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Eloping in California

Updated: May 20, 2023

Eloping in California

When it comes to planning a wedding, many couples are drawn to the romance and simplicity of eloping. California, with its diverse landscapes and vibrant cities, offers a wide range of stunning settings for such a celebration. This elopement guide will provide helpful information about eloping in California, legal requirements, recommended locations, and tips for planning your perfect elopement.

I am RayCee the Artist, a professional wedding photographer. If you are in need of a California elopement photographer to create high quality images of your California elopement, feel free to contact me at!

Legal Requirements for Eloping in California

Eloping in California

While eloping may seem like a spontaneous and romantic endeavor, there are legal procedures in place that ensure your union is recognized by law. California, like all states, has its own specific requirements for obtaining a marriage license and performing a wedding ceremony. These steps are essential in ensuring that the romance of your elopement is backed by the necessary legalities.

California Marriage License

Regardless of the county, you will need a marriage license issued by the State of California. A marriage certificate can be obtained from any county clerk's office. Both parties must be present, over 18 years old (or have guardian consent if under 18), and have valid photo identification.

There are two types of marriage licenses, a public marriage license and a confidential marriage license. The difference between the two is that the confidential marriage license is not a matter of public record.


Any ordained or licensed clergyman, or current members of the judiciary, can perform a marriage ceremony in California. If you'd prefer a friend or family member to officiate, they can become a Deputy Commissioner of Marriages for a day through the County Clerk’s Office.


California requires at least one witness present during the ceremony for a public marriage license. Confidential marriage licenses, however, do not require a witness.

Top Locations for Eloping in California

The Golden State, California, is home to a staggering variety of breathtaking scenery and vibrant cityscapes, making it an ideal choice for couples looking to elope. From towering redwoods to serene beaches, from iconic city landmarks to sprawling vineyards, California boasts some of the most diverse and scenic locations for your special day. Here are some of my top recommendations for best places to elope. These elopement locations cater to a range of aesthetic preferences, allowing you to find a location that perfectly complements your love story.

Yosemite National Park

Eloping in California

A natural gem of the state, Yosemite, with its towering cliffs and majestic waterfalls, is an ideal backdrop for a romantic elopement. Remember, though, a special use permit is required for weddings within the national park.

Big Sur

Eloping in California

Along the central California coastline, Big Sur offers dramatic cliffs and incredible Pacific Ocean views. An elopement here is perfect for those who want to combine the awe of the ocean with the charm of redwood groves.

San Francisco

Eloping in California

This Northern California city is full of iconic locations like the Golden Gate Bridge, City Hall, and Palace of Fine Arts. San Francisco is perfect for couples who desire an urban backdrop with a dash of historical charm.

Napa Valley

Eloping in California

If you're wine lovers, the vineyards of Napa Valley offer a perfect setting. Imagine saying your vows with rows of grapevines and a rustic winery setting in the background.

Joshua Tree National Park

Eloping in California

For those drawn to desert landscapes, Joshua Tree provides a unique and striking backdrop. Its surreal geological features and namesake Joshua Trees give off an otherworldly vibe.

Death Valley National Park

Eloping in California

Despite its ominous name, Death Valley offers an enchantingly stark and dramatic backdrop for elopements. With its expansive desert landscapes, unique salt formations, and brilliant starlit skies, an elopement here is for those who aren't afraid to embrace the wild and enduring spirit of nature.

Redwood National Park

Eloping in California

For couples seeking a truly magical and serene setting, Redwood National and State Parks offer an unparalleled location. The towering ancient redwoods create a cathedral-like ambience that's perfect for an intimate, reverent elopement.

Sequoia National Park

Eloping in California

Home to some of the world's largest trees, Sequoia National Park offers a grand and awe-inspiring setting for your special day. Exchange your vows beneath these majestic giants for a truly memorable elopement.

Lake Tahoe

Eloping in California

Lake Tahoe, located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, straddles the border of California and Nevada. It is a stunning choice for those who love water and mountains alike. With its crystal clear waters, surrounded by picturesque mountains, this elopement location offers a beautiful setting for a tranquil and scenic elopement.

San Diego

Eloping in California

Known for its beautiful beaches and stunning sunsets, San Diego offers a relaxed coastal vibe for your elopement. With venues ranging from historic parks like Balboa Park to beautiful beaches such as La Jolla Cove, this city offers a diverse selection of beautiful settings.

Palm Springs

Eloping in California

Palm Springs, renowned for its stylish mid-century modern architecture and stunning desert landscapes, offers a unique and glamorous setting for your elopement. The San Jacinto Mountains provide a majestic backdrop, while the city's chic vibe adds a touch of elegance to your special day.

Planning Your California Elopement

The beauty of eloping lies in its simplicity and intimacy, but that doesn't mean it's a decision to take lightly. Even the most straightforward elopement requires careful planning to ensure that your day is as magical and stress-free as possible. Think of this as creating a road map for your journey, laying out each element of your elopement—from photographers to florals—and ensuring that everything aligns with your vision. I will now go through some key considerations that will help you shape and navigate your elopement adventure in California.


Eloping in California

A skilled elopement photographer, such as myself (RayCee the Artist), is crucial. I will capture the intimacy and emotion of your elopement, providing you with lasting memories.

Hire an Elopement Planner

They can take care of logistics, helping you find the best spot for the ceremony and perfect local vendors.

Season and Weather

California’s weather varies by region and season. Coastal areas can be foggy in summer, while desert regions can be scorching hot. Research and consider the typical weather patterns for your chosen location and plan accordingly.

Florals and Attire

Just because you're eloping doesn't mean you can't have a beautiful bouquet or wear an elegant wedding outfit. Consider the location and climate when deciding on these details. For example, a flowing, bohemian dress may be ideal for a beach elopement, while a cozy wrap and boots could be perfect for a mountain ceremony.

Accommodation and Travel

If you’re eloping in a remote or high-demand location, make sure to arrange accommodations well in advance. Similarly, plan your travel route carefully to ensure a stress-free journey to your elopement destination.


A California elopement can be a deeply personal and romantic experience. By understanding the legalities, choosing the perfect location, and planning mindfully, you can craft a beautiful celebration that captures your unique love story. Whether you're drawn to the allure of a majestic forest, the serenity of the coastline, the vibrancy of a bustling city, or the charm of a vineyard, Southern California and Northern California provide a scenic canvas to paint your perfect elopement.

I am RayCee the Artist, a professional wedding photographer. If you are in need of a California elopement photographer to create high quality images of your California elopement, feel free to contact me at!


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