Everything goes, you can have a micro wedding that includes a family style dinner under the stars after your elopement or host a multi-day gathering filled with activities, quality time, and your favorite humans – it’s really fun to dream up the ideas! In this blog, don’t forget to download your free checklist of things to ponder when considering a Micro Wedding, and check out the best location list of hidden spots in Northern California to host your guests. 

Table of Contents

    What’s a micro wedding?

    By definition, it’s a smaller-scale celebration that typically has a guest count of 30 or less, and includes the two main parts of a wedding; a ceremony and dinner or reception afterward.

    The best part about having a micro wedding in Northern California is that you can still include your friends and family and simultaneously create a wedding centered around fewer must-have traditions and more intention. Intentional time with each other and your guests, activities centered around connecting, and a scaled-down timeline to ensure there is time to enjoy and take in this day and most importantly, remember it!  

    How to have a Northern California Micro Wedding

    Pick a general area

    Do you guys love the mountains in the summertime or have a special coastal town you go to just to get away? You may want to go somewhere new to explore with your favorite people. Some great areas for Micro Weddings that have a small town, relaxed vibe in Northern California are Mendocino, Mammoth Lakes, and Hope Valley.

    Find an Airbnb, a Unique hotel / Property

    In your search, keep in mind using this as one of your photo locations and the dinner portion of your day. It’s also great to think about the experience of your guests – depending on your guest count, everyone may be able to stay on-site or nearby. Some locations even allow camping for additional guests! 

    Ways to include your family

    Whether you’re inviting just immediate family or including a larger group of up to 30 of your most supportive friends, having a micro wedding is an awesome way to create a space for you to spend quality time with each of your guests.

    • Officiate
    • celebrate with dinner
    • ask specific people to get ready with you
    • Ask people to share a toast story over dinner
    • Not everyone can make it. Ask someone close to you to organize having friends and family, not in attendance send you a video to watch on your special day.


    The options are endless! A Lot of times with small celebrations, everyone in attendance is staying local for multiple days. Search up some local breweries or spots to hang out as a way to kick off the weekend.

    • Adventure activities: these can be a part of your wedding day or even take place the day before
    • Take a hike (to the ceremony)
    • Beach Bonfire (I can help you see if there are local beaches in the area that allow this!)
    • Picnic in a local spot
    • Sunrise Kayak on the lake
    • Zip lining
    • Morning yoga at the resort you’re staying at – invite your guests to come along.

    AutoCamp Russian river is a Northern California Resort that would be a great location for your Micro Wedding

    Best Small Venues for a Micro Wedding in Northern California

    Autocamp Russian River – Guerneville

    If you’ve never heard of AutoCamp before let me introduce you to one of my favorite glamping options! I’ve stayed at all of their Accommodations in California (Russian River, Yosemite, and Joshua Tree) and must say the experience is top-notch! This is a wonderful and relaxing way to have all of your guests staying on the property with you! Each guest or couple would have their own Airstream to stay in. The Russian River property is 15 minutes from the coast! You could have a private ceremony overlooking the ocean or invite your guests to gather with you in the nearby redwoods before coming back to camp for a private dinner.

    • Dog Friendly? Yes! There is a pet fee of $75 and not all sleeping accommodations are pet friendly. 
    • Closest Airports: 
      • Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport  (30 mins)
      • Oakland International Airport (1.5 hours)
      • San Francisco International Airport (1.5 hours)
    • How much does it cost to get married at Autocamp Russian River? $6k+
    • How many guests can you have? 80
    • Marriage License info: Sonoma County

    Cuffey’s Cove Ranch – Mendocino Coast

    Perched high on the bluffs of Elk (just down Highway 1 from Mendocino) sits the first historical home and coastal ranch of the area, where you can stay with 10 of your closest friends and even invite more to camp out in canvas tents on the property. Choosing Cuffey’s Cove as the spot for your Micro Wedding is the option of a multi-day rental, that gives you and your guests a scenic space to retreat and connect for your celebration.

    • Dog Friendly? Yes
    • Closest Airports: 
      • Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport  (2 hours)
      • Oakland International Airport (3.5 hours)
      • San Francisco International Airport (3.5 hours)
    • How much does it cost to get married at Cuffey’s Cove Ranch? $8-12k
    • How many guests can you have? 180
    • Marriage License info: Mendocino County

    Stable Cafe – San Francisco

    Stable Cafe is a quaint resturaunt tucked into San Francisco’s Mission neighborhood, they serve local coffee and a tasty breakfast / lunch menu. By afternoon their patio space can be transformed into a ceremony and dinner space. The garden is filled with pops of greenery and twinkle lights – making the perfect space for a cozy dinner celebration after eloping in one of Marin’s beautiful coastal spots.

    • Dog Friendly? The Cafe is dog friendly, when open to the public. While I would say yes, this is a great question to ask when inquiring with Stable Cafe about hosting your wedding.
    • Closest Airports: 
      • San Francisco International Airport (20 mins)
      • Oakland International Airport (30 mins)
    • Marriage License info: San Francisco County Clerk

    Oz Farm – Point Arena

    This is a real hidden gem tucked into the redwoods of the California coast, the property is filled with cabins and yurts for you to host 30 of your closest friends to stay When having your micro wedding at the Oz Farm, some of the vendor options support the farm by having your florals sourced from their garden and catering options that include locals who have spent time living on the land – the Oz Farm breathes community and is a special place to bring yours!

    • Dog Friendly? Yes, although they do not recommend bringing dogs to weddings. Dogs are not permitted in the community house, domes, or on the beds in cabins. There is a $50 fee per dog.
    • Closest Airports: 
      • Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport (2 hours)
      • Oakland International Airport (3 hours)
      • San Francisco International Airport (3.5 hours)
    • How much does it cost to get married at Oz Farm? $15k
    • How many guests can you have? 100 of day guests, including 30 overnight guests
    • Marriage License info: Mendocino County

    Timber Cove – Sonoma Coast

    Just a 2.5-hour drive from San Francisco, you can escape to this dog-friendly, luxury hotel overlooking the Pacific Ocean with 180-degree coastal views. This is an incredible spot for an elopement just the two of you, inviting a select group of guests to witness your special day or have your full micro wedding starting at 70 guests. Having photographed a wedding of every size here, Timber Cove is a unique and stunning location if you’re considering getting married on the California coast! 

    • Dog Friendly? Timber Cove is proudly a pet-friendly resort, and they welcome pets to stay in any of their rooms. There is a $150 fee per stay.
    • Closest Airports: 
      • Charles M. Schulz – Sonoma County Airport (1 hour)
      • Oakland International Airport (2.5 hours)
      • San Francisco International Airport (2.5 hours)
    • How much does it cost to get married at Timber Cove Resort? $10k+
    • How many guests can you have? 70 guests
    • Marriage License info: Sonoma County

    Olema House – Point Reyes

    With close proximity to the Bay Area, Point Reyes is one of those places you visit and feel like you hundreds of miles away from anything. Olema House is a charming hotel that sits at the entrance to Point Reyes National Seashore and is a lovely setting for your micro wedding or just for getting ready!

    • Dog Friendly? Yes, there is a $75 per dog, per stay fee. If you are venturing into Point Reyes National Seashore, be sure to check out where you can take your four-legged friend.
    • Closest Airports: 
      • Oakland International Airport (1 hour)
      • San Francisco International Airport (1.5 hours)
    • How much does it cost to get married at Olema House? $5k+
    • How many guests can you have? 120
    • Marriage License info: Marin County

    Wylder Hope Valley – Sierra Nevadas

    A laidback mountain resort that sits alone in a stunning valley of the Sierra Nevadas. Away from the hustle and bustle of Lake Tahoe, Wylder is a beautiful property for you to rent for your wedding or as a base camp for your adventures. There’s a place for everyone to stay with a variety of cabins, yurts, glamping, and camping options!

    • Dog Friendly? Yes, Wylder is dog-friendly across the property. $55 nightly fee for all cabins + yurts and $25 nightly fee for RV + Campsites.
    • Closest Airports: 
      • Sacramento International Airport (2 hours)
      • Oakland International Airport (3.5 hours)
      • San Francisco International Airport (4 hours)
    • How much does it cost to get married at Wylder Hope Valley? 3k-15k
    • How many guests can you have? 100
    • Marriage License info: Alpine County

    5 reasons to have a micro wedding in Northern California

    1. If you aren’t local, Northern California is easily accessible for guests with multiple international airports to fly into. Creating ease for your destination wedding!
    2. Variety in locations! We’ve got everything from beaches and cliff-lined coasts to meadows, mountain tops, and redwood forests  – all within a few hours. 
    3. You can have a micro wedding with fewer traditions and more experiences by hosting your guests and getting married all on the same property. Timber Cove, Oz Farm, and Wylder Hope Valley are beautiful and unique locations if you’re wanting this!
    4. California is a huge hub on the West Coast for weddings of all sizes, with micro weddings on the rise since 2020 – there is an abundance of amazing vendors to work with when planning your gathering.
    5. California is known for the hustle and bustle, in a few short hours, you can be deeply rooted in the wilderness filled with peace and stunning landscapes for your ceremony!

    Best time of year to get married in Northern California

    As a northern California Native, I must say we are incredibly spoiled here with the weather and a diverse variety of location types to pick from. Whether you want to get married in the forest, on the coast, or on top of the mountain – there are many stunning areas to pick from. 

    Fall is by far my favorite season here. Late August – October is the best time of year to visit the Northern California Coast with warmer temperatures, sunny days, and fewer crowds. The Sierra Nevada Mountains have beautiful fall colors for a few weeks as well! Hope Valley is stunning in the fall season.

    Winter brings foggy mornings on the coast, and snow in the mountains. If you don’t mind the cooler temperatures – this is a great time for a cozy “California” winter wedding. 

    In the spring, the hills turn green, the redwoods are stunning and the rivers are flowing in the mountains. Late April through May is a lovely time for a micro wedding with a solid chance of nice weather in most places.

    Summer is warm and sunny in all places but the coast! California’s coastline is often socked in with fog. If you don’t mind it being busy out, we sure do have the warm weather. 

    Frequently Asked Questions about Northern California Micro Weddings

    How do you get a Northern California marriage license? 

    Did you check out the section about California Marriage Licenses – all the info here!

    Do you need a permit to get married in Northern California?

    In National and State Parks throughout California, you will absolutely need to apply and pay for permits in order to have your wedding and / or take portraits. You can find more info about State Park and Beach permits here. Permits for National Parks are a park by park basis for their rules and regulations and can be found on the NPS website page for each individual park. It’s important to follow their steps.

    If a National or State park is not on your location list, you may still need a permit for your ceremony. As your photographer, I will be proactive and guide you in the right direction for your location.

    Do you need a planner for your wedding?

    As a Northern California Micro Wedding and Elopement Photographer, I’m here to help you dream up ideas of ways to make your day unique to you, and share awesome vendors with you. I would definitely recommend hiring a planner if your venue doesn’t come with a coordinator.  Having one will allow you to relax and take away the stress of making sure the details you’ve planned are set and everything is going smoothly for your guests.

    What Vendors do I need for a micro wedding in Northern California?

    Must have vendors would be a venue or property (did you check out some of my favorites above?), a Photographer (let’s chat!), an officiant(have a friend get ordained, or I’ll help you find one that’s not cheesy!), private chef, or catering from a local restaurant (once we nail in your location, I can also help you find these). From here you can always add on other vendors but these take care of the necessities for your micro wedding.

    What activities can we have as part of our micro wedding?

    Since Micro Weddings have a small guest count, 30 people or less – creating experiences for your guests is a really fun addition to your celebration. The options are truly endless and vary depending on how many guests you are accommodating. On the coast, a picnic lunch or kayaking is fun. If you’re in the mountains, picking a local and easy hike can be a great way to bring everyone together.

    How to obtain a California Marriage License for your Micro Wedding

    Great news – you don’t need to be a California resident to get married in California and the process to obtain a California Marriage license is relatively easy! You can walk out the same day as your appointment with your marriage license, and be ready to say vows.

    Once you settle on a location, I would look up what county it resides in and find the nearest County Clerk’s office to learn about their application and timeline for obtaining a marriage license.

    You will need to follow the application process and make an appointment to pick up the license at the County Clerk’s office in your county. You are not required to get married in the same county where you purchase the marriage license, but you do have to get married in California – this is true for both a Public Marriage License and a Confidential Marriage Licence.

    A few other things to keep in mind for obtaining your California Marriage License:

    • Both parties must be present and bring a valid picture ID to the County Clerk’s Office to apply for a marriage license in California. 
    • The fees and hours of issuance for a marriage license may vary by county.
    • You’ll need at least 1 witness and an officiant present for the ceremony with a Public Marriage License.
    • If you obtain a Confidential Marriage Licence, you will only need an officiant for your ceremony and to sign the license. You will not need a witness at your ceremony or to sign.
    • The person solemnizing the marriage (officiant) must return the original marriage license to the County Clerk or County Recorder as applicable within 10 days of the date of the ceremony.  

    How to plan an Epic Micro Wedding in Northern California

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