your timeline for planning to elope in Big Sur will depend on a handful of different variables. One of the biggest variables will be location. If you have a specific Big Sur location in mind, you will want to begin your planning early so that you can ensure you are able to get a permit to have your elopement at this location.
The second variable is your elopement vendors. If you plan to hire someone to document your elopement, I typically begin booking a year out or so for weekend elopements, and 6-9 months out for weekday elopements. If you have flexibility on your date, you can reach out to me prior to finalizing your elopement date.
Going to elope at Big Sur with me I know that for the majority of my couples, this is the first elopement you’ve ever planned, so there can be a LOT of unknowns. My biggest priority as your elopement photographer is making sure you’re comfortable and confident going into your elopement so the following things will be included in your Big Sur elopement package:
Every elopement is different so I make sure that consultation calls are included in your package so we can finalize all of the details of your Big Sur elopement together.
Prior to each elopement I photograph, I make sure to do location scouting digitally as well as in person. I almost always arrive at my elopements a day or two before the actual elopement so that I can plan out hiking routes, scout out dream locations and make sure everything is good to go for your day.
Making sure permits are in order for the hikes themselves, photo permits, and ceremony permits is one of my highest priorities when working with my couples for their wedding day. These are SO important because, without the proper permits and legalities, your Big Sur elopement cannot happen.
As a destination elopement photographer, I take the time to visit various areas throughout the US each year and do extensive research on the area before suggesting it to my couples. I’ve location scouted in Big Sur for my elopement couples and have done extensive research on the permits and locations throughout the area to put together this guide for you! When choosing an elopement photographer their familiarity with the area and how eloping in a national park is extremely important which is why I’ve spent time in this park and many other national parks location scouting and researching what is needed to elope there.
When obtaining your marriage license for your elopement you will want to make sure both you and your partner are over the age of 18, you both will need a valid government ID like a driver’s license or state ID, money to pay the marriage license fee and then in many cases you will need to appear in person to apply for your license.
Some of these rules can vary from county to county, so you will want to be sure you check with the specific county you plan to elope in when planning your Big Sur Elopement. The great thing about getting married in California though is that there is no waiting period after you obtain your marriage license.
When planning your elopement in Big Sur, you’ll want to make sure you go over the details of how you plan to get legally married. One of the best parts about eloping is that there is SO much flexibility about your elopement so you will have plenty of options. There are really three ways my couples tend to elope though. The first is getting legally married in a place like a city hall, or a small intimate ceremony at a location that has an ordained minister on site like Savannah and Jonny’s elopement.
The second is hiring someone to conduct your ceremony on site. Here you would work with an officiant to create a custom ceremony for you and your partner so that you can elope in Big Sur. And then the third would be to legally get married prior to your elopement day, and then conduct your own ceremony, exchange vows, or have a friend or family member come along to conduct your ceremony. This gives you a lot of freedom as far as the actual structure of your day.
Located on the central part of the coast of California, Big Sur is known to have mild and fairly consistent climates throughout the majority of the year. Because of this, when you elope in Big Sur will mostly be based on your preference for climate between the spring, fall, and summer. The only season that I don’t recommend eloping in Big Sur is the winter.
Though the weather is typically mild in the winter, there has been a trend of extreme rains paired with wildfires in the past couple of years that can cause extremely challenging conditions to get around in. The summer months are mostly a mix of cool and somewhat foggy days, the fall brings warmer weather with clearer skies, and the spring often brings wildflowers and LUSH greenery, which is why you might want to consider the spring! Let’s dive a little deeper into exactly when you’ll want your Big Sur elopement to be.
With Big Sur’s prime location, only a little less than an hour away from larger cities, There is a large number of tourists that roam the park on the weekends in peak season. This can cause issues with finding parking, having epic locations to yourself, and creating an intimate environment for your elopement itself.
Before you choose your wedding date as well, you’re going to want to contact the permit office for the specific park you’re hoping to elope in, as there are often specific days when parks offer permits for elopements, AND in some regions, the Big Sur Sector State Parks only grant one elopement permit per day in the region. So if you apply for a specific day to elope in say, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and they already have approved an application, you will not be able to obtain a permit for that day in that region.
Big Sur is a massive part of the coast in California that has SO many options for couples planning their elopements. There are two different types of locations you can plan your elopement at throughout Big Sur, and those locations are either public land or private land. Private lands are small venues, or reserved spaces, whereas public lands are places like beaches or national parks.
One of the advantages of having your elopement on private land in Big Sur is that you are able to have a little more control over the space in which you are planning to have your elopement. There are so many unique places throughout Big Sur that can help you create your dream elopement.
With beach access, and a living room looking out over the Pacific Ocean, this breathtaking space is the perfect venue for your elopement day. This space can host up to 12 guests and looks out over some of the most spectacular views of Big Sur. They also offer other amenities such as having a private chef, and so many more amazing experiences within and around Wind and Sea.
Glen Oaks located in Big Sur is a large property full of cabins and stays perfect for your adventurous elopement. The property itself is full of redwoods but also is within close proximity to SO many beautiful public lands nearby. This a great location for the couple who wants to elope in Big Sur, but not deal with the crowds that come with many of these beautiful locations.
This location books out about a year in advance for both weddings and elopement so be sure to contact them early if you would like to plan an elopement here! Henry Miller Library is a beautiful venue perfect for couples who want a little added adventure to their elopement. The library has its own private redwood canyon perfect for elopements.
Public lands are going to be your more affordable options, however, you will need to purchase a permit to elope on these lands along with a photo permit so you can have your photographer there to document your elopement!
If you plan to elope in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park you will have to apply for a permit and preselect the location you plan to elope at. Though there are quite a few options, if you do plan to elope in Big Sur at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park you’re going to want to plan a smaller elopement either just the two of you plus one guest. The trails are on the smaller side at this Big Sur state park so it can be challenging to host a ceremony within the trails throughout.
If you plan to elope at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park you will need an elopement permit that costs $425 for 10 people including vendors and can only be for weekdays unless you’re having a campsite elopement or flying solo without a photographer.
Known for Molera Point, a part of the trail in which you can see the entire coast and its’ rolling hills, Andrew Molera State Park should definitely be on your list when planning your elopement in Big Sur. Along with its rolling hills, the state park is full of wildflowers that bloom in the spring creating a breathtaking coastal view.
I HIGHLY recommend eloping at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur National Park. The beach is famous for the keyhole in the rock formation just off the beach. Permits are not a requirement to elope or take photos on this beach, however, if the parking lot is full, they won’t allow you to enter. I recommend going at sunrise or having a backup if you do want to try for sunset. This beach can be a challenge to get to in different parts of the year as well so avoid it during rainy and wildfire season.
Not only is it important for you to find someone that is familiar with Big Sur National Park, but it is also important that you find a photographer that specializes in destination elopements. As a destination elopement photographer, I help my couples with much more than day-of coordination, and elopement tips, I also help to walk them through the process of planning an out-of-state elopement, and everything they need to know about a location they may not have been to before.
When planning to elope in Big Sur, you will want to make sure you plan for not just your elopement, but also the hike that comes with it. Having a good backpack with water, good walking shoes if your hike is on the longer side, and saving things like maps offline so that you know how to get to your ceremony space or where to meet your photographer without a signal.
The weather on the California coast can be unpredictable. Some of this unpredictable weather can also result in road closures or park closures, so it is important to always make sure you have a backup plan in place just in case you cannot access your elopement space on your chosen date.
If you’re in the early stages of planning your Big Sur elopement and you’re not quite sure where to start, head to my contact page to set up a call so we can begin to start planning your dream elopement.