Big Sur elopements are beautiful and intimate. There are tons of gorgeous Big Sur elopement locations and is a great choice for couples who like warm weather, the coast, and want a smaller group with them or to elope solo. This guide is going to go over exactly how to elope in Big Sur!

Where is Big Sur

Big Sur is a gorgeous stretch of coastline between Carmel-by-the-sea and and Hearst Castle. This is about a 90 mile stretch of highway that takes you through redwoods and gives you endless views of the ocean. Nearby towns include: Camel, Monterey, Sea Side, San Simeon, Paso Robles, and Morro Bay. he best way to get to Big Sur is by flying into the San Fransisco International Airport and renting a car. he best way to get to Big Sur is by flying into the San Fransisco International Airport and renting a car.

When to Elope in Big Sur

Spring is one of the best times to elope in Big Sur. There are wildflowers and greenery, which adds even more beauty to this location. However, spring and fall brings in a lot of tourism as it’s when the weather is the most temperate. Summer can have many days well into the 90’s, so if you’re trying to avoid heat, summer not be the best choice.

This location is also accessible in winter. There are even trails that are only open in the off season due to poisonous oak crowding trails in the warmer weather. Finally, fall is a lovely choice, even though it can be a bit cooler. You’ll want to be aware of wildfires, as they generally present in late summer into fall.

Big Sur Wedding Permit

If your Big Sur elopement location is on public land and not at a venue, you will need a special use permit to elope here. Big Sur actually has more difficult restrictions than other elopement locations. For example, you cannot have more than 10 people, you cannot have any decorations, and you cannot block or hinder on hikers on trails. Seating is not allowed, or vendors outside of an officiant, planner, and photographer. They also only give out one elopement permit per day and location, so get these early! They accept applications six months in advance.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t elope here. It generally just means you need to have a simply elopement with very few guests, and no decor in allowed spaces. If you’d like to have more guests, you can absolutely check out the venues that take small weddings! PS, I help all of my eloping couples get the correct permits for their elopement location.

How to Elope at Big Sur

You plan a Big Sur elopement in similar ways as you’d plan any adventure elopement. There are a few major steps, and you can read about those here on my thorough guide on how to elope. For this Big Sur elopement guide, I’m going over the major things you’ll need to consider!


This is an imperative part of the planning process for elopements. This is because some guests won’t have the hiking ability, some might not want to drive or forest roads, and others will be apt to altitude sickness. Choosing a location will be much easier once you’ve determine who you’re inviting, and how many guests total you’ll have.


This might feel early in the planning process, but bear with me. Elopements don’t have wedding planners. Most elopement photographers have taken it upon themselves to help couples with some of the planning. Many actually help you find your location! And they will think of things you might not have considered, such as: lighting, elevation, difficulty in hiking in a dress, permits, and so much more.

Each elopement photographer offers something different. Personally, I send my couples a customized list of locations based on their preferences, hiking ability, who they want to invite, and what they want to see. I also help them determine lodging options, get permits, get their marriage license, recommend vendors, and create a comprehensive day of timeline, and offer unlimited guidance calls for any questions along the way.

The being said, hiring your Big Sur elopement photographer early is going to take a massive amount of planning stress off of your shoulders. Wanna chat? Contact me here!


This is going to help you choose a date and location. There are seasons where there is less tourism, seasons with more rain, seasons that are extremely hot, etc. Choosing the type of weather you want to be in will help you decide the best time to elope in Big Sur.


Once you’ve decided on how much you’d like to hike, how many guests are coming, your ideal weather, and the landscapes you want, you’re ready to deep dive into researching mountain elopement locations. Finding the perfect spot will be a lot simpler after considering all of your needs and logistics.

This is information I collect from my couple through a questionnaire, and then use to make a customized list of mountain elopement location options for them.


Once you have your location, it’s time to consider if there’s anything you need vendors for. Do you want a friend or family member to officiate, or will you need an officiant? Do you want a bouquet from a florist? Will you go out to eat, or do you want something catered, like a meal at an Airbnb from a private chef?

Figure out what you want, and hire your vendors in advance!


You will need to get the correct permits for your elopement. These are usually “special use” permits that you apply for on the National Parks website.

Personally, I get all permit information for my eloping couples that hire me. With that, all you need to do is fill out the application when it’s sent to you and pay the fee. Fee’s vary, but are usually around $100 or less.


Activities are such a fun part of an elopement. When you choose to elope, you’re opening yourself up to having a wedding day celebration that feels unique and resonates with you. Incorporate things that will elevate your elopement day experience. Here’s just a few ideas to get you brainstorming:

  • Going on a hike
  • Having a bonfire
  • Having a picnic on a mountain top
  • Star-gazing or astrophotography
  • Swimming
  • Cliff jumping
  • Visiting waterfalls
  • Camping
  • Glamping
  • Hiring a private chef
  • Hot air balloon ride
  • Helicopter tour (landing on glaciers, mountains, etc)
  • Kayaking
  • Paddleboarding
  • Sightseeing
  • Scenic driving with time to stop for pictures
  • Visiting hot springs
  • Exchanging gifts
  • Reading letters from friends or family


Making a timeline is an important part of any elopement. It strings together all of your locations, activities, and lets guests know where to be and when. Creating a well thought out timeline will help you feel relaxed during the day, instead of stressed or rush. Make sure to include drive times as well as buffer times between each “event.”

Here are the things I include in the timelines I make for my couples:

  • All addresses
  • Sunrise time
  • Sunset time
  • Drive times
  • A linke to Accuweather
  • A list of all names for group shots
  • Vendor info
  • Emergency contact info
  • A packing list
how to elope in big sur

Lodging in Big Sur

There’s a variety of options for elopement lodging in Big Sur. There’s hotels, lodges, Airbnb’s, and campgrounds. Here’s a list of amazing lodging to check out

How Much Does it Cost to Elope in Big Sur?

An application fee for a special use permit will be $25 and $275 for the four hour special use permit itself. That being said, most couples spend an average of $5000-$20,000 on their elopement. This includes flights, lodging, permits, vendors, wedding attire, meals, and anything extra a couple might want.

big sur elopement

Big Sur Elopement Locations

Big Sur has a lot of elopement locations on public land in State Parks, as well as private land which could be a venue, or even a renal property such as an Airbnb that has it’s own bit of fully private coastline. There’s plenty of options, but since there are tight restrictions in this area, it’s important to make the right choice regarding your Big Sur elopement location! Here are some options.

Public Land Elopement Locations in Big Sur

Remember that each state park in Big Sur only gives out on permit per location, per day. So make sure to get those permit for these locations early! You can inquire about your permit through this email address: The only exception is Garrapata State Park. This park allows more than ten guests and grants multiple permits per day. Here are public land Big Sur elopement location options:

  • Garrapata State Park
  • Andrew Molera State Park
  • Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
  • Limekilm State Park
  • Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
  • Los Padres National Forest
  • Pfeiffer Beach

Private Land Elopement Locations in Big Sur

This primarily includes private residences such as Airbnb’s, and venues. Most of these venues still cater to smaller wedding sizes, and my personal favorite is to go with an Airbnb that has a gorgeous landscape that you love. That being said, here are some Big Sur elopement location options:

  • Loma Vista Gardens
  • Glen Oaks Big Sur
  • Big Sur Grange
  • Wind and Sea
  • Point 16
  • Ancient Redwoods
  • Ventana Big Sur
  • Big Sur Lodge
  • Airbnbs!
Big sur elopement

Big Sur Elopement Packages

Elopement photography by Emilee Setting Photo, and everything included in my packages:

  • Explore anywhere within California, all travel fees included in the price!
  • Packages from half day elopements to multi-day elopements
  • Receive a customized location list
  • Help finding lodging that suits your needs if you’re having an intimate reception
  • Included comprehensive timeline design
  • Help obtaining your permits
  • Help obtaining your marriage license
  • A planning checklist
  • Unlimited planning and guidance calls 
  • All of your stunning photos delivered under three months
  • Day of polaroid sneak peeks

Big Sur elopement packages starting at $5800. Want more information on my pricing and what’s included? Click here

Ready to Elope at Big Sur?

This Big Sur elopement guide is a way to get you excited about all the possibilities of what your day could look like. Although, this amount of information can be overwhelming. I’m here to help. I can answer any and all questions you have on a complimentary low pressure consultation call. If you then choose you’d like to work together, I’ll do all of this planning right by your said to alleviate any stress, and bring your California elopement vision to life. We can chat here!

Don't forget your free elopement planning checklist


You see a stranger’s puppy & it takes everything in you not to run up & cuddle it.

Your dress gets dirt on it, and you shrug.

You think ice cream & wine is always an acceptable dinner option. Always.

You LIVE for the feeling of sunshine on your skin & wind in your hair.

You’re already screaming YASSSS WHERE DO I BOOK YOU?

I'm Emilee

I'm an elopement photographer who specializes in planning, crafting, and documenting untraditional weddings. I believe a wedding day should be filled with traditions that resonate with you. I'm here from start to finish to make that happen. Want to chat about your plans? Click below to set up a free consultation! 

You see a stranger’s puppy & it takes everything in you not to run up & cuddle it.

Your dress gets dirt on it, and you shrug.

You think ice cream & wine is always an acceptable dinner option. Always.

You LIVE for the feeling of sunshine on your skin & wind in your hair.

You’re already screaming YASSSS WHERE DO I BOOK YOU?

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