Big Bear + Lake Arrowhead Elopement Guide

Big Bear + Lake Arrowhead Elopement Guide

Big Bear is a small city just a few hours from Los Angeles, known for being a ski hub in the winter, and a stunning destination for hiking and mountain views in the summer! For any couple planning a wedding day that’s outside the box, an adventure in Big Bear is the perfect way to start your marriage. This guide is all about planning a Big Bear elopement – with everything you need to plan your unique, perfectly you day!

What you’ll find in this Big Bear Elopement Guide: 

  • Why you should elope in Big Bear
  • Big Bear Elopement Locations
  • Best Time to Elope in Big Bear
  • The Legal Stuff: Permits, Officiants, and Marriage Licenses 
  • What to Do
  • Where to Stay 
  • Example Timelines  
  • Alternatives to Big Bear
  • The Cost of Eloping in Big Bear
  • Big Bear Elopement Packages – Are you ready to elope Wild & Free? 

Why You Should Elope in Big Bear

Before we start planning, here are a few reasons why a Big Bear elopement is the perfect way to kick off the beginning of your marriage!

Four Season Fun

Though Big Bear is best known for being a skiing destination in Southern California, no matter when you elope, you’ll find incredible adventures and plenty to do! The mountains are the perfect place for hiking and summer adventures, as well as hitting the slopes or snowshoeing the trails in the winter.

The Landscape

The views in Big Bear make it perfect for any elopement day! The town looks over Big Bear Lake, and the San Bernardino National Forest borders Big Bear, offering tons of hiking trails and stunning peaks. Nearby, you’ll find other natural wonders, like Lake Arrowhead!

The Village

Big Bear’s natural beauty and outdoor scenery is a huge reason why we love it for an elopement – but along with the landscapes and views, the Big Bear Lake Lake Village is a center for art, shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. You’ll find amazing local boutiques to check out, and tons to explore in town!

Big Bear Elopement Locations

Finding that perfect place – the one where you’ll look at your best friend, surrounded by beautiful views, and exchange vows, promising to spend the rest of your lives together – is one of the most exciting parts of planning a Big Bear elopement! To help you figure out where to tie the knot, here are some of the best Big Bear elopement locations.

Castle Rock Trail

If you want sweeping views of Big Bear Lake, elope at one of the most stunning viewpoints in the area! The Castle Rock Trail leads up to an overlook where you’ll see the lake and San Bernardino National Forest from above. It’s one of the most incredible views – but it does take a bit of hiking. The hike is only 1.3 miles long, but it is rocky and steep. If you don’t feel like trekking the whole way, you can also do it on horseback! 

Boulder Bay Park

If you want to tie the knot on the shores of Big Bear Lake, Boulder Bay Park is a great Big Bear elopement location! The park is easily accessible, right on the water, and offers stunning views. You can relax on the shore with a picnic, or take a kayak or paddleboard out to one of the little islands formed by boulders in the lake! 

Butler Peak

In the San Bernardino National Forest, you can visit the Butler Peak Fire Lookout – a gorgeous spot with incredible views of Big Bear Lake and the surrounding forest. While you can take a long hike to get here, there’s a better way! You can take a 4×4 vehicle (make sure you have high clearance too!) on the dirt road all the way to the top.

Lake Arrowhead

Lake Arrowhead is about 45 minutes east of Big Bear, and offers another great place for an elopement! There’s a cute village to explore, along with incredible scenery along the lake and the surrounding San Bernardino National Forest.

Secret Wild & Free Spots

Your elopement locations should be unique to you, and the best places to elope in Big Bear are the ones less traveled! Off the beaten path locations where you won’t see many crowds make the perfect spot to exchange vows and enjoy a bit of solitude – but finding these places can be easier said than done. 

When you elope with us, every couple gets a list of location recommendations – and the list is completely personalized to you and what you want for your day! Get in touch to learn more about our secret Big Bear elopement locations.

The Best Time for a Big Bear Elopement

Remember when we said Big Bear has four season fun? That means there’s no bad time to get married in Big Bear – but it does mean that each season brings a totally different, unique experience! Here’s what you can expect through the year, to help you decide the best time to elope. 

Winter in Big Bear

Winters in Big Bear are cold and snowy – it is a ski destination, after all! Both winter and summer are peak seasons where you’ll see more people around, but if you want to hit the slopes or just experience the winter wonderland, this is a great time to elope, and a great time to cozy up in a warm cabin in Big Bear.

Spring in Big Bear

In the spring, Big Bear starts to warm up, and as the ski season comes to an end, eloping in late spring can be a great way to avoid crowds! Spring can be a little unpredictable, and snow usually sticks around until March or April. If you’re hoping for clear trails and warmer weather, May is the best time to elope in the spring! Keep in mind that higher elevation trails might still be snowy. This is also an incredible time to see wildflowers blooming in the alpine meadows!

Summer in Big Bear

Summer brings another peak in visitation to Big Bear. This is the best time to elope for couples who want to hike or explore in the mountains! July and August are typically snow free at the higher elevation spots, and temperatures get pretty hot. 

One thing to keep in mind is that late summer is also wildfire season in California, and because Big Bear is surrounded by forest, this can affect your plans!

Fall in Big Bear

One of our favorite times for a Big Bear elopement is fall! There aren’t too many places to see fall foliage in Southern California, but Big Bear happens to be one of them. Elope in September or early October, and you might see the leaves change to gorgeous shades of yellow and red! Fall is also less crowded, and temperatures are more mild and comfortable for long days outdoors. Snow flurries usually begin in late October (though early season storms are possible), and the snow typically starts accumulating in November.

W&F Tip!

Elope on a weekday!

Big Bear is popular, but it’s especially popular on the weekends! Planning your elopement for a weekday is the best way to ensure a little more privacy for your ceremony. Be careful to avoid three day weekends and holidays, as these are extra busy!

The Legal Stuff – Getting Legally Married During Your Big Bear Elopement

There are a few things you have to do to get legally married during your Big Bear elopement – but don’t worry, we’ll help you through the paperwork! 

Big Bear Wedding Permits

A wedding permit may be required to tie the knot in Big Bear, but this depends on your elopement location! After you decide on a spot for your ceremony, we’ll help you figure out if you need a permit, and how to get one.

Big Bear Marriage License

A marriage license is required no matter where you get married, and this needs to be obtained in the state where you’ll be tying the knot! You can go to any county clerk’s office in California for a marriage license – so couples who live in the state usually choose an office close to home. For couples traveling to Big Bear from outside of California, it will likely be easiest to go to the office closest to their elopement location. 

Big Bear is in San Bernardino County, and that office allows you to apply online! However, you’ll need to visit the office in person to show your IDs, sign the paperwork, and pick up your marriage license. The application fee in San Bernardino is $89.

For more info on California marriage licenses, check out this guide!

Big Bear Elopement Officiant

Once you get the marriage license, you’re ready to legally tie the knot! But to do that, you’ll need a few signatures. An ordained officiant is required, so you have a few options for finding one.

First, you can hire a professional to personalize a ceremony and to legally marry you. But, if you were hoping for some more privacy on your elopement day, we’ve got you covered! We’re ordained and can sign the papers to legally marry you. 

W&F Tip!

Consider a self uniting ceremony.

A self uniting ceremony is when instead of having an officiant and repeating the “I do’s,” a couple does their ceremony their own way! You can exchange vows and rings, and add whatever twists and traditions you want to make the ceremony your own. This allows for the most privacy and flexibility. You still need a signature on the marriage license to make it legal – but we take care of that for you!

You can learn more about self uniting ceremonies here.

What to Do When You Elope in Big Bear

One of the best things about elopements is that they’re so customizable. You aren’t like any other couple – your love story is one of a kind, and the day you get married should be too! When you plan your Big Bear elopement, think about what would make this the best day ever. Here are a few ideas for adventures you can have in Big Bear!

Helicopter Tour

We can’t think of a more incredible way to spend your wedding day than soaring through the sky, with a birds eye view of Big Bear! You can take a helicopter tour and fly over the scenery for a truly unique elopement adventure.


Another fun way to add some adventure to your day is to take a zipline over the forest! With a zipline tour, you can drive to some of the most remote places around Big Bear, and experience them as you’re flying through the air.

Go Hiking

Hiking is one of the most popular things to do in Big Bear. You don’t need to trek 8 miles for epic views (though you can, if that’s your thing!) – Big Bear has plenty of shorter trails and gorgeous overlooks for low effort, high reward views. Whether you want a relaxing nature walk or an epic hike, you’ll find it here!


Maybe even more popular than hiking in Big Bear, is skiing in Big Bear! If you love the snow, you can definitely hit the slopes on your elopement day. You can also bring some snowshoes and explore the snowy trails!

Big Bear Elopement Inspiration

Check out this Pinterest board for more inspiration for your Big Bear elopement! And if you want more tips, resources, and elopement inspiration, follow us!

Where to Stay During Your Big Bear Elopement

You’ll need a place to stay during your epic elopement in Big Bear – and there’s no shortage of amazing places to choose from!

A Cabin

A cabin is the perfect place to stay if you want something cozy, private, and a little rustic! 

The Castlewood Cottages offer incredibly unique accommodations in Big Bear, with themed cabins – ranging from treehouse decor to a romantic castle. For lakefront views, check out these luxury cabins! You’ll find everything from cozy tiny homes to big chalets for eloping with guests.

A Resort or Lodge

With ski resorts and lodges, there are plenty of upscale but cozy spots to stay during your Big Bear elopement. These make a great home base!

The Honey Bear Lodge is spacious, and close to the village, while the Black Forest Lodge offers unique cabins and suites modeled after Bavarian designs.

You can also check out the adorable Apples Bed and Breakfast, which is about half a mile away from the village, giving you a peaceful place to stay! 

An Airbnb

Airbnb is always one of our favorite options to find places to stay! You’ll find lots of options and some adorable cabins – like this small A-frame or this cabin with room for a few guests.

Camping in Big Bear

If you love the outdoors, camping is a unique way to celebrate your wedding day. You can find campgrounds close to the lake, but for more dispersed, secluded spots, the San Bernardino National Forest allows you to wild camp – for free!

Sample Big Bear Elopement Timelines

Part of our job is to make a custom elopement timeline for each couple, to give you an outline of the day and get everyone on the same page. To give you some ideas of what an elopement day can look like, here are some sample Big Bear elopement timelines!

Camping Elopement With Family

Day before: arrive at campsite and set up camp

Elopement Day

9:00 Couple starts the day with yoga together

10:00 Breakfast and coffee

12:00 Hair and makeup begins

2:00 Put on ceremony attire

2:30 First look and couple’s photos at campsite

3:00 Drive to Big Bear Lake

3:30 Picnic lunch by the water

5:00 Nature walk to ceremony spot

5:30 Ceremony

6:00 Photos with family

6:30 Family goes back to campsite, couple takes photos

8:00 Drive back to campsite

8:30 S’mores and dinner over campfire

“Just Us” Lake Arrowhead Elopement

9:00 Pancake breakfast

11:00 Hair and makeup begins

1:00 Drive to ceremony spot on Lake Arrowhead

1:30 Picnic lunch 

2:30 Change into ceremony attire

3:00 First look & photos

4:00 Ceremony

4:30 Couple’s photos

5:30 Paddleboard on Lake Arrowhead

7:00 Return to shore for sunset photos

W&F Tip!

Chat up an expert

There are a lot of things to think about when you make an elopement timeline – lighting throughout the day, how long each part will take, adding extra time to ensure a stress free experience, and more! Make sure you talk to an experienced elopement photographer who will be able to personalize a timeline to ensure you get the most out of your elopement day.

Alternatives to a Big Bear Elopement

If you like Big Bear, but you don’t love it for your elopement day, don’t settle! Here are some alternative elopement locations that might be the right fit.

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree National Park doesn’t have very much in common with Big Bear when it comes to scenery – but if you’re looking for places close to Los Angeles, this is a great option! Not too far from Big Bear, you’ll find an entirely different world, with desert landscapes and cactus gardens that make a really unique backdrop.

Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe offers a similar vibe, with landscapes not too different from the ones you’ll find in Big Bear. There’s a gorgeous lake at the center of it, with ski resorts in the winter and hikes in the summer!

Mammoth Lakes

Further north, in the Sierra Nevada mountains is the adorable mountain town of Mammoth Lakes. With mountain scenery, incredible ski resorts, and hot springs all around, it’s one of our favorite places for an elopement!

The Cost of Eloping in Big Bear

One of the big reasons that couples choose to elope instead of throwing a traditional wedding is cost! But this doesn’t mean that elopements aren’t worth investing in – instead, you get to decide what’s important to you, and your elopement budget goes towards the things you prioritize and the experiences that you’ll remember forever. Here’s a breakdown of what goes into the cost of eloping in Big Bear! 

  • Travel – Do you need flights or transportation?
  • Accommodations – You’ll need somewhere to come back to after your adventure so whether it’s a campground, trendy Airbnb, or an upscale resort, find something that fits your vibe!
  • Meals – Don’t forget about food! You can pack a picnic, stop at a local eatery, or even hire a private chef.
  • Marriage License – Fees vary by county, but average around $90 across the state.
  • Wedding Permit – If you need a permit, depending on the park and area will average between $200-600.
  • Wedding Attire – Dresses, suits, or whatever you’ll be wearing when you tie the knot!
  • Hair and Makeup – You can totally do your own, but hiring a professional is so worth it and helps ensure things stay put throughout your adventure – this usually ranges from $300 to $1000.
  • Florals – Add a bouquet, flower crown, boutonniere, or floral decorations to your day! A professional florist ranges from $300 to $1500.
  • Photographer – Relive your memories over and over by investing in a photographer you love! Elopement photographer packages average from $4000 – $20,000

W&F Tip!

You’ll never regret investing in good photos

Elopement photography is usually one of the biggest parts of a couple’s budget. But investing in good photos that document the best day of your life is so worth it! Not only that, but when you hire a professional elopement photographer, you’re also investing in your experience – because we help you plan every part of the day, making sure that it’s completely personal and customized to reflect the two of you.

Elopement Packages in Big Bear – Ready to Elope Wild & Free?

Your wedding day should be stress-free, carefree, and full of love and laughter! Our Big Bear elopement packages are designed to ensure that your day is exactly what you want. Location scouting, vendor recommendations, places to stay, permit assistance, and everything you need to plan the perfect day – we’ve got your back! 

Big Bear + Lake Arrowhead Elopement Packages Include:

  • Photography coverage
    • Options from 2 hours to 2-days of photography coverage with Joni, who has over 13 years of experience
    • Photographer’s travel covered to your destination
    • A fun photo experience where you’ll feel comfortable in front of the camera in no time and have all of your special moments captured
  • Location Lookbooks to show you ceremony and portrait spots for the dreamiest photos   
  • Creative timeline design to make everything flow perfectly on your day
  • Exclusive planning tools to help you design the best day
    • Our helpful magazine + a self-paced planning checklist to guide you through designing your elopement from start to finish 
    • Questionnaires for us to get to know you and your unique vision    
    • Vendor Lookbooks to build your dream team 
    • Alternative reception ideas for those looking to celebrate out-of-the-box  
    • Sustainability and Leave No Trace education for a wedding day you can feel good about 
  • Officiant signature for self-uniting ceremonies
  • Amazing photos + free downloads
    • 3-5 sneak peek images within one week of your day so you can share your gorgeous portraits with friends and family right away 
    • Your full story in hundreds of edited digital images delivered within two months to relive the entire adventure over and over again 
    • Your own personal gallery to share your images with family and friends 
    • Free high-resolution digital downloads for everyone (no paying per photo or per download!) 
    • Printing rights to all photos 
    • Access to professional quality prints, wall art, magazines, and albums conveniently available for purchase a la carte right inside your gallery

Read more about Wild & Free Elopement packages here!

If you’re ready to elope Wild & Free, contact us! We’ll help you plan your once-in-a-lifetime adventure.

Add a comment...

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

Ready to elope Wild & Free?

You deserve an elopement that throws out all the rules and focuses on what matters most.


We don't want you to have to do this alone, so it’s ok if you don’t have the details figured out yet -- we’ll help you design your day from start to finish!


Wild & Free Elopements is based in Southern California and photographs elopements all over the world.

Direct Email: [email protected]