North Coast CA + Mendocino Elopement Guide

Mendocino Elopement Guide


All along the North Coast of California, which lies between the border of Oregon and the Bay Area of San Francisco, you’ll find incredible rugged beaches, rocky coastlines, and lush Redwood forests. The coastal town of Mendocino is known for gorgeous beaches and cliffs that peer over the water, and for adventurous couples who want a wild, one of a kind wedding day, a Mendocino elopement might be just the thing! This guide will tell you everything you need to know to elope in Mendocino, and to plan an epic elopement on the North Coast.

What you’ll find in this Mendocino Elopement Guide: 

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

Why You Should Elope in Mendocino

We’ll get to planning your incredible elopement day soon – but first, you’ll need to decide if a Mendocino elopement is right for you! 

Ocean Views

One of the best reasons to elope in Mendocino is the incredible beaches and coastal views. There are trails on cliffs over the ocean, and amazing bluffs where you can tie the knot looking over the water! 

Redwood Trees

Along with coastal views, Mendocino also has the incredible, towering redwood trees. All along the North Coast, you’ll find these majestic giants, and being amongst them is truly an experience you’ll never forget. 

Mild Temperatures

Another great reason to elope in Mendocino is that the temperatures are never too hot, and never too cold! There’s little variation throughout the year, so while you may want to avoid the rainy season, any time you elope will be an amazing experience.

Mendocino Elopement Locations

When you’re choosing the perfect spot to exchange vows and officially commit to spending the rest of your lives together, it’s definitely hard to decide! To help you narrow down your Mendocino elopement location options, here are a few of our favorites.

Sue-Meg State Park

Sue-Meg State Park used to be known as Patrick’s Point, but was recently changed to the original name given to it by the Yurok people! Though the park is small, it’s packed with tons of big adventures. There are tidepools, forested paths, gorgeous views of the ocean, and even a reconstructed plank-house village. 

Mendocino Headlands State Park

This is one of the best Mendocino elopement locations for magical views of the ocean! There are miles of trails along the coastal bluffs, where you’ll see sea caves, tide pools, and rocky formations, and the River Trail takes you down the cliff and to the water.

Montgomery Wood State Preserve

If you head a little bit inland, you’ll find one of the most incredible Mendocino elopement locations, where you can see lush green ferns and amazing coastal redwood groves in the forest! This is perfect for couples who want some woodsy scenery, and to tie the knot amongst the majestic redwood trees.

Secret Wild & Free Spots

The place where you get married is one you’ll remember forever – so when you’re picking your Mendocino elopement location, make sure it’s a good one! Amazing scenery is great, but another huge factor is how much privacy you’ll have. You’re likely choosing to elope because you don’t want a bunch of eyes on you, so it’s important that the spot you choose is secluded, and a little off the beaten path! 

But finding those places can be easier said than done, so that’s where we come in – every single one of our couples gets a personalized list of recommendations to help them find the right spot! Get in touch to learn more about our secret Mendocino elopement locations.

The Best Time for a Mendocino Elopement

Temperatures usually stay pretty constant in Mendocino and on the North Coast, but it’s notorious for rain and overcast skies for much of the year! Before you set a date, here’s what you need to know about the best time to elope in Mendocino.

Winter in Mendocino

Winter temperatures hover in the high 40s and low 50s, so while it isn’t exactly warm, it can be nice for hiking! However, winters are very rainy in Mendocino, with most days bringing clouds and drizzle from November to March. This is the least popular time to visit, so if you bring an umbrella and some layers, it can be a good time to avoid crowds!

Spring in Mendocino

Spring weather can be a little unpredictable – March is usually pretty rainy, while April brings a little bit of sunshine mixed in with the gloomy days. Temperatures rise slightly, for lows of around 50 and highs of about 54 degrees. May is one of the best times for a Mendocino elopement, because the summer crowds haven’t come in yet, but weather is typically pretty nice, and great for hiking or exploring outdoors! Be prepared for rain though, and if you want to hike, many of the trails will be muddy. 

Summer in Mendocino

Because of the dry, warm weather, summer is definitely the most popular time to visit Mendocino. It’ll be busy, but we have some tips for that! Mendocino isn’t too hot, with highs in the mid-high 50s, perfect for hiking! If you plan to be by the water, keep in mind that no matter what time of year you elope, it’ll likely be a little chillier with the breeze.

Fall in Mendocino

Fall is our favorite time for a Mendocino elopement! The crowds thin out in early September, and the weather is still warm and dry until around mid-October, when it starts to rain more. 

W&F Tip!

Elope on a weekday!

The best way to avoid crowds on your elopement day is to plan your ceremony for a weekday! There are always more people out and about on the weekends, so eloping during the week (and making sure to avoid holidays) will help a ton in getting your elopement location all to yourself.

The Legal Stuff – Getting Legally Married During Your Mendocino Elopement

Along with the fun stuff, there’s some less fun stuff – like paperwork – that needs to be done to get you legally married! Don’t worry – we’ve got everything you need to know right here.

Mendocino Elopement Permits

Depending on where you decide to have your ceremony, a wedding permit might be required. In some locations, this can depend on the number of people attending your ceremony, and other places may not require a permit at all – so we’ll help you figure out if, how, and when you need to apply!

Mendocino Marriage License

To get married anywhere in California, you need a marriage license from the state! You can get one at any county clerk’s office, so if you live here, we usually recommend choosing an office close to home. If you’re traveling, you can go to the office in Mendocino County. You can print out the application and complete it ahead of time, but you will need to go to the office in person to show your photo IDs, sign the papers, and get your marriage license. In Mendocino, a marriage license costs $85.

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

Mendocino Elopement Officiant

Your marriage license will require an officiant’s signature before you send it back to make things official. You can hire a professional officiant to perform your ceremony, but if you want a more private experience, we’re ordained and can sign the papers for you!

W&F Tip!

Consider a self uniting ceremony.

With a self uniting ceremony, you can skip the officiant! This is helpful because you get to do your ceremony your own way. You and your partner can exchange vows in private, without having to worry about meeting up with an officiant or sharing that moment with anyone but each other. To make things official, we sign the paperwork for you – and you’re legally married!

You can learn more about self uniting ceremonies here.

What to Do When You Elope in Mendocino

Eloping is all about the experience – and yours should be fun, carefree, and adventurous – whatever that means for you! Think about what would truly make this the best day of your life, and how your wedding day can reflect the two of you. There are endless possibilities, but here are a few things you can do when you elope in Mendocino! 

Go Hiking

Hiking is a great way to celebrate your day! Whether you hike to your ceremony spot, or go for a walk afterwards, it’s a great way to see the scenery. In Mendocino, you can choose from hiking along cliffs by the beach, or through gorgeous redwood forests!

Picnic on the Beach

With countless gorgeous beaches to choose from all over Mendocino County, a picnic by the water is a great way to relax on your elopement day, and to enjoy the scenery. You can pack your own, or pick up an already prepared picnic from a local cafe!

Go Kayaking

Whether you bring your own, rent a kayak, or take a tour, exploring the water and the sea caves is a great way to adventure in Mendocino. You’ll see seals, otters, and maybe even some dolphins or whales in the distance!

Mendocino Elopement Inspiration

For inspiration for your Mendocino elopement, check out this Pinterest board, and follow along if you want to see more resources, tips, and advice for planning your day!

Where to Stay During Your Mendocino Elopement

When you plan your adventures, you’ll need a place to come back to! Here are a few places where you can stay during your Mendocino elopement.

A Cabin

We love cabins for their cozy atmosphere, and there are plenty along the coast and tucked in the redwood forests of Mendocino!

The Andiron has several cute cabins that are close to everything you need but feel quiet and far away, and the Cottages at Little River Core have views of the ocean. 

An Inn

A cute inn or B&B can be a nice cozy place to stay, and the North Coast has plenty!

The Headland Inn B&B offers some incredible breakfasts and cozy rooms with wood burning fireplaces perfect for your elopement. The Little River Inn is right on the ocean, and the rooms have a view!

An Airbnb

Airbnb is always a great place to look for places to stay! You can rent cozy cottages, cute tiny houses, and more.

Camping in Mendocino

If you love the outdoors, camping on your elopement day can be a fun adventure! You can find campsites in the redwoods, or rent a glamping site with a big canvas tent at Mendocino Grove.

Sample Mendocino Elopement Timelines

Each of our couples gets a custom elopement timeline for their day! This gives you a schedule for the day, while allowing some flexibility and room for spontaneous adventures. Here are some sample Mendocino elopement timelines, to give you an idea of what your elopement can look like.

Mendocino Elopement With Family

9:00 Breakfast at local cafe

11:00 Back to Airbnb

12:00 Hair and makeup begins

2:00 Couple puts on ceremony attire

2:30 First look and couple’s photos

3:30 Drive to Sue-Meg State Park

4:30 Picnic lunch 

6:00 Nature walk to ceremony spot

6:30 Ceremony

7:00 Photos with family

7:30 Family goes back to cabin, couple takes sunset photos at the beach

8:30 Drive back to cabin for dinner & toasts

“Just Us” Mendocino Elopement

9:00 Coffee and pancakes at cabin

11:00 Hair and makeup begins

1:00 Change into ceremony attire

1:30 First look & photos at cabin

2:30 Drive to kayak rental

3:30 Kayaking to explore sea caves!

5:00 Return to shore

5:30 Picnic lunch

6:30 Ceremony

7:00 Sunset photos

W&F Tip!

Chat up an expert

There’s a lot to think about when making a timeline – so talk to someone who has experience with adventure elopements and can help you plan! We’ll take into account lighting, what you want to do, and making sure that there’s plenty of time so you stay relaxed and stress free all day.

Alternatives to a Mendocino Elopement

If Mendocino isn’t quite right, here are a few alternatives that offer similar scenery!

Oregon Coast

If you want to stay up north, the Oregon Coast offers tons of incredible elopement locations! On the southern coast, you can even see some redwood trees, and the entire coast has lots of secluded beaches and rugged landscapes.

Redwoods National Park

If you love the redwood trees, there’s no better place to go than Redwoods National Park! You’ll see some of the tallest and oldest trees in the world, and can tie the knot surrounded by the majestic, towering trees.

Central Coast

While the North Coast is more remote and undeveloped, on the Central Coast of California you’ll find the same gorgeous views, along with some more beach towns to explore. If you’re looking for the palm tree studded beaches and idyllic weather, heading south is the best way to find it!

The Cost of Eloping in Mendocino

Making a budget is important for any wedding day, and when you elope, you can prioritize what’s important to you and invest in experiences that you’ll remember forever! Here are a few things to think about when you make a budget.

  • 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 $100-400.
  • 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 $3000 – $8,000

W&F Tip!

You’ll never regret investing in good photos

An elopement photographer is a big investment, but it’s one of the most important ones you’ll make for your day! Your memories are absolutely priceless, and being able to look back on the story of the day you got married is something you’ll treasure forever. Hire an experienced professional, who will help you plan and execute a truly once-in-a-lifetime day!

Mendocino Elopement Packages – Ready to Elope Wild & Free?

We want to make sure that every couple has a wedding day that’s everything they dreamed of – and more! We’ll be there to help you with location recommendations, permits, vendors, places to stay, an elopement timeline, and everything you need to plan the perfect day. From beginning to end, we’ll be by your side to make sure your day is absolutely incredible!

Mendocino Elopement Packages Include:

  • Photography coverage 
    • Options from 2 hours to 2-days of coverage 
    • Photographer’s travel covered to your California destination
    • A fun photo experience where you can express your love without inhibitions
  • Planning tools  
    • A step-by-step guide to help you plan your elopement
    • Location Lookbooks of our favorite elopement spots
    • Creative timeline design to make your day flow perfectly
    • Officiant signature for self-uniting ceremonies 
    • Sustainability and Leave No Trace education for a wedding day you can feel good about 
  • Amazing photos + quick delivery 
    • Sneak peek images within one week of your elopement day 
    • Your full story in hundreds of high-resolution digital images delivered within one month 
    • Your own personal gallery to download and share your images with family and friends 
    • Printing rights to all photos 
    • Access to professional quality prints, wall art, and albums conveniently available for purchase right inside your gallery


      Elopement packages start at $2400 depending on date and travel schedule

Contact us if you’re ready to elope Wild & Free, and let’s start planning your one of a kind adventure!

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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]