I get emails allllllll the time asking “how do I elope in Tahoe?! HELP!” Good news: I’ve got the answers!
There are a lot of reasons you might consider a Lake Tahoe Elopement. Tahoe is epic, pretty fantastic in every season, and has easy access via 3 major metropolitan cities – San Francisco, Sacramento, and Reno! Eloping in Lake Tahoe can feel a little daunting at first – but by taking the right initial steps (like reading this post!) and finding amazing local vendors, you’re off to an amazing start.
I happen to be a Lake Tahoe Elopement Expert; photographer, planner, local guide – the whole thing! Here are 5 key pieces to help get you started on planning your Lake Tahoe elopement, from someone who’s done it over a hundred times.
1. Book a flight to Reno, Nevada.
Pick your season (if you need help with that, check out this podcast episode! APPLE PODCASTS // SPOTIFY), and book a flight! Most airlines have a non-stop flight from major airports to the Reno-Tahoe international airport. From there, it’s 45 minutes to 1.5 hours drive to Tahoe, depending on where you’re staying. Alternatively, you can fly into Sacramento (which will put you about 2 hours away from Tahoe) OR you could fly into San Francisco – but that is 4 hours west of the Tahoe basin. In non-winter months, this is a doable drive without worrying about what the weather might be like, but if you’re planning on eloping between the months of November and May, I recommend flying into Reno. Click HERE to see a list of non-stop flights, created by VisitRenoTahoe.com! Our warmest months are June – August. Spring here is kind of yucky and can be super unpredictable with snow & rain, but every other season is magical.
If you plan to come in the late summer, be aware that as of late, California has experienced unprecedented wildfire seasons, leading to horrible air quality, forest closures, and more. Obviously this can impact your day – but if you work with the right team, they’ll take care of you — and the photos are still amazing, see below! You can also check out my podcast episode about navigating wildfires. APPLE PODCASTS // SPOTIFY
2. Decide which part of the Lake Tahoe you want to stay on
In order to have the BEST Lake Tahoe Elopement – you have to consider what you want out of your stay and the kind of experience you want to have. This is majorly impacted by where you stay! North shore (Tahoe city to Incline Village) is really quaint and has plenty of accommodations. The west shore is a lot older, and is home to a lot of long time locals – it kind of feels more National Park-y. There’s a bike path that goes along part of the lake and in summer time, is a fantastic way to get around. West Shore Cafe, Obexers, and Tahoe House are some of my West Shore Lake Tahoe favs! Emerald Bay is a favorite stop on the southern part of the West Shore, as well – but if you plan to have a ceremony there, know that you must have a permit and it gets very crowded early. All state parks in Lake Tahoe require a permit to have an elopement ceremony of any kind, just a heads up!
South Lake Tahoe is more like “Vegas-meets-Tahoe” and has a lot of casinos and traffic – but it also has a lot more options for big-box stores and things to do. To be honest, it’s not my favorite part of the lake – but does lend itself to ever-beautiful views, and lots of options for food and lodging. You can also stay in Truckee (where I’m born & raised!) which is the cutest little mountain town just 15 minutes north of Tahoe, and gives you great access to everything. You genuinely can not go wrong, no matter where you go around here. There are plenty of hotels, and homes for rent through private rental companies and sites like airbnb or vrbo. Click HERE to see my list of “Tahoe Elopement Accommodations” on airbnb and see my favs!
3. Find a photographer
Tahoe is home to a lot of creative souls who express themselves through imagery – and I just so happen to be one of them. As soon as you know a general time frame you’ll be in town or know the season you want to elope in, it’s time to find your photographer and lock them in. I have an entire podcast episode dedicated to picking the best vendors – on Apple Podcasts & Spotify. A great way to do that is by using Instagram to search hashtags, such as #laketahoeelopementphotographer or #elopelaketahoe, or utilizing tools like Tahoe Unveiled – I’m a member there, too! In finding your photographer for your Lake Tahoe Elopement, it’s really important to know what you want out of your elopement, and what’s important to you within your experience. Eloping in Lake Tahoe is something that can be so unique and personalized. As a born and raised local, I have the ability to pull backup plans out of my pocket at a moments notice, and will custom scout a location for you & your guests that is entirely yours! If you’re looking for a good place to elope, suggestions on places to eat, stay, shop, hike – I’m your girl. I give an elevated experience for couples looking for adventure.
4. Find an officiant, florist, hair & makeup artist (if needed) and place to dine after your big day!
There are lots of officiants in the area, but a personal fav is Meredith, of Ceremonies by Meredith – she follows me just about anywhere. She’s incredible, personal, and the sweetest human. I also love working with Stephanie and Meghan! For florists, I highly recommend Meghon, owner of Love and Lupines (she did my florals for my wedding!) or Christine of Wilderland Studio. If you want hair & makeup, I love working with Solstice Salon, and Lisa Pietrza! And lastly, pick a place to eat after your elopement! I love Evan’s (South Lake), Truckee Tavern & Grill (Truckee, obviously!), Trokay (also Truckee!) and Wolfdale’s (Tahoe City). No matter what – I highly recommend at minimum hiring an amazing officiant. You can listen to a little bit about the process and why it’s so special in this podcast episode with Meredith, here. APPLE PODCASTS // SPOTIFY
5. Pick a location for your ceremony and photos
This part is fun, and special. I highly recommend working with a photographer who knows the area well and will help guide you to a spot that is not just for tourists (psssst, me! You can fill out my contact form here!). I personally have a giant arsenal of videos of locations I’ve scouted to keep on hand as options for my couples when they book with me. I believe your location is a HUGE part of your day, and I believe you should have the opportunity for that location to be unique, personal, and private.
A few things to note about picking your Lake Tahoe elopement location, though. You need a permit to elope or have a wedding ceremony in ALL Lake Tahoe State Parks; this includes both CA and NV. Additionally, it’s incredibly important that you respect the land; on behalf of all locals and those who will care for this land after us – please remember there are NO fires allowed on beaches, fire bans in most forest areas due to extremely high fire danger. Tossing things like rice, silk flower petals, real roses, or confetti are incredibly harmful to our ecosystem. Keep this in mind while planning your elopement ceremony – regardless of if you decide to elope in Lake Tahoe or not.
5. Schedule an appointment for your marriage licens
In order to legally get married in the state of California or Nevada, you need marriage licenses for the respective states. You can obtain these by going to any of the offices around Tahoe. Here are links to all of them! Most of my couples who are eloping in Tahoe get their licenses from Placer County. I’ve linked all 3 offices below!
El Dorado County | Placer County | Washoe County
And last, but not least: GET HITCHED!
If this article left you EXCITED to plan a Lake Tahoe Elopement but you’re still overwhelmed, I offer full Lake Tahoe Elopement Packages; complete with photography coverage, the booking of main vendors, and additional assistance in making sure your elopement is perfect. Head to my contact form to get started!
If you’re still curious about my process as a photographer, head on over to my info page, HERE! And, if this left you excited and ready to book your photography with me, click HERE to head over to my contact page to get the ball rolling! And of course, check out The Elopement Podcast for more tips on how to elope – there’s an entire 8 week Elopement Planning 101 series waiting to help you out!
Man you knocked on the SMF airport – not sure when you’ve been there last but it has a new terminal and tons of great restaurants and amenities now.
Great info!!! Lake tahoe is such a great place for elopements!
Excellent article about Lake Tahoe elopements, Ruthanne!! And yessss Meredith and Meghon are the absolute best! Reno airport is my fave too! 🙂
Lake Tahoe is such an amazing and beautiful place to elope! Great collection of info! And Meghon is such a sweetheart!
Such a great blog about eloping in Tahoe & I know you do such a killer job as a photographer!!