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Big Sur Elopement

Big Sur Cliff Elopement in California

A step-by-step guide to planning your elopement in Big Sur, California. Everything from vendor recommendations, ceremony locations, and advice.

Step 1: Pick a date

The first step in any wedding or elopement planning process is choosing a date and time of year you’d like to tie-the-knot. Big Sur is one of those rare places that has even temperatures almost year-round. However, I recommend picking a date between March and November – sticking to the Spring, Summer, and Autumn months because the Winters are known for rain, fires, and road closures. I personally recommend March – April as not only will it be less crowed/touristy and less of a chance for fires, but the wildflower season is a MUST see! Also to help get a more secluded location on the Big Sur coast line, I recommend picking a weekday.

Step 2: Look Into Obtaining a Permit & Choose a Location

Elopement permits are only required if you decide to elope in one of the state parks. State parks in the Big Sur area typically only issue one elopement permit per day, but you can apply for it up to a year in advance. Keep in mind that they only issue permits for events with ten people or less. To apply for a permit, click HERE.

My personal recommendation would be to have fun exploring the coast off Route 1 and pick a spot at sunset/golden hour to exchange vows. This would mean you’re less likely to see other people, you get awesome cliff & sunset views, and no permit is needed. The couple shown in this blog post did exactly this and it was a blast!

Step 3: Obtain a Marriage License

You can obtain one of two kinds of marriage licenses:

  • Public Marriage License
  • Private Marriage License

Besides the clear name difference – the public license requires at least one witness (if you’re not planning on having any guests – your photographer/videographer can sign!) and this license is usable in any California county.

The private marriage license does not require a witness to sign. However, you would need to obtain the marriage license in the county you plan to have your ceremony in.

To get started in the marriage certificate process and learn more – click HERE.

Step 4: Hire Your Photo & Video Team

The best thing you can do once you’ve completed steps 1-3 is find your photographer. Your photographer should be able to give you the rest of your vendor recommendations such as videographers, florists, and officiants.

I am a professional wedding and elopement photographer with experience in the Big Sur area (so I can even show you all the best spots on the coast!). I would love to capture this moment for you! Not only do I do photography, but my man’s Rylee and I work together as a photo & video team! If you’d like to see more of our work – click HERE.

Besides hiring us as your dream photo & video team, we would give you the following recommendations for vendors:

  • Officiant: Dean Liapis www.elopewithdeanliapis.com
  • Floral: Fancy Pansy Art Design fancypansy.net
  • Food: I HIGHLY recommend packing your own dinner & drinks as most restaurants in Big Sur close very early! They likely won’t be open after your ceremony. It’s also likely the next town over will take some drive time to get to.
  • Hair & Makeup Artist: Big Sur has a very small population so I would strongly consider flying in your own hair and makeup artist: Michelle Dunlap Design https://michelledunlap.design/
  • Wedding Dress: I recommend finding a dress in your home location as there aren’t any bridal shops close by in Big Sur.
  • Car Rental: The Turo App
  • Airport: Monterey Regional Airport is the closest to Big Sur
  • Hotel: The Airbnb App

Now you can hire all your vendors and you’re all set! Easy peasy.

Additional Tips:

1.) Consider bringing lanterns like the couple shown and stay after sunset for some amazing starry views!

2.) Champagne glasses & a bottle are always a fun idea for some spicy champagne spray photos. Please make sure to pick up after yourself though!

3.) Stay on trails. No matter if that means you’re doing a cliff elopement or a state park – practice leave-no-trace and help protect this beautiful location.

4.) There is little to no cell service in Big Sur – so plan accordingly!

5.) Have fun and get married!

If you have any questions or would like to chat more with me, click HERE.




How to Elope in Big Sur

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