How to Plan Your San Diego Elopement [Updated for 2021]

A couple snuggling at Sunset Cliffs for their elopement in San Diego.

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How to Elope in San Diego

San Diego is one of the most popular locations in California among tourists, but also one of the best elopement locations in California among couples. San Diego is right at the bottom of California near the border of Mexico, and it lies right on the the breathtaking coast of the Pacific Ocean. San Diego is one of the most visited cities in California. In fact, over 35 million people visit this beautiful area each year, making it one of the top 10 meeting destinations in the U.S. With dramatic cliffs, fun activities, amazing hikes, and great food, San Diego makes for one heck of an elopement location. 

#1: Choose a Season of the Year to Elope in San Diego

Fall

Fall (and spring) are the best times to visit San Diego. While September still attracts tourists, you’ll see a drop in October and November. Plus, the weather is still pretty nice around this time. The average temperature is in the low 70s which is still an enjoyable temperature for an outdoor elopement. There are also food conventions and festivals during this time as well, making it a great time to visit if you’re wanting to try some new foods or attend some festivals during your elopement. Fall in San Diego lasts from September-November.

Winter

Winter is the best time to visit if crowds are your main concern. Plus, a San Diego winter isn’t a “traditional” winter. With temperatures being around the mid 60s, it’s still a very enjoyable experience to be outside. If you’re wanting a full-on beach elopement with warm sunny weather and water, I recommend waiting until spring or summer, as the water during this time is very cold. Keep in mind too that it can rain frequently in San Diego during the winter, so make sure to plan ahead! Winter in San Diego lasts from December-February.

Spring

Spring is another one of the best times to elope in San Diego. With temperatures being in the mid to high 60s, the weather is nice, the tourists have yet to visit the city, and there’s a ton to do. Plus, it’s the best time to see all the wildflowers and greenery around the coast. One thing to note is that the term “May Gray” is a real thing, so if you’re wanting sunshine on your elopement day, I advise planning your elopement in March or April. However, I personally love the overcast weather, as it provides the best light for photos.

Summer

Summer offers the best weather in San Diego, but that means it comes with the crowds. This is the worst time to visit if you want something pretty secluded, especially in July, San Diego’s busiest month. While it can be done, it’s much more difficult. The warm summer weather attracts all of its visitors, making prices spike and lodging sparse. However, there are tons of conventions and festivals during the summer which would definitely be a fun thing to do during your elopement. Like every season, there are pros and cons. Summer in San Diego lasts from June-August.

A bride and groom hugging at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park in San Diego, California during their sunrise elopement.

#2: Find a Place to Elope in San Diego

Beach venues, indoor studios, and outdoor gardens are just a few different ceremony locations you can choose from in San Diego. In fact, you have so many different options when it comes to choosing your perfect elopement location, that you might even choose more than one! If you’re wanting to view an entire list, check out this blog post filled with a ton of trendy, versatile, and modern wedding venues in San Diego.

Sunset Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs is my favorite place to elope in San Diego. I personally love the beauty and simplicity of this area. It’s peaceful, quiet during sunrise, and the perfect backdrop for any ceremony or photo. It’s also a great venue for those who want to play around with ceremony decor, as the natural colors of the cliffs go well with any color and texture.

Mount Laguna

Mount Laguna is the perfect outdoor wedding venue for the couple who wants to have a forest-like elopement. This area doesn’t require any hiking to see some of the best views of San Diego. While there are hikes near the area, overall, it’s a great ceremony site for friends and family who don’t necessarily want to hike on your elopement day. It’s also one of the lesser known places to tie the knot, making it easy to find an area for an intimate ceremony.

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

If you’re a fan of the desert, then you should definitely consider this state park for your wedding. With over 500,000 acres, you’re guaranteed to find a secluded spot for your ceremony. Anza-Borrego is known for its wildflowers and simplicity, perfect for a couple looking to play around with decor and texture on their special day. It’s similar to Joshua Tree without the drive!

The Condor's Nest Ranch

The Condor’s Nest Ranch is one of the most breathtaking outdoor wedding venues in San Diego. Not only does it offer incredible views of Palomar Mountain, but it also includes a garden, greenhouse, and lodging on site. It’s off the grid and is a perfect spot to tie the knot if you’re wanting something secluded and outdoors.

The Wedding Bowl

The Wedding Bowl is another one of my favorite elopement locations in San Diego. It’s very unique and  reminds me of Big Sur! It’s quiet and gives you the perfect view of the coast. It’s a secluded and perfectly sized area, especially for elopements with a few guests.

Building 177

Building 177 is the perfect indoor venue if you’re wanting something modern. It’s neutral, timeless, and looks great with just about anything. It’s personally my favorite indoor wedding venue in San Diego. It also gives off a ton of natural light which is also amazing for wedding photos!

A couple snuggling on the beach during their sunrise elopement.

#3: Get a Permit for Your San Diego Elopement

Depending on where you decide to elope in San Diego, you may need a permit for your special day. For example, state parks like Anza-Borrego and Sunset Cliffs require permits, but indoor venues such as Building 177 probably won’t. Always be sure to check with the venue coordinator to see whether or not you’ll need to obtain a permit. If you do, send it in as early as possible to avoid late processing and extra fees!

A bride and groom exchanging vows at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park in San Diego, California during their sunrise elopement.

#4: Book San Diego Elopement Vendors

The spring and summertime are incredibly busy for vendors, since it is wedding season. If you decide to elope during these two hot times, definitely secure your elopement vendors as soon as you can. I created a list for you that goes over everything you need to know about hiring San Diego elopement vendors.

Photographer

San Diego has some of the most beautiful scenery, and if anyone knows about the best places to elope in San Diego, it will be your photographer. Always hire your photographer first (specifically a photographer who specializes in elopements), as they will help you narrow down locations, relay permit information, and refer you to vendors. 

Officiant

You can’t marry yourselves in California, unfortunately. However, there are so many officiants in the area, and if you’re wanting something a bit more personal, your family members or friends can be ordained and officiant the ceremony for you! It takes little to no time and can be done online. If you prefer to hire someone, check out a list of officiants here.

Florist

Some areas in San Diego have certain floral regulations. For example, a few locations don’t allow dried florals, some do, and some require specific types of flowers. What’s great about florists that are familiar with San Diego is their abundance of knowledge about the location you choose. They’ll truly know what looks best with both the location and your outfit. The bouquets also look amazing in photos and can be preserved after your elopement day! 

Hair and makeup artist

San Diego can be humid at times, but it also gets hot, especially in the summer. I recommend hiring a hair and makeup artist to help you preserve your hair and makeup throughout your entire elopement day, from sunrise to sunset. They’ll help you feel confident, and they know all the small tips and tricks to help you look your best both in person and on camera. Check out an entire list of hair and makeup artists in San Diego here.

#5: Finalize the Your San Diego Elopement Details

Flights

Something great about San Diego is its accessibility. I recommend flying into the San Diego International Airport. It’s pretty accessible from other airports around the world, and it’s only 10 minutes away from downtown. 

If the San Diego Airport isn’t super convenient for you, the Los Angeles International Airport is the best option in terms of both price and accessibility. It’s about a 2 hour drive from the airport to San Diego.

Lodging

San Diego and the surrounding area has a variety of different lodging options you can choose from for your elopement. From 5-star hotels to camping, you’re sure to find something that suits you. If you’re wanting to stay in a nice hotel, I recommend checking out Hotel Fairmont Grand Del Mar, Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, and The Lodge at Torrey Pines.

One of the best things about San Diego are the Airbnbs. You can choose from a variety of different price points, architecture, and location. My personal favorite Airbnbs I’ve stayed in have all been in San Diego! For your elopement, I recommend choosing an Airbnb with lots of natural light, especially if you choose to do getting ready photos.

If you want to be super adventurous and camp during your elopement, there are a ton of different camping spots around San Diego, whether you want an experience by the beach or in the mountains. 

You have endless choices when it comes to picking your lodging in San Diego!

A bride and groom kissing at Sunset Cliffs in San Diego, California for their sunrise elopement.

#6: Announce Your San Diego Elopement

Now that you’ve officially eloped in San Francisco, it’s time to announce! There are so many unique ways you can announce your elopement. Each couple does it differently, but find something that works for you and your partner. Also, don’t forget to celebrate! Take time to soak in the newlywed glow and spend time as a married couple.

San Diego Elopement Packages

I offer San Diego elopement packages that include elopement scouting, timeline planning, vendor referrals, and much more! To view my California elopement packages and other packages, click here.

San Diego elopement pricing:

  • 4 hours – 1.5 days of elopement coverage
  • A hands-on San Diego elopement planning experience with unlimited assistance
    • personalized San Diego elopement locations
    • vendor recommendations
    • permit assistance
    • customized elopement timeline
  • Online gallery with full resolution and printing rights
  • 24-48 hour sneak peaks 
  • Travel fees to anywhere in California already included
  • Starting at $2,500

Want more elopement inspiration? Check out this San Francisco elopement guide, or this page filled with a ton of resources all about how to plan your elopement.

Need help planning your dream San Diego elopement?

Snag your FREE elopement guide! The same exact one I send to all my couples, filled with tips and tricks about how to prepare for your dream elopement, whether it’s a sunny elopement in California or a cold elopement in Alaska!

A free guide all about how to elope, created by a California elopement photographer.
A free guide all about how to elope, created by a California elopement photographer.

Snag your FREE elopement guide! The same exact one I send to all my couples, filled with tips and tricks about how to prepare for your dream elopement, whether it’s a sunny elopement in California or a cold elopement in Alaska!

Brianna Parks, a California elopement photographer.

Hey there, I'm Brianna!

I’m a California elopement photographer who had a big traditional wedding, and I can’t tell you how many arguments there were about my day.

I was pressured to pick a certain venue, certain colors, certain guests, and it felt like I was spending thousands of dollars to play host at a party that had nothing to do with the connection between my husband and I.

Don’t fall into the trap society has constructed around big weddings. Instead, buy the plane ticket, get the wedding dress  dirty, and turn your stressed out wedding day into a carefree, adventure filled elopement experience that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

Brianna Parks, a California elopement photographer.

Hey there, I'm Brianna!

I’m a California elopement photographer who had a big traditional wedding, and I can’t tell you how many arguments there were about my day.

I was pressured to pick a certain venue, certain colors, certain guests, and it felt like I was spending thousands of dollars to play host at a party that had nothing to do with the connection between my husband and I.

Don’t fall into the trap society has constructed around big weddings. Instead, buy the plane ticket, get the wedding dress  dirty, and turn your stressed out wedding day into a carefree, adventure filled elopement experience that you’ll remember for a lifetime.

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