Eloping in Tahoe – tips from a Wedding officiant

The ring is on your finger and the planning has begun! If you’re considering the California side of Lake Tahoe as your wedding destination, I will be sharing tips from experienced and local wedding vendors in hopes they will help you have the best planning experience possible.

My first interview was with Christa Deane, owner of Mountain High Weddings based in Homewood, CA. Christa has over 20 years experience in officiating weddings in Tahoe, from 200 guests to a table ceremony from the garden of her home. We talked about three main topics to consider when planning your elopement either lake or mountainside.

Couple during their wedding ceremony in a lupine field


Did you know there are two types of marriage licenses in California? a public license and a confidential license. A break down of both is below.

You’ll need to visit the county clerk’s office to obtain your license. You must be at least 18 years old. your marriage license may be obtained from any county in California and You’re not required to get married in the county where you purchase the public marriage license; however, you must be married in California and You must file the license in the county where it was purchased; they are valid for 90 days from application.

Public licenses

You must have at least one witness present at your ceremony. There is no age requirement in California for witnesses, however, they must be old enough to know that they are witnessing a marriage ceremony AND be able to sign their name on the official marriage license.

Confidential licenses

A confidential license does not require any witnesses but you and your partner must reside with each other to qualify for a confidential license. The best part? Christa is a state-certified notary, meaning she can issue your license for you saving you the trip to the county clerk’s office!

*if you have public license and no witness, your photographer qualifies as one!

There is no waiting period to get a license but make sure you understand the requirements needed to obtain a license and schedule an appointment with the county most convenient for you.

For El Dorado County (Placerville, South Lake Tahoe) visit here

for placer County (North Lake Tahoe) visit here


opting for an outdoor ceremony, not at a traditional venue? A permit may be required if you opt for a state park ceremony.

California state parks ideal for elopements:

You will need a permit for the following state park locations:

Emerald Bay State Park – (Christa carries a permit for this location) – this is one of the most popular locations around the lake, not just for ceremonies, but for all types of visitors. I highly suggest a sunrise ceremony for this reason and the lighting is simply the best!

Dl Bliss State park – another busy location due to the smaller parking area. However, this is one of my favorite beaches in California and is the perfect location for a small elopement.

Sugar Pine State park– This site is stunning! This does require an application for their Lottery waitlist. More info here.

For more information on getting permits and the insurance that may be required visit the specific state park link I’ve included above and give yourself plenty of time to ensure you have a permit in time for your wedding!

These locations are incredible but there are plenty of other stunning options that do not require a permit. Keep reading for additional details.

You gotta know

Just a few tips to ensure you have the most comfortable experience during your Tahoe elopement.

  • Be prepared for cold temps. South Lake Tahoe sits at over 6,200 feet in elevation. Sunrise and sunset times get chilly. always bring layers.

  • Smoke season is real here. It’s not a bad idea to have a back up plan in the summer months in case there is smoke.

  • Bring a good pair of shoes to get to your location. Tahoe is mostly granite and there’s a good chance you’ll be walking to your location. Simply change into your wedding shoes right before you walk down the aisle. or don’t. Hiking boots or sandals are darling in photos, especially for a mountain wedding.

  • Summer months are extremely busy here. give yourself at least 30 minutes before your arrival time as a buffer for traffic and finding parking. It’s always a good idea to scope out your location a day or two before your ceremony. And I’ll meet you there too!

  • Electing a sunrise ceremony is ideal to avoid crowds. most times, you’ll have your ceremony site all to yourself.

  • winter time can limit the locations for ceremonies. while it’s a beautiful time with snow covered beaches and mountain peaks, there are a few more considerations that need to be made. having local vendors who can help you navigate the elements is highly advisable.

Christa’s advice for eloping?

Keep it simple.

And I wholeheartedly agree!

A favorite location of hers is Skylandia in north Lake Tahoe. It has easy parking, and offers a pier on the beach or a flat area surrounded by pine trees that overlooks the lake for ceremony options. Also, in the winter this is a site that is easily accessible in the snow.

another option for a unique elopement is to rent a house through airbnb or vrbo and have your ceremony there. why not hire a personal chef like fed and full to cook for you during the day? get ready together, (P.S. those images are so romantic!) get married at sunset on a private pier, or a on a boat, or a breath taking mountain meadow or overlooking the lake? There are so many options to make your elopement personalized and unique for you.

Christa is one of the best officiant’s I have had the pleasure of working with. her ceremonies are sincere and you can feel how she cares for each of her couples. she is genuine, knows a lot about the Tahoe area and I am so grateful for her time in helping with this blog post. I highly recommend her to officiate your elopement and I hope to be the photographer to document your beautiful day. Contact me here.

Thank you for visiting and I hope this helps you plan your incredible elopement in Lake Tahoe, CA!

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