With impressive rolling hills and a sprawling expanse of vineyards, the air in the counties of Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake, and Solano is full of golden light. This popular region in California’s natural beauty and rich food and wine culture make it one romantic place to find yourself tipsy in. It comes as no surprise that many couples are already making arrangements to elope in California wine country.
The whole region is filled with private vineyards, each with its own unique character; a handful of ranches with rich histories; and beautiful hillside homes that can be used as elopement venues. So whether you’re in it for the wine, the culture, or the history, there are plenty of reasons to elope in California wine country.
Where to Elope in California Wine Country?
California wine country is a large region composed of five counties, each one with its own rich history and its own unique character. The vibe of your ceremony is going to vary depending on where you choose to get hitched – so let’s go over the different counties and the best places to elope in California wine country in each one.
#1 – Wedding Friendly Sonoma County
One of the best things about Sonoma is that the county tourism office actively markets it as a wedding destination. There are plenty of resources for weddings, micro-weddings, proposals, and even elopements. Their county website even has a section specifically created to help couples planning to tie the knot.
The local businesses are also fully prepared to cater to the needs of couples who want to marry or elope in California wine country. From caterers to florists, the wedding industry in Sonoma is booming. You won’t have to look very far to find quality vendors for your elopement.
Sonoma also has a generous selection of private vineyards willing to officially accept reservations for elopements and micro-weddings. So, if you’re looking to say your I do’s in an operational vineyard, then Sonoma County is your best bet.
Here are a couple of popular Sonoma County venues you can check out:
#2 – Picture-Perfect Napa County
The first thing that comes to people’s minds when they hear “wine country” is Napa Valley. So it’s surprising to find out that most wineries here actually aren’t open for elopement reservations. A vineyard, after all, is designed to produce and sell wine, and as a general rule, Napa’s vineyards focus more on production than private events.
Don’t lose hope, though. Some wineries may open their doors for an elopement if it’s a small enough party. All you need to do is to ask nicely.
The good news is that Napa Valley has other options that are just as romantic as a winery. From quaint B&Bs to grand boutique hotels, from rustic farms to a garden filled with sculptures, there’s an endless amount of choices for where to elope in California wine country’s Napa County. You can even have an elopement right at the heart of the Culinary Institute of America, which is definitely good news for food lovers.
Here are a couple of spots that we think you should take a look at for your initial survey:
#3 – Adventure-Filled Mendocino County
While Napa and Sonoma are far and away the most popular spots to elope in California wine country, Mendocino County also has something to offer, especially for the adventurous types.
Couples can go horseback riding, hiking, biking in the lush Van Damme and Headlands state parks, or, since it’s a coastal community, go surfing or kayaking in the golden coast just a few minutes after their vows.
The Mendocino Botanical Gardens is a trendy elopement venue. The beautiful garden is located next to the beach right on the Pacific Ocean. So saying your vows there is like a meeting of two very different but gorgeous worlds – just like most marriages.
So, if you want to elope in California wine country but you don’t have your heart set on a vineyard, Mendocino County is a great place to explore!
We rounded up the most popular elopement locations in the County here:
#4 – Lake County Does it All
When it comes to wineries, Napa is the undisputed County. However, it seems like Lake County is following in its footsteps as it’s also slowly gaining a reputation as home to some excellent wines.
What makes it a better choice is that it doesn’t have that Napa Valley premium yet. Lake County has big city vibes with small-town charms. Wineries, since they don’t operate on a scale like in Napa, are up for elopements and even micro-weddings.
The County also has activities other than getting tipsy in the tasting rooms. Family-friendly activities such as bass fishing, canoeing, and cross-country biking are also very much alive in Lake County, all within a few short miles between each other.
It’s the perfect county to elope in California wine country for couples who love to wander and wonder. The county offers many ways to explore, such as hiking trails, motorcycle routes, and bicycle paths.
Notable venues include:
#5 – Quaint Solano County
In contrast to the Napa and Lake County wineries, Solano County’s winemaking industry is mainly family-owned and operated. This means the vineyards are much smaller, and the prices for elopements are usually much smaller than the two more popular destinations.
However, where Solano shines is in how they were able to focus on weddings and elopements instead of winemaking. The venues between the three major locales of Benicia, Vallejo, and Fairfield are just optimized for events such as elopements. They’re near suppliers, relatively cheaper than Napa, and most importantly, just as breathtaking as the rest of the counties.
Jefferson Street Mansion is particularly adept at handling the intricacies of elopements and weddings. As a result, you’re sure to get quality service and beyond.
Venues that couples often consider are:
Getting the Marriage License: Requirements, Validity, and Officiants
California is one of the few states where you can get a confidential or a public marriage license. For some couples, the fact that you can go the confidential route is already a massive plus in why they choose to elope in California wine country. However, each license type has its own requirements and necessary administrative fees.
The fees are as follows:
Confidential – $112
Public – $45
Depending on which County you had decided to elope in, you can apply online or in-person. The license can only be used in California and is valid 90 days from issuance.
As for requirements, all that’s needed are proof of the couple’s identity, that they’re over 18 years old, and, if applicable, proof of divorce too.
Witnesses aren’t needed for couples who opt for a confidential marriage license. However, public license holders need to have at least one witness for the marriage to be valid. Luckily, yours truly, as a wedding photographer, can already serve as a witness.
Officiants, on the other hand, can be tricky. Other than a priest, minister, or rabbi, only judges, retired judges, legislators, or other constitutional officers can serve as officiants. However, some counties have anyone deputized for a day and serve as an officiant. Usually, relatives and friends do this. But, if you want, Off Path’s own Ross can do it for you.
Final Thoughts on Wine Country Elopement
So, whether you’re after an intimate wine tasting tour or an adventure-filled elopement, wine country probably has it covered for you. From the glamorous rolling hills of Napa to the charming small-town ambiance of Solano County, wine country has a rich selection of elopement venues.
So, excited about your elopement in California Wine Country yet?
Then don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at The Off Path Photo. We’ll help you plan, execute, and of course, we’ll immortalize your dream elopement day!