Ready to have an elopement in southern California but don’t know where to begin? Location, location, location! This will set the tone for your experience, and SoCal is a great place to have a golden, gorgeous elopement.
California is famous for spots like Yosemite and Big Sur, especially when it comes to eloping! Yosemite is the number one most popular elopement spot in the United States. But, that also means there’s high competition with other couples and lots of crowds as people travel to experience the beauty of places like this! The good news is, California is so large that it’s practically bursting with gorgeous places to elope.
These six spots in southern California are a little less crowded and give you a super unique backdrop for this incredible day in your lives. Let’s dive in!
You can elope at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego with a group of 50 or fewer. There are a handful of scenic cliffside spots where you can apply to hold your ceremony. Check out the park information for the Sunset Cliffs area here.
Well, with “sunset” in the name, you can bet that sunset is the best time to elope at this oceanside spot! The golden hour as the sun goes down can’t be beat. However, this view does attract a lot of visitors, so elope on a weekday here to beat the crowds as best you can. Because the ocean provides a nice cooling breeze, late spring and early fall are the best seasons for a Sunset Cliffs elopement. While summer has gorgeous weather, it will also be more crowded during these months.
However, you may experience more overcast and gray skies in the spring, so if you’re really wanting the sun at your elopement, go for summer or early fall!
If you’re looking for other activities to incorporate into your elopement here, a boho picnic setup on the cliffs is a great option. There’s also the Sunset Cliffs Trail that will take you on a very light hike across the cliffs.
Like all national parks, Death Valley requires a special use permit that will cost $300. Additionally, there’s a second film & photo permit that you may need to have in addition to the special use permit for a wedding ceremony. There are requirements and group sizes that are excluded from this additional film & photo permit, so check out those guidelines here to see what types of permits you’ll need.
Death Valley is a place of extremes — avoid the summertime here at all costs! By late spring, temperatures will have already reached over 100 Fahrenheit. November through March is going to be the best time to visit here, and the most comfortable for being outdoors and having your elopement. The winters in Death Valley are a nice 60-70, and it won’t rain which means you can still have a gorgeous sunrise or sunset elopement!
Processing your permit application will take 30-60 days. Make sure you fill out all your paperwork in advance! Some popular, gorgeous locations for elopements here are Artist Palette, Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Zabriskie Point, and Dante’s View Trail.
This area is managed by the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), so you will need a Special Use Permit to hold your ceremony here. This is similar to getting a permit from a national park! Get in contact with the BLM Field Office here, and they will issue a letter to you that gives you permission to hold your event. Additionally, every vehicle that makes its way out to the dunes needs a vehicle pass displayed on the dash at all times.
Technically, you can elope year-round at Glamis. But, if you go for a ceremony in the warmer months, you’re going to find temperatures over 100 degrees. Yikes! October through April are going to be the most comfortable times to elope here. You will have to compete with more crowds, since this is the open season for recreational permits at the dunes, but anybody using four-wheelers or motorcycles on the dunes are restricted to a certain area. This means that with just a little bit of hiking, you can find a totally private spot to elope. And, of course, sunrise and sunset are going to be absolutely gorgeous!
Glamis Sand Dunes is also known as Imperial Sand Dunes — don’t be confused when you start Googling things! This area is all near Glamis, CA, and both Imperial and Glamis refer to the same area. You are allowed to bring your pets to your elopement at Glamis Sand Dunes, as long as they stay on leash!
Algodones and Glamis are very close to each other! You’ll get similar views and vibes at these two spots. And, they’re managed by the same office! So you can contact the same BLM management for your permit at both Glamis and Algodones. Easy peasy!
Just like Glamis, you’re going to want an elopement here in the cooler months. October to April is that sweet spot! A sunrise or sunset elopement in the desert here is what dreams are made of. And, of course, you’ll beat the crowds if you can elope on a weekday instead of the weekend.
All of the same rules apply at Glamis/Imperial and Algodones. You can bring your pets as long as they are on their leash, you’ll need that vehicle pass and a letter from the BLM with approval for your wedding, and you’re all set! You can have as many guests as you like for your elopement, but you will have to keep the decor to a minimum.
All elopements and intimate weddings in Joshua Tree require a special use permit, even if it’s just you and your partner! You won’t be approved for your permit on any federal holidays. The permit will cost you $120 and you can fill out the application here.
Joshua Tree is very hot and dry. Eloping in the spring (March – May) or the fall (October – November) is going to be your best bet for the most comfortable weather. Sunrise or sunset are equally beautiful for a Joshua Tree elopement, so I recommend either when you’re putting together your timeline for the day. As with most national parks, you’ll beat the crowds with an elopement on a weekday instead of the weekend.
Depending on which location you choose for your ceremony, there are some restrictions on how many guests you can have. Also be sure to check out which items (decor, food etc.,) are and aren’t allowed inside the park! You can find this information in the same place as the special use permit application linked above. Joshua Tree has some incredible Airbnb stays that will really elevate your experience, so check out those options for your lodging!
For groups larger than 15, you’ll need that Special Use Permit from the California Parks office! The special use coordinator can be contacted here. If your group is smaller than this but you’re still in doubt, go ahead and give the office a call anyway — better safe than sorry!
By now, I think you know what I’m going to recommend! Southern California is not friendly for a summertime elopement in the great outdoors😉 Plan to elope here in spring, fall, or even winter! If you’re willing to risk a little heat, late spring or early fall will give you gorgeous wildflowers as your backdrop.
Anza Borrego is a bit similar to Joshua Tree, but without such a long drive if you’re staying in the San Diego area. Palomar Mountain is nearby, which is another spot you might consider for your elopement. Or, you can add it in as a fun activity outside of your elopement ceremony!
If desert or beach is your vibe, a southern California elopement is going to be right up your alley! California is easy to get married in, even if you don’t live here! A marriage license is easy to obtain and turn in. And, you’re going to have such a blast exploring the area you’re eloping in. If you’re ready to tie the knot at one of these six southern California elopement locations, reach out to me here! I would be honored to capture the day for you.