Big Sur is one of California’s most well-known destinations. That’s quite an achievement in a state that’s full of famous locations. But from the glam and glitter of Hollywood to the elegant romance of Napa wine country, Big Sur stands out for the diversity of its landscape, its incredible views, and its plethora of options for dining and entertainment.
It should come as no surprise, then, that Big Sur is also popular among couples looking for a scenic and romantic place to say “I do.” With its unique combination of mountainous terrain, seaside beauty, and idyllic forest settings, the Big Sur region has something for every couple.
In fact, Big Sur is so rich in world-class wedding locales that anyone thinking of tying the knot there might feel inundated with—and overwhelmed by—all the options. But there’s no need to worry: We’ve done the research and compiled a list of the best places to get married in Big Sur, no matter what kind of wedding you want.
Each year, couples of all kinds flock to Big Sur for weddings of all types. Located along California’s scenic central coast, Big Sur is bordered on one side by mountains and on the other the Pacific Ocean. Famous redwood forests and rambling highways fill the space between coast and mountain crag, making Big Sur as versatile as it is beautiful.
This means that from the most intimate of gatherings to the most extravagant of celebrations, from oceanfront vows to mountainside ceremonies, Big Sur has the location that’s right for you. In this guide, we’ll go over:
Big Sur wouldn’t be such a popular wedding destination if not for the wide range of wedding venue options it has to offer. Sure, the scenery is a big draw, but as anyone who’s ever gotten married can tell you, few things are as important to achieving the wedding of your dreams as area selection.
First and foremost, you have to figure out where on the 90-mile stretch of ocean you’re going to have your special day.
Though tiny, this seaside town in the northern part of Big Sur is teeming with charm. From adorable Victorian inns to a downtown filled with trendy restaurants and boutiques, every inch of Carmel exudes romance.
Carmel might be perfect for your wedding if:
Monterey is kind of like Carmel’s big California sister. A bigger town with more modern offerings, it still manages to maintain the storybook charm of Carmel, while boasting a bit more variety and amenities.
Monterey might be perfect for your wedding if:
Small-town charm meets boundless blue sea in Pacific Grove. With its historic buildings, coastal hiking trails, and delicious eats, Pacific Grove draws plenty of couples for various wedding styles. Bonus: It’s also a pit-stop for the West Coast’s monarch butterfly migration. To invite these beautiful guests to your wedding, book a venue for November through February.
Pacific Grove might be perfect for your wedding if:
While a little more inland, Paso Robles offers proximity to Big Sur, plus a vibrant wine scene. A few corners of Paso Robles even have a little Wild West flair with ranch and barn venues. Wineries, scrumptious restaurants, and sprawling estates make a beautiful base for your special day.
Paso Robles might be perfect for your wedding if:
At the southern end of the Big Sur, San Simeon offers a much-needed rest from the hustle-and-bustle of city life. While the sprawling ocean and hills are a natural stunner, you also have quite a range of venue options, from barns and ranches to lighthouses and literal castles.
San Simeon might be perfect for your wedding if:
Sailboats glide gracefully across the serene blue of Morro Bay. A bustling bayside town, Morrow Bay has drawn nearly-newlyweds for decades. It’s also a hub for watersports, visitors flocking to town to kayak, paddleboard, and surf. The nearby state parks also offer plenty for “land-lubbers,” like hiking and bike rides. Morro Bay offers a variety of venue options, from charming chapels to waterfront restaurants.
Morro Bay might be perfect for your wedding if:
When it comes to Big Sur, there are almost too many options to choose from. But did you know that Zola has an extensive database of pre-screened wedding venues in Big Sur? We take the worry out of booking a wedding venue by connecting you with ones we trust. You can browse these, as well as other fully-vetted vendors, like photographers, caterers, and more—all without ads.
These days, more and more couples are forgoing the big weddings and jam-packed guest lists that characterized nuptials past in favor of more intimate and exclusive gatherings known as micro-weddings. Others are skipping the guest list altogether and eloping—and here’s why:
It’s Less Expensive: If you know anything about weddings, you know they can cost a pretty substantial sum. Eloping or scaling down the size of your wedding can bring the cost down considerably. This is especially attractive to many couples who would rather put the big dollars toward first homes or other investments.
It’s More Personal: By winnowing down your guest list to only the people you’re closest to—or to just you and your partner—you can really make the occasion about the love between you, without distractions. What’s more, elopements and small weddings can be performed virtually anywhere, making it simpler to create a unique wedding that reflects your point of view.
It Can Be Less Stressful: Planning a large event takes skill, organization, and know-how—and not everyone is up to the task. Elopements and micro-weddings can take some of the pressure off, so you feel like you’re simply putting together a small gathering of loved ones.
Whether you opt for the micro-wedding route or choose to elope, if you’re in Big Sur, you’re in luck. From forest gatherings to beachside vows, there are plenty of locations for the occasion you want.
Elopements offer a built-in versatility, sense of spontaneity, and personalization you won’t always get from traditional weddings. And for couples who love the outdoors and the rugged wilderness of Big Sur, eloping at one of the region's gorgeous state parks is an enticing and unexpected option.
The state parks of Big Sur are as varied as the region’s landscapes. Want to solidify your marital commitment under a canopy of Redwood trees? Big Sur has the Redwood Forest Park for that. Always dreamed of having your first kiss as a married couple with the Pacific in the background? There’s a park with ocean views for that, too.
For adventurous couples who want to blend beach views with forest settings for their elopement, Garrapata State Park is the perfect choice. The benefits of eloping here include:
Ocean Views: Located in Northern Big Sur, Garrapata State Park features incredible views of the Pacific Coast, making elopement ceremonies that are just as momentous as a big wedding.
Diverse Landscape: After exchanging vows, you and your partner can make use of the park’s diverse settings for the elopement photos of your dreams. Pose along the many rocky, coastline trails, or make the short hike into the forest, where an idyllic creek waits nestled amongst the Redwoods.
Eloping at Garrapata State Park does require some planning, however. You’ll need to obtain a Special Use Permit from the park at least 60 days before your elopement, and you may have to plan well in advance.
For beachy couples who can’t get enough of the ocean, Andrew Molera State Park can’t be beat. Not only is the beach here known as one of the best surfing spots in the entire state, but it’s also among the most beautiful.
Featuring panoramic views of Monterey Bay and miles of beach, hillside, and meadow trails, Andrew Molera State Park is best for active couples who like a challenge—and don’t mind a bit of a hike.
The park also has:
Camping Area: Outdoorsy couples can tie the knot by day and camp out under the stars by night.
Picnic Tables: The park allows elopement ceremonies for up to 10 people, so if you have guests, you can celebrate with a small, intimate lunch or dinner.
For an inland elopement that trades the coast for the ethereal beauty of the forest, consider Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park offers two options for elopements. Small, hike-in elopements have free-range of the park, which means you can take full advantage of its dazzling, world-famous Redwood groves and romantic forest trails. You can even hike to Pfeiffer Falls for a truly stunning ceremony.
If you plan on including a few people in your elopement, the park will allow you to accommodate up to 25 people in designated areas of the park.
Even if you’re planning an elopement that includes just the two of you and a few other people, it can be helpful to have a wedding website. This can help you stay organized and make sure everyone involved in your big day is on the same page. A customized wedding website with Zola allows you to:
Eloping doesn’t have to mean trekking out into the forest to say “I do.” In fact, many couples who choose to elope still opt to do so in more traditional venues.
Many of the Big Sur wedding venues on this list are also excellent choices for couples who want to elopement, like:
Loma Vista Gardens: The intimate scale of Loma Vista and the versatility of its outdoor settings combine to make it the perfect elopement location.
Ventana Inn: The romantic seclusion of this premium resort means you and your partner can spend the first days of your new life as you’re meant to—together. Plus, Ventana Inn’s Sur Vista is small and exclusively for exchanging vows, which is perfect for an elopement ceremony or intimate weddings.
Glen Oaks Big Sur: With its secluded cottages and cabins, private fire pits, and luxurious bedding and bath products, Glen Oaks Big Sur is the perfect location for couples who want their Big Sur elopement with a heaping side of romantic getaway.
Whether you’re having a traditional ceremony, a micro-wedding, or an elopement, there’s a good chance that at least part of your wedding will take place in the great outdoors. That means you need to think about the weather when planning your nuptials.
Fortunately, Big Sur is known for its relatively mild climate, which means the weather is pretty moderate year-round. Still, it’s generally agreed that the best time of year is between April and November, with the summer months being prime. If you’re hoping for a private function, consider avoiding those prime summer months, opting for either early spring or late fall for your wedding.
Also, keep in mind that Northern California is known for unpredictable weather that can change on a whim. If you’re planning an outdoor wedding in Big Sur, be prepared to adjust and go where the wind takes you.
When it comes to planning your wedding, organization is key. From finding a venue, to finalizing your guest list, to setting up your wedding registry, there are a million things to do—and precious little time to do it.
That’s where Zola comes in. As a premier wedding planning website, we’re here to help you pull off the wedding of your dreams—without pulling out your hair. Among the many tools and resources we offer are:
Custom Wedding Websites: With Zola, you can craft a wedding website that matches your aesthetic. Our websites are simple to use and easy to build. Just choose a design from over 250 options, personalize it with your own details, photos, and stories, and share the URL with your guests. Easy!
Pre-Screened Wedding Vendors: Browse our ad-free database of fully-vetted, pre-screened wedding venues, caterers, photographers, and more. It’s the best way to avoid any unpleasant surprises on your wedding day.
Guest List Manager: With Zola, you can manage every aspect of your guest list right from your website. Add guests, organize mailing addresses, create seating charges, and manage RSVPs all in one place.
Custom Wedding Albums: Zola offers an easy and convenient way to keep your most treasured wedding memories in one place with our customizable wedding album options. You can choose from our Classic, Premier, and Deluxe templates, and add and arrange photos for a truly magnificent keepsake to commemorate your big day.
Zola believes that everyone deserves the wedding of their dreams. We’re here to help you make those dreams a reality.