I'm not even sure where to start with Kait and Robbie's Big Sur Elopement day at the incredible Alila Ventana. As an adventure elopement photographer, I only dream of a day filled with the kind of beauty and emotion present during their wedding. Big Sur California radiates a spiritual energy. I struggle to capture what makes it special in words. Big Sur feels wildly romantic. Driving down the Pacific Coast Highway feels a lot like being in a movie. It feels otherworldly. It feels like a true destination; a place so remote you can hardly believe it's in California. I fell in love with Big Sur the very first time I visited. Every time I get to share its beauty with couples, I fall in love a little bit more.
Kait & Robbie's Love Story
Kait and Robbie are a Hinge success story! Although they lived an hour apart, they managed to match on Hinge one fateful day. Kait maintains that he should have been out of range and had to have been driving near her when their Hinge profiles matched. On their first date, they shared beers and got to know one another. For the next few weeks, they met up on weekends. Kait told me within a couple months, Robbie introduced her to his family. His genuine thoughtfulness never wavered from their first meeting. He always followed through and soon enough, they were head over heels in love.
Fast forward several months, Robbie reached out to me about photographing their proposal in Lake Tahoe. We didn't plan for a blizzard, yet it was extremely snowy the day I arrived in Tahoe for their engagement. Robbie meticulously planned the entire romantic proposal. On a snowy beach, he dropped down on one knee. Kait wore his crewneck sweatshirt and zero makeup, but she said yes without any doubts.
What I love so much about these two is the gentle way they treat one another. It felt immediately obvious to me that they hold a deep respect for one another. Not only are they super in love, but they admire and respect one another above anything else.
Planning their Big Sur Elopement
From the moment they got engaged, Kait and Robbie knew they wanted an adventure elopement. Kait always dreamed of getting married in the forest amongst the Redwoods. Despite the fact that neither of them had ever visited Big Sur, Kait and Robbie dreamed of a full destination experience. Lucky for them, I spent months location scouting and plotting their day with them. Kait booked her wedding photographer first (lucky me) and chose a Wednesday in March when Alila Ventana was available. Kait and Robbie's priorities for the day were to have epic photos in Big Sur and camp in the Redwoods. Booking an elopement package at the magical glamping tent in Alila Ventana made perfect sense!
The Rehearsal: Nepenthe at Big Sur
Over the course of the three months Kait and Robbie planned their destination elopement in Big Sur, Kait and I became close friends. When we weren't texting about their wedding, we chatted about Taylor Swift, our love of dogs, and boys. By the time their rehearsal dinner arrived, Kait kindly invited me to their rehearsal dinner as a guest. Also, she lovingly invited me to be a guest in her wedding day cabin the night before their wedding!
I arrived at the infamous Nepenthe for their rehearsal dinner. I met all of their family and friends right away. Every single person present traveled from far away to be there. It felt so special to be a part of such a special gathering. Robbie's brother traveled from England. Their families traveled from across California. I love when a destination wedding becomes a true experience and vacation for everyone involved. We drank cocktails as the sunset over Big Sur. It felt magical and set the perfect tone for their elopement.
The Elopement Day: Alila Ventana Glamping Tents
After waking up surrounded by the giant Redwoods, Kait and I shared the most bomb breakfast burritos of our life before their day started. Kait hired a professional elopement hair and makeup artist located in Santa Cruz, California to execute her vision for a natural boho look on her day. Meg of Nomadic Stylist absolutely nailed it. Meg finished Kait's hair and makeup outside amongst the Redwoods. Kait looked so peaceful as her makeup and hair was professionally done outdoors. Also, Robbie got a haircut by Meg just outside of his glamping tent too!
Kait stepped into her gorgeous crepe wedding gown she purchased at a consignment store with her best friends helping her step into it. She exemplified the fairy ethereal forest bride she wanted to be. Robbie wore an all black tuxedo. His mother helped him fasten his boutonniere and they shared a few sweet moments together before heading off for the ceremony.
The Ceremony on the Alila Ventana Grounds
I have chills when I think about Kait and Robbie's gorgeous ceremony. When planning an elopement or wedding in Big Sur, my biggest piece of advice is to plan your wedding ceremony at a hotel or private property. The Alila Ventana Grounds are expansive and so gorgeous. When you book their glamping tents, you are permitted to use their property for your wedding.
Nestled in a forest grove, Kait and Robbie shared their perfect intimate ceremony with their closest friends and family. A close family friend officiated their ceremony. It felt like time stood still. Kait and Robbie both cried silently as they promised a life together devoted to supporting and respecting one another forever. Their families wept. I cried. It felt like we had our own private slice of Big Sur!
Adventure Portrait Session in Big Sur
As I mentioned above, I spent weeks upon weeks scouring the coastline for the best spots to take Kait and Robbie. Because these two had never visited Big Sur before, I got to play tour guide for them.
One reason why elopements ROCK? You can plan your day how you want to. Since Kait and Robbie had a mid-morning ceremony, we had more than 5 hours of daylight to explore Big Sur. While their family and friends stayed back at Ventana Big Sur enjoying their time, we set off to see the best of Big Sur!
Part One: Bixby Bridge in Big Sur
Driving across the Bixby Bridge is a key experience you can't miss in Big Sur. As a Big Sur elopement photographer, I highly recommend if you are getting wedding portraits done to prioritize safety above all else. Crowds can get overwhelming and busy at this bridge. We parked at a nearby pullout and walked to an overlook. Waiting our turn was no problem because we got to stand there and enjoy the views. For a moment, the clouds parted and the sun illuminated the bridge. Kait and Robbie kissed while enjoying the views and we climbed back in my car for part two.
Part Two: Pfieffer Beach in Big Sur
The illusive purple sand at Pfieffer Beach sounds like it can't possibly be real. I definitely thought that people probably photoshopped or edited photos of Pfieffer beach to make the sand appear more purple than it actually is. However, that couldn't be further from the truth. Pfieffer Beach is not a state park and requires a separate permit and day pass to access. I love Pfieffer Beach mainly because of the stunning keyhole arch and stunning views. Despite high winds blowing sand everywhere, we braved the wind for a few portraits here before driving South down the coast.
Part Three: South Big Sur Coastline
The prior two spots are extremely popular and well known in Big Sur. However, I wanted to take Kait and Robbie somewhere where we could find our own privacy. Kait told me weeks prior to their elopement about dreaming of a first dance privately in a scenic spot to their favorite song. I remember feeling chills run all over my body when she told me their song was "This Is How You Fall In Love" by Chelsea Cutler.
Kait and Robbie's first dance undoubtedly became my favorite moment of the entire day.
Imagine this: you pull over on the side of the highway to an unremarkable pullout. There aren't any cars or tourists around. After walking for twenty minutes through cow fields, you reach a plunging dramatic coastline. For miles, you can see the jagged coast and waves crashing along the beach. The ocean feels expansive and never-ending. The air smells like salt and pure ocean. Every now and then, a slight breeze will blow a slight bit of water on your face even from two hundred feet in the air. Waves hurl themselves onto rocks below. All you can hear is the ocean.
This is how Kait and Robbie shared their first dance.
Without a car or human in sight, Kait and Robbie held one another closely on a Big Sur cliff. I was the only one who had downloaded their song offline on Spotify, so Robbie held my phone in his tuxedo pocket. They danced slowly. The sun set behind them. I cried.
This is moment alone is what makes a Big Sur elopement so damn special.
Advice for Planning Your Big Sur Elopement
- Pick a weekday for your elopement! Big Sur draws thousands of tourists. Weekends are extremely popular and busy, even during the off season. A weekday will offer more flexibility when you're hiring vendors as well!
- Be mindful of poison oak. Poison oak is abundant in Big Sur. I recommend wearing tall socks and close toed shoes if you're going to be hiking anywhere in Big Sur.
- Prepare to have zero cell phone service. This means you need to download all your maps offline and have exact meeting places discussed in advance. Big Sur is a very remote area!
- Weather is extremely unpredictable in Big Sur. Powerful winds are very common in Big Sur. Blowing sand is extremely uncomfortable if you are anywhere on the beaches! Heavy fog and rain is also common in Big Sur. It's best to come prepared with wind jackets and waterproof gear just in case!
My Favorite Elopement & Intimate Wedding Venues in Big Sur!
- Glen Oaks Big Sur
- Post Ranch Inn
- Treebones Resort
- Alila Ventana Big Sur
- Big Sur Lodge
- Big Sur River Inn
- Loma Vista Gardens
The Best Airbnb's, VRBO's and Cabins in Big Sur for your Elopement
- Inspiring Oceanfront Home with Dramatic Coastal Views
- Beautiful Big Sur with pool/spa, close in, best location in Big Sur!
- Modern Cabin Nestled in the Forest
- Quirky Big Sur Retro Cabin
- Luxury Oceanfront Home With Outdoor Tubs & Private Beach
- 5 Private Acres in Big Sur
- Forest Yurt in Loma Vista Gardens
- Spanish Revival Home with 8 Beds in Carmel
- Cozy Cabin in the Big Sur Redwoods
If you love this Big Sur Elopement, check out other blog posts from California!
Stephanie & Alex's San Francisco City Hall Elopement
Heidi & Tyler Glen Oak Big Sur Elopement
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