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I am the photographer and author behind the Leah Rivera Photography blog. If you’re looking to book a photographer that is just as goofy, fun-loving and all about excellent customer service, then let’s chat today and plan our next adventure together!

The name's Leah.

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California Elopement Guide – How to Elope in California


California Elopement Guide – How to Elope in California

No matter what kind of landscape you’re dreaming of for your elopement, you’ll find it in California! The state has misty forests up north, sunny deserts down south, and everything in between – glaciers, mountains, waterfalls, beaches, you name it. If you’re planning a California elopement, there are a few things you should know, but this guide will tell you all about it! Keep reading to learn how to elope in California – you’ll be an expert in no time.

Yosemite Elopement
Yosemite National Park Elopement

The Best Time to Elope in California

Because California is so big, with so many ecosystems and microclimates, the best time to elope will depend on what you want to do!

The Best Time of Year to Have A California Elopement

First, you’ll need to narrow it down to a time of year for your California elopement. Though the state is best known (by anyone who doesn’t live there) for year round warmth and sunny skies, there are definitely more considerations when it comes to weather!

In the winter, the mountainous regions become prime ski destinations – cold and covered in snow. Coastal areas in northern California are typically warmer, but see a lot of rain in the winter, while beaches in southern California are warm year round. The desert can get chilly at night and in the mornings, but midday temperatures are usually pretty moderate, though there is the occasional dusting of snow.

Spring is one of the best times to elope in the desert – temperatures are warm but not too hot, and wildflowers begin to bloom. The northern part of the state is often foggy this time of year, but it usually makes for some pretty good views! 

Because the snow in higher elevation areas usually sticks around until summer, any couple hoping to hike in the mountains for their elopement should elope in July or August. The desert heat can be pretty overwhelming this time of year, but the coast tends to be more temperate. Keep in mind that summer is also wildfire season in most parts of California – the dry conditions can be dangerous, so be aware that this is something you might have to work around.

Fall can be the perfect time to elope, because most places are busiest in the summer (with the exception of desert locations, as they’re usually too hot). Eloping in early fall can give you a chance at avoiding the crowds, while the weather is still warm and good for hiking!

Keep in mind that good weather coincides with busy season – so summers in the mountains or at the beach are always more popular, while spring and fall are peak seasons in the desert. Eloping in the off season is a great way to get a little more privacy!

The Best Time of Week to Elope

Once you’ve narrowed down what season you want to elope in, I always recommend eloping on a weekday. Pretty much every place is busier on Saturdays and Sundays – so if you want to avoid crowds on your elopement day (and I’m sure you do!), choose a weekday for your ceremony. Be careful though – make sure you aren’t eloping on a holiday or three day weekend!

The Best Time of Day to Elope

As you get closer to your elopement day, you’ll need to come up with a timeline for the day. I always recommend eloping at sunrise, because even the busiest places are empty – or at least almost empty – first thing in the morning. Waking up early will be worth it when you’re the only ones there, and you get to say your vows in private.

Choosing a California Elopement Location

This is probably the hardest part – choosing just one place to elope! Here are some of the best places to elope in California, to get you inspired.

Taft Point Sunrise Elopement

Yosemite National Park

As one of the most iconic landmarks of California, Yosemite National Park is an incredible place to elope. I love it so much that it has its own elopement guide! The towering granite structures, waterfalls, and deep valleys of the park make a stunning backdrop.

The Redwoods

There are several national and state parks where you can see Redwood trees. You’ll feel tiny as you roam through forests of towering Redwoods, and your elopement ceremony will look like it came out of a storybook!

Big Sur

If you drive down the coast of California, you’ll drive through Big Sur. The windy road goes along the rugged cliffs that drop into the ocean, with countless pull offs and beaches where you can go down to the water, spot sea lions, and enjoy the stunning scenery. You can find more photos of this epic place right here on my blog!

Big Sur Engagement Photo Session

Legally Eloping in California

To get legally married in California, you’ll need to brush up on the local marriage laws! 

Exchanging Vows in front of Half Dome in Yosemite

Marriage License

You’ll need to get a marriage license in California, which can be done at any county clerk’s office. Some require you to come in person, while others accept online applications – so if you’re traveling from out of state, it can be most convenient to apply in a county that allows this, like Los Angeles! You’ll need proof of identity and proof of age, and once you get your marriage license you can use it right away. It does expire after 90 days, so don’t apply too far ahead of time!


An officiant has to sign your marriage license to ensure you’re legally married. You can hire a professional, or have someone you trust get ordained at ULC.org.


The state of California requires one witness – and if you aren’t inviting guests, you can ask any of your vendors, or even any person you run into throughout the day. As long as they’re over 18, they can sign as your witness!

Ceremony Permits

A lot of places will require a permit for your elopement ceremony, but this varies depending on where your California elopement takes place! After you’ve decided on a location, do some research to find out if you’ll need a permit. Nothing ruins an elopement day like getting a ticket from a park ranger!

Activities For Your California Elopement

Eloping is all about the adventure – so plan something fun! Here are just a few things you can do during your California elopement.

Hiking in Yosemite National Park


There are hikes all over the state, ranging from easy walks to strenuous backpacking treks. If the two of you like to hike, incorporate this in your California elopement! You can get to some amazing ceremony locations with a little bit of effort!

Soak in a Hot Spring

From famous soak spots to remote secret gems, California has tons of natural hot springs! I can’t think of anything more relaxing than ending your elopement day with a soak at sunset.


The mountains of California turn into incredible ski destinations in the winter. So if you want to elope in the winter and hit the slopes, check out Big Bear or Lake Tahoe!

Rock Climb

Why not climb or boulder during your elopement?! Your elopement should be filled with activities that you and your partner love to do! I’ve recently been belayed up a cliff in Joshua Tree National Park to take photos of my couples!

Climbing in Joshua Tree

California Elopement Packages

As an elopement photographer, my job is to make sure you have the best day of your life. It’s not about the pictures (those are cool too, though), it’s about the experience – and I’m here to make sure you have a good one! This is your wedding day, and it’s the day you’ll be celebrating for years to come. So from location recommendations and permit info, to being your new best friend and adventure buddy, I’ve got your back.

Contact me to start planning your elopement, and to learn more about my California elopement packages!

July 15, 2021

  1. […] when you close your eyes and imagine “California,” you think of palm tree lined beaches, surfers, and year round sunshine, you’ve got a pretty […]

  2. […] you want to learn more about eloping check out these links here and here! Let’s connect and start planning your elopement […]

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Hey there!

I am the photographer and author behind the Leah Rivera Photography blog. If you’re looking to book a photographer that is just as goofy, fun-loving and all about excellent customer service, then let’s chat today and plan our next adventure together!

The name's Leah.

let's get social

California Elopement Guide – How to Elope in California



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