How to Plan a San Diego Elopement
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How to Elope in San Diego

Filed in Elopements, Planning Tips — March 28, 2024

Your Ultimate Guide to Eloping in San Diego in 2024

couple overlooking the ocean with waves crashing

How to Plan A Ultimate San Diego Elopement

San Diego, a gem nestled at the southern tip of California, boasts not only as a favorite tourist destination but also as an ideal spot for California elopements. With its stunning coastline, amazing mild weather, dramatic cliffs, and a variety of activities, San Diego offers an unforgettable backdrop for couples seeking an intimate ceremony.

Whether you’re in search of elopement inspiration, or a comprehensive guide to eloping in San Diego, look no further. Here’s everything you need to know to craft your dream San Diego elopement.

The Best Places to Elope in San Diego

From the ideal beaches, gorgeous cliffs overlooking the ocean, to Eucalyptus groves, Flower Fields, and many varieties of landscapes, gorgeous San Diego offers a diverse array of elopement venues. Whether you prefer an outdoor adventure, unique architecture or a romantic seaside ceremony, there’s something for everyone here in sunny San Diego!!

Sunset Cliffs

Max capacity: 50

Sunset Cliffs tops the list as a favorite elopement spot in San Diego. With its tranquil ambiance and stunning ocean views, it provides an idyllic setting for exchanging vows. However, opt for a sunrise ceremony to avoid crowds. In order to elope at this location, a special use permit must be obtained from the City of San Diego Parks and Recreation. Please visit this link for more information on why you would need a special use permit. As of 2024 you can now purchase the permit online here. The wedding permit costs $269 for applications received sixty or more days prior to the event. The permit does not guarantee you a private venue or parking at sunset cliffs. You may bring decor, but this is still a public park (a popular one) so expect to save a spot early. You can also find more information in the new City of San Diego Special Event Planning Guide. This is currently the most popular location to elope in San Diego, so we recommend choosing a weekday and planning well in advance.

La Jolla Cove

Max capacity: 100

La Jolla Cove is a stunning spot with cliffs and clear blue water, perfect for couples who want a beautiful and intimate place to elope in San Diego. It’s romantic, with amazing sunsets and cozy corners for saying “I do” surrounded by nature’s beauty. It too requires a special use permit obtained from the City of San Diego, just as described in the section above for Sunset Cliffs.

Ocean Beach Pier

Max capacity: 250

If funky beach town vibes are more your thing then why not elope at the Ocean Beach Pier? Ocean Beach in San Diego has this chill, laid-back vibe that just draws in surfers, artists, and all kinds of free spirits. It’s got cool vintage shops, colorful murals, a variety of gastropubs, a laid-back bar scene, and killer sunsets – it’s all about kicking back and soaking up that coastal life. It’s the perfect San Diego elopement location for couples who have more of a bohemian or eclectic vibe! A special use permit must be obtained from the City of San Diego for weddings or elopements at this location.

Balboa Park

Max Capacity: Varies depending on which area inside of the park. Check the official list here.

Balboa Park has a variety of outdoor elopement locations, all with different max capacities. Elopements within Balboa Park are available on many of the lawns, but our favorites are Redwood Circle and the lawns near the Botanical Building. Keep in mine the Botanical Building has been closed for reconstruction since 2021 and is still ongoing construction as of the time of this article in March 2024, but according to the City of SD website it has an estimated completion date of sometime in 2024. A special use permit must be obtained from the City of San Diego for weddings or elopements for any of the outdoor spots at this location, but use of any of the Museums spaces would need to be booked directly through the museum.

For those of you with a higher budget for your elopement wedding, you may consider the serene oasis of the Japanese Friendship Garden, which features traditional Japanese landscaping, tranquil ponds, and winding paths. Exchange your vows within the tranquility of this peaceful garden. See the JFG brochure for more information on what they call “minimonies”, lol. If you don’t host your ceremony here, and just want photos in the Friendship Garden there is also an option to use the space just for taking photos together on mornings between 9am-10am for a $150 plus the admission fee. More information can be found on that here.

North County San Diego Elopement Locations

If you wish to elope just outside of the heart of San Diego, then we recommend North County! North County SD has a great variety of places for an elopement ceremony, but we’ll list a few of our favorites.

Carlsbad Cliffs

Located just south of Tamarack State Beach is a small little stretch of beach with access via a staircase. This area is like a little mini Torrey Pines or Malibu, with it’s sandy cliffs that provide a unique and beautiful backdrop overlooking the ocean. This location does require a permit, you can find the information here. Other great reasons to elope in Carlsbad are the wide array of ocean-view lodging, and we absolutely love downtown Carlsbad! There are a ton of great places to eat here, and some of our favorites include Blue Ocean Sushi, Pizza Port, Coyote Bar & Grill, or take a drive down to Encinitas for our absolute FAVORITE taco spot: The Taco Stand. Order the Shrimp tacos and thank me later!! Expert tip: order ahead on their website and skip their famously long-line, because yes, their tacos are just that dang good!!

For breakfast we recommend taking a drive up the Coast Highway to our favorite breakfast spot: Beach Break Cafe in South Oceanside.

The Flower Fields

The Flower Fields in Carlsbad offer a vibrant spectacle of colorful ranunculus blooms stretching across acres of land, creating a mesmerizing sight during the blooming season. Visitors can wander through rows of flowers, capturing the beauty of the fields and enjoying the fragrant ambiance, perfect for your San Diego Elopement! For more info on weddings and elopement here visit their site.

Santa Margarita River Trail Preserve

If you prefer getting away from it all and eloping somewhere intimate and tucked away in nature, then this is your spot if you live in San Diego. This location located in Fallbrook boasts scenic hiking trails alongside the pristine Santa Margarita River, offering hikers a chance to immerse themselves in nature’s tranquility. With lush vegetation, diverse wildlife, and picturesque river views, it’s a hidden gem for outdoor enthusiasts seeking solace in Southern California’s natural beauty, and a perfect San Diego spot for an intimate adventure elopement.

San Diego Elopement Permit Information

Depending on your chosen venue, you may need a special use permit for your elopement ceremony. Be sure to obtain necessary permits in advance to avoid any delays or additional fees. We outlined the known requirements for the above locations, but we encourage you to do your own research on this matter, and make sure you’re following all recommended Leave No Trace guidelines.

young couple holding hands walking along cliff by the ocean

The Best Time of Year for Your San Diego Elopement

We recommend eloping here in Fall and spring, particularly October, November, March, and April, offer the most favorable weather conditions for elopements in San Diego. San Diego is known for “May Gray, or June Gloom” meaning more overcast days during those months, so keep that in mind when planning. San Diego experiences mild temperatures year round, so any season is possible, but we do recommend avoiding the winter and summer seasons, which can help mitigate higher lodging prices and crowded venues due to peak travel times and tourism.

San Diego Elopement Budget Examples

Whether you envision a lavish affair or a modest celebration, there’s a range of budget options available for your San Diego elopement. Here are examples of high-end, mid-end, and low-end elopement budgets to help you plan accordingly.

High-End Estimated Budget for a San Diego Elopement: $15,000-25,000

Mid-End Estimated Budget for a San Diego Elopement: $8,000-15,000

Low-End Estimated Budget for a San Diego Elopement: $5,000-$8,000

The Best Places to Stay in San Diego for Your Elopement

From luxurious hotels to charming Airbnbs, San Diego offers various accommodation options to suit every preference. Whether you prefer upscale amenities or a cozy retreat, consider options like Hotel Fairmont Grand Del Mar, Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, or The Mountain View Retreat for a memorable stay.

San Diego Elopement Activities

Aside from your ceremony, San Diego offers an array of activities to enhance your elopement experience. From exploring haunted landmarks to indulging in authentic cuisine, here are some unique activities to consider:

Tour the Whaley House, one of San Diego’s most haunted places

-Taste the best tacos know to man at on of the Taco Stand’s multiple locations.

-Experience paragliding over the Pacific Ocean at Torrey Pines Gliderport

-Explore Balboa Park’s cultural attractions

-Go bird watching at the Buena Vista Audubon

-Book a luxury picnic on the beach: or

-Take a private surfing lesson at Leucadia Surf School.

-Embark on scenic hikes on the Elfin Forest Trail, Batiquitos Lagoon, or Torrey Pines.

-Attend a yoga class at Riffs Yoga Studio in OB

-Visit a local farmers market for fresh produce:


San Diego’s got it all – from stunning views to loads of choices, it’s the perfect spot for couples looking to tie the knot in style. Whether you’re into beach vibes or rustic charm, San Diego’s got the perfect backdrop for your dream elopement. With a bit of planning and some good advice, your San Diego elopement will be an unforgettable journey into love and happiness. So why wait? Say “I do” in sunny San Diego and kickstart a lifetime of adventure together!

Meet Your San Diego Elopement Photographer

Hey! I’m Salisha, your San Diego Elopement Photographer. I fell in love with photography during my years as a college student in North County San Diego where I took various film and digital photography classes. During my 9 years as a San Diego resident I have explored all over the county and found many great locations to photograph.

More Information on San Diego Elopements and Working With Me :

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