Elopement checklist

Are you thinking of eloping in Big Sur or somewhere along the coast of Central California and you don’t know where to begin? Planning your elopement shouldn’t be a daunting task – many couples decide to elope to take away the stress of planning a big wedding; to help you along the process, here is a checklist of essential items you’ll need:

1. Marriage License

Obtaining a marriage license is an essential first step in planning your elopement. You can get a marriage license from the County Clerk’s office in the county where you plan to get married. In Big Sur, this would be the Monterey County Clerk’s Office.

2. Location Permits

Depending on where you plan to elope, you may need to obtain a permit or permission to use the location for your ceremony. Many popular spots in Big Sur, such as Pfeiffer Beach or Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, require permits. Check with the local authorities or park rangers to ensure you have the necessary permits.

If you’re hiring a professional elopement photographer, make sure they have the necessary permits to photograph in the location you’ve chosen.

3. Accommodation

You can either stay somewhere along the coast or in one of the towns nearby. It is important that if you want vendors that can drive and deliver to you that you stay somewhere somewhat accessible for the nearby towns.

4. Wedding Attire

Choose wedding attire that’s comfortable and fits the vibe of your elopement. In Big Sur, this might mean a flowy bohemian dress or a suit paired with hiking boots. If you are planning an all day adventure you should prioritize comfort and make sure that you will be ok with your outfit getting a bit (or very) dirty.

5. Officiant & Photographer

Decide who will officiate your ceremony. You can hire a professional officiant, ask a friend or family member to become ordained, or have a self-uniting ceremony.

As for a photographer, I recommend you do hire a local pro who is familiar with the area. 

6. Rings

Don’t forget your wedding rings! Make sure they fit and are securely packed for your elopement adventure.

7. Transportation

Plan for transportation to and from your elopement location. If you’re hiking to your ceremony spot, make sure you have comfortable shoes and enough water and snacks for the hike.

Another great option for transportation is renting a classic car in Carmel, there are so many options around and they make create great photo opportunities!

8. Weather Gear and Backpack

Weather can be unpredictable in Big Sur, so being prepared is importnant. Bring warm layers, rain gear, and sun protection to ensure you’re comfortable during your ceremony, put it all in a backapck that you can bring along or leave in the car to access as you need. However, make sure to choose a backpack that can be in the photos 😉

9. Vows and Readings

Write your own vows and/or choose any readings or poems you want to include in your ceremony. Get creative! Get customized wedding vow books from Etsy to avoid reading them from a flimsy paper that might fly away or a smart device.

10. Celebratory Toast/snack

Don’t forget to bring a bottle of bubbly or your favorite beverage to toast to your marriage after the ceremony! Also, it is important to avoid getting “hangry” so packing a small picnic or having a vendor deliver a charcuterie board to celebrate might be ideal.


Last but not least!

Depending on the configuration of your eloping adventure, you might want to consider working with a photographer or elopement coordinator that can help you put a vendor team together. For example, you might need hair & makeup artists, flowers, picnic setups, bakers, etc.

And let’s not forget a restaurant reservation or a private cheff to wrap up your celebration!

In the end, the possibilities are endless, remember that even though it is an elopement, it is YOUR day, so make it of it what you want! From having a ceremony at a small venue, having a first dance somewhere on the cliffs away from any hikers, or eating your favorite pie with a bohemian picnic setup.

Elopement adventure checklist