Every year, it seems that more and more couples are looking for ideas on how & where to elope in the winter. Winter elopements don’t have to be explicitly snowy (though, if that’s your vibe, I’ve gotchu!) and they can be a great chance to get out of the cold and head to a unique destination to celebrate your best day ever. This article will dive into the best winter elopement locations on the West Coast.
If you’re contemplating a winter elopement, here are some quick pros and cons for you…
– less popular dates, more flexibility with vendors
– the option elope in a location that is too hot the rest of the year
– gives you a winter anniversary and a permanent excuse to escape the cold to celebrate!
– winter elopements typically have less crowds to work around
– potential weather disruptions
– limited access to certain regions/areas
– off season for some amenities/attractions
There is something so romantic about a foggy, moody forest, am I right? If you’re looking for a location with vibes upon vibes, I’d like to suggest going somewhere with epic trees & mystical forests. There are endless options for these on the west coast, so be sure to scroll down to see my suggestions for each state!
It’s not Ireland and the Cliffs of Moher, but the magic of the West Coast is evident and a coastal, cliffside elopement is a great way to avoid extreme temps for your winter elopement while also ensuring epic views in every direction.
As a lifetime local of the Sierra Nevada mountains, I know first hand how epic it is to be snowed in, cozied up by a fire, with the love of your life. Oooh, it’s just a vibe!! If you want to lean into the season, don’t write off a true mountain elopement.
As much as I love snow capped peaks & high elevation, I also love the way snow on red rock makes the entire scene come alive. It’s not ideal to elope in the desert during summer months, but winter is a prime time to embrace the landscape of the American Southwest.
Everyone has their own vision of their dream day, so I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do. What I will tell you, though, is how to be prepared for possible snafus that can take place more commonly during winter elopements.
No matter where you plan to go for your winter elopement, we all know that winter months are more unsettled. The chance of rain, snow, sleet, wind, ice…it’s all possible. Make sure you do some research on the exact location of your winter elopement before committing fully. Work with local vendors (I can NOT stress this enough!!!!) to ensure they’ll all be able to show up for you, rain or shine, and make sure you can accept the “worst case scenario” as your reality if for some reason it does happen.
Much of this is dependent on your vendors, location, and travel time for your elopement – but a backup plan (or two!) are imperative to an incredible winter elopement experience. You should be sure to have an indoor option that you’re happy with, portrait locations that don’t require expansive views (like a forest vs. a mountaintop), and if possible, reserving the day after on your schedule should you need to move the date.
One of the biggest mistakes I see couples make for their winter elopements, is not wearing the right layers!! Even if you’re going to be in the desert, cold is cold is cold. Coastal cold is different from mountain cold, which are both different from desert cold. Whatever you do, and wherever you go, be sure you dress well and warmly, with layers you’re comfortable being photographed in. Lean into the vibe, babes!
I don’t know if it’s my teenage obsession with Twilight or what, but the PNW in winter is just a total vibe and I love the idea of winter elopements at any of the following locations! I’ve worked in several of these locations, and their beauty is evident no matter what time of year you visit.
San Juan Islands (Washington)
The Southern Oregon Coast/Redwoods (also may be considered CA)
Mount Rainier National Park (if you’re willing to get snowy!)
The Alvord Desert (OR)
I’m a lifetime California gal and this list is just proof of how extensive this state is! You can truly get any and all backdrops, no matter the time of year! From the massive trees of the Redwoods, to the epic views of Tahoe, and the magic of the coast whether you’re in Big Sur or San Diego, to the desert of Southern California…the options are truly, truly endless. California is my most extensive state of experience, so be sure to reach out if you’d like help planning an epic winter elopement in California!
The Redwoods (NorCal/Southern Oregon)
Lake Tahoe (for the snowy vibes – I have a full guide on eloping in Tahoe in the Winter, here!)
Joshua Tree National Park
Nevada falls under the radar for elopements & adventures alike, however I think it’s worth noting that there are still plenty of choices here! Vegas is only a few hours from Zion National Park, UT, as well – so you could have your elopement nearby and then set off on an epic winter elopement road trip honeymoon through Utah, after!
Valley of Fire State Park
Red Rocks (Las Vegas area)
The first time I visited Arizona was in the winter, when I was a kid. We went to the Grand Canyon and I can truly say it was more magical covered in snow than it was when I saw it a decade later in the middle of summer. The light just hits different! Arizona can give you a truly quintessential desert day, so be sure to consider it when choosing locations for your elopement.
Saguaro National Park
The Grand Canyon
People will probably say Utah isn’t technically part of the West Coast and they’re right, but it’s also not fair to write it off in this article because there are some truly wonderful options within the state! Utah hosts 5 epic national parks, TONS of public land, year round activities, and easy access. It’s worth looking at for your elopement, no doubt!
Zion National Park
Salt Lake City & Surrounding Areas
At the end of the day, it might be easy to get stressed out at the thought of a winter elopement, the variables, and making sure everything goes to plan…but. It’s important to remember why you’re choosing to get married this way, and lean into the magic of a day that goes with the flow vs. adhering to expectations placed on us by random people throughout our lives. I have to say – there is truly something so magical about the way snow falls throughout a ceremony, seeing the sun come out for the first time in weeks, incorporating your favorite winter activities into your elopement day, or fancy shoes covered in red mud from the desert. I love the images that come out of days spent trusting fate and just going with it. Here are the basic of what you need to make sure your winter elopement is perfect:
I’ve helped couples plan & execute a winter elopement in less than a week before, but frankly there are so many things to consider! Ultimately, if you have 3 months, you should be totally fine. Less time means a bit more rushing, and more time means you get to be a little more laid back. But, regardless of how much time you have, the basic needs of an epic winter elopement can be taken care of in 2-4 weeks.
Brainstorm what matters most to you about this day! The backdrop, the activities? Start there and do your research to find the best location for your elopement. If you need help, don’t hesitate to reach out! I frequently help couples from start to finish. You don’t need to know much to get started!
Booking your vendors is essential, and may seem like something you should do after you pick a location, however there are times where it makes sense to go out of order! If you’re not sure where to start, reach out to a photographer you love first, who you know offers extensive services to eloping couples. They will probably be able to help you pick a direction. From there, decide which vendors you’ll want to supplement with. Florals, hair & makeup, officiant?
The number one mistake I see couples make is wearing outfits they can’t layer, or picking a dress that is freezing and in order to stay warm they have to cover up! The reality is, you’ll probably have a mix of photos with and without jackets/layers, so plan accordingly! Be sure to research typical weather, check the weather in the days leading up, and plan to wear quality shoes.
Your photographer should help you with this one, but plan to have a contingency option should you need it! Indoor location, clear umbrellas, etc.
Winter Elopements are beautiful & unique. I hope that wherever you end up for yours is everything you’ve ever wanted! So…cheers to you, your love, your day, and all of the magic that is ahead of you.
Need help planning your winter elopement? Overwhelmed with where to begin? You need me! Fill out my contact form below to get started planning your big day!