Sunset Cliffs Elopement + Wedding Guide

Couple eloping in Sunset Cliffs Park in San Diego, CA

Sunset Cliffs Elopement + Wedding Guide

You aren’t like every other couple, and your wedding day shouldn’t be either! If you crave something a little outside the box – a little outside the four walls of a traditional venue – how does tying the knot while standing over a cliff above the ocean sound? With sea caves to explore, vast ocean views, dramatic cliff formations, and some of the best sunsets in San Diego, a Sunset Cliffs elopement is the ultimate way to start off your marriage! Keep reading this guide to learn how to plan your intimate, one of a kind wedding at Sunset Cliffs!

What you’ll find in this Sunset Cliffs Elopement + Wedding Guide:

  • Why you should elope at Sunset Cliffs
  • Best Time to Elope at Sunset Cliffs
  • Best Sunset Cliffs Elopement Locations
  • The Legal Stuff: Permits, Officiants, and Marriage Licenses 
  • What to Do
  • Where to Stay
  • Example Timelines 
  • Sunset Cliffs Elopement Packages – Are you ready to elope Wild & Free?

Why You Should Elope at Sunset Cliffs

If you aren’t quite sold on getting married at Sunset Cliffs, maybe I can convince you! Here are just a few of my favorite things about eloping at this seaside spot.

Stunning Scenery

Of course, the number one reason to plan a Sunset Cliffs elopement is the scenery! The rugged coastline makes an excellent backdrop for any elopement, and I can’t think of anything more peaceful than marrying your best friend, and ending the night looking out over the ocean.

dancing couple in sunset cliffs park for elopement ceremony

Warm Weather

If you aren’t a San Diego local, you probably know it as the place where the sun’s always shining and the weather is always warm – and honestly, you aren’t far off! The great thing about eloping at Sunset Cliffs is that no matter when you go, the weather will be pretty ideal. Compared to most of the US, this is a pretty great place to escape to if you’re eloping in the winter.

Wild & Free Tip

Don’t underestimate coastal winds!

Though the temperatures don’t dip too much at Sunset Cliffs, the breeze at the coast can get pretty brutal. It’s always chillier by the ocean, so be prepared with layers.

The Best Time to Elope at Sunset Cliffs

There’s no bad time to elope at Sunset Cliffs, as San Diego’s temperatures rarely drop too far below 50 degrees! But the best time to plan your elopement will depend on a few things.

Winter at Sunset Cliffs

While the daytime temperatures at Sunset Cliffs are usually in the 50s and 60s, don’t underestimate those coastal breezes! It rains more often in the winter, so be sure to bring layers – especially if you’ll be there in the morning or evening. While this season isn’t ideal for swimming or getting in the water (unless you’ve got a thick wetsuit), you’ll see a lot less crowds than most other times of year.

Spring at Sunset Cliffs

Spring is a great time for a Sunset Cliffs elopement, as the weather warms up and the cliffsides bloom with green succulents and vibrant wildflowers. San Diego is known for “May Gray,” which is the nickname given to the marine layer that rolls in this time of year, creating a cloudy few months on the coast. The moody cover actually looks pretty lovely over the cliffs, and sometimes clears in time for sunset! May Gray rolls into “June Gloom,” which usually dissipates by mid to late June. 

Summer at Sunset Cliffs

Summer is definitely the busiest time at Sunset Cliffs, so it’s extra important to elope on a weekday, and to plan ahead to avoid the crowds! The weather is warmest this time of year, but being by the ocean usually creates a nice breeze. One thing to be aware of is that in August, the cliffs are more fragile, and can sometimes be unstable and unsafe to be on!

Fall at Sunset Cliffs

Fall is the best time to plan your Sunset Cliffs wedding, as there are way less crowds than summer! It’s warmer than the spring, and if you consider yourself a foodie, there are several events during Restaurant Week in San Diego this time of year. 

Wild & Free Tip

Avoid weekend crowds

No matter what time of year you elope, I recommend choosing a weekday for your ceremony. Weekends are busier anywhere you go, and getting married while most people are at work or school will help you get some privacy! Be careful to avoid holidays and three day weekends too.

Best Sunset Cliffs Elopement Locations

Along the rocky coastline there are countless gorgeous places! I put together a customized list of location options for each couple, but here are a few of my faves to get you inspired.

Elopement Ceremony Locations

There are only two places in the park where you can be permitted to have an elopement ceremony. Osprey Point and Luscomb Point are your options, which are great for weddings because they’re flat, easier to access, and have plenty of room if you’re inviting guests! 

The downside is that with the easy accessibility, it makes them popular destinations. But, don’t stress – while these places are the only ones at Sunset Cliffs where you can get a permit to have a ceremony, there are plenty of gorgeous spots for photos afterward!

Places for Wedding Photos at Sunset Cliffs

For wedding photos or engagement photos, you don’t need a permit! Which means that you can have your ceremony at one of the approved locations (or somewhere else entirely), and then we can head off and explore, taking photos in some of the more scenic spots. Here are a few of my faves!

The Arch

One of the most iconic spots at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park is The Arch – a natural rock bridge that hangs over the ocean water. You can walk over the arch, and at low tide you can see the sea caves carved into the rock. You’ll often find people cliff jumping over the swimming hole, but this is pretty illegal, so you didn’t hear that from me!

Sunset Cliffs Sea Cave

To get to the sea cave, you’ll need to enter at Luscombs Point – but you’ll need to do so at low tide, unless you feel like taking a swim! Descend down the rocky path, and you’ll step into a cave by the ocean, complete with a natural sunroof.

Secret Wild & Free Spots

I’ve got a few secret spots perfect for a Sunset Cliffs elopement, where you can get away from the crowds and say your vows in private! But luckily, I’m willing to share! 

All of my W&F couples get a location guide that will tell you all about my favorite places, so you’ll have no trouble finding the perfect place for your wedding day.

The Legal Stuff

There are some logistics when it comes to eloping, and some legal stuff to take care of to ensure you’re legally married!

Sunset Cliffs Wedding Permit

To elope at Sunset Cliffs, you will need a wedding permit! The permit application can be found here, and costs $187 – this money goes to keeping the parks beautiful for visitors and for eloping couples like you!

Keep in mind that this isn’t a private venue, so while getting a permit guarantees that you’ll be the only couple tying the knot at that time (and that you won’t be kicked out by park rangers), it doesn’t mean there won’t be other visitors and park goers.  

If you are visiting the park just for your elopement or engagement photos (with no wedding ceremony), you do not need a permit and there are no limitations on where you can go in the park.

first kiss during elopement wedding ceremony at sunset cliffs park in San Diego

Sunset Cliffs Marriage Licenses

When you get married anywhere in the state of California, you’ll need a California marriage license! You can do this at any County Clerk’s office in the state, but you both need to appear in person with a photo ID. If you’re traveling from out of state, the closest office to Sunset Cliffs is in San Diego, and you can either print out the application or apply online ahead of time. 

There is no waiting period in California, which means you can elope as soon as you get your marriage license! It does expire after 90 days, so your ceremony needs to take place within that time. To get the full lowdown on all things California Marriage Licenses, check out my California Elopement Guide.

elopement wedding ceremony at sunset cliffs park in San Diego

Sunset Cliffs Elopement Officiant

To seal the deal and make things officially official, an officiant needs to sign your marriage license – but you have a few options for this! You can hire an elopement officiant (I’ll give you some recs), or my couples have the option of doing a self uniting ceremony and having me sign the papers. Check out my Elopement Ceremony Guide to see what each of these types of elopement ceremonies looks like!

Wild & Free Tip

Consider a self uniting ceremony

For a lot of my couples, the freedom of eloping is one of the reasons they chose to forgo the traditional wedding! And getting married without having to worry about the legalities and red tape ensures you can truly have the day you dream of. As an elopement photographer, I’m ready to do double duty – I’m ordained, and can sign the papers to marry you after your self uniting ceremony! Read more about this W&F tip here.

Things to Do at Sunset Cliffs

Your elopement is an experience – so choose some adventures to have on the big day! Here are a few ideas of things to do when you elope at Sunset Cliffs.

Have a Boho Picnic

There’s no better place for a picnic than the beach, and Sunset Cliffs is no exception! Have an extra special elopement day picnic set up for you, with unique styling, boho decor, and of course, yummy food.

Go for a Sunset Cliffs Hike

There are a few trails throughout the area and in the Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, like the Sunset Cliffs Trail. Go for a stroll by the ocean and traverse the cliffs for some incredible views!

Where to Stay Near Sunset Cliffs

There are countless villas, hotels, and Airbnbs with oceanfront views, which make an amazing place to relax with a mojito, or to come home to after a day of adventures.

The Inn at Sunset Cliffs offers a stunning location, and can even serve as a venue if your Sunset Cliffs wedding is on the larger side! For you free spirits, the Ocean Villa Inn is a charming hotel inspired by the ocean, designed for rest and relaxation.

You can also check out Airbnb for ocean front stays, unique cottages, and more!   

Elopement couple Climbing cliffs together in Sunset Cliffs Park

Sample Timeline

It’s time to start dreaming about what your elopement day can actually look like! Here’s an example, but remember, there are no rules – your day can be anything you want, and I mean anything.

Full Day Sunset Cliffs Elopement

10:00 Pancake breakfast at Airbnb

12:00 Hair and makeup begins

2:00 Drive to nature trail

2:30 Change into ceremony attire

3:00 First look & couple’s photos

4:30 Drive to Sunset Cliffs

5:00 Ceremony at The Arch

5:30 Couple’s photos and exploring

7:00 Sunset picnic

Wild & Free Tip

Always think about lighting

Lighting is essential for good photographs, and throughout the day, keeping this in mind will ensure the best experience possible. Don’t hesitate to consult with me on this (that’s what I’m here for), but some general tips are to choose somewhere with big windows and natural light for your getting ready location, and to save coastal locations for later in the day. Sunset Cliffs doesn’t have a lot of tree coverage or shade, so the midday sun will be very harsh. Early mornings or evenings offer the best light, so spend the day in the mountains or somewhere woodsy, then head to the Cliffs for sunset!

Sunset Cliffs Elopement Inspiration

I love Pinterest for elopement inspo – and if you’re planning to elope at Sunset Cliffs, check out my board for some ideas. I have tons of resources and inspiration pinned, so if you want ideas for your own wedding day, or you’re ready to get excited about tying the knot in San Diego, follow my boards for tips!

Silhouette of boho elopement couple and the moon

Sunset Cliffs Elopement Packages – Are You Ready to Elope Wild & Free?

Eloping means you get to decide what matters to you – and if throwing a big party doesn’t give you butterflies, let’s toss out the old blueprint of what a wedding is supposed to look like! Let’s plan a day so carefree and full of adventures, laughter, and love, that you can’t help but remember this as the best day of your life.

Sunset Cliffs Elopement + Wedding 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 elope Wild & Free!

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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]