The Ultimate Guide to Eloping in Tahoe, California

The Ultimate Guide to Eloping in Tahoe, California

Aug 8

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Beautiful Blue Tahoe, California, brings in approximately 2.7 visitors per year. When we first heard that statistic, we thought, “okay, yes, that makes sense. Tbh we would visit Tahoe 2.7 million times per year all by ourselves if we could.”

Tahoe is a paradise preserved in time. Sugar Pines and White Firs occupy every square foot of free space, cozy local restaurants and coffee shops wait around every corner, the locals are friendly, the water is crystal clear, and the air is so fresh it’ll make you want to say “aaaaaaah” and twirl around like a happy ballerina every time you step outside.

For centuries, Tahoe served as a valuable area for Native tribes for collecting medicinal plants, fishing, hunting, and gathering. The lush and booming ecosystem sat almost entirely unoccupied for years (aside from seasonal foragers) due to its harsh and snowy winters. In February of 1844, however, John C. Fremont officially founded Lake Tahoe on his way west. It wasn’t until the 1860s when a nearby silver rush drew in an influx of settlers. As a result, the lumber industry in Tahoe began flourishing. The population saw a steady rise, and people started noticing the endless opportunities for tourism in the area.

In almost no time, Lake Tahoe morphed into a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and nature-lovers alike. Cozy little cabins began popping up in the area, the local outdoor industry took off, and the picturesque beaches started seeing more summer visitors. Eventually, Lake Tahoe became the world-renowned destination that it is today – a winter wonderland, a summer paradise, an outdoor-lover’s dreamscape, and a lively hub of entertainment and the arts.

Why should you elope in Tahoe?

It’s impossible to visit Lake Tahoe without feeling the romance of this beautiful town. Its serene beauty, local warmth, and endless opportunities for intimate ceremonies in the great outdoors make Tahoe one of the country’s ideal elopement locations. In a time where the outdoors (and elopements) are growing exponentially in popularity, it’s a rare and priceless experience when one finds an elopement location that’s both stunning and secluded.

We know you may not need this reminder, buuuuuut we’ll go ahead and give it to you anyway …

THIS IS YOUR DAY. All yours. Your elopement can (and should) be precisely what you want it to be. You deserve an experience that is effortless, magical, and entirely stress-free. If you can say “I do” in a gorgeous, intimate ‘lil corner of the universe all to yourself, why wouldn’t you?

The seemingly endless natural beauty of Tahoe offers venue options to make every sort of nature-lover swoon. Fragrant pines, crystal clear waters, lush forest floors, sandy beaches, and granite cliff lines. So anywho, what we’re trying to say is this: honestly, we’re not sure how Tahoe couldn’t be perfect for your elopement. Maybe if you think nature is hideous and terrifying? If that’s the case, don’t go to Tahoe. Its flawless and unparalleled beauty will probably gross you out. Plus, there are elopement options in Tahoe that’ll fit any elopement style. How much more win-win can a place get?

Tahoe offers every couple a unique and intimate setting for their elopement.

Permits & Restrictions

For weddings and elopements on both the Nevada and California sides of Lake Tahoe, there’s some red tape you’ll need to be mindful of.

We know, we know. Permits = Yawwwwwn. BUT if you don’t get the proper permits before eloping in Tahoe, you could face serious repercussions.

Repercussions? On your WEDDING DAY? Oh no, you don’t have time for that, so let’s just go over what you’ll need to be mindful of beforehand, so you don’t have to stress about it on your big day.

Photography Permit

The first thing you and your photographer/videographer will need to be mindful of is your Commercial Photography Permit. Discuss this with your photographer as they may already have an annual permit for the area, but if not, you’ll need to work together to fill out a permit application. The cost can range widely (anywhere from $50 – 3,5000) depending on your event’s size and complexity, but for an elopement, the number will likely be on the lower end. There’s also the option to reserve an area of National Park land for an additional fee of $100, but this will need to be addressed with the site’s National Park offices. To learn a bit more about this process and begin your application, follow these links: [California Film & Photography Permit Information, Nevada Photography Permits]

Special Use Permit

Depending on where in the area you’re interested in holding your ceremony, you may also be required to obtain a Special Use Permit beforehand. This typically costs around $50, but it is subject to increase depending on your event’s size, as with the Commercial Photography Permit. To get the proper Special Use Permit, you can visit both the Lake Tahoe Basin Management and Nevada State Parks websites.

If all this permit/red tape business gives you the heebie-jeebies, we don’t blame you. If you and your partner want an elopement experience that feels completely effortless, we highly recommend hiring an all-inclusive elopement service for your day. That way, all the logistics get taken care of while you can focus on being present and enjoying yourselves.

“Red tape? Never heard of her.” – You, when you hire an all-inclusive elopement service.

How far in advance should you plan a Tahoe elopement?

The most beautiful thing about elopements is that no two ever look the same. Sure, you can elope in the exact location as another couple, wear the same dress as another bride, or even walk down the aisle to the same song. But there’s so, so much more to it than that. Every couple values and prioritizes something unique in their day, which means your planning process will likely be just as one-of-a-kind as your wedding day itself.

The amount of time you’ll need to plan your Tahoe elopement will rely primarily on your location, your vendors, and how much stress you and your partner are willing to take on yourselves. If you need to reserve a location or obtain a permit beforehand, you won’t be able to move forward until that’s complete and you have an official date.

Once you have a date set, the gears really begin to turn. Typically, we recommend that my clients allow a minimum of one month for their permits to finalize (however, it’s always best to call the NPS office and ask them for an estimate, because this varies depending on the season). Your next steps will likely include booking and organizing your vendors (photographer/videographer, officiant, etc.) and beginning some of the detail work. Some vendors can get booked up for 1 or more years in advance, so please be sure to have backup plans and keep an open mind!

The most important thing to keep in mind while planning your elopement is YOU. This is a day to celebrate your love and partnership, so allow yourself all the time you need, and please don’t pile on any unnecessary stress. If you’re not psyched on the idea of taking on all the planning and coordinating everything yourselves, we suggest leaving it to the professionals so you can sit back while all your elopey perfection comes to life without a hitch.

There is no wrong season to elope in Tahoe!

Where to elope in Tahoe

Donner Lake

Love the idea of Lake Tahoe magic, but hate the idea of the Lake Tahoe beach crowds? Boom. Donner Lake. This place is stunning, has a widely varying landscape, and isn’t nearly as tourist-filled as Lake Tahoe itself. Do you like caves ‘n rocks? Donner Lake’s got those. Do you like snow-capped mountains? Yep. Got those too. The water here is (you shouldn’t even be surprised by this at this point) crystal clear as well, which makes a visit to Donner Lake feel like a step back in time. The natural beauty of this area feels perfectly preserved — we just love it!

Tahoe is one of our favorite places in the world for a dreamy winter wonderland elopement!

Emerald Bay

Holy smokes. We hope your socks are snug enough because Emerald Bay will blow those puppies straight off. This location is the definition of picturesque Tahoe beauty, offering its visitors what’s arguably the most ideal view of the lake. Emerald Bay is (surprise!) a bay, but … it’s not like other bays. Crystal clear blue waters, panoramic mountain views, smooth mounds of granite boulders, and forested hideaways await you and your lovebird at this iconic location.

Zephyr Cove

Some couples are overwhelmed by the options Tahoe has to offer. Can’t choose between a forested wonderland, striking granite formations, and enchanting lake views? Don’t. Just go to Zephyr Cove and get a taste of it all instead! In fact, Zephyr Cove is featured on almost all of Lake Tahoe’s postcards. Yep. It’s postcard material. It’s simply that good.

Sand Harbor

“Is this real life?” – us, at the top of our lungs, every time we visit Sand Harbor.

This spot is bonkers. The harbor reaches out toward the center of Lake Tahoe, creating an immaculate peninsula of white sand and pine trees. The center of this scooping peninsula makes a beautiful, secluded cove. This location is nothing short of breathtaking.

Sugar Pine Point State Park Pier

MAJOR summer camp vibes, but like, make them into a Bob Ross painting. There’s no other word for this location than “dazzling.” Yes, yes. It really does bring an absurd amount of razzle-dazzle to the table. It’s one of the countless gems of Tahoe, and depending on the time of year (and day) you choose to elope, it’s possible there won’t be a single soul around you when you’re there.

Tahoe Paradise Park

Tahoe Paradise Park offers an amazing elopement package that’s practically impossible not to be tempted by. If you plan on having 20 or fewer guests in attendance, you need to check this place out. Private, stunning, and affordable – oh yes. Plus, you could get married beneath a 1,000-year-old Juniper tree. HOW NEAT IS THAT?! 1,000 YEARS OLD. and the crowd goes wild

Regan Beach West

Located in South Lake Tahoe, this spot is perfect for anyone who wants to ensure they can get an elopement venue all to themselves. Eloping at Regan Beach West is a great way to get a slice of Lake Tahoe beachiness all to yourself. White sand, blue water, clear skies. What more could you want?

Eagle Rock

Eagle Rock is a spectacular lookout point located on the West Shore. There’s no better word for this location than grand. This location is aptly named, because every time we’re up here we kind of feel like we’re flying over the world like an eagle. You may think we’re being dramatic, but you’ll just have to trust us on this one. You and your partner can soak up sweeping views of Lake Tahoe, with an endless expanse of mountains and pines in the background. If you’ve ever wondered what it would feel like to be king (or queen) of the world, now’s your chance.

Logan Shoals Vista Point

Similar to Emerald Bay, this location offers an absurdly gorgeous view of Lake Tahoe. There are a couple of options here for spots to elope that can cater to differing needs. The first is a private rock enclave that’s just a short walk off the main path — ideal for an intimate ceremony with no crowds, and lots of mushy lovey love. The second option, although in a public area, still offers some seclusion as it’s tucked away from the tourist traffic. The second option is more conducive to larger groups, and both locations are ideal for catching a life-changing sunset over lovely Lake Tahoe.

Glacier Meadows Trail

Glacier Meadows Trail, or Narnia, for short.

If you’ve never walked through a forest that you were 99% sure was full of magical creatures, now is your chance. Glacier Meadows Trail has a sort of peaceful, serene energy to it. Lush forests, a peaceful glacial lake, hidden ponds, and countless secluded corners to sneak away to and tie the knot. This spot tends to resonate well with the lovebirds who can’t decide between prioritizing privacy and natural beauty when choosing their elopement location. Soooo, why not have both?

Secret Cove

This spot is a straight-up dreamscape at sunrise. It’s less than a mile walk in, with stunning rock features and clear blue water. We could try to describe the beauty of Secret Cove to you, sure … or we could just show you these photos because they speak for themselves.

When is the best time to elope in Tahoe?

The best time to elope in Tahoe is … drumroll … all the time.

This place will rock your socks off 24/7/365 — we can promise you that. That’s one of the (many) beautiful things about this city. Whether you’re a winter weather fanatic, a summer lover, a springtime wildflower frolicker, or a flannel rockin’ autumn enthusiast, you’ll have no troubles finding a corner of Tahoe perfect for your season of choice.

Summer

We should note that summer is the busiest season of all, but even so, we have some tricks up our sleeve for ensuring our clients find some seclusion and intimacy for their elopement during the tourist season. If you’re wanting to elope in the Tahoe front country during the summer, a sunrise ceremony is the way to go! In general, however, if you want to skip the crowds, Tahoe in the summer season is packed with tourists.

Fall

The fall in Tahoe is still busy (until the first snowfall, typically), but less so thanks to school being in session. There will always be crowds here, of course (because DUH, it’s Tahoe), but this season tends to be fairly quiet and offer couples plenty of options for a peaceful, private ceremony. If your priority is warmth and sunshine, then we’d better warn you that fall in Tahoe can get quite chilly! You can still take a dip in those crystal clear blue waters, though. We won’t stop you (in fact, knowing us, we’ll probably egg you on to do it).

Winter

This season simply doesn’t get enough credit. If you’re dreaming of saying “I do” in a winter wonderland, then cozying up in a ski lodge with some hot cocoa afterward … there’s no place better than Tahoe. Tahoe still sees an influx of tourists during winter sports season, but the crowds are nothing compared to the summer months.

Spring

Springtime in Tahoe, as with many locations, offers a little bit of everything (in other words, it can be a bit unpredictable). Early spring is still chilly and more often than not snowy, which means there are far fewer tourists in the area. Then as everything begins to defrost and warm up in late spring, you can bask in the sunny, summery goodness of Tahoe without the huge crowds!

If you need help picking your ideal time for eloping in Tahoe, we highly recommend hiring a vendor team that’s familiar with the area. They can be your library of wisdom! Use your team as a resource for picking a location and season that best suits your priorities.

Best places to eat in Tahoe

At this point in our blog, you probably won’t be too shocked to hear that Tahoe has some outrageously top-notch dining options for you to enjoy. We’ve organized some of our favorite options below by general dining experience!

Fine Dining

Casual Dining

Cocktail Bars

Breweries, Distilleries, and Wineries

Lodging in Tahoe

Tahoe is a big tourist hotspot, which of course can have its downfalls, but man, when it comes to lodging it’s a huuuuuuge plus. There are so many lodging options here to fit all budgets and tastes. Take a look at some of our personal favorites below …

P.S. Please keep in mind that these lodging suggestions are for couples, which means we haven’t included any options for large groups. If you’re wanting to invite guests to your elopement and are suggestions for lodging options to house bigger groups, we’d recommend looking through Airbnb or VRBO!

Airbnbs & VRBOs

Resorts

Hotels

Camping

Why should you hire an all-inclusive service for your Tahoe elopement?

When you choose to elope, you choose to simplify your wedding day. No crazy venues, no DJ, no acrobats and tigers or whatever it is that traditional weddings include. By simplifying your day, you can focus wholly on the thing that matters most: your love. No stress, no last-minute disasters involving centerpieces or cupcakes, just romance, adventure, and unfiltered togetherness.

By hiring an all-inclusive service for your Tahoe elopement, you’re choosing to prioritize being fully present with your partner throughout the experience. All-inclusive elopement services are essentially a one-stop-shop for making your dream day happen. Photography, videography, planning and coordination all in one. Your team will take care of the design, the logistics, the permits, and everything in-between so you and your partner can enjoy your engagement fully.

The logistics, timing, and potential opportunities for red tape are stressors that still arise even in an elopement. Why bother with them? If you have a team that knows what they’re doing, there shouldn’t be any opportunities for potential hiccups in your day (weather permitting, of course). We’ve heard far too many tragic stories about forgotten permits, unbooked locations, getting lost, etc., not to know how important it is to be experienced and well-prepared. We’ll just say it one more time for the people in the back: YOUR ELOPEMENT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE STRESSFUL. MAKE IT EASY FOR YOURSELVES, LOVEBIRDS, AND HIRE A TEAM OF EXPERIENCED PROFESSIONALS.

In addition to lifting the stress from your day, your team should know how to respect and maintain the environment you’re in. As a Leave No Trace (LNT) aware team, Ascend Together provides each of our clients with the education and guidance to experience their location without impeding its natural growth and beauty. Practicing LNT principles is an important part of our process because we want to continue enjoying these stunning places FOREVER! It’s the least we could do for Mama Nature.

Thank you for coming to our TED Talk.

And last but not least …

We hope this blog was helpful in showing you a bit more about what an elopement in Tahoe may look like. If you’re still on the fence, feel free to drop us a line so we can chat! If you’re still looking for a vendor team for your big day or you’re ready to start making your stress-free elopement a reality, feel free to view our all-inclusive elopement packages by following this link. Happy elopement planning!

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