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, best months to elope, day-of timelines, and planning tips!
As the #1 most visited state in the United States, California is undoubtedly one of the most popular places to elope. Known for its sunny weather and diversity of landscapes, it's a place where you can go from redwoods to coast, from big city to small town all within a matter of hours. Having lived in California all my life, I've spent years exploring all the different parts of the state, from road tripping down Highway 1 to Big Sur, to camping in Yosemite in the snow, to finding hidden gems dotted throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. It's that passion and love for the outdoors that has brought me to specializing as a Northern California elopement photographer - that plus my obsessive love of planning and many Google Sheets. So if you're thinking about eloping, here's everything you need to know on where to elope and how to plan an elopement in Northern California!
Every year I'll get a couple of proposal inquiries that'll ask for just the 15 minutes of the proposal itself captured, which is something I don't offer as my proposal sessions are at least an hour long. The reason is this - I'm not just here to take a few photos and leave, I'm here to create an experience and document those memories. You might've heard that studies show that investing in experiences often results in greater happiness, and that's something that I believe is so important as a photographer. It's moments like watching these two have ear-to-ear grins when they call each other fiance for the first time, catching the glances when she'll stop just to stare at her engagement ring in awe, and hearing her say that her hand can't stop shaking from the excitement that are so important. Those moments are the ones I'm always looking for - not just the 15 minutes of the proposal - though those are some of my favorite moments! - but the ones that can only be found through taking the time to slow down and just enjoy the experience. Check out the rest of T + B's sweet Big Sur proposal below - bring on all the tears!
People sometimes ask, how can it be a surprise proposal if she’s all dressed up? I’m not sure about you, but I’m in PJs and leggings 95% of the time, and then dresses the remaining 5% of the time when we finally go somewhere nice just for us and not work. But even if it’s not 100% a surprise - a girl sometimes just knows - that doesn’t take away how special the actual moment can be. The exact moment it happens, all else fades away and it all sinks in. This is real. This is happening. Check out more photos from these two's romantic proposal on the coast of Big Sur for proposal ideas and inspiration!
San Francisco was a special place for these two - it was the city where they met, fell in love, and built their lives together. Though the pandemic forced them to change their plans multiple times, they decided that they didn't want to wait any longer. So together we put together an epic day of adventuring to all the iconic San Francisco locations for their elopement - starting at the Ferry Building, then onwards to San Francisco City Hall, then to the Marin Headlands for a beautiful beach ceremony, and finally to a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. We originally had planned to capture the reception, but the city's traffic cut our time short, turning a 15 minute drive into a 45 minute drive and forcing us to make the split second decision on what to do with our remaining time. Though the sun had already set, I persuaded them to make to our last location in front of the Golden Gate Bridge - and it was absolutely perfect getting to watch them dance to an impromptu DJ on the top of the hill as the lights lit up the sky. Check out the rest of A + R's San Francisco elopement below!
When the emotion is real, capturing each and every moment is so much more than framing a beautiful couple in front of a beautiful backdrop. It’s capturing the minute movements and expressions that fly by so quickly. B knew that A had always wanted to see this famous landmark, so I suggested they get up early before the crowds hit. We quickly identified each other as the only two cars at the pullout, and walked out to the bridge where we had arranged for him to ask me to take a selfie for him. Watching their proposal unfold was so incredibly beautiful - A couldn’t stop crying and jumping up and down in excitement. And what I loved even more about these two was that even as we continued taking engagement photos after, she couldn’t stop tearing up in between shots and smiling from ear to ear. 10/10 would wake up at 5 AM any day to capture these moments - check out the rest of their Big Sur Bixby Bridge proposal!
There's just something special about sunrises. D persuaded S to go on a morning walk down by the coast on a quiet Saturday morning to avoid the crowds, but what she didn’t expect was a romantic picnic all set up for him to propose. They adventured down to the beach after and luckily the high tides didn’t get us...until the very end of the session. I might’ve returned to the car with wet shoes, socks, and pants and had to crank the foot heater on high, but it was well worth it! Check out the rest of their Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay proposal below!
One awesome thing that has come out of the pandemic has been the emergence of luxury picnic pop up companies! With so many restaurants and date night options closed, these companies have become such a great way to create a romantic experience outdoors. So when C started planning his proposal at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, he knew he wanted to make it special by having a picnic on the beach. On a cloudy winter day, they walked down the trail to find the picnic set up for them, where he surprised her with a ring - and yes, her reaction said it all that it was truly the sweetest surprise! Check out more photos from C + S's Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay proposal below!
I had known C - the bride - through Awakening Church back when we attended, and so it was such a sweet message to get to hear from these two when they announced that they were engaged! They knew that they were ready to be married and start their lives together, so they chose to celebrate with just an intimate group of family and friends at Gamble Gardens. This garden and historic house was built in the 1900s, and generously gifted to the City of Palo Alto for public enjoyment. A well-known treasure in the town, it served as the perfect background for these two to share their vows with one another. Their wedding was made possible with help from their loved ones, from their mom carefully arranging the pampas grass ceremony decor, to the maid-of-honor crafting their signage. Though their group was small, it was full of love and joy. Check out the rest of their Gamble Garden wedding below!
These two met the old-fashioned away - on a blind date in New York City. When a new job brought one of them to California, they decided to do long distance for the year. But when the pandemic hit, their bicoastal relationship turned into being coworkers and roommates. What was once figuring out time zones became navigating work calls in a studio apartment. But getting to spend so much time together only made these two realize even more that they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together, and soon after, he proposed on a hike that almost didn't happen. In the midst of the pandemic, they reached out and together we planned an intimate wedding on the coast of Big Sur.
Though last minute changes meant shrinking down their guest list even more just the week before, it couldn't have been a more perfect wedding day. S + G started off getting ready at the beautiful coastal home of Wind and Sea with just a small group of family with them to witness them getting married. It was a day spent treasuring the big and small moments - the way her mother and mother-in-law aww-ed over what a beautiful bride she was, the tears that her brother-turned-officiant shed as they said their vows to each other, and the endless laughter over stories shared over toasts and desserts brought over from the famous Porto's Bakery. Their love was so clear from the way their family described how perfectly they balanced each other with her planner tendencies and his spontaneity, and the small smiles they shared when no one else was looking. And the bride, being a ballet dancer, showed off all the best moves as we continued on adventuring to the coast. Check out the rest of their Wind and Sea Big Sur elopement!