Central Coast Elopement Guide – Elope in Santa Barbara, Monterey, Santa Cruz, & More!

Santa Barbara Elopement Guide

The Central Coast of California spans 350 miles of jaw-dropping coastline – stretching from Santa Cruz (an hour south of San Francisco) to Point Mugu State Park (just north of Malibu) in what’s known as “The Original Road Trip.” Whether you want to explore the remote, rugged beauty of rocky beaches and wild coastline, or you want to hit up some of the beach towns and soak in the sunshine, the Central Coast is the perfect place for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure! This guide is all about Central Coast elopements – it’ll tell you everything you need to know to elope in Santa Barbara, tie the knot in Monterey, get married in Santa Cruz, and more!

Here’s what you’ll find in this Central Coast Elopement Guide: 

  • The Best Places to Elope on the Central Coast
    • Best Places to Elope in Ventura
    • Best Places to Elope in Santa Barbara
    • Best Places to Elope in Monterey
    • Best Places to Elope in San Benito
    • Best Places to Elope in Santa Cruz
  • Best Time to Elope on the Central Coast
  • The Legal Stuff: Permits, Officiants, and Marriage Licenses 
  • Sample Santa Barbara Elopement Timelines  
  • Santa Barbara Elopement Packages – Are you ready to elope Wild & Free? 

The Best Places to Elope on the Central Coast

From south to north, there are six counties that make up California’s stunning central coast – Santa Cruz, San Benito, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. This means that when it comes to choosing your elopement location, you have countless jaw-dropping options and breathtaking views! To help you narrow it down, here are a few of the best places to elope on the Central Coast.

W&F Tip!

While we love all of these spots, the best places to elope on the Central Coast are the ones you won’t find on Instagram! Privacy is so important for an elopement – after all, a big reason why couples decide to ditch the big wedding is that they don’t want 100 pairs of eyes on them. So a big part of our job as elopement photographers is to make sure you find that perfect place – the one that’s off the beaten path, so you can exchange vows in private and enjoy the views! We’ll give you personalized recommendations for the best places to elope on the Central Coast, so all you have to do is pick a spot from the list. Get in touch to learn more about our location lists! 

The Best Places to Elope in Ventura

Ventura is known for its stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and the friendly locals! If you want to elope on the Central Coast of California, there’s no better place than the over 800 acres of greenspace and miles of shoreline in Ventura. Here are a few of the best places to elope in Ventura!


Ojai is a small city tucked in the valley of the Topatopa Mountains – which means if you want mountain views, this is the place for you! This inland city offers woodsy hiking trails and stunning views, and the town itself has a village-like city center where you’ll find art galleries and vintage shops, along with local restaurants and lots to see for couples who like to explore the city.

Channel Islands National Park

One of the most scenic spots to elope in Ventura is Channel Island National Park. There are 5 incredible islands and the ocean that surrounds them, away from the hustle and bustle of the cities! You’ll find views of wildflower meadows, ocean wildlife, and incredible sea cliffs, caves, and natural bridges.

Ventura Harbor Village 

The Ventura Harbor Village is one of the best seaside spots for couples who want to stay close to the city, and tie the knot by the ocean! The Village has fun shops, restaurants, and local gems to explore, and the waterfront is the perfect place to tie the knot. For some more adventures, there’s kayaking, whale watching, boat tours, and more!

The Best Places to Elope in Santa Barbara

South of Ventura is the county of Santa Barbara, with the city being it’s crown jewel! The city is bordered by a backdrop of the Santa Ynez mountains, so you’ve got ocean views and mountain views all in one. Santa Barbara is known for its cute Mediterranean-style architecture, reflecting the Spanish heritage and history of the town. Whether you want to explore the city, hit the beach, or escape to the mountains, here are the best places to elope in Santa Barbara!


Solvang is a really unique place for a small wedding! The city is modeled with Danish style architecture, and incorporates Danish culture and heritage throughout! The historic city is the perfect place to elope in Santa Barbara if you want to experience the relaxed, peaceful setting of the village, along with the authentic Danish pastries, charming boutiques and vintage shops, and the gorgeous rolling countryside where you’ll find countless wineries and beautiful vineyards!

Los Olivos

Los Olivos weddings are popular with wine lovers – it’s another incredible destination to try local wines! This unincorporated community in the valley of the Santa Ynez mountains is small and scenic, with lots of greenery and surrounding nature to explore, along with shops, dining, and wineries in town.

Santa Barbara Courthouse

For lots of couples, a Santa Barbara Courthouse elopement is just the thing! This building isn’t your typical concrete city hall – it’s actually known as one of the most beautiful public buildings in the country. You can get married indoors with the ornate Spanish style decor, or out on the lawn with views of the gorgeous courthouse behind you – and afterwards, you can head to the beach for photos!

Butterfly Beach

Of course, a list of the best places to elope in Santa Barbara needs a beach location! Butterfly Beach is the perfect spot – located in the chic but laid back village of Montecito, it’s a popular beach for locals to go swimming, surfing, kayaking, or just sunbathing on the shores. You can tie the knot next to the cliffs over the ocean, with palm trees and incredible scenery – and Butterfly Beach is home to some of the most incredible sunrises and sunsets!

The Best Places to Elope in San Luis Obispo

San Luis Obispo is known for its relaxed pace and laid back attitude – so it’s the perfect place to tie the knot for couples looking to elope! There’s a wide variety of views, between the coastal scenery and the inland hills. Here are some of the best places to elope in San Luis Obispo!

Pismo Beach

A Pismo Beach elopement guarantees some of the most incredible ocean scenery on the Central Coast! The town is a quaint beachside city with amazing views of the ocean, and you’ll find countless beaches and parks that make the perfect place to elope. There are peaceful woodsy trails, bluffs that look over the Pacific, and scenic sandy beaches to choose from!

Morro Bay

Another incredible elopement location is Morro Bay – a coastal city with a unique history. Around here, you’ll find ancient volcanic rocks, and Morro Rock Beach is the perfect place to explore for both scenery and history, with its lagoons, trails, and the huge volcanic mound that pokes through the water!

Carrizo Plains National Monument

This is an incredible elopement location if you want to see wildflowers! The Carrizo Plain is a big grassy area, and when the flowers bloom in spring, you’ll see a gorgeous display of different colors. It’s also a bit of a secret – so you might get it all to yourself!

The Best Places to Elope in Monterey

Monterey Country encompasses the most remote and rugged part of Central California’s coastline, so it’s the best place to elope for couples looking for truly epic scenery and natural beauty. Here are a few of the best places to elope in Monterey!

Big Sur

Of course, Big Sur has to be on the list of best places to elope in Monterey. The wild coastline and the jaw dropping views are unmatched, and you’ll find epic cliffs over the ocean, stunning beaches, and even mountains and Redwood forests!


This small beach city on the Monterey Peninsula makes an amazing elopement location. It’s close to Big Sur and has some of its own amazing outdoor adventures, but it’s also convenient for exploring the village, learning about the history, and checking out the cute fairytale cottages!

Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay has some of the most amazing ecosystems and ocean life in the world – so if you’re into snorkeling, scuba diving, or even whale watching from the shore, this is one of the best places to elope! You’ll find lots of beaches and quaint seaside towns nearby.

The Best Places to Elope in San Benito

San Benito is the only county on the Central Coast that doesn’t actually reach the coast! This area is northeast of Monterey, and it’s the perfect place to elope in the mountains. 

Pinnacles National Park

This incredibly underrated national park is one of the best places to elope on the Central Coast for unique views! The mountains, caves, canyons, and rocky formations created by erupting volcanoes make for an epic backdrop for any ceremony. There are easy hiking trails and accessible overlooks, as well as longer trails – so no matter what kind of adventure you want, you’ll find it at Pinnacles National Park!

Hollister Hills

The Hollister Hills is primarily an area for 4x4s and off roading – so if that’s your thing, you’ll love this spot for your elopement! You can also walk the woodsy trails through the rolling hills, enjoying the stunning scenery. After a day of adventures, there are lots of wineries around, so you can relax and end the night with some local flavors!

The Best Places to Elope in Santa Cruz

Back on the coast, we have Santa Cruz – the city is known for being a vibrant beach town, with a long wharf that stretches into Monterey Bay, a boardwalk with vintage rides, and incredible shopping and dining! Here are a few of the best places to elope in Santa Cruz.

Henry Cowell State Park

This gorgeous forest is full of old growth Redwood trees, and is one of the best places to elope in Santa Cruz. It’s close to the coast, but it feels far away from everything – and for a magical woodland ceremony, there’s no better spot! 

Coast Dairies State Park

Further north on the coastline of Santa Cruz is Coast Dairies State Park – one of the most incredible spots on the central coast for an elopement by the ocean! There are rugged bluffs over the water, secret caves along the shore, and stunning beaches that offer secluded, jaw dropping views.

Loch Lomond Recreation Area

This spot is one of the lesser known elopement locations in Santa Cruz. It’s secluded and serene, with lake views tucked in the Redwood forests. You can hike around the lake, or take a kayak in the water, exploring everything this gorgeous lake has to offer!

The Best Time to Elope in Santa Barbara & on the Central Coast

The Central Coast has pretty mild weather – but the long stretch of coastline means the weather can vary as you travel! In the north, there’s a lot more rain and fog, and temperatures get a little chillier, while the south is much sunnier, and warmer year round.

W&F Tip!

Watch Out for Coastal Breeze!

No matter when you elope, keep in mind that by the ocean, it’s always a little colder. That breeze can feel more like a wind, and it can get chilly – fast! Always wear layers and be prepared, especially in the mornings and evenings.

Winter on the Central Coast

If you elope in Santa Barbara or Ventura, winters are the perfect time to go! It’s sunny and warm, and though this season sees more rain than the others, most days are perfect for outdoor adventures.

Further north, it tends to be much more rainy and a little colder during the day this time of year. 

Spring on the Central Coast

Spring is a beautiful time to elope on the Central Coast! Wildflowers bloom on the hillsides, the sun comes out, and temperatures get a little warmer. 

If you elope in Santa Barbara or the southern parts of the coast, you can expect mild weather that’s perfect for outdoor adventures. Up north, especially around Big Sur, it tends to still be rainy this time of year, so while spring can be a great time to elope if you want to avoid summer crowds, be ready with umbrellas and waterproof gear!

Summer on the Central Coast

Summer is the most popular time to visit any part of the Central Coast, so this time of year you’ll likely see more people around, and it’ll be a little harder to find privacy for your ceremony. 

This is the best time to elope if you want to get in the water, whether it’s to swim, kayak, surf, or snorkel! 

Fall on the Central Coast

Fall is gorgeous all over the Central Coast, and after the summer crowds go home, you can enjoy great weather all to yourself! Early fall is the best time to elope in the northern parts of the Central Coast, before the rainy season begins. 

W&F Tip!

Elope on a weekday!

No matter when you decide to elope, plan to tie the knot on a weekday! Weekends are always busier no matter where you go, so having your elopement ceremony during the work week will help you avoid crowds.

The Legal Stuff – Getting Legally Married on the Central Coast

To ensure that your marriage is legal and official (in the eyes of the government), you’ll need to know about California’s marriage laws! Here’s what you need to know when it comes to paperwork and legal stuff.

Central Coast Wedding Permits

Some places will require that you get a wedding permit for your ceremony. The rules vary, and can depend on the size, date, and location of your elopement! After you choose where you want to tie the knot, we’ll help you figure out if you need a permit and how to get one.

Santa Barbara Marriage Licenses & How to Apply on the Central Coast

You need a marriage license to get legally married in the state of California. You can get it at any county clerk’s office in the state, so find an office close to you. If you’re traveling from outside of California to tie the knot on the Central Coast, we recommend choosing an office close to your elopement location!

Many counties will allow you to apply online ahead of time – if you elope in Santa Barbara, you can submit an application here. Then, you’ll need to go to the office in person with your IDs to sign the application and to get your marriage license.

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

Santa Barbara & Central Coast Elopement Officiants

To ensure you’re legally married, an officiant is required to sign your marriage license. You’ll need someone who’s ordained, so you can hire a professional for this, but if you want a more private elopement day, you have other options! When you elope in Santa Barbara or anywhere else on the Central Coast, we’re ordained to officiate weddings – so we can double as your photographers and your legal document signers. 

W&F Tip!

Consider a self uniting ceremony.

A self-uniting ceremony gives you more flexibility, and it allows you to have a more private ceremony. We’ll take care of the officiant’s signature, and you can exchange vows and have your ceremony exactly how you want it! You can learn more about self-uniting ceremonies here.

Santa Barbara Elopement Inspiration

Looking for more Santa Barbara elopement photos? Check out our Santa Barbara Elopement Pinterest board to get your hands on some gorgeous pins! You can also follow us on Pinterest to see more inspiration & tips!

Sample Santa Barbara Elopement Timelines

Eloping is all about planning a once of a kind experience – one that’s perfect for the two of you! To get you inspired for your Central Coast elopement, here are some sample timelines of what a day can look like when you elope in Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara Courthouse Elopement With Family

9:00 Breakfast at local cafe

11:00 Drive back to Airbnb

11:30 Hair and makeup begins

1:30 Put on ceremony attire

2:00 Drive to Santa Barbara Courthouse

3:00 First look & photos on front lawn

4:30 Ceremony inside

5:00 Photos with family

6:00 Family goes back to Airbnb, couple’s goes to West Beach

6:30 Sunset Photos

7:00 Drive back to Airbnb for cake and celebrating!

“Just Us” Channel Islands Elopement

9:00 Coffee and pancakes at Airbnb

11:00 Hair and makeup begins

1:30 Boat to Anacapa Island

3:30 Change into ceremony attire

4:00 First look & photos on the beach

4:30 Picnic

5:00 Hike to Inspiration Point

7:00 Ceremony

7:30 Sunset photos

8:30 Hike back, boat to Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara Elopement Packages – Ready to Elope Wild & Free?

If you’re ready to get married at some of the most gorgeous places, whether it’s the ocean views or the mountain scenery you’re drawn to, we’re ready to help you plan the entire day! You deserve an elopement day that’s laid back, stress-free, and perfectly crafted to reflect the two of you.

We have Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Santa Barbara elopement packages (along with options all over the Central Coast), with everything you need – location scouting, permit help, Airbnb recommendations, a custom timeline, and more! 

Santa Barbara 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!

Contact us, and let’s talk about how you can elope Wild & Free on the magical Central Coast of California!

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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]