Big Sur Elopement Guide [Updated for 2024]

January 11, 2024

Hello lovely couples! If you’re dreaming of an intimate elopement surrounded by dramatic cliffs, vast ocean views, and enchanting forests, Big Sur is your fairy-tale destination. As an experienced elopement photographer, I’ve guided many couples through their Big Sur adventure, and I’m here to help you create a day that’s as seamless as it is breathtaking. Let’s dive into everything you need to know about eloping in this majestic slice of California’s coastline!

Table of Contents

Big Sur Elopement Locations & Permit Requirements

Big Sur isn’t a national park but a region along the central coast of California that includes several state parks. For elopements at state parks or beaches, permits are generally required and can be obtained through the California Department of Parks and Recreation. Guest limitations vary by location, but typically range from 10 to 50 people. It’s important to check in with the specific park for their rules and regulations as they are always subject to change.

Pfeiffer Beach: Iconic sea arch and unique purple sand beach. No permit required for elopements with fewer than 50 guests.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park: A 1000 acre state park consisting of towering redwoods, streams & rivers, and picturesque bridges. A permit is needed for any ceremony & photography, and guest limitations may apply.
Bixby Creek Bridge: A famous bridge offering stunning coastal views. Permits are required for ceremonies.
Garrapata State Park: Rugged cliffs, rocky shores, and beautiful trails. Permits are needed for ceremonies.

Top Venues in Big Sur

In addition to the stunning natural settings within Big Sur, there are several nearby venues that can serve as a base for your event or provide additional options for celebrating before or after your ceremony.

Ventana Big Sur: Offering luxury amidst the wilderness, Ventana provides elopement packages that include everything from the officiant to the floral arrangements.
Post Ranch Inn: Ideal for a high-end elopement, Post Ranch Inn offers cliff-side ceremonies with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean.
Glen Oaks Big Sur: For a more rustic feel, Glen Oaks offers a beautiful redwood setting that’s perfect for an intimate ceremony.

Where to Stay in Big Sur

Big Sur has a range of accommodations, from cozy cabins to luxurious resorts. Some of my recommendations for a comfortable stay include:

  • Ventana Big Sur: A luxury resort offering breathtaking views and romantic accommodations in both their hotel and glamping tents.
  • Post Ranch Inn: An upscale retreat nestled on cliffs overlooking the ocean.3. Treebones Resort: Enjoy glamping in yurts with stunning ocean views.
  • Big Sur River Inn: A rustic yet charming option along the Big Sur River.
  • Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn: Quaint rooms and cottages amidst the redwoods.

Weather Throughout the Year and Best Time to Elope

Big Sur’s weather can be unpredictable, so flexibility is key. The summer months offer the driest conditions, but fog can be common in the mornings. Spring and fall provide moderate temperatures and fewer crowds, while winter can bring rain and cooler weather. For the best combination of good weather and low tourist activity, aim for May through June or September through October.

In my experience, May through June and September through October strike the perfect balance for a Big Sur elopement. The weather is generally pleasant, and the crowds are thinner. However, remember that Big Sur’s beauty shines year-round, and every season offers its own unique charm.

The photo on the left below was taken in May and the photo on the right was taken in December. The weather was nearly identical – so don’t be afraid to plan your elopement during the off-season!

Tips For Eloping In Big Sur

  • Hire local vendors: They know the ins and outs of the area and can navigate the logistics effortlessly. There are constant road closures and many of the best locations are kept a tight secret so they don’t become overrun by those who don’t treat them properly.
  • Have a back-up plan: It’s crucial to have a back-up when eloping in Big Sur. Big Sur is on a large stretch of Highway 1, and portions of the road are prone to damage and constant closures. Even if it’s not me, choosing a local photographer who knows how to navigate Big Sur’s unpredictability is key to ensuring you have a smooth and stress-free elopement day!
  • Be mindful of the environment: Big Sur is a natural treasure; respect it by leaving no trace of your visit.
  • Consider your privacy: Some spots can be popular with tourists, so aim for sunrise or weekday ceremonies for more seclusion.

Sample Elopement Timeline for a Full Day Elopement

Here’s a sample elopement timeline for a full day elopement in Big Sur:

7:00 AM – Sunrise and First Look
Begin your day with the magic of a Big Sur sunrise. Share a private ‘first look’ moment as the sky turns brilliant colors, capturing the raw emotion and anticipation of the day ahead.

8:00 AM – Intimate Ceremony
Choose a secluded spot for your ceremony. As the world wakes up, exchange your vows with the Pacific Ocean or the towering redwoods as your witness.

9:00 AM – Couples Portraits
Post-ceremony, it’s time for us to explore and capture your love story against the diverse backdrops of Big Sur. From forested paths to cliffside vistas, we’ll create unforgettable images.

11:00 AM – Brunch Celebration
Enjoy a post-ceremony brunch at one of Big Sur’s charming eateries or have a picnic prepared to savor in the great outdoors.

1:00 PM – Rest and Relaxation
Take some time to yourselves. Retreat to your accommodation, relax, and reflect on the morning’s beautiful moments.

4:00 PM – Golden Hour Photoshoot
As the sun begins to set and the light turns golden, we’ll meet again for a romantic photoshoot. Golden hour in Big Sur is not to be missed—it’s when the landscape truly glows.

6:00 PM – Sunset and Champagne
Toast to your union as the sun dips below the horizon. There’s nothing quite like a Big Sur sunset to end your elopement day on a high note.

7:00 PM – Intimate Dinner
Conclude your day with a private dinner, either at a local restaurant with ocean views or a special setup at your rental. It’s a time to indulge and celebrate the start of your lifelong journey together!

This timeline offers a more relaxed and leisurely approach, allowing for a sunrise ceremony, intimate moments in nature, and ample time for relaxation and enjoyment throughout the day.

Big Sur Elopement Packages

Eloping in Big Sur is about embracing the moment and the natural splendor around you. With careful planning and a spirit of adventure, your elopement will be as unforgettable as the majestic scenery of this coastal wonderland. As your guide and photo + video team, we are here to ensure that every detail is captured beautifully and your day unfolds seamlessly. Here’s to the start of your greatest adventure—in Big Sur and beyond!

Here’s what we offer:

  • Packages ranging from 3 hours to full day coverage
  • Digital + 35mm photographs
  • Digital + Super 8 video
  • a 90+ page elopement planning guide
  • Pre-wedding consultations
  • All travel is included

Packages start at $2600 for just photo & $4600 for photo + video

Check out our full pricing and package information here!

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