If you’re planning a San Diego elopement, you’re in the right place! I’m Lauren, a San Diego & destination elopement photographer specializing in serving unique, badass couples. Along with the general elopement tips in this blog, I’ve also included a list of my absolute favorite locations, some nontraditional spots, and even my favorite coffee shops for you to visit while you’re here. Trust me, I’ve thought of everything!
The best places to elope in San Diego
We’ll start with the exciting stuff! Here’s a list of my all-time favorite San Diego elopement locations for your ceremony. If you want even more ideas, check out my San Diego Engagement Session Guide!
Coronado Beach is always at the top of my list for obvious reasons. Not only is the area around Hotel del Coronado absolutely epic for engagement sessions, but the actual beaches are to-die-for. The mineral mica in the sand makes them literally sparkle – EASILY the most beautiful beaches in San Diego. If you’re tryna have an oceanside ceremony, Coronado is the place to do it!
Another amazing San Diego staple: Balboa Park. They do have designated wedding venues within the park, but if you’re eloping, you have plenty of options outside of these. You can utilize any of the outdoor park areas for your ceremony as long as you have a permit and a small group! The park has tons of gardens and well-maintained landscape areas that would certainly fit the SoCal elopement vibe.
San Diego County Clerk & Waterfront Park
I’m ALL for courthouse elopements!!! Especially in San Diego, where the exterior of the County Clerk’s office is as stylish as any other venue. After your quick ceremony and marriage license signing, we can take some photos outside and then head over to Waterfront Park. This park sits right on San Diego Bay (hence the “waterfront”) and gives amazing views for portraits. Trust me on this one!!
La Jolla Cove
La Jolla Cove is a super intimate beach in one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in San Diego. Actually, to impress you even MORE, it’s actually one of the most photographed beaches in all of California. Pretty freaking cool, right? The Cove is technically a part of the San Diego La Jolla Underwater Park Ecological Reserve, so it’s very much protected despite its heavy foot traffic and frequent visitors. A sunset or sunrise elopement here would be THE way to go, especially during the busy summer months.
Hear me out: sailboat elopement in the Pacific Ocean?? There are TONS of places to rent a sailboat in San Diego and lemme tell you, we would have a great time. Me, you, your vows, and a bottle of champagne??? Sign me the fuck up. If you want to have a few or more guests, we can upgrade to a yacht instead!
Anza Borrego State Park
This San Diego elopement location is for my couples who want a more remote and private spot for their ceremony. Anza Borrego State Park is about an hour and a half outside of SD, and is actually the largest state park in all of California. ⅔ of the park is designated as wilderness with tons of different scenery, including dry lake beds, badlands, and mountains that rise over 5,500 feet. It’s giving Joshua Tree vibes without the extensive drive time!
Mission Trails Regional Park
Okay, okay, I know not everyone wants the beach vibe when eloping in San Diego. At Mission Trails, you can elope just the two of you or reserve one of their facilities if you’re having guests! They have a stunning terrace and amphitheater with some of the best views in the entire park. Other than that, you two can say your vows anywhere within the 8,000-square-foot park 🙂
Black’s Beach at Torrey Pines
Famously nude, famously stunning! If you don’t mind the exposure, the scenery at Black’s Beach is fantastic. Getting there does require a bit of a hike, but the views will be totally worth it once you’re made it. And, if you’re a surfer, Black’s Beach has some of the best waves in all of San Diego. Post-elopement surfing session, anyone??
The Carlsbad Cliffs are one of the lesser-known secrets of San Diego. The beaches are relatively uncrowded (compared to a beach like La Jolla) and the cliffs offer unobstructed views of the ocean. The actual town of Carlsbad has some super cute dining options (and has just overall great vibes) to hit up after your elopement!
Glamis Sand Dunes
This elopement location is very much not in San Diego, but I couldn’t help but include it! For couples who want a totally different and dramatic scenery for your ceremony, Glamis certainly serves up the drama. Traveling just 2.5 hours out of San Diego, this spot claims the title of the largest mass of sand dunes in California. If you’re feeling adventurous, you and your boo can rent an ATV or dune buggy and ride to your hearts’ content. Oh, and of course, I would get some epic photos of you, too 😉
San Diego Museum of Art
The San Diego Museum of Art (located in Balboa Park) has some beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces to host your wedding or elopement! The SDMA has been around since 1926 and still reflects the authentic Spanish-Colonial-style architecture that most of San Diego still embodies. You can even book the museum’s restaurant, Panama 66, if you want to have a more intimate wedding dinner vibe with your favorite people.
Wedding festivity spaces
If you’re anything like my couples, you’re looking to celebrate EVERY wedding festivity there is. And as you should! Here are a few spots to check out where you can host your welcome dinner, rehearsal dinner, intimate wedding reception, or any other event you can think of 😉
Pure Project Brewery – The North Park location is my personal favorite! It would be an amazing space to host a welcome party or even a post-ceremony hang-out spot. Plus, there’s a PERMANENT food truck. Vibes: 10/10.
FruitCraft Fermentery & Distillery – FruitCraft is actually an event space in San Diego, but it’s honestly so much more than that. They are a true fermentery and distillery, so you have access to all the kombucha, cider, and wine you can imagine. Total untraditional intimate wedding vibes, but that’s what we’re going for anyways, right??
Melting Pot – Fondue restaurant in one of the most popular districts in San Diego, Gaslamp Quarter. Need I say more?? If you want a fun, out-of-the-box way to hang with your friends and family before or after your elopement, meet them at Melting Pot!
Herb & Wood – One of the BEST brunch spots in San Diego! Not only is the food to die for, but the space is lavish and elegant – perfect for my boujee nearlyweds. You can make a res (rather, I can make it for you) for just the two of you on the morning of your elopement, or we can book one of their spaces for an intimate dinner after your ceremony.
Book your San Diego elopement vendors
OKAY – now that you have an idea of where you want to elope in San Diego, it’s time to start lookin’ for your vendors. Now, what type and how many vendors you hire is totally up to you, but it will also depend on your budget and guest count. I recommend having no more than 10 people at your elopement because any more than that and it starts getting into intimate wedding territory. When booking your vendors, here are the ones you should be thinking about:
- Photographer (me, duh)
- Elopement styler/planner
- Hair & makeup artist
- Officiant (that can also be me!)
- Personal chef (if you want a catered meal vs going out to a restaurant)
What to do after your San Diego elopement
You didn’t think you were gettin’ hitched then dipping, did you know?? HELL NO. That’s not how we do it over here! Just because you’re eloping does NOT mean that you have to keep things short, simple, or boring. Start thinking about what kind of activities you want to fill your elopement day with, mkay? Here are some ideas:
- Have a picnic with your boo at your San Diego ceremony location OR a different location that we brainstorm together. You can pack it yourself or hire a private chef to put together a lil something something! Kelly and Ben had the CUTEST picnic setup when they eloped on the Oregon Coast last year, and honestly, it was so perfect. Take notes, babes!
- GO SURFING! Especially if you’re eloping at one of the beaches I talked about earlier, hitting the waves is a no-brainer. When in California, am I right??
- Go on a quick or more intense hike! San Diego is filled with some stunning viewpoints, so let me be your tour guide. This is a great option if you’re eloping at any of the parks mentioned above!
Best time of year to elope in San Diego
So… when should you plan your San Diego elopement? Lemme break it down for you!
I mean, there’s never really a bad time to elope in California, but spring is definitely one of the best seasons! Everything is blooming, the weather is mild, and the sun is shining most days. Keep in mind that it might get a little windy, and with the wind comes allergies! If you’re especially sensitive, be sure to take that into account and pack some Allegra-D.
Summers in San Diego are basically equivalent to paradise. The issue with that is everyone and their mother thinks so too! Kids are out of school, families are vacationing in the city, and popular elopement spots can be busy. It’ll be more difficult to get privacy at certain locations and times of day. To combat this, I recommend eloping at sunrise or sunset and on a weekday! Hotel prices may also be a bit steeper since its peak tourist season.
“Fall” is very subjective in California… meaning in September (and sometimes even October) you’ll get temps in the high 70s/80s. It’s not uncommon for us to get a major heat wave during these months! With that being said, the skies are typically clear and sunny, and you don’t get the major wind that spring brings. There are also tons of cute seasonal activities going on in San Diego during this time of year!
Since San Diego doesn’t get many cases of extreme weather, winter can actually be a great time to elope here. There are a lot fewer people around with it being the off-season for tourists. Spots that are usually super crowded are a lot less busy, so you have more flexibility in terms of what time of day you elope. You might also get lower rates from wedding vendors since it’s the off-wedding season, too!
My favorite San Diego coffee shops
If you know anything about me, you know that I’m a SUCKER for a good coffee shop. Since living in San Diego, I’ve made it my personal mission to find the absolute best ones around. So, when you’re in town for your elopement, be sure to stop by one of them (and bring me along to photograph you)!
- Cafe Madeleine – North Park or South Park location
- Communal Coffee
- Moniker General Coffee
Where to stay for your San Diego elopement
I’m gonna keep this short ‘n sweet, but here are some of my top recs for where to stay for your San Diego elopement!
IN LA JOLLA: La Valencia Hotel or Hotel La Jolla
IN CORONADO: Hotel del Coronado
LUXURY BOUTIQUE HOTELS: Pendry Hotel or The Guild Hotel
RESORT & SPA: Paradise Point in Mission Bay
CAMPGROUNDS: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park has some pretty great options, as well as Mission Trails Regional Park!
How to legally elope in San Diego
As enjoyable as it is to talk about the fun stuff, I do have to be responsible and inform you of the legal requirements of eloping in San Diego! In California, both nearlyweds have to head to the County Clerk’s office to apply for a marriage license. Here is a list of things you’ll need to bring with you:
- Valid form of ID
- Birth Certificate (in some counties)
- Proof that you’re no longer married if you have been before
Once you apply for your license, it’s valid for 90 days from the date it’s issued. And in California, there’s no waiting period! We could have a cute little courthouse elopement then immediately go celebrate with your friends and family after. The world is our oyster!
San Diego elopement checklist
Don’t worry, I’ll be sending you a more personalized checklist in the days leading up to your elopement. But, for now, these are the general things to keep in mind!:
- Ceremony and portrait location
- Marriage license/wedding permit/location permit
- Wedding attire
- Glam squad
- Florals (bouquet + boutonniere are totally worth it)
My San Diego elopement packages
Here’s a quick list of what your San Diego elopement package can look like at Lauren Luccile Creative! Once we get to know each other, I’ll send you a custom proposal that fits every single one of your elopement-day needs 😉
- Full-day elopement coverage
- 4-hour elopement coverage
- Hourly elopement
- All packages include: timeline planning and creation, custom experience to fit your needs, photography that can cover just the ceremony and portraits or your whole day, vendor recommendations, concierge services (need brunch reservations? A great rehearsal dinner spot? Tickets to your desired San Diego museum? I gotchu.)
- Ordained officiant services
- Leave no trace education
- Digital gallery of high res images
- Access to the client-exclusive print shop
- A good ass time
Tips for eloping in San Diego
You’ve almost reached the end! To finish off the blog, I thought I’d share with you just a couple of San Diego elopement tips I’ve gathered throughout the years:
Have a friend or family member officiate – How much FUN would it be to have one of your favorite people officiate your ceremony?? It’s such a simple way to add a bit more sentiment into your day. Alternatively, if you’re hard set on it just being the 2 of you, I can officiate as I’m ordained!
Embrace ALL of the elements – Truthfully, as long as you’re eloping outdoors, you never 100% know what you’re in for. We can do all the planning in the world, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas! In that case, embrace the rain, wind, sand, fog, or whatever else comes our way. You’ll have a blast regardless!
Ready to plan your San Diego elopement?
Hell yeah, you are! If you’re ready to take the next step and start officially planning, I’m right there with you. To inquire with me about being your right-hand woman, you can fill out my contact form and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can! In the meantime, check out a list of my favorite San Diego Engagement Session Locations to give you some more ideas.