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How to plan an elopement in 2020 | California


This year has become the year to elope. Some wanted to elope from the start, so were forced to downsize and some are doing an elopement this year and a reception next year. Many couples have been planning their elopement as a plan B and found it is hard to know where to start which I why I felt the need to write this post. I want to be able to help give you ideas and help you plan the elopement of your dreams!

My favorite thing about elopements are that they are intimate and you really get to cherish each moment of the day. They are typically less stressful and you get to put in details that you might not have before. For example, you were going to have 200 plus people at a local winery because it accommodated your big group so you compromised on your dream location. Now you can get married in the mountains or in the redwoods or in the desert if that is what you have always wanted. Before you were unable do your favorite bakeries cookies (because things add up) for a thank you and now you can! Think about everything you guys love: Nature spots, food and color palettes. If you are going to elope why not make it special and unique to what you guys love!

Steps to plan an elopement:

1.Find a location. There might be permits you need to get or pay an extra fee if its an airbnb. Make sure to call ahead to see if you are able to elope at any of these locations. Also, make sure to check in with COVID-19 rules in different counties some may restrict it to 10 people or less or not allow elopements depending on spikes.

Ideas for California:

-Van Damm beach for ceremony and Mendocino glamping tents for reception and bring in a long table for guests to sit at. (Could rent a couple tents in the same area).

Gurenville Johnson’s beach and Autocamp for reception dinner

Joshua Tree park for ceremony and an airbnb for reception dinner

Yosemite glacier point for ceremony and an airbnb or autocamp outside for dinner. You also could picnic at the hiking spot instead of going back to the airbnb for dinner.

Tahoe beaches for ceremony and airbnb for reception dinner or picnic at beach (could do sunset pictures in redwoods to get a mix of both sceneries)

Sand dunes in Southern California to elope in and a local airbnb for your reception dinner

Big Sur on the beach for the ceremony and reception picnic on the beach or back at an airbnb

2. Make sure you get your marriage license within 90 days of getting married.

3. Make sure you check in with rules, permits and regulations when booking your ceremony spot and dinner spot.

4. Still do the fun wedding fun things you have always wanted to. Still go shopping for your dress, tux etc., still do a bridal shower (even if it is a drive by one or online one), still get ready the morning of your wedding with your siblings or best friend.

Dress Shops: Lovely Bride, Loho Bride, Bliss Bridal & Black Tie, Needle and Thread

Suit Shops: The Black Tux

5. Find an airbnb for getting ready and possibly your small reception. When looking for an airbnb I am always looking for ones that are filled with white walls (great to photograph in), lots of windows for natural light and ones with decor that you love. If you are wanting a boho desert vibe go with a boho desert decor filled airbnb. If you are wanting a mid century modern vibe go with that. You will get lots of pictures in your airbnb if you are eloping so might as well make it go along with the theme of your day.

6. It is all in the details. The beauty in elopements is making it your own. Last year I shot a dreamy elopement in Joshua tree. They had their friend make cactus decorated cookies for each guest as a thank you, decorated the cake to match the desert vibe, decorated the arch to be neutral florals and picked an airbnb with a boho desert vibe to match the day. They used the table and chairs from the airbnb and borrowed amazing glass plates and cups from their friends to decorate with. It does not have to be expensive. If you have a vision in mind do not be afraid to ask to borrow those black amazing plates, gold silverware and mix matched poofs to sit on your friends may already have. If you only are having 10-15 people it is so easy to borrow or even rent items you love at a cheaper cost.

Rental companies: Nor-cal: Encore Rentals So-cal: Planks & Patina

7. Decide what vendors you want. If you are downsizing your wedding keep the vendors you had planned. They can help you with ideas too! If you are just now planning your elopement think about what is most important to you. For my sister who is eloping this year she is booking a glamping tent, photographer (me), florist, makeup/hair dresser, officiant and a chef to make the cake. We are doing the food, buying a wood long table, borrowing plates, cups, silverware and poofs.

8. Hire your vendors as soon as possible once you decide what your vision is and the date you want. 2021 is quickly approaching and most vendors are almost booked due to most of this year’s weddings moving to next year.

9. Have a fun weekend iteanrry. I have seen my couples print these for their guests and it is so fun. You can print them at places like Minted or Artifact Uprising. I recommend the menu size (tall and thin). You can even add a fun drawn map to the bottom of it to tie in the location. It would be so fun to photograph and have as a memory too.


Friday: Hike in Joshua Tree National Park with a BBQ to follow

Saterday: Wedding Day!

Sunday: Brunch by the Pool

10. Think about adding Zoom to your wedding. If you really wanted 200 guests downsizing to 10-15 is hard. It is so beautiful and I promise you will still love your day but lets be honest it is still hard not having all those you love there. Why not add Zoom to your wedding ceremony? You could hire my assistant to run it for you or have a family friend set it up. I have even heard of placing people in “table groups” so that they can act like they are at a table and mingle.

Mendocino elopement
Mendocino elopement

Let’s recap what do really need for an elopement? Location you love, dress/attire you love, couple key vendors and your permits/wedding license. Other than that have fun with it and just enjoy each other. Have fun with planning the little details, ask for help when needed and make it simple. Last tip from one foodie to the next have food you love there. Now that its a small wedding have your dream meal! Either have a family friend who is known for their home chef skills cook up your favorite meal or hire your favorite restaurant to make meals to go for your dinner. If we were to elope we would probably hire Sol Food to cater or if it was my husbands dream it would be Round Table Pizza.

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