How to Get Married in the Redwoods

From cathedrals of ancient trees haloed by the morning light to rugged windswept coastlines cloaked in fog, the Northern California redwood COast Is a dream wedding location.

Over the last eight years I’ve had the privilege of documenting elopements and intimate destination weddings in redwood groves across Humboldt County. From the storied forest moon at Grizzly Creek to secluded ceremonies in Redwood National Park, I’ve photographed adventurous, intentional couples as they celebrate their marriage in thoughtful and creative ways.

Redwood wedding portraits in Founders Grove.

Best Season for a Redwoods Wedding

Weather will always be a wedding variable whatever the time of year. From Memorial Day through October, Redwood National Park and Humboldt State Redwoods fill with summer vacation crowds. Even during the summer months, many visitors are surprised by the coastal chill and scramble to find clothing appropriate for the cool climates.

During the low season from late October through April, rain is definitely a factor. However, the redwood canopies filter your average rain shower and clear umbrellas are an antidote to downpours. Rainy days require a little more preparation than their sunny counterparts but they also result in misty, moody images where the foliage and ferns are often at their most vibrant. This season has the added benefit of less onlooker traffic.

Best Time Of Day For A Redwoods Elopement

Light in the redwoods is constantly shifting. If you are morning people, schedule the ceremony a couple of hours following sunrise. Mornings have the added bonus of less visitor traffic. Likewise, the sun definitely slips away much faster at the end of the day so your coastal golden hour calculation does not apply. The terrain of your chosen grove will also impact the way the light shifts and diffuses. Certain elements of a space will be accented in a different way depending on the time of day.

Cal Barrel road elopement

Redwoods Wedding Style

Don’t be afraid to pull out show stopper looks just because we’re in the forest. In fact, please bring your most fantastic and favorite looks. Save the performance fleece for cuddling up by the campfire while you sip the beverage of your choice. Given that trees tend to have vast networks of bumpy roots and such, flat boots and low chunky heels will be the most reliable while we wander. Be realistic about how far you are comfortable walking in your chosen footwear or even consider tossing your shoes all together. Well, not into the woods. That’s definitely not eco-friendly.

Don’t get too precious with your garments. Accept the notion that bits of the woods will inevitably follow you home. Be okay with muddy hems. The yes my train is in fact trailing down a stream hard shrug is definitely the vibe we’re about. In winter months, a vest with a blazer will provide warmth without extra bulk. Keep layers on hand in all seasons as redwood temperatures dip even in warmer months. Cut to dance floor filled with garden party garb and down puffers.

Bride waits with umbrella at Mitchell grove redwood orchard in Eureka, California

How to Get to Humboldt

Flying

Fun fact: The Arcata-Eureka airport is actually located in McKinleyville. Less or more fun fact depending on whether or not your flight is on time: the ACV airport was built by the navy to test defogging systems and is often shrouded in fog.

Most flights connect through San Francisco. SFO is also notorious for delays and cancelled connections so aim for early (but not too early) flights and cushion your itinerary with the possibility of a layover.

Driving

San Francisco is roughly 6 hours north of Humboldt, exact drive times varying based on your particular destination. Many visitors opt to pick up a rental car at SFO and take a leisurely drive up the coast. A rental car will come in handy either way as the destinations you will want to visit require a vehicle to transport you from point A to B.

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA

Redwoods Wedding Locations

Redwood National Park

Prairie Creek Redwoods

A 35 minute drive from Trinidad, Prairie Creek is a coastal oasis of old growth redwood trees – and my favorite ceremony location. Taking its name from both the open prairie that runs along the park entrance and the nearby creek, Prairie Creek’s network of low key trails means you only have to take a short stroll to find yourself amidst jaw-dropping giants.

PLAN YOUR CELEBRATION

Bride in straw flower crown fans tears during a redwood wedding first look at Pamplin Grove in Humboldt Redwoods.

Humboldt Redwoods State Park

Pamplin Grove – Van Duzen County Park

Weekend group camping with a fantastic swimming hole on the Van Duzen under a towering redwood canopy. Hillside steps lead to a natural clearing suited for ceremonies large and small. Plenty of open field for lawn games. Spot the found riverbed heart rocks tucked into the base of a redwood tree by decades of lovers. The grove is closed to outside visitors when reserved for a wedding. Summer weekends in Pamplin Grove are hard won so be ready with the speed dial and have acceptable alternate weekends in place when you call.

Williams Grove

Old growth redwoods near the Avenue of the Giants and walking distance from the Eel River. Two group sites are available, one which can accommodate up to 40 people and the other up to 60 people. The sites can be combined, accommodating up to 100 guests.

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Humboldt County

Where To Stay For Your Destination Wedding In The Redwoods

The Lost Whale Inn

Trinidad ocean front bed and breakfast a short drive from Redwood National Park. The Lost Whale also features a private fairy trail to a secluded beach, perfect for tide pool wading or a brief respite from wedding festivities. The path is twisty but worth the walk. In spring and summer the gardens are a gorgeous explosion of color.

BEGIN PLANNING

The Benbow Inn

A historic inn tucked along the banks of the Eel River. The perpetually green lawn overlooks an old stone bridge and makes a serene backdrop for ceremonies, cocktail parties and lounging alike. The Inn features numerous rooms and a beautiful outdoor dining terrace to accommodate events intimate and large alike. Located not far from the Avenue of the Giants, this hotel is a great base for Southern Humboldt Redwood adventures.

Book Your Stay

Bride pauses after putting ring on grooms finger during redwood national forest wedding ceremony

Scotia Lodge

Reimagined by the fine folks at Humboldt Bay Social Club, Scotia Lodge is a boutique hotel in the redwoods. Located five minutes from Humboldt Redwoods State Park and about 90 minutes from Prairie Creek Redwoods.

Explore

Everything Carries Me to You

If you’re dreaming of …

  • photographs that are real and sentimental
  • a cinematic approach to light and color
  • seamless guidance
  • non-performative moment based imagery

… let’s connect.