Big Sur elopement
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Big Sur elopement – The Ultimate Guide (2024)

Are you looking for a unique and intimate way to tie the knot? Consider a Big Sur elopement!

This stunning area located on California’s Central Coast is the perfect place for a romantic and memorable elopement.

Imagine exchanging vows surrounded by towering redwoods, cascading waterfalls, and breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

Big Sur offers a variety of stunning areas to choose from, including scenic overlooks, secluded meadows, and rustic bridges.

In this ultimate guide to a Big Sur elopement, we cover everything you need to know to have an amazing day, including tips on where to elope in Big Sur, budgeting, the legals, and finding an elopement officiant.

So let’s get to it!

The Pros and Cons of eloping in Big Sur

Eloping could be a romantic, intimate, and budget-friendly way to start your new life together.

But it might not be for everyone.

Let’s outline some pros and cons of eloping in Big Sur.

The Pros of an elopement in Big Sur

  • Intimate and Romantic

This style of wedding offers a romantic and personal way to exchange vows.

Surrounded by the natural beauty of the park, you can focus on each other without any distractions.

It’s a perfect way to create a meaningful and memorable experience.

  • Stunning Scenery

Big Sur is known for its stunning scenery, from the towering redwoods to the rugged coastline.

There are many places to elope that you can choose from – you will be spoiled for choice!

Tying the knot in such a picturesque place offers the opportunity to capture breathtaking photos that will be cherished for years to come.

  • Cost-Effective

An elopement-style wedding can be a more cost-effective option compared to a traditional wedding.

You can avoid expensive venue rentals, catering, and decor, allowing you to allocate your budget towards other priorities.

  • Easier Planning

With a smaller guest list, elopements are easier to plan and organize.

You can avoid the stress of managing a large guest list, seating arrangements, and other logistical challenges that come with a traditional wedding.

  • Flexibility

This style of wedding allows for more flexibility in terms of timing and venue.

You can choose a date and that works best for you, without having to worry about accommodating the schedules of guests or vendors.

The Cons of getting eloped in Big Sur

  • Limited Guest List

Elopements generally have a limited guest list, which can be a con if you want to celebrate your day with family and friends.

If you decide to elope, it’s important to communicate with your loved ones beforehand to avoid hurt feelings.

  • Less Formality

If you want a traditional wedding with all the formalities, an elopement may not be the right choice.

Elopements tend to be more casual and laid-back, which may not suit everyone’s preferences.

  • Planning Challenges

While elopements are easier to plan than traditional weddings, there are still some planning challenges to consider.

For example, you may need to obtain permits for certain areas within the park or navigate other logistical challenges.

  • Weather Uncertainty

The weather in Big Sur can be unpredictable, which may impact your plans.

It’s important to have a backup plan in case of rain or other inclement weather conditions.

  • Limited Services

Given both its distance from a major city (the closest one being San Francisco) and its popularity for events, limited services may be available, such as catering or a wedding coordinator.

If you want a fully planned and executed wedding, this style of wedding may not be the best option.

Eloping in Big Sur offers a unique and intimate way to tie the knot surrounded by stunning scenery.

While there are some potential drawbacks to consider, eloping can be a cost-effective and stress-free alternative to a traditional wedding.

How to elope in Big Sur, Step-by-Step

Eloping requires some planning and research, but it can be a beautiful and memorable way to tie the knot.

This short, step-by-step guide to a Big Sur elopement gives you an outline of what you need to do to get ready for your special day.

We cover some of these points in more detail later on.

  • Choose a Date and Time

You can’t get married without a date set!

Select a date and time that works best for you and your partner.

Keep in mind that Big Sur can experience unpredictable weather, so it’s important to consider the time of year and weather conditions.

  • Set a Budget

Determine how much you can afford to spend on your elopement.

Consider costs such as travel, accommodations, permits, officiant, and any other vendors you may want to hire.

It’s important to set this in advance to avoid any stress later on.

Elopements can be cheaper than traditional weddings, but without knowing the costs associated with eloping and good planning, you could end up spending just as much!

  • Check Legal Requirements

Before getting married in Big Sur, make sure to obtain a California wedding license.

You can obtain a license from any County Clerk’s office in the state.

Additionally, if you plan to get married in a specific location within the park, you may need to obtain a permit from the Park.

We go in to more detail on the formal legal steps further down.

  • Find an Elopement Officiant

Look for an officiant who is licensed to perform marriages in California.

You can search online for local officiants or ask for recommendations from friends or family.

  • Plan the Guest List

Decide who you want to invite to your event.

Keep in mind that elopements typically have a smaller guest list, so consider inviting only your closest family and friends.

  • Hire Vendors

If you want to hire vendors such as a photographer or florist, do your research and book them well in advance.

Big Sur has limited services available, so it’s important to book early.

  • Plan the Ceremony

Decide on the location within the park where you want to get married.

Big Sur offers a variety of amazing areas to tie the knot, including scenic overlooks, meadows, and bridges.

Decide on the type of ceremony you want, whether it’s traditional or more casual.

  • Plan the reception

Do you want a reception following the ceremony?

Are you going to have a party, serve food if you have guests, and have music?

Or might you want to go to a restaurant to enjoy a meal as a couple or with any guests you do have?

  • Book Accommodations and Travel

If you’re traveling to Big Sur from afar, book your accommodation and transport in advance.

There are limited options available within the park, so it’s important to book early.

If this all seems like too much, you could also consider an elopement package to take the planning stress away from you.

Guide to planning an elopement

To go in to even more depth about planning an elopement, including the ceremony, the reception, and more, check out our guide on how to elope.

The Cost of eloping in Big Sur

Eloping can be a more cost-effective option compared to a traditional wedding in the area.

The average cost can vary depending on a number of factors such as the location, the number of guests, the type of services and vendors chosen, and the time of year.

The average cost of a Big Sur elopement, taking in to account the choices above, is between $3000 and $15,000.

This includes costs such as the wedding permit, officiant fees, photography, floral arrangements, and accommodations.

However, elopements in Big Sur generally cost less than traditional weddings in the area.

According to some estimates, the average cost of a wedding in Big Sur can range from $50,000 to $100,000 or more.

So you can see how much cheaper an elopement can be, if you plan right.

Budgeting a Big Sur elopement

It’s important to keep in mind that the cost can vary significantly depending on individual preferences and budget.

Some couples may choose to splurge on high-end services, while others may opt for a more budget-friendly elopement.

Ultimately, the cost will depend on the couple’s priorities and preferences.

One thing to consider is if you would prefer to get an all inclusive Big Sur elopement package so that you know exactly how much you will be spending.

Here are some items that you will need to take in to account.

  • Marriage license

The cost of a marriage license in California is currently $91.

  • Ceremony venue

Many locations within Big Sur are free to use as ceremony venues, but some require a permit which can cost around $300-$500.

  • Big Sur Elopement photographer

Prices for elopement photographers in Big Sur can vary, but generally start around $1,000 for a few hours of coverage.

You can pay as much as $4,000 for a very experienced elopement photographer.

  • The elopement reception

Catering costs can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on the number of guests and the type of food and drinks selected.

Some couples may opt for a simple picnic-style reception with sandwiches and fruit, while others may choose a multi-course meal with wine pairings.

  • Decorations

Decoration costs will depend on the couple’s preferences and the type of venue chosen for the reception.

You may choose to keep decorations minimal, while others may opt for elaborate floral arrangements, lighting, and other decor elements.

Costs for decorations can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars.

  • Accommodation and travel

The cost of accommodation and travel will depend on individual preferences and budget.

There are a number of lodging options in and around Big Sur, ranging from budget-friendly motels to luxury resorts.

Prices for lodging can range from around $100 per night to well over $1,000 per night.

Travel costs will depend on how far you are traveling and the mode of transportation.

  • Other vendors

Couples may choose to hire additional vendors such as a hair and makeup artist, florist, decorator, or musician.

Prices for these services can vary widely, but generally start around $500 per service.

It’s important to keep in mind that these prices are just estimates, and the cost will depend on individual preferences and budget.

Tips to reduce costs

There are many ways to keep costs down without sacrificing the quality of your special day.

All you need to do is think a bit creatively!

Here are some tips on lowering the costs of the elopement day.

  • Opt for a weekday elopement

Choosing to get married on a weekday instead of a weekend can often result in cost savings.

Venues and vendors may be more willing to offer discounted rates for weekday events.

  • Keep the guest list small

The more guests you invite to your elopement, the more expensive it becomes.

Consider keeping your guest list to just a few close family members or friends to keep costs down.

  • Choose a free ceremony venue

There are many beautiful and free ceremony locations available in Big Sur, such as Pfeiffer Beach and Garrapata State Park.

Choosing one of these locations instead of paying for a private venue can help reduce costs.

  • DIY where possible

Consider DIYing certain aspects of your elopement, such as making your own bouquet or creating your own centerpieces.

This can be a fun and cost-effective way to add personal touches to your elopement while saving money on vendors.

  • Look for all-inclusive elopement packages

Many vendors in Big Sur offer all-inclusive elopement packages that can help simplify the planning process and reduce costs.

These packages often include services such as photography, an officiant, and flowers, and can be less expensive than booking each vendor separately.

How much does it cost to elope? The ultimate guide

If you want to read more about budgeting an elopement be sure to check out our guide on how much to spend on an elopement.

How to have a legal elopement in Big Sur

If you are going to get eloped, you need to make sure it is legal.

Be sure to follow these steps to make sure your marriage is legally recognized!

  • Obtain a California Marriage License

The first step to legally getting eloped in Big Sur is to obtain a California marriage license.

The license can be obtained at any county clerk’s office in California, and both parties must be present to obtain the license.

  • Choose an Officiant

To make your elopement official, you’ll need an officiant to perform the ceremony.

California allows for a wide range of officiants, including religious leaders, judges, and even friends or family members who are designated as “Deputy Commissioners of Marriage.”

  • Obtain a Permit for your Ceremony Location

If you plan to hold your ceremony in a public area in Big Sur, you will need to obtain a permit from the appropriate agency.

You can find out more information on the specific permit requirements by contacting the agency directly or the Special Event Permit Office.

  • Have Two Witnesses

In California, two witnesses are required to sign the marriage license after the ceremony.

These witnesses can be anyone who is present at the ceremony.

  • File the Marriage License

After the ceremony, the marriage license must be filed with the county clerk’s office where it was obtained.

This can be done by mail or in person.

Can you get married in Big Sur?

Yes, an elopement (like we talk about in this guide) is just a style of wedding.

You can get married in Big Sur if you follow the legal steps above.

Do you need a permit to elope in Big Sur?

You may need a permit to elope in Big Sur, depending on the exact place you choose for your ceremony.

This is not en elopement permit, but a permit to use the space for a wedding.

If you plan to have your elopement in a public area, such as a state park, you will likely need to obtain a permit from the appropriate agency.

The permit requirements can vary depending on the location and the number of people attending the event, so it’s important to research the specific requirements for your chosen location in advance.

Obtaining the necessary permits ensures that you are legally allowed to hold your elopement in your chosen spot and helps to preserve the natural beauty of the area for future visitors.

The best places to elope in Big Sur

Next on your list is figuring out where to elope in Big Sur.

Fortunately, Big Sur is home to many beautiful areas that make for stunning elopement backdrops.

You could spend days researching all the possible locations!

Here, we give you the best places to save you on all the research!

This iconic bridge is one of the most photographed spots in Big Sur, with its stunning arches and sweeping views of the coastline.

It can make for a beautiful and dramatic backdrop for an elopement ceremony.

Limekiln State Park features towering redwood trees, a picturesque creek, and a historic limekiln.

It’s a tranquil and romantic spot for a small and intimate ceremony.

Garrapata State Park is another popular spot for elopements, with its stunning beach, rocky coastline, and beautiful meadows.

It’s a great option for couples who love the outdoors and want a secluded and intimate ceremony.

Andrew Molera State Park is a stunning location with sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, rolling hills, and colorful wildflowers.

There are several beautiful locations within the park to consider for an elopement ceremony.

Partington Cove is a hidden gem in Big Sur, with its picturesque cove, towering cliffs, and beautiful waterfalls.

It’s a secluded and romantic spot for a small and intimate elopement ceremony.

Ventana Big Sur offers a variety of beautiful locations for elopements, including their Redwood Cathedral, the Ocean Meadow Lawn, and the Pacific House lawn.

The resort also offers elopement packages that include everything from the ceremony location to accommodations and a champagne toast.

Glen Oaks Big Sur is a rustic-chic venue with several options for elopements, including the intimate Redwood Grove, the stunning Oak Tree Ceremony Site, and the lush Meadow Ceremony Site.

Post Ranch Inn is a luxury resort with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

The resort offers several locations for elopements, including their iconic cliffside platform, the meditation garden, and the serene garden terrace.

Pfeiffer Beach is a popular spot for elopements, with its stunning sea stacks and purple sand.

The beach requires a permit for ceremonies, which can be obtained through the Monterey County Parks Department.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is another popular spot for elopements, with its stunning McWay Falls and ocean views.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park requires a permit for ceremonies, which can be obtained through the California State Parks Department.

Hopefully you can see from this list that, when it comes to figuring out where to elope in Big Sur, you’re not going to have a problem finding somewhere amazing!

What is the best time of year to elope in Big Sur?

Here are some things to consider when choosing a date for your elopement:

  • Weather

Big Sur’s climate is generally mild and pleasant year-round, but there can be significant variation in temperature and precipitation depending on the time of year.

The summer months (June-August) are typically the warmest and driest, with average temperatures in the 70°F (20°C).

However, this is also peak tourist season, so popular elopement locations may be crowded.

The spring and fall months (March-May and September-November) offer cooler temperatures and fewer crowds, but there may be more rain.

  • Seasonal Beauty

Big Sur’s natural beauty is breathtaking year-round, but the landscape can look quite different depending on the season.

Spring is a particularly beautiful time, with wildflowers in bloom and vibrant greenery. Fall also offers stunning foliage colors.

  • Budget

Peak tourist season is typically more expensive, so if you’re looking to save money, consider exchanging vows during the shoulder seasons.

  • Availability

Popular venues and vendors may book up quickly during peak season, so if you have your heart set on a particular date or location, be sure to plan ahead.

Ultimately, the best time to elope in Big Sur is the time that works best for you and your partner.

Consider your priorities and preferences, and choose a date that will create the most meaningful and memorable experience for you both.

Should you consider eloping in Big Sur?

In conclusion, a Big Sur elopement can be a truly unforgettable experience for you and your partner.

With its stunning natural beauty, tranquil ambiance, and diverse landscapes, Big Sur offers a wide range of elopement locations and venues that are perfect for an intimate and romantic ceremony.

Whether you’re dreaming of exchanging vows on a dramatic cliffside, having a lush forest wedding, or getting married on a picturesque beach, there’s no shortage of options to choose from.

And while eloping in Big Sur may require some planning and preparation, the experience is well worth it.

From obtaining your marriage license to selecting the perfect venue and vendors, each step of the process can be tailored to your unique preferences and budget.

And with the help of local experts and resources (or even a convenient elopement package), you can be sure that your wedding day will be a stress-free and magical day that you’ll cherish for years to come.

Whether you’re a nature lover, adventure seeker, or simply looking for a peaceful and romantic getaway, a Big Sur elopement is sure to be a memorable and meaningful celebration of your love!

Other Resources

To read more about planning an elopement, including in-depth tips on designing the ceremony and reception, check out our guide to eloping.

For more on cost planning for an elopement, see our guide here.

We have also covered other California elopement locations in our guide to a California elopement.

If you are still in the planning stages of where to elope, see all our elopement guides here, or why not consider…

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