There's no surprise that San Francisco - a place that often tops lists for best places to visit - is also a favorite for many couples choosing to elope. Whether it's a destination you've always wanted to travel to or a place you call home, this city is a cultural hub with things to do for everyone. Imagine exploring the coast with just the two of you, the ocean breeze in your hair as you read your vows to each other, sand in your toes as you run into the ocean after. Or this - a weekend getaway with just 10 of your closest friends and family, having your favorite people witness you get married and sharing memories together over good food and good company. As a Bay Area elopement photographer, I'm here to help you craft your dream San Francisco elopement - a day that feels genuine and authentic, a day that encompasses everything you think about when you hear "Best Day Ever." Check out the guide below for more information on where you can elope and how to plan your elopement!
Creating Your Dream Elopement
The first step is to think about what you envision for your elopement or intimate wedding! Read the descriptions below and see what resonates most with you.
YOU START THE DAY WITH A SLOW MORNING AT AN AIRBNB COTTAGE ON THE COAST...
and cook your favorite breakfast together - custard French toast with a warm cup of coffee. Your photographer arrives to capture candid moments of you two as you cuddle on the couch and sit on the patio together. You take turns getting ready in the cottage, putting on the wedding outfits you had carefully picked out. Then you step outside for the first look - tears, smiles, and laughter at the moment it settles in and starts to feel real - "This is it. We are getting MARRIED!" After you've wiped away all the tears, you head out to the car, grab your bouquet, tuck your rings and vow books in a safe place, and drive out to the coast. You meet your officiant and hike on a short trail, hand in hand, to arrive at your ceremony site. The officiant tells you to turn toward each other and starts the ceremony. You cry all the tears and can't stop smiling as you say your vows to one another. With the words "I do," you are officially married! After thanking and saying goodbye to your officiant, you adventure to chase the sunset with your photographer, constantly in awe of the incredible landscape in front of you, but even more so in awe of how incredible it is to get to marry the love of your life. After the sun has gone down, you head down to the beach with a romantic picnic all laid out for you. With your favorite song in the backyard, you throw off your shoes and dance barefoot on the beach, giggling as you twirl and remembering that you have two left feet as you end up tumbling onto the blanket. But there's no one else around to notice, just the two of you as you enjoy a romantic dinner and take in the last light and savor the last moments of the most incredible wedding day.
You arrive at the inn the day before with your 10 closest loved ones...
hugs all around, first night at dinner spent talking over how excited everyone is to see you two get married. The next morning, you head over to separate rooms. Your mom helps you get dressed, and the tears start coming as you turn around. "Don't cry, you'll make me start crying!" as you wipe away each other's tears. Your guests head out to the ceremony site, and you wait until the cue - it's time. The doors open, and you walk out to see the love of your life standing there with the biggest smile. As you walk down the aisle, time seems to stop. You finally get there, and rest in the familiar feeling of holding your loved one's hand as the ceremony starts. You cry all the tears and can't stop smiling as you say your vows to one another. With the words "I do," you are officially married! You walk down the aisle with your loved ones cheering louder than you have ever heard them cheer. You gather everyone for group photos, but even as you try to stand and smile formally for photos, you can't help but just enjoy the moment. After making sure everyone got in the photos, you adventure to chase the sunset with your photographer. You take in the views with just the two of you, constantly in awe of the incredible landscape in front of you, but even more so in awe of how incredible it is to get to marry the love of your life. The sun sets, and you head back to the inn where your loved ones are waiting for you. A few toasts - and more tears - later, you head over to the patio where you dance under the moonlight. With each other, with your parents, and then with everyone. You return to the reception to celebrate over good company and good food. What a wedding dream day spent with the people most important to you.
Which description felt more genuine to who you two are? Your wedding day vision doesn't have to fit into a box - it can be an epic outdoor adventure, a weekend getaway with your loved ones, or even something completely different! Maybe it's a day out in the city trading the traditional dinner reception for a brewery and arcade games instead, or doing a courthouse wedding (have you seen photos of San Francisco City Hall?) and gathering your friends and family for a dinner after. Once you've started to create a vision for what's most important to you on your wedding day, the next step is to decide on where to get married!
Choosing Your San Francisco Elopement Location
Looking for ideas? Check out these Bay Area elopements - all in or within driving distance of San Francisco - for inspiration!
Getting Married at a Public Location
Public buildings and parks are perfect for simple ceremonies (and for planning on a budget!) Most locations have a permit or reservation process to hold ceremonies in a specific area. For the adventurous souls out there, driving 30-60 minutes out of the city is 100% worth it - you'll find even more stunning views in places like Point Reyes. Here's an overview of locations by views:
What about after the ceremony? Many couples who elope or have an intimate wedding still choose to end the day with a dinner or reception. After all, San Francisco is home to over 30 Michelin star restaurants ranging from dim-sum style plates from State Bird Provisions to elegant French dishes from Atelier Crenn. While some public locations do allow for receptions, hosting a dinner at a restaurant is much easier especially if you have guests - no need to worry about your guests (or food!) getting cold, being too far from bathrooms, or bringing in lighting when it gets dark. Look for restaurants that offer private dining on The Venue Report or Open Table.
If you love the idea of spending the day in the great outdoors instead of going to a restaurant, consider hiring an event planner to design a romantic picnic or elegant sweetheart table for you! From vintage rugs to pampas grass installations, it's easy to bring those Pinterest dreams to life when you only need to decorate a table for 2 instead of 200. Plus, you can always check out SF's restaurant scene the day after for a newlywed brunch or dinner.
Getting Married at a Private Venue
Venues are a great option to have your ceremony, reception, and possibly even lodging all in one place - particularly if you have guests travelling. They also provide more privacy for your ceremony so you don't have to worry about random strangers walking around. Typically you'll find two kinds of venues for elopements and intimate weddings -
Check out the venues below for elopement packages:
For stylized event spaces, check out venues on Peerspace like these boho spaces: Precita Park Event Venue + Outdoor Space, Mission Flower Shop, Mission Loft.
Where to Stay
If you're looking for unique places to stay, check out Airbnb! As you get farther out from the city, you'll find more options for romantic cabins and cottages.
San Francisco Elopement Planning Tips
Planning Your Elopement
So how do you actually go about planning your elopement? While the traditional wedding planning checklist can be miles long, luckily you don't have to worry about nearly as many details like choosing bridesmaids dresses or arranging seating charts. Use the to-do list below to get started:
Now that wasn't so bad, right?!