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Top 10 Best Places to Elope in California (and Oregon cuz, you can’t leave out Oregon!)

Now…these are just some of my favorite places as an elopement photographer but I gotta say that being a Socal native, we live in a BEAUTIFUL state.

Having the opportunity to document your love in this state is something I don’t take lightly and I absolutely love how being an elopement and wedding photographer has offered me the opportunity to see more of our great state.

We can go from hot and sunny to cold and mountain-y. We have the beach and the snow. We have giant redwoods and palm trees. We have theme parks and national parks. Truly, there’s no lack of a beautiful background and it fits every vibe you could conjure in your imagination. Here’s a few of my faves in no particular order if you’re looking to book your California elopement. Interested in any of these spots? I’ll have some links at the bottom of each section so you can check it out a little bit more πŸ™‚

Big Bear

Located in Southern California, this is a our “Northern California” that’s only a few hours up the mountains in the Sierra Nevada range. Big Bear has a charming, small town vibe with tons of great airbnbs that have a cabin aesthetic on the inside and outside. The lake is central to the town and during the winter months, it is a huge snowboarding and skiing magnet. From tree covered ranges to sprawling meadows, there are tons of gorgeous spots to say your vows and take in the fresh air.

Check out Big Bear here! bigbear.com

Laguna Beach

Famous for its art aesthetic and its inclusivity for the LGBTQ+ community, Laguna has several beautiful beaches that I love to take couples for their special day. After shooting at the beach, take a ride on the free trolley that goes up and down PCH and make sure to check out The Pageant of the Masters during the summer.

Check out Laguna Here! https://www.visitlagunabeach.com/hotels/specials-and-packages/?gclid=Cj0KCQjwtsCgBhDEARIsAE7RYh0wm_lZ3zkua9vQccQD4bI9iWxAUsANOJYdL4ATwvygTmqHmZzWMjMaAqoQEALw_wcB

San Jose

Being close to the beach as well as close to the forest, San Jose offers the best of both worlds. After walking among the Redwoods, jump in your car, grab an acai bowl and hit the surf for an afternoon at the beach. I highly recommend a trip to the Winchester house and get lost in all the hidden staircases with your eternal soulmate πŸ™‚

Check out San Jose here! https://www.sanjose.org/

San Diego

One of my absolute favorite places to visit, San Diego has beautiful beaches that are often covered with seals and Socal sightseers. From La Jolla to Old Town, there are so many beautiful spots that have rich, California history (as the first town in California) and tortillas you can grab directly from a street vendor. Balboa park offers several days worth of museum visits, incredible giant Spanish architecture with stunning archways, and sprawling gardens.

Check out San Diego here! https://www.sandiego.org/explore/things-to-do.aspx

Napa

Sprawling vineyards as far as the eye can see. Wine wine and more wine. I LOVE Northern California. (Ironically, not because of the wine…I’m not much of a drinker πŸ™‚ Despite it only being an 8 hour drive or a 1 hour flight away from my SoCal home, it feels like a completely different state. It’s definitely a different state of mine. The pace is slower, the air smells cleaner and the vibe is low and slow.

Check out Napa here! https://www.visitnapavalley.com/

Long Beach

Another eclectic and noteworthy city welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community is Long Beach. Complete with beach vibes, incredible artistic murals and great night life-Long Beach is the place to be. Downtown meets industrial for big buildings and art deco. Heading closer to the beach, you can hit up the Pike for restaurants and shopping. Make sure to get a signature shot of their rainbow walkways as you run the streets with your boo.

Check out Long Beach’s sites more here! https://www.visitlongbeach.com/

Ranchos Palos Verdes

Not 20 minutes away from Long Beach is the luxurious Rachos Palos Verdes which is home to the Wayfarer Chapel. The chapel, built in 1951 is absolutely stunning. The entire chapel is covered head to toe in windows and it feels almost as if you are in Northern California. The chapel does not promote any one religion and all love is celebrated and welcomed. If you’re feeling extra fancy, it’s just down the way from the stunning Terranea Resort which boasts exquisite accommodations and beautiful beach views.

Want to book at date at the Wayfarer Chapel or discover the town of Rancho Palos Verdes?

Take a look at blogger Rachel’s take on https://racheloffduty.com/blog/guide-to-los-angeles-best-kept-secret-palos-verdes-california/

When you’re done, see when the chapel is available for your special day! https://www.wayfarerschapel.org/

Pasadena Courthouse

This historical building once known as the “Vista Del Arroyo Hotel and Bungalows” was constructed to be a magnificent hotel in the 1920’s. The Spanish Colonial Revival style was a lavish nod to the owner’s hope of it becoming an opulent vacationing destination. Later it went on to served as a hospital during World War 2Β and eventually became the Pasadena Courthouse. It’s open grounds are wide open to visitors and those in search of a gorgeous backdrop for their elopement. You’re also now in the LA area….who is up for a trip to Olvera Street or spending a day at Universal Studios? Perhaps a hike to the Hollywood sign? Come on…how often are you two in the heart of the entertainment?

Check out the city of Pasadena and it’s nearby LA surroundings! https://www.visitpasadena.com/

Catalina

It’s approximately an hour ferry ride and you feel like you’ve been transported to a whole, new world. From the orange garibaldi to the blue, boat filled waters, Catalina is the quaint gem you didn’t know you needed. I’ve been a California girl from the go and only recently went to Catalina for this gorgeous occasion. From the beaches to the breathtaking over views, Catalina didn’t disappoint-even on an overcast day. Book at room overlooking Avalon at Mt. Ada for the most luxurious experience and historic take on Catalina. (TRUST me. It’s STUNNING). Check out the Orange Girabaldi that are found right here in so cal. Rent a golfcart and zip around town for a fun afternoon…who knows, maybe you’ll even spot a the famous Buffalo that roam the island.

Check out Catalina and your adventure beginning here! https://www.visitcatalinaisland.com/

Interested in a SUPER fancy night (or two…it has to be at least 2 πŸ™‚ at Mt. Ada? https://www.visitcatalinaisland.com/lodging/avalon/mt-ada/

Big Sur

OK. I know I said…”no particular order” but honestly, Big Sur is TOPS. It’s definitely my favorite on this California list. I had the pleasure of documenting a stunning, incredibly intimate elopement in Sur and man, that’s where it hit me. THIS is what I want to be photographing ALL the time. From the damp and thick air covered in Redwood trees to a stones throw of one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen, Sur is an incredibly unique location for your elopement. If you love a national park, Sur is MUST go. Keystone beach had purple sand and some of the most UNBELIEVABLE lighting I’ve yet to see. Zero cell service and adventure that takes you back to the earth. You will not regret this choice. Trust me.

Ready to see Sur?? Check out this blogger’s take and hidden gems. https://www.bontraveler.com/travel-guide-to-big-sur-california/

If you’re ready to book a great cabin the in the woods…check out the lodge! https://www.bigsurlodge.com/

Oregon

And Silver Falls more specifically :). I discovered the beauty of Oregon last year when my cousin and his wife eloped in the backyard of their realtor. And by “backyard” , they literally meant forest. For this Southern California girl, the nature was overwhelming. There was so much of it, that we took two full days to shoot so many incredible portraits that fulfilled their elopement and what their day meant to him. In addition to it being meaningful because it was my cousin, I was so taken with the environment that had the ability to make you realize how small you are in such a vast universe.

Oregon’s incredible Silver Falls! https://stateparks.oregon.gov/index.cfm?do=park.profile&parkId=151

So…what do you think? Where are you eloping?? Are you a beach couple? Desert? In addition to what I’ve listed I can think of so many other options. Santa Barbara, Palm Springs, Mt. Shasta, San Luis Obsipo, Solvang? There are SO many incredible options in our state. I could go on and on…but one thing is most certain, you only get one shot to make the most incredible time…so GO ALL out! Do what you want from start to finish. Make sure you choose a photographer on your elopement day that can help you plan and live out what is most important to you. hint hint (Me…so click HERE) www.emilybethphoto.com/contact

  1. Daniel Van Gorder says:

    Beautiful Photos. Your work is second to none.

    • Emily Van Gorder-Pantig says:

      Daniel!!!!

      You get a prize for first comment EVER left on my blog….(Like EVER, EVER). Love you buddy!!
      Miss you πŸ™‚

  2. Jessica Orona says:

    Wow, wow, WOW! These places are top notch, but girl… these images 🀩🀩🀩 You make these place look even BETTER! So freaking TALENTED!!

    • Emily Van Gorder-Pantig says:

      Holy moly! 2 comments in ONE day?? This is big lol. Thank you, Jess! And thank you for being the second person EVER to comment on my blog. Your support means SO much.

      xxx, Em

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