The Ultimate Napa Elopement Guide

August 8, 2018

I couldn’t imagine someone going to the Eden that is Napa Valley and coming back dissatisfied. As a Napa elopement photographer, I’ve had the chance to experience Napa at its most beautiful, and I’m always awed. With each visit, my opinion solidifies about a Napa elopement being a superb choice for any couple. With that being said, choosing to elope in Napa comes with a few tricky questions. How do you know where and when to elope? What kind of photographer should you be looking for? As an experienced Napa Valley elopement photographer, I hope to answer all these questions and more. Here is my guide to an unforgettable Napa elopement.


Where to Elope in Napa Valley


Let’s talk about wine! Napa is world-famous for its grapes and produces the best quality wine in the entire world. Naturally, this makes Napa Valley an ideal 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 an adventurous couple should consider having their Napa elopement.


Caymus Vineyards

napa elopement photographer

napa elopement photographer

A place like Caymus Vineyards is more than unique enough to stick out as an outstanding option for a couple interested in a Napa Valley elopement. For one, Caymus’s natural beauty is marvelous. The autumn leaves changing provided the perfect postcard backdrop to my first experience there. The brightness of the reds and oranges here is equivalent to the lush of the greens in Hawaii. Could a Napa elopement photographer ask for a more picturesque scene? 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! Caymus won us over as a great Napa Valley elopement spot primarily for its amazing wine selection and scenic grounds.


Sterling Vineyards

napa elopement photographer

napa elopement photographer

Initially, I thought a tram ride would detract from a vineyard. It seemed like something that could only take away from the experience of a wine tasting. With Sterling Vineyards, that’s not the case. An aerial tram ride up to the tasting meant views, views, and more incredible 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 the venue where that’s possible. Overall, Sterling cultivated their experience so well.  Clearly, the owners paid attention to how the customers felt at their location. We like this location for a Napa Valley elopement because of 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 Castello Di Amorosa beautiful from front to back, but it has an authentic European feel. There aren’t many wedding venues with towering medieval architecture as their centerpiece. Being a wedding photographer, I saw a clear opportunity for this to be an in-demand wedding venue.  After doing some research, I was surprised to hear that not every vineyard can host weddings! There’s a myth that Napa isn’t wedding-friendly, but the same can’t be said about eloping.  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

napa elopement photographer

napa elopement photographer

Each vineyard we visited had its own distinct experience and feeling. It may have been our fantastic server, watching the sunset and playing with the vineyard dog, but overall, Frank Family Vineyards would be my pick for a Napa elopement. This vineyard lives up to its name, from the strong sense of familial comfort on its grounds. I would’ve felt just as comfortable holding a glass of Pinot Grigio in my backyard, except I wouldn’t have had 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. From end to end, Frank Family is an obvious choice for a Napa elopement package because of its beautiful grounds, a variety of photogenic locations, and great feeling.


What To Look For in a Napa Elopement Photographer


Not every elopement photographer is suited to shoot a Napa elopement successfully. Some elopement photographers rely on epic scenery for good photos, but Napa is a simple landscape. Although abounding in natural beauty, it’s not always easy to make photos look extraordinary from the ordinary. The right elopement photographer can do that and more. Here are a few things you should be on the lookout for in a Napa elopement photographer.


Ability to Improvise

In my years as a Napa elopement photographer, I’ve come to discover just how important the ability to improvise is. When it comes to elopements, you can depend on something to go wrong. I nearly missed my elopement because of a park ranger who wouldn’t let us meet with our photographer. Without being able to solve problems quickly, a photographer might be thrown off by unexpected weather. What happens when the vineyard you’d planned on eloping in is booked for a private event? A good Napa elopement photographer will be able to walk you through stressful moments like that and still come out with great photos on the other side.

Proactive over Reactive

I’ve always said being proactive is one of the most important traits an elopement photographer can have. Whether it be scouting the location, anticipating a bride’s needs, or knowing the minute golden hour starts, your Napa elopement photographer should always be controlling the situation rather than responding to it. Naturally, it’s common for one or two things to fall outside of the plan, but a proactive photographer can always mitigate those circumstances. Being proactive is also a result of lots of experience, which brings me to my next point.

Experience as a Napa Elopement Photographer

It’s hard to beat a previous experience as a napa elopement photographer when looking for candidates. No amount of research can match the insight of a photographer who’s already done the job before. Experience comes with knowledge of the location, which is key for finding the best photo spots. Plus, an experienced photographer has the advantage of already knowing what works and what doesn’t. You don’t want a first-time elopement photographer going to a new location only to find out the lighting doesn’t work. The peace of mind you’ll get for your elopement is worth hiring an experienced photographer.


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. Whether your decision is factored around weather, crowds, or the environment, there are a few key items to consider for what date is best for your Napa elopement. Each season has its pros and cons, but a few stand out as clear winners for an elopement ceremony. Luckily, I’ve got plenty to share to help guide that decision the best I can!


Winter Elopement

There’s a reason why Napa gets fewer visitors from December until the sun starts warming things back up in March. The Winter months are Napa’s coldest and wettest. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can escape cool temperatures just because it doesn’t snow in Napa. The evenings and nights drop down to the 30s and 40s, so I recommend having a jacket handy. If you value having a winery to yourself, a weekday trip to Napa in the winter will accomplish that. 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.


Spring Elopement

If I were 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. Spring, in general, incites excitement for the entire area. With that new activity comes a flurry of people just as eager to experience the good vibes as you are to elope. The crowding isn’t at its worst during Spring, but it certainly starts to fill up as it gets warmer. Choose Spring for your Napa elopement if you love flowers, warm days, or have always imagined a spring wedding.


Summer Elopement

If you’re living in San Francisco, a Summer elopement in Napa Valley means escaping the fog and getting plenty of sunshine. One downside to a summer elopement is that from late June to September, Napa Valley gets considerably hot. The upside is that there’s ample opportunity for excellent photos with all the light in the summer. What’s best during these months is the ‘golden hour,’ which is perfect for bridal portraits. Los Angeles elopements share this same asset but for more of the year than just summer. Choose Summer for your Napa elopement if you can handle hot weather, love being poolside with a glass of wine, or enjoy lots of sunshine!


Autumn Elopement

The first time I visited Napa was in mid-November, and I couldn’t believe it. I can’t imagine a better time to elope in Napa than in the middle of Autumn. The temperature is just right in the fall. It’s cool enough to wear a jacket and sunny enough to feel invited outside by the sun’s warmth. Secondly, the changing colors in the leaves make for the most romantic possible setting for an elopement. After all, what Napa elopement photographer doesn’t love fall colors? There’s little editing required when nature blesses you with fiery reds, bright oranges, and warm yellows. Choose Fall if you want dazzling photos, cozy sweater weather, or would call yourself colorful.


Napa Elopement Photographer Final Tips


Napa Valley is a fantastic place for those who want to get away, one reason it’s perfect for an elopement. Its charm is unlike anything else, it’s naturally beautiful, and it’s easy to get to. If Napa isn’t the right fit, the rest of California is rife with options. As 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! Whether you just started, or are at the end of your elopement planning, reach out with any questions! Make sure to fill out a form submission about your Napa elopement photographer needs, and I’ll respond within 24 hours!