Thinking about planning a Santa Cruz elopement? I don’t blame ya! Santa Cruz is loved for its stunning views, a gorgeous coastline with access to cliffs and beaches, Redwoods nearby, and, as you’ll see in these photos, the sunsets are amazing! 

I love how fun and freeing elopements are in comparison to large (sometimes stressful) weddings. They’re more intimate and can be personalized just as much as a full-blown wedding. 

And I’m one of those hands-on photographers. So if you need help planning the details to personalize your elopement, I’m your girl. 

In this post, I’m sharing three ways to personalize your Santa Cruz elopement (or anywhere) so the day is focused on fun and connecting with your partner.

In this post, we’ll cover:

  • Choosing a Location You Love
  • Personalizing Your Decor & Incorporating Family Heirlooms
  • Planning a Fun Activity 

collage of couple during their santa cruz elopement on the beach

Hayley and Marko’s Santa Cruz Elopement

This fun-loving and adventurous couple brought the energy and excitement I dream of as an elopement photographer! I knew from our very first FaceTime call that they were down for everything we could squeeze into their day!

Sidenote: All of my clients get me exclusively for the hours they book, so you better believe I squeezed in everything I could in their time frame! I always recommend at least three hours of photography coverage so couples don’t feel rushed, and we can capture everything you want. 

Now let’s dive into choosing an elopement location.

couple kissing under hole in rock on santa cruz beach

Tip One: Choosing a Location You Love for Your Elopement

One way to personalize your elopement is to choose a location you love or one that holds significance for you as a couple. It could be where you had your first date, got engaged, or a place that represents your shared interests.

Not from the area? Don’t have a specific location in mind? No worries!

Hayley and Marko traveled from the East Coast to Santa Cruz for their elopement, so they didn’t have a specific location in mind for their big day. And that’s completely fine! It’s actually one of my favorite things to help clients from out of state choose a location!  

Hayley and Marko loved the idea of having cliffside and beach photos for their elopement, so we went with Panther Beach in Santa Cruz. The location really fit their vibe and had everything they were looking for: cliffs, beaches, expansive views, and a really cool rock with a hole in it that you can walk through when the tide is low.

six photos of couple on beach after their santa cruz elopement
This one location has endless photo opportunities and checked all the boxes that Hayley and Marko!
santa cruz elopement photos of bride and groom on beach beside big orange and brown toned rock

Questions to Consider When Planning Your Elopement Location:

  • What vibe speaks to you? Would you prefer rugged cliffsides and beaches or Redwoods?
  • How far are you willing to travel? Do you want to stay in one general location or do some adventuring off to multiple locations?
  • How private do you want your elopement? Some places are more secluded than others, so keep this in mind (especially during busy tourist seasons). 
  • Do you have accessibility needs? If your elopement will include family and friends, keep this in mind when choosing your location so you get a spot that fits everyone’s accessibility needs.

photos of couple during their santa cruz elopement on the beach
Santa Cruz offers gorgeous, expansive views like this…who wouldn’t want to elope up here!?!
bride and groom celebrating on top of cliff at santa cruz beach
couple walking under hole in rock on santa cruz beach

Next up, tips for personalizing your elopement decor and incorporating family heirlooms.

Tip Two: Personalizing Your Decor & Incorporating Family Heirlooms

Just because you’re eloping in a remote location doesn’t mean you can’t personalize your space. Yes, this goes for outdoor elopements as well. 

Personalized Decor Elements to Consider:

  • Candles (LED ones are great for beach elopements where it can be windy)
  • Beach lanterns
  • Flowers
  • Special Wardrobe Pieces, like Hayley’s jean jacket.
  • Blankets or Linens 
  • Family Heirlooms, like a special piece of jewelry or framed photos.
three photos of couple walking in field after their santa cruz elopement
I always recommend bringing a jacket or shawl of some kind to the beach. This personalized jean jacket was a nice touch. And check out Marko, he was a hoot!

Hayley incorporated family heirlooms by bringing along champagne glasses that belonged to her grandma! How sweet! Was I nervous that I was gonna break the glasses? Yep. Did that stop me from getting these important and sentimental photos? Absolutely not! Ha!

couple at sunset doing champagne toast in santa cruz
I love that Hayley brought these gorgeous champagne glasses all the way from home. It made for a nice personalized touch!
close up photos of santa cruz elopement picnic

That leads me to the third and final tip for personalizing your elopement – planning a fun activity.

Tip Three: Planning a Fun Activity for Your Santa Cruz Elopement

As I mentioned before, elopements feel so much more relaxed and carefree because they’re able to be so customized. Couples get to plan their day exactly how they want it.

I always suggest planning a fun little activity for your elopement day. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, but it can be if you’re up for adventuring around the area!

Hayley and Marko chose to have a picnic together and pop some champagne after their ceremony, and it was gorgeous. I love the details that Hayley brought with her from the East Coast. The picnic basket and the whole setup (besides the wedding cake) were all her designs and ideas.

collage of couple having picnic on the beach after their santa cruz elopement ceremony
collage of couple cutting cake and having picnic on the beach after their santa cruz elopement ceremony

Elopement Activities to Consider:

  • Picnic on the beach – cake, pizza, tacos, s’mores! Whatever sounds fun to you, bring it!
  • Pop some champagne!
  • Roll around and dance in the sand (these make for some awesome photos!)
  • Go fishing or surfing after your ceremony.
  • Romantic first dance! Queue a playlist, and I’ll capture the moments!
  • Go hiking! Redwoods, anyone? They’re DREAMY!
  • Have fun and be playful! These two had so much fun playing in the water and being affectionate.
bride and groom popping champagne at santa cruz beach
black and white photos of bride and groom playing on beach in santa cruz
couple holding hands playing in beach after their elopement ceremony
collage of 3 photos of couple on beach at their santa cruz elopement
black and white photo of bride and groom dancing on beach after elopement

It was so much fun working with Hayley and Marko for their Santa Cruz elopement! They were fun, playful, and not afraid to show their passion for each other. I love photographing love, especially when I see genuine connections like theirs.

santa cruz elopement portrait of bride and groom kissing on giant rocks
bride and groom at sunset walking along large rocks in santa cruz

Need Help Planning Your Santa Cruz Elopement?

Half the fun of eloping is marrying your best friend. But the other half lies in the details that make your day feel meaningful for the two of you. 

I know I’m sounding like a broken record at this point, but JUST DO YOU! Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb and be your wild, adventurous, crazy selves! It’s your big day, and it should feel like it!

black and white photos of bride and groom embracing on beach in santa cruz

Whether you’re a local or coming to California from another part of the world, I love helping couples plan their day. Planning an elopement doesn’t have to be stressful, so I’m at your disposal. I can help you choose a perfect location and send you my list of recommended vendors in the area.

Want to chat about working together? Drop me a line here, and I’ll be in touch!

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