Lake Tahoe Elopement Guide
Nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, on the border of California and Nevada, is Lake Tahoe - a crystal clear blue oasis surrounded by mountain peaks and dense forests, with hiking trails, overlooks, and scenic views that could be explored forever! For any couple who wants a wedding experience that’s unique and one that actually feels like them, a Lake Tahoe elopement might be just the thing. Keep reading to learn all about Lake Tahoe, and how to elope there!
Set an Elopement Date
When you decide on a Lake Tahoe elopement, one of the first things you’ll need to do is set a date! This will depend on a few factors.
Lake Tahoe Weather
Weather is one of the biggest considerations when it comes to choosing an elopement date. You can plan a Lake Tahoe elopement any time of year, but your experience will be very different!
In the winter, Tahoe is a popular skiing destination. The lake turns into a winter wonderland, and the surrounding mountains are perfect for hitting the slopes. If you want to elope in the snow, this is a beautiful time of year!
In the spring, snow begins to melt and winter crowds fade away. Many higher elevation areas do remain blanketed in snow into summer, but most of Lake Tahoe will be easily accessible by May. The weather begins to warm up, though there are occasional chilly days and snow flurries.
Summer is the most popular time to visit Lake Tahoe, as the weather is warm and the lake is perfect for swimming, kayaking, paddle-boarding, and even diving. This is the best time to elope if you plan to hike, or to enjoy the water!
Fall can be a great time to elope as well, especially in the beginning, when crowds begin to thin out but temperatures are still warm. You’ll get to experience lake Tahoe as the forest erupts into shades of orange and yellow, and you might even catch the first snowfall of the year.
Summer is the most popular time to visit Lake Tahoe, followed closely by winter. You’ll probably want a little more privacy for your elopement, so I recommend tying the knot in the off season. If you elope in the spring or fall, you’re more likely to be able to find a secluded spot! Weather can be a little more unpredictable, so be prepared, but you will enjoy crowd-free trails!
I always recommend eloping on a weekday - Lake Tahoe is busiest on the weekends, so by eloping during the week, you’ll get a little more privacy as well. A sunrise ceremony is another great way to ensure you get the place (mostly) to yourself, and when you get to watch the sun come up as you say your vows, I promise you’ll forget all about the early wake up call!
Choose an Elopement Location
There are tons of beautiful places around Lake Tahoe where you can elope - for a more complete list, you can check out this post of some of my favorites, but here are a few ideas to get you inspired!
Logan Shoals Vista
This short, quarter mile trail is located on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe. It’s an easily accessible trail that ends in a stunning vista of the lake, with pine trees surrounding you and mountains in the distance. When you reach the end, you can descend a little on the rock scramble to get to the water, and walk lakeside!
Baldwin Beach is a large, spacious lakeside area with amazing views of Mount Tallac. The water here warms up quickly, so it’s a great swimming beach, and you can even rent a kayak and paddle to Emerald Bay!
For couples who want some more adventure on their elopement day, you can start at the Glen Alpine trailhead and hike to Aloha Lake. The hike is 12 miles roundtrip, and gains almost 2,000 feet of elevation - so it is a challenging one, but so rewarding. On the way, you’ll see smaller lakes and wildflower meadows, and the destination is a rocky shore overlooking the clear blue water of Aloha Lake.
The Legal Stuff
Because Lake Tahoe is on the border of California and Nevada, marriage laws will differ slightly - so once you know where you’re eloping, make sure you’re researching the right state!
Your marriage license needs to be obtained in the state your ceremony will take place in. Whether it’s Nevada or California, you will need to visit any county recorder’s office in the state.
In California, the closest office to Lake Tahoe is El Dorado County. On their website, you can apply online ahead of time, but you will need to make an appointment to appear in person to pick up your marriage license, and most other counties will have a similar process. You’ll need to bring photo ID, along with cash for the license fee, to your appointment. The fee varies by county, but in El Dorado it is $85. Once you get your marriage license, there is no waiting period - which means you can get married the same day! But, it does expire after 90 days.
If your Lake Tahoe elopement takes place in Nevada, the closest office is in Douglas County. They issue marriage licenses by mail, so you don’t need to come in person! You can find the application here, with instructions for mailing it in. With your application, you’ll need to mail copies of both your photo IDs, and a check for $34. Nevada has no waiting period, and marriage licenses are good for one year.
Both California and Nevada require an officiant to sign your marriage license. You have a few options for this! You can have a friend or family member perform your ceremony. Getting ordained is quick and easy on ULC.org, and can add a personal touch to your ceremony!
As a photographer who specializes in elopements, I offer all inclusive elopement packages, with my husband as the officiant! So you don’t have to worry about finding someone who’s up for whatever adventure you have planned - we’ve got your back!
Both states require one witness - but the only requirement is that they be over 18, which means I can double as a witness on your elopement day! You can ask any of your vendors to sign, or even find someone at your elopement location.
There are many different parks, trails, and recreation sites around Lake Tahoe, and permit requirements vary. After you have your elopement location picked out, make sure to do some research and get the right permits! You definitely don’t want to be kicked out by a park ranger on your elopement day
Hire Your Elopement Vendors
Hiring a team of elopement vendors will take so much pressure off of you - because planning even a small ceremony can be stressful! Luckily, I know someone who can help… hint, hint, it’s me! As a photographer who specializes in adventure elopements, I also help with the planning process, from location recommendations to building a timeline - because I know how stressful the whole wedding thing can be, and I want your elopement to be absolutely perfect! My husband helps out as my second shooter, officiant, and musician, and all inclusive elopement packages make this is easy as possible for you!
Book Flights and Lodging
Especially in the summer and winter, lodging in Lake Tahoe books up fast. Booking flights and accommodations early ensures you get to stay close to your elopement location, and that you get the best deals!
There are some small airports close to Lake Tahoe, but your best option for flying will be the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. This major airport has frequent flights from all over, so you’ll have no problem finding a flight! Once you land, it’s an hour to two hours (depending on where you’re headed) to get to Lake Tahoe.
Where to Stay
Whether you want to rough it and camp, or level up with some glamping, or stay in a luxury resort, there are plenty of amazing places near Lake Tahoe. Finding somewhere to come back to after a day of adventuring is so important, so pick a place that will feel cozy! Check out this tiny home for a quaint, homey stay, or this luxurious resort to spend your elopement relaxing by the water.
Ready to Elope in Lake Tahoe?
If you’re ready to start planning your Lake Tahoe elopement, you’re going to need an adventure buddy, and a planning assistant! I guide my couples through the entire process, to ensure your day is perfect, and unique to you - and that all you have to worry about is getting married to the love of your life. If you’re ready to elope, contact me!