When it comes to elopement locations in the US, Big Sur is one of the top places people come to get married. With its vast coastal views and redwood forests, it's a place full of wonder and natural beauty. As a Big Sur elopement photographer and a local who spends countless weekends exploring the endless trails in the area, I'm here to help you craft an epic day that feels genuine to your love story. Check out this guide for location recommendations, day-of timelines, and planning tips! Scroll to the bottom of the post for a map of all the locations mentioned.
Table of Contents
This Big Sur Elopement Guide covers:
1. Elopement Locations (Eloping at a State Park, Eloping at a Venue, Unique Places to Stay)
2. Day-Of Timeline (Elopement Timeline with no guests, Intimate Wedding Timeline)
3. Planning Tips
4. Things to Do
Big Sur Elopement Locations
Where to start when planning your Big Sur elopement? There are so many locations to elope in Big Sur - the first decision is whether you want to elope in a state park or a venue.
The main difference is that eloping in a state park is a great way to save costs and craft your own day, while eloping at a venue provides an all-inclusive experience, especially if you plan to host an intimate reception. With either option, I highly recommend dedicating a good amount of time to adventuring to the Big Sur coast for portraits.
Eloping at a State Park
As you drive down Highway 1 from Carmel, you'll start to see the stunning coast of Big Sur the moment you leave town, starting with Garrapata State Park. Known for its coastal trails, this is the perfect place to start your adventure. Continuing down Highway 1, you'll cross the iconic Bixby Bridge. Once over the bridge, you won't find many coastal access spots, but you'll start to see the giant redwoods in Pfeiffer Big Sur and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Parks. Check out the list below for state parks where you can elope:
Almost all parks require permits for elopements, so be sure to check with the individual park to fill out the paperwork ahead of time. For coastal and beach sites in the Monterey area, the elopement permit costs $400 for 1 hour for up to 25 people, with a $75 rush fee for permits requested less than 60 days prior to the event date. For redwood sites in the Big Sur area, the elopement permit costs $300 for 4 hours for up to 10 people (children and vendors included), with a $75 rush fee for permits requested less than 30 days prior to the event date. If more than 10 people, a special event permit is required starting at $425 for 4 hours for up to 50 people, with costs varying depending on the specific site. Remember that you don't have the stay in one location for your entire elopement! You can choose to say your vows at one location and adventure to explore the rest of Big Sur's views for your couple portraits.
What about hosting an intimate dinner reception? Instead of looking at venues, look for restaurants that offer private dining or private events. You'll find more options in Carmel/Monterey just north of Big Sur - such as Il Tegamino or Mission Ranch Hotel and Restaurant - where you can even decorate with beautiful tablescapes or floral arrangements. At the same time, you can make it as low key as you want!
Eloping at a Venue
Most Big Sur elopement venues offer all-inclusive packages that include accommodations, ceremony/reception sites, planning, and catering. Typically those with ocean or coastal views are higher end and more expensive, while venues with redwoods views are more rustic. Check out these Big Sur elopement venues:
Unique Places to Stay
If you're planning to elope in a state park or a venue without accommodations, the perfect way to start your day is by getting ready in a romantic cabin or glamping. Alternatively, you could have your elopement at an Airbnb, but always check with the owner beforehand. Keep in mind that there are more risks involved, such as last-minute cancellation from the owner and liability issues. Check out these unique places to stay:
We have personally stayed at the Rosehaven Treehouse and Carmel Valley Tiny House: the only things to note is that they are farther from the freeway and require a bit of driving through windy roads to get there, and going to the bathroom requires walking outside. But if you're down for an adventure to truly escape into nature, we highly recommend them!
Alternatives to Big Sur
While the Big Sur coastline can't be beat, if you love the redwoods but are looking for more budget-friendly lodging, dinner options, and accessibility to an airport + major city, Santa Cruz (just north of Big Sur) is a great alternative! This coastal town has redwoods everywhere you look, more cabin options, beaches for days, and a cute downtown area to boot. For eloping in a state park, Henry Cowell State Park - famous for its 40-acre grove of old-growth redwood trees - offers a redwood ring for weddings up to 20 guests and a picnic lot for weddings with up to 150 guests. Check out the How to Plan an Elopement in the California Redwoods Guide for more info!
Big Sur Elopement Day Of Timeline
I absolutely believe that your wedding day should be treasured and documented with the same care and importance of a traditional wedding. Whether it's just the two of you saying your vows to each other on the coast or just spending quality time with an intimate group of your closest loved ones, your elopement can be a full day of adventure and celebration. The options are endless - from cooking dinner in a cabin with your favorite love songs playing in the background, to picnicking on the beach and making s'mores over a bonfire with your best friends. Here are sample timelines to get you started:
Elopement Timeline (No Guests)
Intimate Wedding Timeline
For more help on planning, check out the step-by-step guide to planning your elopement!
Big Sur Elopement Planning Tips
Big Sur Things to Do
Big Sur is the perfect getaway if you want to create a full weekend of adventure or extend it to a road trip for a week long honeymoon. Besides hiking through the coast and redwoods, here are things to do in Big Sur:
Make It a Road Trip: Things to Do from Big Sur to San Francisco
Fully inspired and ready to start crafting a day full of adventure together?