… there’s a whole lot to think about! Before you elope or have an intimate wedding in Big Sur, there’s plenty of research to be done. This is all to make sure that 1) it’s the right location for your big day and 2) your photos will be everything you’ve ever dreamt about. That’s why I’m devoting an *entire* blog to everything you need to know before you commit to the adventure ahead! Rest assured, I always offer location guides and helpful tips for my couples. Since Big Sur is so popular, I want to take one step further and share my research with everyone who’s interested! My goal is always to help you be the most informed that you can be. So if you’re up for it… go ahead and pull up your boots, grab your favorite sunnies, and hold on tight! We’ve got a lot to cover!
Big Sur Landscape, Weather, and Climate
Big Sur is a wild beast. The bright blue water, rolling hills and mountains, electric orange rocks, and wildflowers sprinkled across the ground make for a photographer’s paradise! There’s no shortage of wonders to look at. Believe me when I say that it will absolutely take your breath away! To be a little cheesy– I like to note that California “is like a box of chocolates”… not necessarily because “you never know what you’re going to get”, but more so because you can ALWAYS count on there being a variety of things to experience. Big Sur is a hodgepodge of beaches, mountains, forests, and so much more. If your fairytale elopement or intimate wedding takes place beneath the towering redwoods, we can do that! If you imagine yourself on a cliffside overlooking the ocean, we can do that too. The possibilities are endless.
While picking the mood and backdrop of your dreams is the exciting part, it does heavily depend on the weather and climate. This is the case for anywhere you choose to tie the knot! Although, wild outdoor elopements do require a bit more research to achieve the desired results, of course.
Believe it or not, Big Sur actually has a pretty mild climate and is beautiful all year long! Of course, the beauty is displayed differently depending on what mood you’re after. I spend my time living half of the time in Atlanta, GA and the other half in Tulum, so I’m very used to photographing in most any kind of weather!
Here’s Your Big Sur Weather Report!
The rainy season in Big Sur takes place in winter between the end of November all through March. Average temperatures range between 50 to 60 degrees and about 30% of days are rainy ones. There is a significant chance of running into rough weather during winter months, but of course there are still beautiful days! With all of this being considered, I would still advise my couples not to elope during the middle of winter. This is mainly because the heavier rainfall brings a high risk of landslides and road closures. I don’t mind the cold, but I do mind unsafe conditions!
Summer is the driest season in Big Sur. Average temperatures range between 70 and 80 degrees and only around 5% of days are rainy. The weather is beautiful during the summer! On the other hand, while summer is a drier season, it can also be cloudy and foggy. To some, this may seem like a problem. To others, it perfectly captures the moody drama of their dreams!
Spring and fall are gorgeous months in Big Sur. Some photographers prefer the fall months because of the dry, warm, sunny atmosphere. Others love shooting in the spring because of the blooming wildflowers. I say whichever vibe you’re going for, let’s pick a time that works for you AND the landscape!
Lastly, be ready for wind– especially around the coast! Wind can add movement and energy to photos, so please have no fear! I promise you that we’ll be able to get some amazing pictures no matter what! Although, if you’re looking for an environment with less wind, you may want to elope in a more forested area.
Where to Elope in Big Sur
Now let’s look at specifics! The beauty of choosing to elope in Big Sur is that you have 90 miles of coasts and mountains to find your perfect spot. I’m more than happy to talk with you about your preferences! Whether you want a private elopement on public land or an intimate wedding on private property, please know that you have MANY options that will bring forth gorgeous photos. Many of my couples come to me with open minds, so go ahead and take a look at some different options that Big Sur has to offer!
Take your time and click through my quick list of state parks, private venues, and hidden gems to choose from! If your perfect spot isn’t reflected in my list, don’t you worry! We’ll explore it together!
Permits & Logistics
Ok, here’s the nitty-gritty. While many of the locations listed above (and many others around the area) are managed privately with their own policies and rates, many of the state parks require “Special Event Permits” in order to elope in the area. If you’re trying to avoid the added responsibility and fees of acquiring these permits, there are plenty of different public locations that have looser regulations. Speaking of fees, the permits themselves range between $85-$275 (depending on how soon out you apply for the permit) as well as a potential “Damage Deposits” ranging between $400-$1500.
Something else to keep in mind when eloping in Big Sur is that if you are applying for a Special Event Permit, you will need to make sure that you qualify to do so. This means: that your party will be 10 people or less, you will not have any any music (amplified or acoustic), and you will be eloping between sunrise and sunset (public park hours).
Additionally, you must acquire a marriage license in the state of California in order to actually be married! Since Big Sur is such a large stretch of land, you will need to apply online for a Monterey County or San Luis Obispo County marriage license depending on which county you specifically choose to make it official in!
The day of the week matters when it comes to elopements and intimate weddings in Big Sur! At least it matters when it comes to eloping on public land. If you’re set on having a weekend intimate wedding, your best bet is to check out some of the beautiful private venues above. My reason for suggesting this is because trails and state parks in Big Sur can quickly become very crowded.
Monday through Thursday are excellent days to consider eloping for a few reasons! Not only will it be more private, but vendors are much more likely to be free on weekdays!
As I mentioned previously, if you are planning on being in a state park, you must plan your day within the bounds of sunrise and sunset. I always recommend, no matter there I’m shooting, to plan your pictures during golden hour to capture the beautiful brilliantly natural hues that come about from the rising and setting of the sun. I am happy to help you come up with a timeline that works best for you and your needs for the day, depending on the overall mood that you’re going for!
What should I wear?:
Great question! That is usually dependent on the time of year that you choose to elope or have your intimate wedding. It also depends on where! Many prime elopement locations require a hike. Remember at the beginning of all of this when i said get ready to pull up your boots? Well… hiking boots, that is! Really, my best advice is catered to what my couples need individually. I always recommend bringing layers in case it gets windy or unexpectedly warm. Either way, I do always offer an outfit guide for extra reference and help! All in all, wear whatever makes you feel most comfortable and true to yourself. Always.
What’s the cell signal like?:
Well…. not great to be honest with you! I advise you to being portable chargers and download anything that you might need while out in the wilderness of Big Sur. I will do the same to make sure that we are plenty prepared for the adventure ahead! The silver lining in all of this is that the experience will be “unplugged”, which adds to the intimate nature of the ceremony for you and any potential guests.
Anything else I should pack?:
Actually, yes! Just like any other trip through the outdoors, it’s smart to pack for the good, the bad, and the ugly (just in case). I *highly* doubt that we’ll run into anything abnormal, but it’s always smart to bring a small bag filled with snacks, water, any necessary medicine, bandaids, anything that you might need to touch up makeup with, and hair supplies. If it’s small and light enough to pack, I say go for it! We can also absolutely coordinate beforehand if there are any other extra things that we need to bring along as well.
Anything else I should know about Big Sur?:
Totally. We’ve covered plenty already, but because Big Sur is so wild and beautiful, I want to address the Leave No Trace policy that the public lands have established. It essentially states that waste must be disposed of properly, anything brought into the parks must leave with you, and wildlife must be left as it was found/treated with care. I love to include this because these policies are what allows us to continue to take incredible photos in such breathtaking locations!
Lastly, you probably have heard by now about the California wildfires that have impacted surrounding areas over recent years. Luckily, much of the wildlife and foliage has stayed intact around Big Sur, but certain locations have unfortunately been impacted and temporarily closed. From my perspective, the best way to navigate this difficult situation is for us to call ahead and ask local guides and park rangers about any important need-to-know details. I know many people in the area are ready and willing to help us find your perfect destination!
Estely, should I be excited????:
YES!!!!!! I know I am! While there are plenty of technicalities that I’ve covered and plenty of complicated topics to consider, please just know that we are absolutely in this together! That is exactly why I made this blog. Big Sur is a dream destination. It exists for us all to enjoy and appreciate in all of its beauty. I have loved shooting here before and I will love it again as long as we can come together to make this the day of your wildest dreams.
Just as I said before, this is a big adventure ahead of us, and an even bigger one for you and your partner. Right now, all that comes to mind is a quote that has stuck with me for a long time. Henry David Thoreau was onto something when he said “all good things are wild and free”. So above all, before you elope in Big Sur…
…remember that this quote doesn’t just apply to this amazing landscape.
It’s a glimpse into the life that waits for on your wedding day and every day to come.
All my love,