The Best Places to Elope in California

A bride and groom standing on a cliff in California by the ocean.

With an endless amount of gorgeous locations, California is arguably one of the best places to elope. From stunning beaches and mystical forests to magnificent mountains, the golden state has plenty to offer. No matter what theme or season you choose for your elopement, you’re guaranteed to find at least one spot that speaks to you. As you will see from some of the unique suggestions below, it’s not surprising why so many couples choose California to tie the knot.

Yosemite National Park

An aerial view of mountains and trees in Yosemite, California.

While this is a more popular destination for elopements and weddings, you shouldn’t consider it as something mainstream. This beautiful area is home to many diverse landscapes and offers something for everyone. You’re guaranteed to get some memorable photos as the park is known for its breathtaking views and enchanting forests.

Getting eloped at Yosemite doesn’t mean you have to don hiking boots under your wedding dress. However, if you’re a fan of the outdoors, you’ll definitely enjoy exploring the many trails within. Couples can get married year-round here. However, keep in mind that some dining and lodging establishments either close or limit their operation during the winter season.

Joshua Tree National Park

A dirt road in Joshua Tree, California.

For a more classic California vibe, or at least a warmer location, consider this national park instead. It’s considered a rather surreal setting thanks to the unique landscape and the well-known, funky Joshua trees. Note that temperatures can reach over 100 degrees in the summer, so if you’re not a fan of the heat, consider eloping here out of season.

Big Sur

Big Sur coastline in California.

Yet another popular elopement destination is the coastline of Big Sur, which covers a significant portion of California’s central coast and is home to several state parks. If you love road trips, you can turn your elopement into a multi-day celebration and explore the many amazing locations this area has to offer. For a romantic place to stay, consider booking a few nights at Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is a top destination for a couples getaway. As a warning, make sure to double-check their elopement permit requirements, as this area has a more strict definition of what qualifies as such.

Laguna Beach

A view of the coastline in Laguna Beach, California.

You likely know this colorful seaside town from TV, as many films and shows are shot here. Once you’re there, you’ll see why it’s so popular. Many people say it has a very European vibe—it’s very walkable and features tons of little shops and fantastic dining options. This village is also well-known for its art scene and is home to a plethora of art galleries. You’ll also have a wide range of accommodation options from charming boutique inns to world-class luxury resorts. And if you want to explore even more, Laguna Beach is just a short drive away from the old town of San Juan Capistrano, and midway between San Diego and Los Angeles.

Palm Springs

A mountain view of Palm Springs, California

Another elopement hotspot for that classic California atmosphere is Palm Springs. It’s a fun and stylish destination with plenty of entertainment year-round. Check out the numerous picturesque golf clubs in the area not just for play, but to celebrate your marriage afterward. Make the most of your stay there by spending a day at the hot springs and taking the aerial tram to the top of Mt. Jacinto—maybe you can even exchange your vows there! This city is considered LGBTQ-friendly and known for its vibrant nightlife. If you’re lucky, you can combine your elopement with a visit to one of the many film and music festivals that this area hosts.

La Jolla

La Jolla coastline in California.

Much like Laguna Beach, La Jolla also has that European vibe, but on a more upscale level. Between the spectacular dining options and charming boutiques, your stay here will be anything but boring. The area’s beaches, both rocky and sandy, are perfect for a ceremony, as are the seaside parks. And some of the top restaurants are situated on the cliffside, making them great spots to celebrate your elopement. As a bonus, San Diego is just a short drive away and definitely worth a visit if you’re getting married here. Or, if you’re craving something more international, take a road trip to Mexico, which is just over an hour away by car.

Lake Tahoe

An aerial view of a road next to Lake Tahoe.

Home to the largest alpine lake in the States, Lake Tahoe is a widely chosen elopement destination in California. While it’s ideal for a winter wedding, rest assured this spot doesn’t lose its charm in any season. Whatever you’re craving as your ceremony setting, be it the mountains, a forest, or the water, you will find your dream elopement venue here. Many couples opt for Tahoe Paradise Park to exchange their vows, as it’s a rather peaceful location, and then go to the Emerald Bay lookout for a photoshoot. If you end up getting married in the winter, don’t miss out on the skiing and snowboarding slopes.

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