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How to plan where to have your elopement on the West Coast

1/07/2023

We love shooting elopements and helping our couples find the perfect place to elope in that tells their story intentionally. We hope this helps you know how to plan where to have your elopement on the West Coast.

The first step in figuring out where you want to hold your elopement is determining if you want to elope in a city or somewhere in nature. If you are having a hard time deciding, look at the places you love to travel to. Why do you love those places? Would you want to return to a place that meant a lot to you both as a couple or try a new spot out for your elopement that has hints of places you have loved to visit in it?

75 percent of our couples already are set on a location when they come to us to elope. The other 25 percent are still deciding exactly what they want to do. This means we get to research ideas, put together a presentation of suggestions based on what they love to do and see what they ultimately think is best for them as a couple. Honestly, we love researching places & help creating plans for our couple’s wedding day that totally reflects who they are and what they love to do. This is one of the reasons why we love elopements and why we find such freedom in shooting them since the stories are so intentional.

With that being said if you are still thinking about what spot to elope in, think about it intentionally. Write down 10 places you love to go and why you love them. Write down 10 things you love to do together and then find a place that reflects both. The list below will hopefully spark ideas for you and help you create one amazing elopement!

P.S. The West Coast consists of: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. For the purpose of this blog post and highlight my favorite places I will be focusing on: Alaska, Arizona, California, Wyoming, Oregon and Washington.

  1. California – I may be biased, since I live here, but we have it all: desert, mountains, rivers, vineyards, cities, oceans etc. If you want a vast amount of options for your elopement then look to California first!

San Fransisco– This city is one that has so many options. City hall is the prettiest in all of the nation, its architecture is classic and timeless. For all our city hall elopements we also pair it with 2 other spots around the city. Here are some combos our couples chose that could spark some ideas for you and why you would want to choose this city. With this location does come possibility of wind and fog, but I promise it is worth embracing!

-City hall, local coffee shop they had memories at, basketball courts, their favorite pasta place & Ivy’s park (urban walls, flowers, staircase and view of the bay) : Jasmine & Jae

-City hall then we did their engagement shoot at their house in their normal clothes. We used their staircase outdoors and their living room the most indoors with their cute cats as the cutest additions to tell the story of their family too. We then went to Ivy’s park before changing back into their wedding clothes for dinner with their friends in China town at Mister Jiu’s. We did shots in the urban areas near Mister Jui’s and some shots inside as well since it was one of the prettiest indoor spaces I have ever shot in! : KC & Jimmy KC &Jimmy engagement shoot

-Bonus ideas: You could take the ferry to the city, subway to city hall, get married at city hall and then find a spot to hike in near SF (muir woods, marin headlands etc.) to get both ocean views, city views and redwoods.

Mendocino: This is my home away from home. This is where my mom grew up. The history & beauty is why I love it so much. You have so much diversity, you are 5 min drive from cliffs, town, redwoods and ocean views. You really can have it all with this location as long as you are okay with a little wind and possible fog.

  • Book a local airbnb or tent at The Grove to get ready in, head to the cliffs for your elopement and end the night with kayaking on the pacific ocean or taking a walk along the coast at sunset at Big River Beach. Make sure with any public location to look into permits you may need. We can help with this as well!
  • Harley & Jenny (airbnb, cliffs and forrest)
  • Mendo Elopement– Grove (trees on property), Big River Beach
  • Couples photoshoot at the Grove to see the variety of spots here too

Joshua Tree: 7 years ago Joshua Tree was at the height of being trendy for photographers to go to. I visited, fell in love and 7 years later am still going back every couple months because the blank slate, natural colors, peaceful environment draws me back in every time.

Most of our couples choose to do these three options:

  • Either everything in the park: You will need to get a park permit- I love Cap Rock and Indian Cove the most. It is 120 dollars for this permit and usually takes a couple months to process.
  • Everything at a local airbnb – High Desert Paradise, Morada, House of Kuna and more!
  • Getting ready at a local airbnb, ceremony/photos in the park and then back to the airbnb for the simple reception (dinner).

Our couples in the past have chosen these fun ideas to showcase their story and make their elopement a little bit more unique: In home photos before they get ready at the airbnb, rock climb in Joshua Tree, ride a motorcycle, tram in Palm Springs to top of the mountain to hike etc. So many options to make your wedding weekend so unique and fun!

Joshua Tree airbnb elopement

Joshua Tree airbnb and park mix elopement

2. Washington: The place I would move to someday if we ever feel the urge to try a new place out. I love all the national parks here, waterfalls, mountains and ocean views!

  • Mt Rainer- Our elopement here chose to book a local cabin to get ready in then head to the park for the elopement. Every national park requires a permit so remember to write the park months in advance.The prettiest time of year in my option is fall. This park I believe closes certain trails to paradise around October 3 due to snow so the prime time to get married in the fall colors here is September. You get waterfalls, rivers, mountains and beautiful deer/bears in the distance at times!
  • Olympic National Park: This is a park I dream of shooting in, it has forrest views, mountain tops and lake views! The places that are the most elopement worthy are: Hurricane ridge, Hoh rain forrest and lake crescent!
  • Seattle: If you want an urban location that you can also drive an hour to a waterfall or mountain range nearby then this is the spot for you! You could get married near the mountains and then head to Seattle for dinner and walk around town tasting all your favorite foods while taking in the ocean view!

3. Oregon: My aunt used to live here and this state became known as my favorite place to getaway when I was in college and needed a break. It has rivers, ocean views, forests, mountains and waterfalls too.

  • Cannon Beach– This is the most iconic place in Oregon, if you love the coastal look with rock formations this place is for you!
  • Mount Hood– This place has beautiful mountain views, and lots of hikes to choose from.
  • Silver Falls Park– This waterfall loop is beautiful and a great spot to elope in. You could get ready and then come back for a picnic dinner at your cabin in Smith falls hospitality too!

4. Arizona: I love the diversity of Arizona from amazing sunsets to forests to sunny cacti spots. It really is a underrated state to elope in!

  • Saguaro national park is exactly where I would go for that! It has unreal sunsets, bright colors and fun airbnbs to stay at as well. For elopements here you could book an airbnb for getting ready, ceremony and sunset in the park and go out to dinner or head back to your airbnb for dinner. There are little hikes you could do at sunset as well in the park! Just like any national park make sure to get a permit before getting married here. Thank you Jacy Hermes Photography for showing me around this place years ago and planning one amazing shoot!!
  • Flagstaff: This is a little hallmark looking city located near some amazing forests that you could elope in. This is not the classic Arizona cacti look, but more of a mountain forrest vibe.

5. Wyoming: 2 years ago Eli and I went to the Tetons and Yellowstone. It was beyond beautiful and so diverse: Mountains, lakes, craters, gysers, waterfalls, meadows and so on! I highly recommend either of these two locations to get married in and please bring us along for the ride. This place requires a permit of 250 dollars and to be applied at least a couple weeks in advance, we recommend 3 months to make sure you get the date and spot you want.

6. Alaska: This place is a dream! I went there as a teenager on a cruise and fell in love with the place. Here is a list below of bucket list elopement places for us. Keep in mind most places you need to fly to, boat in or helicopter to as well as get permits for. All things we can help you with they just require a bit more planning out.

  • Kenai Fjords– This spot is where the ocean, ice and mountains meet (that is their tagline on the park’s site). It is next to some stunning glaciers and does requires permits to shoot there. We would recommend booking a flight seeing tour for this so you could land privately and shoot in the spots they recommend.
  • Independence Mine Historical State Park: This place has mountain slopes, glaciers and water views. It is beautiful and has spots to kayak next to glaciers too!
  • Hatcher Pass: One of the most popular places to elope to in Alaska. It takes you through mountains, by rivers to the top of the mountain view. I did read a lot about rental cars not allowing you to go to this spot so make sure you check with your rental car place before you book this spot or see if you can get a helicopter tour to the area.

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