The Complete California LGBTQIA+ Elopement Guide

Elopements aren’t just about getting married. They symbolize freedom, intimacy, and a celebration of love that defies traditional norms. For LGBTQIA+ couples, elopements aren’t just an act of union but a bold statement of their love’s validity. This form of marriage embodies the spirit of adventure and personalization, reflecting each couple’s unique journey. California stands as a beacon of diversity and progressiveness, making it an ideal location for an LGBTQIA+ elopement. From the sun-kissed beaches to the jaw-dropping redwoods, California offers a spectrum of settings that cater to every couple’s elopement dream. Discover everything you need to know about planning your wedding in this LGBTQIA+elopement guide.

The image shows a scenic view of Yosemite Valley, with El Capitan on the left, Bridalveil Fall in the center, and the Half Dome in the distant background, under a blue sky with scattered clouds.

Why California is Ideal for an LGBTQIA+ Elopement

In California, love knows no bounds. Same-sex marriage has been legal in California since June 28, 2013. I remember celebrating in the streets of San Francisco during the annual LGBT Pride Celebration that summer for this massive win. I can probably dig up old photos wearing my “NO ON 8” shirts showing my support for equality for all.

Our state has been at the forefront of LGBTQIA+ rights, ensuring that legal procedures for same-sex marriages are just as accessible and respectful as any other. It’s a place where love is celebrated in all its forms, making it a safe and welcoming destination for LGBTQIA+ couples planning an elopement wedding.

Understanding Legalities in California

Obtaining a Marriage License in California

Obtaining a marriage license in California is a pretty straightforward process:

  1. Visit any county clerk’s office to complete a marriage license application.
  2. Provide valid identification (both parties must be present).
  3. Pay the license fee.
  4. Plan for the ceremony within 90 days.

Selecting Your Perfect Elopement Location

What’s an LGBTQIA+elopement guide with some lcoation recommendations? California is a mosaic of breathtaking scenery. Here’s a short list of some places we have to offer:

Choosing a location is deeply personal. For a list of my favorite desert elopement locations in California- you’ll find those in this other blog post.

Elopement Planning Essentials

Planning an LGBTQIA+ elopement in California is an incredibly exciting experience. It’s your story to make- and I’m here to help every step along the way. If you’re like me and like having a plan with instructions and ideas follow my guide on planning an elopement wedding. If you’re feeling extra adventurous and leaning towards the idea of adding a hike to your wedding day, read up on my other guide here.

Finding Inclusive Wedding Vendors

Securing vendors who understand and celebrate LGBTQIA+ love is crucial. California leads progressively with a large community of allies, but unfortunately, we do have those who sip on the Haterade. Look for photographers, officiants, and planners who not only understand but also have a genuine appreciation for your story. 

California is home to many LGBTQIA+ elopement vendors and allies who can bring your vision to life with expertise. Check out Equally Wed; LGBT Weddings; and Dancing With Them for a list of inclusive wedding vendors.

Two individuals joyfully holding hands and running along a desert trail with tall, rugged cliffs in the background.

Wedding Attire for Your LGBTQIA+ Elopement

Your elopement attire should be a reflection of you. Whether you opt for traditional wedding attire or something that breaks the hetero-norm, wear what makes you feel true to yourself. Remember, there’s no rule when it comes to planning your LGBTQIA+ elopement. This day is about honoring your identity and celebrating your relationship.

Crafting Gender-Inclusive Traditions

In a hetero-normative traditional wedding, there are a lot of gender-specific roles and rituals. However, we’re here to focus on love and personal expression rather than strict old roles. Take the aisle walk, for example. Instead of just one person walking down to meet the other, opt for a joint walk. It’s a sweet way to show you’re stepping into your new adventure side by side. Or, when it comes to vows, ditch the old ‘obey’ and ‘honor’ stuff. Write your own promises that really mean something to both of you. It’s all about making the day reflect who you are as a couple. And your love doesn’t need to conform to outdated gender norms.

Inclusivity in Guest Participation

Involve your circle of loved ones in a way that feels comfortable. For some, that might mean a small, intimate ceremony. For others, it could be enjoying an elopement day without any guests at all. Here’s a list of unique ideas on how to elope with and without family and friends.

Throw out that extremely outdated rulebook of inviting 300+ people you barely talk to, maybe don’t even truly support you, to your wedding day. Communicate openly and set boundaries if needed to ensure your day remains a true-to-you celebration. Make decisions that prioritize your happiness.

As an LGBTQIA+ couple, you deserve a day just as much as everyone else. If you’re planning your LGBTQIA+ elopement and want to capture every candid moment, let’s connect. Check out my documented galleries and other blogs for more inspiration and guidance. I’m ready to tell your story and hope this LGBTQIA+ elopement guide brought you resources to expand your research.

Here's to co-creating an unforgettable elopement experience.

Here's to co-creating an unforgettable elopement experience.

I’m Karen, a Southern California Elopement Photographer who empowers couples to create memories that will last a lifetime. I am dedicated to providing the tools you need to create an unforgettable experience. 

I help couples by providing personalized location lists, planning resources, vendor recommendations, permits, timeline-curation, and much more to curate elopement days that will be cherished forever.

Your Southern California Elopement Photographer, planning expert, and adventure pal.

I'm here to empower you to create memories that will last a lifetime.

About Karen

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