Eloping in the bay area, california
What an exciting adventure you've found yourself on! You get to marry the love of your life in the most magical way you can dream. Whether you're a couple who wants to be extravagant, styled, and planned out or you're the type of couple who are laid back and envision a low-stress celebration - eloping is perfect for you. From dining in 5 star restaurants to picking up In-N-Out and having a picnic by the ocean - this day can be catered to exactly what you'd like. However, now that you've decided to elope (CONGRATS BTW) there's some logistical things you need to take care of to make it a reality. Here's a list of some things to think about while you're starting to plan your elopement!
Hey! I'm Gina Mangiante!
I'm a sucker for a good love story - from Landon & Jamie in A Walk To Remember, to Monica & Chandler from Friends, to Jim & Pam from The Office - it never fails to make me cry -- and inspire me. I want to capture your romance in its true, unique, intimate form. That's why I love helping you plan your day so you two can bask in the presence of each other and let me worry about the timeline and logistics. I'm here to help make your day look exactly how you envision - as crazy or tame as you want!
a quick pre-elopement checklist
- Choose a location and season for your elopement!
- Think about how you want the day to look
- Find a photographer you want to spend the day with
- Research how to make it legal
- Find an officiant
- Book other vendors
- Share with family & friends
1. Figure out Where & When you want to elope
Is there somewhere that has special meaning to you and your partner? Is it a family home, a national park, or a special city? You don't have to have figured out the exact location you want before contacting a photographer and other vendors, however a general idea is a great place to start!
Is there a location that you find so beautiful that you want to be surrounded by it while you vow to spend forever with your love? Like Yosemite, Big Sur, Point Reyes, the cliffs or forests in Santa Cruz, the beautiful architecture and nature in San Francisco, or somewhere else. I love helping my couples find the locations that speak to them! I have an extensive guide of gorgeous places in the Bay Area that I love to share with my couples. So if you're thinking of eloping somewhere in the Bay Area or surrounding locations, I'll be there for you!
Now think about a season. What do you envision for your elopement day? Do you want the yellow, orange, and reds of fall, the cool air of winter, the blooming flowers in spring, or the long, warm days in summer? What season is best for the location you want? We're lucky that San Francisco never really gets too cold or too hot. You won't ever have to deal with figuring out snow shoes or dying of heat. There are certain seasons though that may be better for you depending on what you want! For example, nothing makes my heart as happy as seeing a field of wildflowers, however I know that I won't find that in the fall or winter - so if that was something I wanted to see on my elopement day, I would plan for a spring/summer day to experience that breathtaking view. Think about what you want! I'm here to help! If you have an idea of how you want your day to feel but you're not sure what season is best, I got you! I grew up in the Bay Area so I'm used to the patterns of our weather here.
2. Decide how low-key or planned out you want the day to be
What do you and your partner love to do? Do you love to check out new coffee shops? Eat burritos? Hike? Do exciting activities like row boating at Stow Lake? Go sail boating in the Bay? Sit by the ocean? The list is literally endless. You can do all of these things on your day!
Or, do you want it to look like a big wedding but have the feel of a small, intimate occasion? You can have it styled out with beautiful florals, gorgeous installations, and have a small amount of close family and friends to enjoy your ceremony with as well.
3. find a Photographer you are excited to spend the day with!
Your photographer is the only other person who will be right by your side on your elopement day other than your new spouse! Make sure you click with your photographer - both in personalities and in the style of their work! You want to make sure you trust them to capture your elopement and your relationship exactly as they are. This is also an important step to figure out early on because many elopement photographers, including myself, double as your planner as well! We figure out permits, send vendor recommendations, send you guides on how to make this day happen - we do basically everything we can to make sure the stress is taken off of you!
If you want the day to be solely focused on you and your new spouse with minimal interference from your photographer - then I'm the one for you! I will always help my couples with posing and prompts to make sure they look and feel good, however I focus a lot on the story telling aspect of photos. I want you to look back at your photos and re-live the day vividly. When you look at your gallery I want you to feel how you felt when you looked into your partner's eyes and said "I do." This is why I will often hang back while you have your intimate moments, your silly goofy moments, and your everything in between moments. I also love helping my clients (re: new friends) plan their most perfect day. You can check out my investment page here and contact me here if you think we'd be an amazing fit!! Can't wait to meet ya!
4. Research how to Make it legal
Once you have an idea of how you may want your day to look. Start looking up how to make it legal in the state and county you're getting married in! This is an overview list of what you need, I would advise to look up everything yourself as well to make sure you're golden!
- In California, a marriage license is valid for 90 days. It is a permit to get married, however you still need a ceremony performed by an authorized person and register the marriage.
- The license fee varies by counties. In San Francisco City Hall it is $113 and you need an appointment. Some counties nearby allow walk-ins and may even be cheaper to obtain the license. You can get a license in any county and then get married anywhere in the state - you're not bound to the county you got the license in.
- You also need a legal photo I.D. Here's some info from the San Francisco county clerk office: "Both parties must present a valid, unexpired authentic legal photo identification card containing a photograph, full legal name, date of birth, date of issue, and date of expiration (Examples: passport, driver's license, naturalization certificate, resident alien card, military I.D.) If the legal picture I.D. card does not contain your full legal name you must also present a certified copy of a birth certificate or social security card, showing your full legal name."
- If you get a public marriage license, as opposed to a confidential one, you will need at minimum one witness (and I would love to be your witness!).
- The person who performed the marriage has up to 10 days to return the original marriage license to the county clerk or recorder.
5. Find an officiant
This can be a close friend or family member who can get legally ordained on the internet in just a few minutes! (Just like Joey in Friends!) This could also be a pastor, rabbi, other religious person who the state legally recognizes as a viable officiant. It could also be someone you hire to come perform the ceremony. A quick google search comes up with many results for officiants in the Bay Area.
6. Book other vendors
- If you want florals - from a bouquet and boutonniere to extravagant floral installations - make sure you find a florist who can provide what you envision!
- Book hair and makeup artists to help you look and feel amazing!
- I highly recommend hiring a videographer too! You may think that since you have a photographer, you're all set, but I truly believe videos are so important as well. Photos are amazing to take a moment and freeze it and put them all over your house and send to those close to you; videos are amazing because it shows the same moments come to life. You can see the wind actively blow your hair around, you see the joyful tear roll down your partner's cheek, you see your reactions when you pop and cheers the champagne. I've heard of many people who regretted not getting a videographer so I highly recommend looking into it!
7. Don't forget to let family and friends know!
I know it can be difficult to break it to some relatives that you desire a small, intimate wedding that they won't be able to attend in person. I understand how important family is as well as how stressful it can be to have so many voices telling you what to do, who to invite, etc. However, this is why hiring a photographer and videographer you love is so so SO important. Your family and friends who weren't there get to feel like they experienced your elopement right by your side. I always send sneak peeks within 24-48 hours for this reason (and so you don't have to share some iPhone selfies)! Some couples fit better with the elopement choice. Couples who are care-free, low stress, and want to say "I do" in a way that is more unique to them than a big wedding. Does this sound like you two?