Big Sur Wedding

Rachel, 29 & Sky, 30

Big Sur, CA

Wedding Date: Nov 29, 2009 (the couple has the dates tattooed on their ring fingers to go underneath their wedding rings.)

Number of Guests: 5 – both their parents and the bride’s brother

Wedding Cost: $3,300 (That included accommodations for the weekend for all the guests, including bride and groom, the dinner post ceremony, the wedding officiant  and the photographer.) The actual cost of the ceremony was a $5 entrance fee into the park plus the photographer and officiant, who together totaled about  $925. Groom’s suit was $400 from Zara and bride’s dress was a 1930’s vintage gown for $100).

Wedding Ceremony Location: Pfeiffer Beach State Park

Wedding Reception Location: Deetjen’s Inn

forest wedding

Why did you have an intimate wedding?

Both my husband and I feel that big weddings are very wasteful. We’d much rather our parents use that money toward the down payment of our house, or save it for retirement. Almost every woman I’ve spoken to who had a big wedding said if they could go back, they would do what Sky and I did. It seems weddings have turned somewhat into a “keeping up with the Joneses” competition and people are spending thousands of dollars to compete. Also, we have a lot of friends and family, having to limit the amount of guests so we could have a smaller wedding would’ve been too difficult and I’m afraid would have offended people. While I still got some flack for not including friends and family, because we kept it just immediate family, we really didn’t offend anyone in particular. We are planning on having small celebrations with friends and family throughout the year.

california forest wedding

What are some the challenges that you faced planning an intimate wedding?

Everyone else’s opinions. That was really the only issue that we had, and considering that as I write this it’s only been two weeks since the wedding, I am still hearing it from people. We’re trying to remedy this situation by having small gatherings in our respective states to celebrate our union throughout the year. Also, its somewhat difficult mixing the in-laws for an entire weekend trip. We are very lucky our in-laws get along!

wedding in the woods

Was it difficult to pare down the guest list?

Not at all – immediate family only. My husband and I really just wanted to go to Las Vegas and elope but our parents really wanted to be there so we figured hey, they gave us life, the least we could do is include them on our wedding day!! Haha…my brother is the lucky bastard who was there by default. ;-)

california outdoor park wedding

Did you have any ‘issues’ with the small guest list from friends and family? If so, how did you address them?

It’s impossible to please everyone. People are still expecting a party to celebrate. This shouldn’t be too difficult of a task. The problem is we live in different states from our parents. We have family and friends scattered around the country. Also, my mom has cancer so she isn’t exactly up to party planning right now – we plan to send out wedding announcements and might include a registry. We will most likely have a gathering in Colorado (where my husband is from), something small in Miami (where I’m from) with my mom’s side of the family and our friends. We will ALSO be having a “family weekend” for my dad’s side of the family from NY. These gatherings have been suggested by our parents, and are in response to our extended family and friends wanting to be a part of the celebration.

park in california wedding

What were the highlights of the ceremony?

It’s so hard to choose just one!! I’d have to say the setting and the intimacy. It was amazing to have just our family with us. The forest was absolutely beautiful, and perfect!

wedding guitar players

What were the highlights of the reception?

The restaurant was very accommodating. Deetjen’s is absolutely lovely and full of charm. My girlfriends back in Miami surprised us with a bottle of champagne at our dinner table that they ordered via phone when I told them where we would be dining. Deetjen’s prepared us with our own separate room. It was beautiful!

outdoor wedding

What was the best thing about having an intimate wedding?

Obviously the money saved, the lack of stress and headaches and it was exactly what we wanted. Our love (my husband and I) is very intimate and personal. It felt great to be completely at ease and not have to worry about pleasing others. We could concentrate and revel completely in the reason we were there – our union in marriage.

california bride and groom

What advice do you have for couples who are considering an intimate wedding?

Do it!! Enjoy your special day. Don’t turn into a bridezilla!!!

elope california


Ceremony Venue: Pfeiffer Beach State Park

Reception Venue: Deetjen’s Inn (Amazing, says the bride.)

Photographer: Alison Yin Photography

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15 Comments  |  Filed Under: Budget Weddings ($10,000 or less), Inn and B & B Weddings, Real Weddings

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  1. Posted by Dognbird on April 7th, 2010 at 1:01pm

    This is gorgeous and all about love. I have chills!
  2. Posted by Stephanie on April 8th, 2010 at 2:53pm

    This is so beautiful--the story is gorgeous and sweeping. I love everything about this wedding!
  3. Posted by The Budget Brides Handbook on April 9th, 2010 at 11:59am

    I absolutely love this wedding to cute. And for only a little over $3000. Simply Amazing!!
  4. Posted by Rita on April 13th, 2010 at 1:42am

    These turned out really nicely! A great diy project!
  5. Posted by April on July 29th, 2010 at 6:16pm

    Love the pictures because they speak for themselves. My first look at the pictures made me tear get teary eyed. :-) Congrats and good luck
  6. Posted by Kat on August 1st, 2010 at 3:23am

    I love the pictures on your blog of the forest ceremony! I've been looking to find a place to get married in Big Sur that is reasonable. Where in the forest did you go? Is it marked on a map? Did you have electricity or anything else? Any info you have would be so helpful! Thanks!
  7. Posted by Paula on August 26th, 2010 at 3:31am

    Congratulations! You have had amazing wedding! We are planning our wedding next summer, and thinking of the long guest list drives me crazy. But once I understood I'd like to be together just with our parents and siblings, all this feeling of burden fell down!!

    Thank you for inspiration and courage you gave me!
  8. Posted by jiakbar on February 8th, 2011 at 4:54pm

    I absolutely love this. My fiance and I just decided this weekend that there was no way to have a medium sized wedding and, b/c we're super financially responsible, we would have to save for a year to be able to afford a bigger wedding. We don't want to wait a year to be married. So we're having a ceremony and inviting our immediate's actually still quite big at 13 people, but all 13 are there with no expectation...just love for the two of us. It's perfect :)
  9. Posted by Christina on February 9th, 2011 at 9:30am

    I'm sure you will have no regrets jiakbar!
  10. Posted by Erika on March 2nd, 2011 at 4:46pm

    Can you tell me how far you had to walk/hike to get to that location and what the terrain was like? I am also trying to organize an intimate ceremony in a wooded park, yet need to attempt to find something with wheelchair access or that just isn't too difficult to get to. I know parks don't allow vehicles, and I doubt a ranger would drive us in! It's so important to me to be married in a beautiful setting...any input would be appreciated. :)
  11. Posted by Alison Yin on March 3rd, 2011 at 4:42pm

    I photographed this wedding, and wanted to answer some questions about accessibility to the spot we were in. The tree is actually quite close to a small parking lot - maybe 400 feet from where you can park your car. While the path is rustic, I think that a wheelchair could go on it. The part that would be difficult is getting off the path to the tree, but it would just be a matter of someone carrying the person a couple of steps down and then carrying the wheel chair behind. Not difficult for someone strong at all. Also, here are pretty good directions that I received from the officiant for this exact spot:


    You drive up to the kiosk and pay for a day use sticker, then turn LEFT at
    the stop sign. In a very short time the road will fork, and at the Y you
    go right. (To the left are the Lodge Cabins) To the right you'll come to a
    small parking area. We can meet there. Then we
    can walk up the trail toward the Pfeiffer Falls (that trail will have a
    closed sign and a detour - what is open in that direction is the Valley
    View Trail. We will walk up into the redwoods on the trail, and then cross
    the first foot bridge on the left side of the trail, then the trail will
    pass a downed rather large tree trunk. The trail will continue on, but we
    will just step behind that downed tree and into the small clearing next to
    the little creek. The large tree is at that clearing, so it is a short

    Hope that helps!
  12. Posted by Christina on March 4th, 2011 at 5:08pm

    Thanks Alison!
  13. Posted by Sunny on May 27th, 2013 at 3:59am

    I love love love the first picture with the light surrounding the family standing around the trees. You can just feel the love and warmth from this family. And I love the bride's quote "My husband and I really just wanted to go to Las Vegas and elope but our parents really wanted to be there so we figured hey, they gave us life, the least we could do is include them on our wedding day!!" I feel like that for sure. :) My parents are so anxious for us to get married, they actually want us to elope to Vegas (with them of course). Haha. I love the idea of this small, immediate-family only wedding in such a beautiful setting. Now, if I can only get over my fear of bugs!
  14. Posted by Christina on May 27th, 2013 at 1:48pm

    It is a great photo, isn't it?
  15. Posted by tim O on March 28th, 2014 at 5:35pm

    I never knew eloping was so hard. Reena and I decided to elope to some place like Big Sur and are finding the logistics of a small intimate wedding can be as bad as those of big weddings. I was feeling cocky when I said I'd whip up a beautiful, romantic wedding along Big Sur and I might have to actually admit to her it might be a little more complex than originally expected. But before I admit defeat:
    Does anyone know someone who can officiate the wedding in Big Sur?
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