How to Legally Get Married in the Redwoods

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Hi, I’m Megan and your story matters to me. You deserve to break your wedding day from the traditional mold into something that is uniquely you.

I specialize in intimate mountain weddings and elopements and love working with people who are stoked to get married in nature surrounded by their closest family and friends. I am here for you and to organically tell your story. 

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The Redwood Forest in California offers an unparalleled backdrop for your wedding day. With its ancient beauty and serene environment, the Redwoods provide a magical atmosphere for exchanging vows. However, planning a wedding there involves some specific steps to ensure everything goes smoothly and legally. Here’s how you can get legally married in the Redwoods.

Securing a Special Use Permit

One of the first steps to getting married in the Redwoods is obtaining a special use permit. This permit is necessary because many of the Redwood parks are protected areas, and events like weddings require special permissions to ensure the environment remains pristine.

You can obtain a permit by contacting the park where you want to hold your ceremony. Websites like the National Park Service provide detailed information on how to apply. When applying, you’ll need to provide specifics about your event, including the number of guests, setup details, and any special requests you might have. It’s advisable to start this process well in advance, as securing a permit can take several weeks or even months during peak seasons.

When applying, consider the following tips:

  • Be Specific: Clearly outline your plans, including the exact location, time, and nature of your ceremony.
  • Guest Count: Some areas have restrictions on the number of guests allowed, so make sure to check and adhere to those limits.

Finding an Officiant

In California, anyone can become a wedding officiant, making it relatively easy to find someone to preside over your ceremony. You have a few options:

  1. Professional Officiants: Many professional officiants specialize in outdoor weddings and can bring experience to your ceremony. 
  2. Friends or Family Members: If you’d prefer someone close to you to officiate, they can get ordained online through services like Universal Life Church. The process is quick, straightforward, and free in most cases.
  3. Local Clergy: If you’re looking for a more traditional approach, consider contacting local churches. Many clergy members are willing to officiate weddings outside their usual place of worship.
couple reading their vows to legally get married in the redwoods

Understanding California Marriage Laws

Before heading to the altar among the Redwoods, you’ll need to be familiar with California’s marriage laws. Here are the key points:

  1. Marriage License: Both parties must appear together in person to apply for a marriage license at a County Clerk’s office. The license is valid immediately upon issuance and remains valid for 90 days. Remember to bring valid identification.
  2. No Residency Requirement: There is no residency requirement for marriage in California, meaning you don’t have to be a resident to get married in the state.
  3. Age Requirements: Both parties must be at least 18 years old. Minors need court approval.
  4. Witnesses: You need at least one witness present at your ceremony. The witness must sign the marriage license after the ceremony.
  5. Filing the Marriage License: After the ceremony, your officiant will file the signed marriage license with the County Clerk’s office to make your marriage official.

Choosing the Perfect Spot

The Redwoods offer numerous beautiful locations for your ceremony. Some popular spots include:

  1. Muir Woods National Monument: Close to San Francisco, this location offers convenience and breathtaking scenery. Keep in mind, Muir Woods requires a different permit for weddings, so check their specific requirements.
  2. Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park: Known for its dense old-growth forest, it’s perfect for a more secluded ceremony. The lush, green environment creates an intimate setting that feels untouched by time.
  3. Humboldt Redwoods State Park: Home to the famous Avenue of the Giants, this park provides easy access and stunning views. The towering trees here offer a dramatic backdrop that’s hard to beat.

Each location has its own rules and requirements, so check with the individual park before making any final decisions.

Other Things To Know About Getting Married in the Redwoods


The weather in the Redwoods can be unpredictable. While the trees provide some shelter, it’s wise to plan for varying conditions. Layers and comfortable footwear are essential, especially if you’re hiking to your ceremony site. Consider having umbrellas or a backup indoor location just in case.


Ensure that all your guests have clear directions and transportation details. Some areas may have limited parking or require a bit of a hike to reach the ceremony spot. Providing a map and clear instructions will help avoid confusion and ensure everyone arrives on time.


Hiring vendors who are familiar with the area can be a huge help. Florists, caterers, and photographers (like myself) who regularly work in the Redwoods will have valuable insights and recommendations. They can also navigate the unique challenges of working in a natural setting, such as dealing with uneven terrain or finding the best lighting.


If you have guests traveling from afar, consider nearby accommodations. The Redwoods are often situated in remote areas, so booking lodging well in advance is crucial. Look into cabins, lodges, or even camping options for a true nature experience.

Leave No Trace

Ensure that all waste is properly disposed of, and leave the area as pristine as you found it. Whatever decorations and anything else you bring in needs to leave with you!

The Next Step

Once you’ve navigated the logistics of getting married in the Redwoods, the next step is to plan and prepare! If you need some inspiration check out my blogs: Moody Redwoods Forest Elopement and Luxury Redwoods California Elopement. As a seasoned photographer with extensive experience in Redwood weddings, I know how to make the most of this stunning environment.

Ready to book? Fill out my contact form today to discuss your vision and secure your date. Let’s create unforgettable memories together!

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