Halfway between the Bay Area and Big Sur is the town of Santa Cruz. It's one of my favorite coastal towns, with laid back outdoors vibe. Imagine staying in a treehouse, brewing coffee in the morning to start your day as you breathe in the fresh mountain air. You walk outside and the giant redwoods surround you everywhere you look. A short drive up the coast and you'll find yourself gazing at coastal bluffs that jut out to the ocean. As a Santa Cruz elopement photographer, I'm here to help you craft your dream elopement day! Whether you imagine adventuring in the redwoods to say your vows, having your first dance and ending the night with a bonfire on the beach, or even starting your day surfing in the ocean, you get to choose what you want your wedding day to look like. Check out this Santa Cruz elopement guide for more ideas on how to plan your Santa Cruz elopement!
Where to Elope in Santa Cruz
Eloping in the Santa Cruz Redwoods
State Parks: If you want to get up close and personal with old growth redwoods, Henry Cowell is home to a 40-acre grove of old growth redwoods and allows elopement ceremonies for up to 20 people in the redwood loop. For other redwood state parks further from downtown Santa Cruz, check out Big Basin and Portola Redwoods. Permits typically cost between $300-600 for a wedding ceremony permit. While state parks are oftentimes the easiest and simplest way to elope, keep in mind that your ceremony may not be private so pick off peak days and times if possible.
Retreats: If you're planning for an intimate wedding with ceremony, dinner, and accommodations all in one place, Santa Cruz is home to many redwood retreats like Amphitheatre of the Redwoods or B&Bs like Sand Rock Farm. These retreats are perfect if you want a more private day to incorporate your personal style and decor into your wedding day. Look for venues that offer elopement and intimate wedding packages - these typically cost between $1500-4000. For more information on venues, check out the guide on Redwood Venues in the Bay Area and Santa Cruz.
Airbnb/Vrbo: If you're wanting a more nontraditional experience, search for redwood cabins and treehouses on Airbnb or Vrbo. However, always check with the owner beforehand as many owners will not allow events. If the owner does allow events, be sure to sign a contract and ask questions such as whether non-staying guests can come onsite, how much parking is available, if amplified sound is allowed, and whether liability insurance is required.
Eloping on the Santa Cruz Coast
If you imagine saying your vows on the coast with the ocean breeze in your hair, drive up north Highway 1 to Coast Dairies State Park, an area of hidden gem beaches with rugged coastal bluffs and secret coves. While Santa Cruz is home to many beaches, this section of coastline just 15-30 minutes away from town is worth the detour. Getting down to the beach oftentimes require climbing down steep, narrow paths (so avoid this area if you need areas that are easily accessible) but the views are well worth it! Similar to state parks, these beaches can be crowded so choose a weekday if possible for a more intimate experience.
Unique Places to Stay
Santa Cruz is home to so many redwood cabins - check out Airbnb for unique places to stay. If you are thinking of having your elopement at an Airbnb, always be sure to check with the owner beforehand.
Creating Your Elopement Day
Santa Cruz is full of things to do, and your elopement can be as simple as a short and sweet adventure in the redwoods or a full day of activities and adventure! Here's a sample timeline to get you started:
3:00 - 4:00 Getting Ready in a Cabin and Exchanging Letters
4:00 - 4:15 First Look
4:15 - 4:30 Travel to Henry Cowell State Park
4:30 - 5:00 Ceremony at Henry Cowell Redwood State Park
5:00 - 6:00 Portraits in the Redwoods
6:00 - 6:15 Travel to Coast Dairies State Park
6:15 - 7:45 Sunset Portraits on the Coast
7:45 - 8:15 Picnic, Champagne Toast, and First Dance on the Beach
8:15 - 8:30 Travel to Seabright Beach
8:30 - 9:00 Bonfire and S'Mores on the Beach
And for those looking to create a day full of fun and adventure, here are some unique ideas to incorporate in your elopement day (props if you can do it in your wedding clothes!)
Tips for Planning Your Santa Cruz Elopement
Don't worry if you're in the early planning stages and feel a little lost! As a Santa Cruz elopement photographer, I provide all of my couples with:
Fully inspired and ready to start crafting a day full of adventure together?
Looking for more elopement planning resources?