Big sur elopement portraits

Photography by Flora Gibson Photography

Big Sur Elopement

Out of all the locations we feature here at Wandering Weddings, Big Sur elopements probably take the cake at being one of the most popular and beautiful California elopement destinations. Since it’s probably one of the most photographed spots, our Big Sur elopement guide covers everything you should know before planning your elopement there. We also feature a real elopement, so you can get ideas for your ceremony and wedding portraits.

Big Sur is located in the central coastal region of California with beautiful views of Pacific Ocean waves. The journey to a Big Sur elopement also is an adventure on its own with striking seaside cliffs with every turn you take on State Route 1.

Jessie and Matt exchanged vows overlooking the gorgeous Big Sur coastline. According to Flora Gibson, the photographer, these two couldn’t keep their hands off of each other! This Big Sur elopement is the perfect inspiration to elope in the Redwoods in California.

Big Sur Elopement Locations

bride exchange vows

Photography by Flora Gibson Photography

It’s no surprise that Big Sur has a place in both our hearts and on our list of best places to elope. If you are certain you want to elope at Big Sur, then our California elopement packages will help you plan out your elopement day.

Surrounding Big Sur, you will find state parks, beaches, and cliffs along the coast. We love how couples can have a different look from their elopement ceremony to their wedding portraits because Big Sur has so much to offer.

You can also plan your elopement within Big Sur on a privately owned land rather than a protected public land. Established lodges and Airbnbs are popular in this area and can make for a cozy get ready together for your elopement. These lodges are also a great choice for couples who are looking for more privacy. You will still be surrounded by beautiful trees and nature.

You can plan a glamping session in the Redwoods, like how this couple did, and you can then exchange vows as the sun sets over the ocean.

Here are some of our favorite spots:

Pfeiffer Beach

If you’re looking for a space that doesn’t require a permit to elope, then Pfeiffer beach is your best bet. However, weddings are not allowed from March-October. This location is also famous for its huge keyhole rock formations.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

While Pfeiffer Beach has access, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park does not have beach access. There is, however, plenty of ocean views and gorgeous Mcway Falls to admire. You would also need a permit to have an elopement ceremony here.

Garrapata State Park

We have featured Garrapata State Park in other elopements, and we love the easy beach access directly off of Highway 1. This particular spot is known for its coastal views, trails, and beaches. A permit is required for your ceremony here as well. This Seaside California Elopement at Garrapata State Park is good inspiration for couples interested in this location.

Andrew Molera State Park

Andrew Molera State Park is a great Big Sur elopement destination for couples who love to surf. A permit is also required for elopement ceremonies here, but there is a gorgeous beach within a mile hike from the state park.

Ventana Big Sur

This is the lodging choice that our couple in this feature stayed at. Ventana Big Sur is a resort that offers both hotel room and glamping sites. Jessie and Matt got ready and took some wedding portraits at Ventana’s glamping zone. A short walk will lead you to the stunning redwood forest. This is the perfect location for your elopement day adventures.

Limekiln State Park

This is another great spot in the Big Sur area that doesn’t require a permit for elopements. Not having a permit requirement is a great way to ease the stress during your planning process. We recommend finding a natural clearing when trying to find a ceremony location at Limekiln State Park.

Glen Oaks Big Sur

This is a private elopement venue at Big Sur perfect for intimate weddings as well. Glen Oaks is an adorable lodge with an easy access woods. If you don’t want to plan your elopement ceremony here, you can always stay overnight and elope somewhere else in Big Sur.

 

These are just a few spots that are popular for Big Sur elopements but keep in mind there are so many nooks and crannies to explore. We suggest getting together with one of our California elopement vendors to better plan your special day.

While most places require permits, these permit applications can be submitted up to 6 months in advance for your wedding day. It is also important to keep in mind that an elopement permit and a wedding permit are two different things in the Big Sur area. The biggest difference is an elopement permit must have fewer than 10 people present, including vendors.

When to Elope in Big Sur

bride and groom walking in Big Sur

Photography by Flora Gibson Photography

Coastal California has beautiful weather year-round with mild winters. With that said, we think the best time to elope in Big Sur would be late summer to fall months. From August to October you will experience dry and warm weather.

If you want to have a winter wedding, we do suggest to have one on the side of caution. There is usually more rainfall during this time of year, which can lead to road closures and landslides.

5 Tips For Eloping in Big Sur

bride says vows in Big Sur

Photography by Flora Gibson Photography

  1. Settle all permits and fees ahead. Planning ahead will lead to a smoother elopement day.
  2. Make sure to incorporate driving into your Big Sur elopement. Highway 1 is gorgeous, and the views you will see are unreal. This is also a great way to spot a few more portrait locations where you can just hop off of the car.
  3. Get together with one of our Wandering Weddings photographers and map out your day to make the most of it.
  4. If you are interested in one of the state parks, remember that the state park system allows for only one elopement per day in the Big Sur sector.
  5. There are so many places in the Big Sur area to plan for your romantic stay including Ventana Big Sur (where our featured couple stayed), Big Sur Lodge, or Glen Oaks Big Sur to name a few.

How Much Does It Cost to Elope in Big Sur?

bride and groom by Big Sur beach

Photography by Flora Gibson Photography

If you get together with one of our California photographers and other wedding vendors, they can help plan your special day effortlessly. For a full day of coverage, photographers typically range from $3,000 to $5,000, depending on the specific photographer and what you are looking for. Aside from the permit fees, you would then have to worry about any wedding attire or details you would like to bring along.

If you are wondering what to include in your Big Sur elopement, our how to elope section breaks down some elements you may want to consider to include in your budget.

Full Elopement Story

Check out all the details from Jessie and Matt’s elopement day overlooking the gorgeous Big Sur coastline.

detail photography for elopement groom zipping wedding dress. groom helping bride in wedding dress. bride and groom getting ready. bride and groom camping in the Redwoods glamping in the Redwoods intimate portrait of bride and groom. detail photography at Big Sur floral details in Big Sur, florals

Quick Tips to Elope in the Redwoods

Jessie and Matt got ready for their elopement in an adorable tent within the Redwoods near California’s Big Sur.
Jessie tells us some advice other couples should consider if they also want to elope in the Redwoods including focusing on your vendors, dress, and accommodation.

“We really wanted to stay in nature and enjoy all the amazing scenery that Big Sur has to offer, so Ventana’s glamping option was perfect and unique. I stalked the BHLDN wedding dress website for sales for a few months, ordered a few different wedding dress options, and tried them on at home. I highly recommend BHLDN to brides, especially those eloping, because they have affordable options for everyone.” [Jessie]

Jessie and Matt also decided to do the legal ceremony in Virginia and read their vows at Big Sur.

“We definitely recommend this to other couples! Don’t be afraid to split up the legal and personal vow ceremonies if it means you can be married by someone you both know. You also don’t have to worry about getting/filing a marriage license in a different state.” [Jessie]

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Why a Big Sur Elopement?

Jessie tells us that Matt and herself were always drawn to the idea of eloping based on how personal and intimate it is. Once they became engaged, eloping became the practical choice.

“More importantly, we are both passionately opposed to the wedding industrial complex — the idea that you need to have and spend at least $40,000 on a wedding to prove your love and marry each other. We wanted our marriage to be about us and wanted our ceremony to focus on what we care most about — each other and the commitment we were making — not the bridesmaids dresses, centerpieces, or table linens.” [Jessie]

So why Big Sur and the Redwoods? Jessie tells us that Big Sur has been on their bucket list to visit for a while, and it was a no-brainer when deciding where they should elope. They both love the mountains and the beach, so California’s Big Sur was the perfect location for them.

Bride and groom by California's coast. Big Sur elopement   elopement ceremony groom says vows in Big Sur groom exchange vows bride exchange vows celebrating marriage at Big Sur bride and groom celebrate California elopement ceremony couple running on beach bride petting dog.

Memorable Moments During This Elopement

While Jessie and Matt were in awe of Big Sur and it’s beauty, Flora was in awe with this couple. She tells us how amazing it was to watch them admire the coastal views before they said their vows.

“They couldn’t take their eyes or hands off of each other! They were up for anything, and I felt like they were truly enjoying the moment and awed at the locations I showed them. As a photographer who grew up here, I sometimes take these places for granted, and it’s so wonderful seeing it through someone else’s eyes again.” [Flora]

bride and groom running bridal portraits in California groom kisses his bride by California Big Sur bride and groom hugging bride and groom by cave in California California elopement in Big Sur bride and groom in the beach. bride and groom in the Big Sur cave. nighttime in the big sur sunset photos in Big sur

Hire a Professional Who Knows the Area for Your Elopement

Flora tells us how important it is for your vendors to know the area for your elopement. This allows for a seamless planning and elopement experience. You should also ask about back up plans as well.

“Our original beach location was closed due to an overabundance of cars in the parking lot, so I knew another beach location somewhat nearby to take them to! I usually always have 3 back up plans!” [Flora]

For this Big Sur elopement, Flora guided and planned Jessie and Matt’s special day. This couple not only fully trusted her, but they also allowed Flora to be as creative as she wanted. She tells us how the portraits she took in the Redwoods were some of her favorite she has taken.

“My sessions are largely based around light and emotion, so I often really need my couples’ trust to see a location through my eyes. When I saw the spotlight on top of the tree stump I was SO excited!” [Flora]

Are you thinking about planning to elope in the Redwoods? Do you love the idea of saying your vows with the coastal views of the Big Sur? We would love to know where you are in your elopement planning journey. Let us know in the comments below!

If you are looking for more ideas on elopements, then check out our other elopement packages for more tips and locations. Are you looking for a mountain elopement destination in California? Our Yosemite Elopement Guide is another favorite among our couples planning their elopement.

wedding portraits in Big Sur at night. Big Sur elopement details at night. bride and groom kiss in the dark. detail photography in Big Sur

Vendors:

Venue | Ventana
Dress | BHLDN
Bouquet | Big Sur Flowers

Thank you to Flora Gibson Photography for sharing this session, and congratulations to Jessie and Matt!

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