Everything you need to know about eloping in California
How to Elope in California
Welcome, friends! Whether you are a fellow California local or admirer from afar, I’m happy you are here! You’re wondering how to elope in California and I totally have your back!
I’m a little too passionate about the Golden State and my favorite thing is to share its beauty with eloping couples!! So, let’s dive in! Here’s everything you need to know about eloping in California!
Tip #1 | Eloping in California
Pick a weekday
I’m going to come out with the best tip right out of the gate.
If you are wondering how to elope in California without hitting the crowds, I HIGHLY recommend choosing a weekday for your wedding day! Being one of the most gorgeous places in the country, it’s obviously busy here! But don’t fret, there are still plenty of private, off the beaten path locations for your intimate ceremony (and I can help you find them!)
One of the easiest ways to get around the crowds is to opt for a weekday. All the natives will be at work and the tourists usually pour in heavier on the weekends.
With an elopement day, you have SO much flexibility to craft the best day ever, and that includes selecting a day and time of year that works best for your location! I can help guide you to the best season (in terms of both weather and busyness) to match your dream location!
Tip #2 | How to elope in California
It’s California. You get to dream big.
Do you want to watch the sunrise over the mountains and then gape at an equally beautiful sunset over the ocean all in the same day? Do you want to surf, have gourmet cuisine, and hike all while you marry your best friend? Do you want to do yoga in the forest at dawn, wine taste for lunch, and say your vows on the peak of a mountain at dusk?
The opportunities here are ENDLESS.
When it comes to nature, we’ve really got it all. Stunning mountains, sandy beaches, enchanting big tree forests, epic rocky shorelines, rolling hills, vast deserts, wildflower fields, and all of it is drenched in that gorgeous golden sunshine!
Similarly, California has all you could ever dream of when it comes to food (private chefs included!), adventure sports, and just general stuff to do! Is there anything you two have always wanted to try? Is there anything you two do that always produces the best time of your lives? We’ve got it. So let’s do it!
Tip #3 | Eloping in California
Chat up an expert!
So by now, you’ve gathered that California has nearly every landscape option you could want for your elopement…. So, now, how do you choose?!?
From my experience, it’s helpful to have SPECIFIC options in front of you. So instead of thinking about whether you want beach or desert views in a more abstract way, you can have a picture of a specific beach in front of you and be able to say “yes, that’s the one.” There will be a specific location that will call to you both and that is how you will know what is right for your day!
How do you get all of the dreamiest locations with detailed information about each in front of you?! Hire your photographer as soon as you decide to elope! Photographers that specialize in working with eloping couples know how to find out what kind of locations a couple is interested in and an easy way to present it all so that you can make the best decision for yourselves!
You don’t have to know the exact area or date of your elopement to inquire with me! I take it on as my job to help make it easy on you! I want to help guide you through these big decisions so feel free to gush all about your vision and I’ll help make it into a reality!
And, ultimately, just know you can’t go wrong. Everywhere here is beautiful.
Tip #4 | How to Elope in California
California marriage license + laws
The form more commonly used across the states, the pubic marriage license. With this type of license, the record of your marriage is available to anyone who goes to the county office and requests it.
- What’s the process? You make an appointment online with the county office closest to you (or where you will be.) At your meeting, you both will need a photo ID and you’ll get your marriage license that day! Your ceremony can then take place anywhere in the state within 90 days of issuance and it must be returned within 10 days of completing to the same county you acquired it from. Check your county’s requirements to learn more!
- Witness requirements: Here’s a cool thing about California, you only need one witness! (But no more than two allowed) That witness can also be under 18 as long as they are old enough to know that they are witnessing a marriage ceremony and able to sign their name on the official marriage license. This can open up tons of options for you as you plan your ceremony! I’ll tell you all about it next!!
- Here’s how it works for your style of wedding:
- Intimate wedding: Are you thinking a gathering of just you two and your very closest friends and family sounds like the perfect day for you? Hire an officiant to host your ceremony and sign your legal paperwork. If you’d prefer to lead your own ceremony, I’d be happy to sign your paperwork as I am an ordained minister with a non-denominational church. Pick one or two special people to sign as witnesses!
- Elopement – Just you two + officiant: Would you like to be out in nature, just you two and an officiant leading you through your vows? Hire someone willing to come out to your gorgeous location and perform your ceremony! I can sign as your witness!
- Elopement – Just you two: Are you dreaming of true privacy and freedom when it comes to your ceremony? If you want to have your ceremony wherever and whenever you feel like it’s right on the day of your elopement, we will just need to think through the options! While I can sign your paperwork as I am an ordained minister, we will need to have one witness signature. After your private ceremony, we can ask a random hiker (that’s always a funny option!) You can also consider hiring a videographer willing to sign as a witness or I can bring a second photographer along for this purpose. There are a few ways around this, so if you are interested, just let me know and I’ll share more of my ideas! (Also, see below! A confidential marriage license may be your key!)
California is unique because they offer confidential marriage licenses. This means that only the couple can purchase copies of the marriage license (so information like your addresses, mother’s maiden name, and such can remain private.) You are provided with a certificate to share with health insurance and other companies that need proof for their policies.
- What’s the process? You make an appointment online with the county office closest to you (or where you will be.) At your meeting, you both will need a photo ID and you need to prove that you live together already by providing the same address for each partner on the form. From those I’ve talked to in the office, they just want to see that the addresses match and they don’t ask any more questions about proving you live together. You get your marriage license that day! Your ceremony can then take place anywhere in the state within 90 days of issuance and it must be returned within 10 days of completing to the same county you acquired it from.
- Witness requirements: Here’s the last perk of a confidential marriage license…. You don’t need any witnesses to sign! This can make it easier to have a super-private ceremony! I’ll tell you all about it plays out, next!
- Here’s how it works for your style of wedding:
- Intimate wedding: Are you thinking a gathering of just you two and your very closest friends and family sounds like the perfect day for you? Hire an officiant to host your ceremony and sign your legal paperwork. If you’d prefer to lead your own ceremony, I’d be happy to sign your paperwork as I am an ordained minister with a non-denominational church. No witness signatures needed!
- Elopement – Just you two + officiant: Would you like to be out in nature, just you two and an officiant leading you through your vows? Hire someone willing to come out to your gorgeous location and perform your ceremony! No witness signatures needed!
- Elopement – Just you two: Are you dreaming of true privacy and freedom when it comes to your ceremony? Opt for a confidential license and have the ceremony wherever and whenever you feel like it’s right on the day of your elopement. At the end of the day, I will sign your paperwork as I am an ordained minister. No witnesses needed!
Tip #5 | Eloping in California
Be aware of permits + processing times
Many outdoor spaces and parks require a small permit and processing fee to use their spaces for photos and/or ceremonies. For example, Yosemite National Park requires a permit with a fee of $150 (wow, cheapest venue everrr!) submitted at least 2.5 weeks before your intimate ceremony or photo session takes place in the park. Of course, we would want to submit all the paperwork sooner rather than later, I do have some couples that decide to get a little spontaneous and have an awesome elopement day within a matter of weeks! 😉
Here are some awesome parks and their permit info!
- Joshua Tree National Park elopement info: $120 with more info here
- Yosemite National Park elopement info: $150 with more info here
- The Channel Islands National Park elopement info: $250 with more info here
- Sequoia National Park elopement info: ~$175 with more info here
- Redwoods National and State Parks elopement info: $200 with more info here
- Death Valley National Park elopement info: $300 with more info here
- Kings Canyon National Park elopement info: ~$175 with more info here
- Pinnacles National Park elopement info: $50 with more info here
- Point Reyes National Seashore elopement info: $50+ with more info here
- Carrizo Plain National Monument elopement info: BML land so must talk to a ranger with the specifics of your event to know more – 831-582-2200
- Montaña De Oro State Park elopement info: Give their Special Events Office a call at 805-927-2070 for more info
- Anza Borrego Desert State Park elopement info: Give the Park Office a call at 760-767-5311
- Mendocino Headlands State Park elopement info: Give their Special Events Coordinator a call at 707-937-5721
Bonus Tip #6 | How to elope in California
California is full of surprises
First, California is deceptively large. While the state being so HUGE makes it possible for all of the amazing landscapes to exist in one place, it does prompt you to look closely at travel times. Things often look closer than they actually are! Be sure to pay attention to what you can feasibly do in one (or a couple) days.
If you see any musts in your planning that you don’t want to miss even though they are far apart, remember there are such things as multi-day elopements! We can cover it all, my dear!
Secondly, California has more of a diverse climate than people think! (But only a little bit.)
We’ve all heard the comment “75 and sunny” and while that is accurate, it’s mostly only accurate for a specific band of the state. Other areas are hotter and many are a little chillier. There are some weather concerns at any point of the year throughout the state (including “May gray/June gloom,” wind chill on the coast, snow in the mountains, and the extreme heat of the desert) so I’m here to help couples navigate any that would affect the area you are looking to elope in!
Do you want to elope in California now or what?
Now that you know a little more about how to elope in California, are you just dying to get to it? I sure am. Fill out the pink form below and I’ll get to work to help you put together your amazing vision!!
You can find more about elopements here:
What is an Elopement?
5 Secret Benefits to Eloping
Top 20 Best Places to Elope in CA