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12 Tips on How to Elope in California

The Ultimate Guide on how to elope in California
(complete with pricing and photos)

The idea of elopement has quite a romantic ring to it, does it not?

It is an unorthodox way of sealing your love and affirming your relationship for a long-term commitment. Contrary to popular belief, couples who decide to elope did not do so impulsively. It isn’t a literal last-minute, ‘pack-your-bags-and-go-wherever-the-wind-takes-you’ kind of scenario.


In truth, couples who elope have thoughtfully considered their go-to destination. Traditional marriages cost a fortune. Also, some relatives and friends are not afraid to throw in their unsolicited opinions and interventions, making the entire preparation more stressful for the poor bride and groom-to-be.

 Lovers running away together have enumerated possible locations that suit their ideal new life together.


Speaking of ideal locations for eloping couples, California is a popular choice. Geographically, this western US state offers a variety of breathtaking sceneries—from mountains to sandy beaches to lush forests to National Parks. Their laws are also more inclusive and lenient, in that couples need not be US or California residents to be married, and same-sex marriage is allowed.


Do the perks mentioned above sound appealing enough to make you want to turn over a new leaf in the so-called Golden State?


Check out the following tips on the dos and don’ts of eloping in California so you can prep accordingly with your dearest one:


DO ensure that you are both of legal age. In other words, both of you must at least be 18 years of age to raise the chances of having your marriage license application approved. This is the most basic requirement that you need to secure. Marriage licenses in California are valid for only 90 days. Since there is no waiting period, you can tie the knot the same day your license is approved.


DON’T forget to secure parental consent. Getting the permission of the parents on both sides is not necessary, as the authorization of one parent should suffice. A legal guardian may provide the consent in case your mother or father is not available to do so.


DO secure the required documents in acquiring a marriage license, namely:


-Birth certificate

-You and your partner’s basic information (name, address, birth date, and birthplace)

-The names and birthplaces of each parent

-Mother’s maiden name

-Valid ID (bearing your photo), and preferably a government-issued one. Some accepted IDs include a state or national ID, driver’s license, and passport.

-Cash amounting from $90 to $100.


DON’T let your marriage ceremony go through without first securing at least one witness and an officiant as attendees. It is important to note that both witness and officiant must be 18 years old and above. Your officiant may be a priest, a judge, a minister, or a pastor. It depends on your religious background. The failure to have an officiant and witness at your ceremony renders your union non-legally binding.


DO prepare a recent copy of your divorce decree if you were recently divorced (at most 6 months before remarrying. Note the date of your previous marriage’s dissolution. 


DON’T head to a County Clerk’s office during the weekends. They are open during the weekdays, so clear any day between Monday to Friday on your schedule to process your marriage license. Better yet, contact the County Clerk office of your chosen location to inquire about their hours of operation or book an appointment in advance.


san francisco elopement photographer couple saying vows in fog

DO your homework and research the different laws in each county when it comes to securing a marriage license. San Diego allows applicants to print and fill out the required forms on their County Clerk’s website and check available locations where you can hold your ceremony, along with the fees you need to pay for your license application. Meanwhile, online marriage license applications are supported in LA.


DON’T assume that all is well after the ceremony. Remember, your marriage license is only valid for a limited period. Once your wedding is over, you are required to return or surrender your marriage license so that the County Clerk can provide you with authorized documents that make your union official.


DO explore the best options for your wedding venue. Palm Springs, Yosemite, Burney Falls, Livermore, and Emerald Bay State Park are some amazing recommendations. You want a perfect backdrop once you put the ring around your beloved’s finger, so it is essential to pick and agree on a final location for your ceremony.


DON’T elope to a location without first determining the season or time of the year when it is most ideal to transfer there. It’s nice to be spontaneous, but you need to be practical, too. Doing so lets you pack appropriately for the climate and equip yourselves with all the other essentials you might need, including cash, permits, and even your guest list. Some areas in California have limitations on the number of guests who can attend your wedding.


DO prepare yourselves mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially. Not only will you be taking on a brand new journey together, but you will also be adjusting to a new environment. You might even be living away from your family and closest friends, and it could take a while before you get used to it.


DON’T get married or elope without capturing the momentous event in a series of photographs! Hire a professional photographer who specializes in covering traditional intimate marriage ceremonies.  

There you have it—twelve helpful tips to keep in mind before eloping to California. Living under one roof as a married couple means you are bound to discover new things about yourself and your partner throughout your union. It is a challenging adventure worth experiencing with the right partner, the right mindset, and the right level of emotional stability.


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