How to Plan a Malibu Elopement | Jenn Whalen

October 1, 2021

Location Guides, Malibu, Malibu Wedding, Resources

How to Plan a Malibu Elopement

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:

  • Recommended Hotels and Stay Accommodations
  • Recommended Restaurants and Eateries
  • Weather and Best Time of Year To Plan Your Malibu Elopement
  • Best Days of The Week To Elope In Malibu
  • Best Beaches for Elopements
  • Rules and Permits for a Beach Ceremony
  • Top Venues for Elopements, Small and Intimate Weddings, Medium-sized weddings, and Big Weddings

All the best tips, logistics, and some epic locations, plus everything else you need to know when planning your Malibu elopement in 2021.

Malibu is of my favorite places to shoot elopement photography, because I live in the area! Endless golden beaches, incredible coastlines, hiking trails with vista views, many areas along the mountain roads to pull off onto with vista views, incredible estates that let couples host their wedding and elopement and numerous vineyards and ranches that are also available for wedding venues. It’s a boho wedding wonderland, and a dream location for a California Elopement Photographer like myself. Malibu has quickly become a popular place to elope to in California! I’m so excited to share my guide to the area. The when’s, where’s, and how’s that will show you why you should book a Malibu elopement package and elope in Malibu!

How to Plan a Malibu Elopement

If you love natural beaches and the raw beauty of the great outdoors, then you’re going to love a Malibu elopement. And as a California elopement photographer, it’s my job to make your elopement planning easier! So read on to find out how to plan your Malibu beach elopement, discover my favorite wedding locations, and explore a little bit about my packages!

Why Elope to Malibu

From beachside to mountain top, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to majestic elopement spots in Malibu. With nearly 30 miles of sparkling Pacific coastline, sweeping vistas and some sprawling estates mere minutes from the beach. In my opinion, it shouldn’t be why elope to Malibu, it should be where! Because you’ll be hard pushed to find elopement packages that offer more natural beauty than on a Malibu beach, or its countryside in the mountains. And as a California elopement photographer, I can assure you that you will be so inspired with Malibu as its backdrop on your wedding day.

You’ll also find that Malibu offers the perfect place to marry and honeymoon in, especially if you’re a couple that desires an intimate setting for your celebration. Because this small, but lively town offers much more than just its 20 plus beaches. There are many gorgeous hiking trails, state beaches to explore and plenty of surfing to be done!

Recommened Hotels and Stay Accommodations:

$$$$ – Malibu Beach Inn 

$$$ – The Surfrider hotel

$$$ – Calamigos Guest Ranch

$$ – Hotel June Malibu

$$ – Malibu Country Inn

$$ – The M Malibu

There are also several options availalbe on AirBnB and VRBO.

Recommended Restaurants to Enjoy your Wedding Night Dinner!

(Make sure to call ahead and make a reservation for the more upscale restaurants!)

Malibu has high-end seafood restaurants to casual seafood shacks. My personal recommendation is to rent a convertible and drive along PCH to any one of these:

$$$ Moonshadows

$$ Duke’s

$$$$ Nobu

$$$ Geoffrey’s

Low-key fish shacks include:

$ Malibu Seafood Fresh Fish market & Patio Cafe

$ Paradise Cove Beach Cafe

$ Reel Inn

Elopement Wedding Photographer Malibu Wedding Photographer_0229.jpg

Check out more of Brandon and Olivia’s Malibu elopement where they had beach access directly beneath their Airbnb.

When to Plan Your Malibu Elopement

The best part about choosing a Malibu elopement, is, as I said, the excellent weather year-round and no mosquitos! Is it any wonder why it’s so expensive to live here!? So regardless of the location you choose to elope to, there’s a very high chance for favorable climatic conditions for your special day. There’s no wrong time to elope to Malibu, or southern California for that matter! But there are some slight temperature changes and rain percentages throughout the year, and I’ll explore these changes below.

Weather graph of Malibu

I like to divide up southern California weather into two goups: “Summer” and “Cold Summer.” By “cold” I mean, chilly. It never really gets “cold” here, but it’s definitely not bikini weather in the winter months.

As with most areas across the country, spring and summer are one of the prettiest and most loved seasons in southern California. In Malibu spring swings in by April-ish and brings with it bright yellow wildflowers, greener mountains and meadows, warmer temperatures, leading into summer where the visitor numbers picks up. You are definitely going to see greener hills and more wildflowers during these spring months and throughout the summer, it tends to dry up. By the fall months, the hills are dry giving the meadows that “golden” look.

April – October AKA

April Average Temperature 72 High / 53 Low | Average Rainy Days 1

May Average Temperature 79 High / 59 Low | Average Rainy Days 0

June Average Temperature 79 High / 59 Low | Average Rainy Days 0

July Average Temperature 87 High / 64 Low | Average Rainy Days 0

August Average Temperature 87 High / 65 Low | Average Rainy Days 0

September Average Temperature 87 High / 65 Low | Average Rainy Days 0

October Average Temperature 80 High / 61 Low | Average Rainy Days 1

Summer months are the most popular season for visitors in Malibu, and the temperatures stay pretty hot until late October. The Santa Monica mountains can get quite toasty in the summer months, but along the coast, it stays a pretty consistent 75 degrees by the water. For those of you that like the hot summer months and the energy of a lively beach town, definitely consider eloping between June – August. For those of you that prefer Sept – Oct, those two months are also ideal because there aren’t as many crowds and temperatures are still warm.

November – March AKA

While the beaches may be full in summer, fall and winter brings way fewer crowds, but southern California is usually always sunny, even in the winter months. The average number of days that it rains during these months is 3-5 days a month, so rest assured, even if the temperature is in the 50s, you are most likely going to have a very clear and sunny elopement day! You are also much more likely to have a really stunning sunset in the winter months due to having more clouds in the sky!

November Average Temperature 74 High / 57 Low | Average Rainy Days 3

December Average Temperature 67 High / 52 Low | Average Rainy Days 5

January Average Temperature 68 High / 53 Low | Average Rainy Days 5

February Average Temperature 67 High / 51 Low | Average Rainy Days 5

March Average Temperature 77 High / 53 Low | Average Rainy Days 5

Southern California winters are as mild as mild can because it doesn’t even come close to reaching freezing temperatures. However, it can get chilly in the evening as the sun goes down, especially at the beach! I always have a light puffy jacket with me, a hat, and a light pair of gloves – especially in the winter months as the sun is setting! The beaches and trails of Malibu will obviously be much less packed from tourists at this time of year, and the chances of having the place more to yourselves is greater.

Best Days of the Week to Elope to Malibu

Monday – Thursday! Most elopement photographers and venues only allow elopements on weekdays. There are a few good reasons for this. First, choosing a time of the week where the least amount of people will be in that area will be a much better experience for you. Second, if you want to rent a venue for your elopement whether it’s just for the two of you or for a small ceremony with guests, most venues only take bookings for elopements on weekdays because Saturdays are usually booked out with bigger weddings. Each venue is different though and it’s worth reaching out to them if you want your elopement on a Saturday.

Where to Elope to in Malibu

Malibu is, of course, known for both its beaches, and mountains and with good reason. You can have both in Malibu! This is truly unique because not all coastal areas in California have a variety of both stunning beaches and mountains in such close proximity. The two notable ones are Malibu and Big Sur. And Malibu has by far more estates and venues to choose from.

But we can’t talk about eloping to Malibu, without talking first about the beaches! And there are two spots in particular that deserve special mention because they are just so dreamy and my two favorites.

El Matador Beach

Be up early, and you’ll have this incredibly popular beach to yourselves. El Matador has gained wild popularity in recent years for its natural caves and arches with wild waves crashing against the coasts’ stunning sea stacks. My favorite times of day to photograph at this beach are sunrise and sunset. Obviously, there are a lot more people there during sunset. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to find a spot in the paid parking lot, but if not, there’s plenty of free parking along PCH. Be careful though as you cross the road, there’s a lot of traffic along HWY 1 and they drive fast! There are porta-potties before you head down the long staircase to the beach. There are typically no lifeguards at this beach. This beach is not handicap accessible and would not be appropriate for anyone with physical limitations or anyone that has difficulty with stairs. I recommend going at low tide as this beach is quite narrow and can become a little Closter phobic with the other beachgoers, especially if you are trying to have a more intimate elopement experience. (I can help you figure out which times are low tide.) Even though you will most likely have to share this space with many others, El Matador is still one of my favorite spots in the whole world because of its unique features and nothing beats southern California weather!

Point Dume & Zuma Beach

Going a little further north, Point Dume is a uniquely rugged piece of coastline one of the most northern beaches in Malibu with pretty trials and pathways. One of my many reason I love this area is because it hasn’t been overtaken by man-made fences, railings or anything else that photographers find unsightly. They’ve kept it very rugged and I hope that never changes! Zuma beach is an expansive beach offering lots of room for everyone to spread out. It’s perfect for beach weddings for two-person elopements as well as guests of all ages due to its ease of parking and beach accessibility. Point Dume is a unique cliff that you can hike up to, walk along its pretty pathways, and have stunning views reaching all the way to Catalina Island and the Channel Islands. There’s a second more secluded beach that I love going to as well. Point Dume has become one of my favorite spots to photograph at all times of the year. Parking is paid and there’s always plenty of parking spaces in the lot. There are both porta potties and proper bathrooms. At this favorite little area of mine, you can have your ceremony and creative portraits overlooking the beach with views at the top, or on the beach itself. There’s so much variety here!

Malibu Beach Weddings Rules and Permits in Los Angeles County

It’s important to point out that as long as your elopement, or small intimate wedding has 50 or fewer guests with no set-up (chairs, arch, or music etc.), you will not need a permit to marry on a Los Angles County beach.

The beaches here are all technically public, and not private, despite some signs and security cameras you may see in certain areas like the Carbon Beach area where there are many luxury homes built right along the coastline. These have been installed by the homeowners in an attempt to deter visitors from using the beachfront right outside their beach mansion. But it’s also important to keep in mind that not all beaches have public access. Many have staircases that are privately owned. But as long as you can find public access, you are free to roam any beach for portraits! I personally stay away from some of these areas to avoid any altercations. There’s 27 miles of beaches in Malibu, so there’s plenty of beautiful areas for ceremonies and portraits!

Eloping at a Malibu Venue or Estate

The purpose of this section is to give you more information on eloping at a venue. I’ve photographed at all these venues before, the owners and their management teams. Each one is lovely and I would recommend each one of these for different reasons depending on each couple’s needs, budget, and preferences.

Malibu Rocky Oaks

Of all the venues in Malibu, Rocky Oaks is my favorite! It’s dynamic with its brick helicopter pad making for a really unique and accessible ceremony location. I’m looking forward to the day when I can photograph an elopement here where the couples rolls in via helicopter! They also have a rock feature that has become an iconic view of Malibu during sunset. Even when it’s overcast, it’s still breathtaking. It takes a little effort to climb up to it, but it’s definitely doable with some sneakers! You can practically touch the clouds at this gorgeous 37-acre private vineyard, with its 360 degree views of the Santa Monica Mountains, and rolling countryside. If it’s seclusion you’re after for your elopement, this Malibu estate is worth a visit. Because on the hills, you won’t see a soul. Backdropped by a beautiful Tuscan-style villa that’s available to be rented out for your event, Malibu Rocky Oaks is a breathtaking place to gather your very nearest and dearest, and enjoy a romantic sunset together.

Check out these previous elopements at Malibu Rocky Oaks

Jon & Jessica

Cristina & Michael

Hanna & Lawrence

Shelley & Bryan

Deer Creek Ridge

If you’re looking for uniquely looking Moroccan architecture, and spectacular, Deer Creek Ridge Estate will certainly stimulate your senses as it sits ontop and overlooks the ocean. This is one of my favorite elopement wedding estate venues in Malibu, and the perfect place to host a micro-wedding with friends and family. From anywhere on its 4800 square feet (445.93 m²) of mountaintop you’ll be able to enjoy unbridled views of the Channel Islands, Catalina Island, Boney Mountain, and the rugged Santa Monica Mountains from every direction! Their Spanish-style villa is the perfect spot to host your ceremony, and also celebrate, either by their pristine pool or in one of their sophisticated seating areas.

Click here to check out the full story of Amy & Jeff’s small intimate wedding at Deer Creek Ridge.

Malibu Solstice Vineyard

Located on a stretch of pristine coastline, the Malibu Solstice Vineyard is one of the most breathtaking wedding venues in Southern California because it has both ocean and mountain views. A lot of Malibu options have either one or the other. Just like Deer Creek Ridge, Malibu Solstice Vineyard has both. It is the ideal location for couples looking to elope with a few of their closest loved ones because you can rent out this estate and stay the night. Ceremonies usually take place on their hilltop, overlooking the magnificent coastline below, and the sun-kissed Santa Monica mountains off to the right. With a cool, European sophisticated vibe, and a backup ceremony spot inside (for small groups), you can rest assured that rain or shine, you can have your ceremony and wedding at this stunning estate.

Click here to see more of Michelle & Chris’s small intimate wedding at Malibu Solstice Vineyard.

Cielo Farms

Cielo Farms is in the same neck of the woods as Malibu Rocky Oaks and has the same view. It doesn’t have the unique helipad or rock feature, but its property is still stunning. Cielo Farms isn’t a farm, it’s a vineyard and currently spans over 30 acres. Within that, you’ll find a beautiful stone barn with a rustic wood design, surrounded by stunning vineyards, vibrant grass, and pretty trees. It has the same Italian-inspired vibes, but a little more rustic than Rocky Oaks. With an outside space as wonderful, and spacious as this, you’ll want to enjoy it as much as possible. Which is why most ceremonies, and receptions are held in the open air.

Stone Mountain Estate

If you’re a couple dreaming of European-style gardens and landscaping for your wedding day, look no further than the Stone Mountain Estate in Malibu. A dream location for both your loved ones, and your California elopement photographer because this breathtaking estate wow’s from every angle. From the stone swimming pool, to the picturesque gardens, the views expand across the Malibu and Calabasas countryside. This estate hosts its events in the open air on its expansive 60ft helipad.

Click here to see more of Allison & David’s intimate wedding at Stone Mountain.

Malibu Cafe at Calamigos Ranch

Calamigos ranch is well known for hosting big weddings among it’s 4 large wedding ceremony and reception areas on it’s 130 acres of land, so I would not recommend an eloping couple or anyone who’s wanting a small wedding to book one of their large wedding sites as they are going to require a very large food and beverage minimum. However, within the Calamigos Ranch property is the Malibu Cafe, and eloping couples can book the cafe to host their small wedding dinner along with some of their closest family memebers. If you like your luxury along with some rustic vibes, the Malibu Cafe at Calamigos Ranch might be the place for you! Enjoy your evening among the twinkel lights lighting up the branches of the California oak trees, lawn games and chill vibe on the private island. The Calamigos Ranch property also offers accommodation, with 70 guest rooms available and a pool, each with its own Mountain View terrace, so you guests can stay the night! Calamigos is in the same vicinity as Malibu Rocky Oaks and Cielo Farms, but unfortunatly offers no mountain views. Calamigos is better suited for couples wanting a woodland vibe surrounded by incredible California oak trees that are lit up at night creating the most magical atmosphere. In my opinion, I highly recommend having your ceremony at Malibu Rocky Oaks, and then booking your dinner at the Malibu Cafe or one of Malibu’s many Seafood Restaurants along HWY 1, which is about 25 minutes down the canyon road.

Saddlerock Ranch

Saddlerock Ranch has several things going on. First of all, their property is huge, so they have four areas to host a ceremony and reception – all outdoors and one area that includes a handful of vintage airstreams, WV buses and other quirky remodeled trailers to rent out. They also have frequent wine tours. You can book one of those through the Malibu Wine Safari website. These tours are popular for bachelorette parties and general tourism. This property is in the same vicinity as Malibu Rocky Oaks, Cielo Farms and Calamigos. What separates this property the most are the safari animals spread across the property. And of course, Stanley, the giraffe, a retired movie star that still loves getting his picture taken with all that comes to visit him! I hestitage to list this as a featured elopement spot because it’s expansive acerage (and price tag) is set up more for big weddings, but they definitely do not turn away couples wanting to elope or have a small gathering. This beautiful escape surrounded by the nature of Santa Monica and its vineyards will definitely leave you with a lasting impression of Malibu. As a California elopement photographer, I have shot many couples at Saddlerock Ranch, and each of them has cherished its picture-perfect environment spread out over 1000 acres. Vineyards, manicured lawns, ancient oak trees and delicate rose gardens fill this acreage and give it an enviable rustic charm. A charm that is matched only by the views to be found all around from its unique hilltop location.

Inn on the 7th Ray

This venue is in Topanga Canyon, a neighboring area of Malibu. Its the most cost effective if you are wanting to host a dinner here because it’s a restaurant. All the other venues require catering services. This restaurant with its outdoor patio offers a charming woodland garden vibe that’s intimate and quiet! Nestled in a canyon, and surrounded by grand old sycamores, waterfalls, and a flowing creek (when we’re not in a drought)— the  Inn on the 7th Ray is a wonderfully romantic spot to exchange your vows. With five-star food in a natural, garden setting, your guests will think they’re in the South of France! This charming venue is happy to host gorgeous outdoor ceremonies and receptions where you can celebrate in a personalized, natural environment, with three uniquely different event choices to choose from.

Bel-Air Bay Club

I was hesitant to list this venue due to its high food and beverage minimum that’s hard to meet if couples are planning on having a small number of guests but figured I would list it anyway because the food is unbelievably good. This venue sits above Pacific Coast Hwy between Santa Monica and Malibu and is technically in the Pacific Palisades – (not actually in Bel Air) This Italian inspired villa has a clear view of the ocean and these stunning vistas can be enjoyed while exchanging your vows on their lush, lawn overlooking the ocean and waves of the Pacific in the near distance. The building itself is a huge Mediterranean-style 1920s clubhouse, with a charming, private Courtyard, ideal for afternoon cocktails. And once the couple has been toasted, they, and their guests, will be treated to some incredible food prepared by the  Bel Air Bay Club‘s award-winning executive chef.

I hope that this has inspired your search for the perfect Malibu beach elopement location, and maybe given you the info you need to inquire about photography packages. It would be an honor to join you on your adventure elopement, and be the California photographer who captures your big day. If you would like to take a look at some of my past couples, please use my blog, and if you would like to get in touch, fill out my  contact page.

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From hiking up mountains to running into the ocean, I’m ready to capture your big day just as you imagine it. Let me help you create an experience free of stress and full of what matters most to you. 

I’m your California wedding and elopement photographer turned adventure buddy.

Hi there, I’m Jenn!