I couldn’t imagine anyone going to the absolute eden that is Napa Valley and coming back dissatisfied at the end of their trip. Napa is one of those places that has a magical feel around every corner, a destination that causes a smile whenever it comes across one’s mind. I may be biased because of the time I spent there the day before I eloped in Big Sur but with continued visits, I’ve reaffirmed my opinion about a Napa elopement being a superb choice for any couple looking to choose an alternative to the traditional. There’s an old law that disallows the majority of vineyards from hosting weddings and receptions but there’s nothing that would prevent a couple from exchanging vows and getting great photos! I couldn’t be more excited to share the my personal tips from a NorCal native for anyone considering to take the plunge!
Where to Elope in Wine Country?
So let’s talk about wine! The region is world famous for its grapes and produces what is considered across the board to be some of the best quality wine in the entire world. Naturally, this makes Napa Valley an ideal to place to elope for any wine-lover and luckily, there are plenty of options to choose from. Truthfully, even if you’re not into a good Cabernet, Napa is the kind of place to convert even the pickiest palates! Here are my recommendations for where a young, adventurous couple might find themselves on their Napa elopement.
A place like Caymus is more than unique enough to stick out as an outstanding option for a couple interested in a Napa Valley elopement. For one, the natural beauty is marvelous. My first ever visit was in the autumn and the leaves changing provided the perfect postcard backdrop to my experience there. Strolling the grounds with a fiance in hand, exploring the vineyards surrounded by bright reds and oranges, could a Napa elopement photographer ask for a more photogenic scene? Of course, I couldn’t continuing describing Caymus without mentioning the stellar wine selection. I’d consider what I had with my tasting to be one of, if not the best Cabernet Sauvignons I’ve ever had. The cherry on top was, at the end of our visit, we were given a bottle of the award winning select Cabernet by an employee who just so happened to be a neighbor of my husband’s uncle! We decided to save it for our one-year anniversary but I know it would’ve been completely empty that night if we hadn’t opted to be patient. Caymus won us over primarily for its amazing wine selection and scenic grounds.
Initially, I would think something like an aerial tram ride would detract from a vineyard because it takes away from the experience of a wine tasting but with Sterling Vineyards, that’s absolutely not the case. What an aerial tram ride up to the tasting meant was views, views, and more amazing views! Perched on a hilltop in Calistoga, this vineyard known for its Napa Cabernet provides such an amazing look over the valley. It’s the dream of any Napa elopement photographer to capture the autumnal yellows and browns of northern California and Sterling is absolutely the venue where that’s possible. Overall, the experience here was cultivated so well, it’s clear there was a lot of thought put into how the customers felt at their location. We loved this spot for its detailed wine tasting and incredible view at the end of the tour.
Castello Di Amorosa:
A local icon, this gorgeous castle was shipped from Tuscany and rebuilt brick by brick upon its arrival! Not only is the property beautiful from front to back but it gives you an authentic European feel, with this towering medieval architecture as its centerpiece. Funnily enough, this venue was how I found out about the restrictions Napa County imposed on vineyards in regards to weddings. Being a wedding photographer, I saw a clear opportunity for this to be an in-demand wedding venue, and even spotted a couple taking what appeared to be engagement photos there, but was surprised to hear that not every vineyard is able to host weddings! There’s a myth about not being able to get married in Napa but it’s totally untrue, and it certainly isn’t the case for a Napa Elopement. I only stopped at this location as a short detour so I wasn’t able to experience the wine tasting but for a Napa elopement photographer, the wine tasting is secondary to how good the area would look for photos. The taste of wine is temporary and elopement photos are forever! Castello Di Amorosa is perfect for any couple who might want the feel of an Italian destination wedding without the expensive plane tickets.
Frank Family Vineyards:
Of all the places we went, each had their own distinct feel and experience they were trying to convey – it may have been our fantastic server, watching the sunset, and playing with the vineyard dog but overall Frank Family Vineyards would be my personal pick for a Napa elopement. This vineyard really lives up to its name, from the strong sense of familial comfort on its grounds to the friendliness of the employees to the ambiance cultivated on the property that all blended together to provide for my favorite experience in Napa Valley. I would have felt just as comfortable holding a glass of Pinot Grigio on my porch or in my own backyard, except I wouldn’t have had the chance to experience all the amazing scenery! All those factors combined with its superb natural beauty means this Napa elopement photographer would be more than happy to return for any couple wanting to choose this exceptional location to tie the knot! The outdoor seating gave us plenty of time to examine the property and I couldn’t help but seeing spot after spot that would serve as a perfect place for a couple to say, “I do.” I give Frank Family Vineyards so much credit for the attention they’ve put into their grounds but the most superlative feature was still the wine! I couldn’t believe how many times I found myself writing down what I had just sipped to order a bottle later. From end to end, Frank Family is an obvious choice for a Napa elopement because of its beautiful grounds, variety of photogenic locations, and best vibes!
When’s the Best Time to Elope in Napa?
Now that the question of where has been answered, it’s natural to ask when might be the best time to exchange vows and take photos of the special moment! Whether your decision is factored around weather, crowds, or environment, there are a few key items to consider for what date to hold your Napa elopement. Luckily, I’ve got plenty to share to help guide that decision the best I can!
I wanted to start with the option I would recommend the most and, for me, it’s so clearly anytime between September and late November. The first time I visited Napa was in mid-November and I couldn’t imagine a better time to visit than in the middle of fall for 2 major reasons. The temperature is just right in the fall, usually cool enough to wear a jacket but not yet cold, and sunny enough in the daytime to feel invited outside by the sun’s warmth. Secondly, and more importantly, the changing colors in the leaves make for the most romantic possible setting for an elopement in Napa. After all, who doesn’t love fall colors? There’s little editing required when nature blesses you with fiery reds, bright oranges, and warm yellows to serve as your surroundings. I’m a personal advocate for autumn elopements and I have no qualms about it! Choose Fall if you want dazzling photos, cozy sweater weather, or would call yourself colorful.
On one hand, winter in Napa means beating the crowds, but there’s a reason why the valley gets fewer visitors from December until the sun starts warming things back up in March: it’s relatively cold and rainy. Keep in mind where Napa is geographically relative to the rest of California and don’t be fooled into thinking you can escape cool temperatures just because it doesn’t snow. If you value getting a winery practically to yourself, a weekday trip to Napa in the winter will accomplish just that. To end on a positive note, the rolling green hills can look greener due to the rain, and although this Napa Valley elopement photographer values that, a wet bride and groom just finished being drizzled on may not! Choose Winter if you’d like photos that may be moody, want your elopement to be less crowded, or want to elope in the rain.
If I was going in order of preference, I would have mentioned spring second after fall because of how lovely Napa Valley gets from March to late June. In a town dominated by agriculture, spring means new shoots start to leap out of dormant vines, which means excitement for the entire area. I would say Spring has the best feel, but with that new activity comes a flurry of new people just as eager to experience the good vibes as you are to elope! Choose Spring for your Napa elopement if you love flowers, consider yourself an extravert, or have always imagined a spring wedding.
If you’re living in San Francisco, an elopement in Napa Valley means escaping the fog and getting plenty of sun. I hesitate to use the word warm because from late June to September, Napa and the surrounding areas can get considerably hot. Heat and crowds isn’t a combination I’d usually consider enjoyable but there’s definitely ample opportunity for excellent photos with all the light in the summer. The colors are still plentiful during this season, there’s just a stronger tint of yellow, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing! What is best during these months is golden hour, which, as the name suggests, makes for shimmery golden wedding portraits. Choose Summer for your Napa elopement if you’d call yourself sunny, love being poolside with a glass of wine, or enjoy lots of sunshine!
Helpful Tips for a Napa Elopement
Such a beautiful place comes with so many options for photos so it’s crucial to find what’s right for you. My first ever visit to wine country included 3 wine tours and a stop for lunch and dinner nearby the vineyards, and I was able to cross off a few locations from that day alone. As a big of a challenge as it may seem, choose the place that suits you the most. As long as a place looks good, there’s a Napa elopement photographer that’s going to want to shoot it! So choose a location that looks like the right fit and a photographer that feels like the right fit. And if you still can’t decide, shoot me a text or give me a call at 786-270-8527 and let’s run through some options together! Whatever you choose, know you’ll be in good hands.