Napa & Sonoma
Just as a glass of nice wine turns an everyday moment special, northern California’s wine country infuses an elopement with boundless romance. The region’s coveted twin valleys, Napa and Sonoma, bottle the eloping basics—scenic panoramas, divine cuisine, mild weather—and cap it all off with unique winery experiences that make for newlywed bliss. In Napa, ride the aerial tram up to Sterling Vineyards to get the lay of the land: From the terrace, you’ll spot the verdant hills behind award-winning cabernets, along with the Mayacamas and Vaca mountain ranges. Or, head to Pinot Noir territory and traipse through the unique, laidback vineyards of Sonoma, like Benziger or J Vineyards.
In either county, a tour gives you freedom to sip and ride—and with West Wine Tours, you can do so in retro style by way of a six- or eight-seat VW bus. Retire to Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, the region’s relaxation capital, for a dip in a geothermal mineral pool, then stay at the newly restored five-suite Francis House. And before departing, fête your elopement with good food; if your budget and date are flexible, that means Michelin-starred The French Laundry, but incredible eats abound at spots like Compline Wine Bar, Gott’s Roadside, and Oxbow Market, too. If this epicurean paradise of a region has taught us anything, it’s that good wine and top-notch dining are enough to make you fall in love all over again.
Best Time of Year to Visit
September - November or March - May
Napa and Sonoma Valleys are blessed with a dreamy Mediterranean climate marked by warm days (temps in the 60s and 70s) and cool evenings (in the 40s)—as productive for making wine as it is lovely for drinking it. There’s no bad time to elope here, but fall and spring are particularly exquisite. September is California Wine Month and the harvest lasts through the fall, so this season brings its fair share of tourists, but for oenophiles and even new wine enthusiasts, braving the crowds (and booking in advance) will be worth it. During this time, fragrant grapes are picked from the vines and toted through vineyards by the truckload, an image that captures all the old-school romance of wine country.
After tying the knot, join in on the harvest festivities—crush parties, wine-blending classes, winemaker dinners, and yes, grape-stomping—to toast new beginnings. Or, enjoy a quieter elopement in the spring, when the valleys are just as beautiful abloom with wildflowers and yellow mustard plants. Winery-tour and restaurant reservations will be easier to come by, and you’ll have peak weather for the area’s large roster of outdoor activities, from hiking through the towering giants at Armstrong Redwoods to horseback riding in Sugarloaf Ridge and hot-air ballooning over Mount St. Helena and the Palisade Cliffs.
This sixth-generation family-owned farm is a verdant jewel in Sonoma’s crown, its rolling vineyards (Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc) filling a west-facing slope. Retreat to the quaint 1892 Ranch House on-site—divided into five suites with luxe linens, private porches, and mini wine cellars—and watch the sunset drift behind the valley. Opt for the elopement package (for parties of two to six, $1,850), and you’ll receive a wine and cheese board upon arrival, as well as an officiant for your vineyard-view ceremony, a bouquet and boutonnière of flowers grown on-site, champagne service, and a mini wedding cake.
After tying the knot, peruse the ranch’s 105 sun-dappled acres, and you’ll find infinite gorgeous backdrops for portraits. In addition to grapes, Beltane grows eight varieties of olives in a 100-tree orchard, as well as organic produce and heirloom fruit trees. Sample it all with a picnic the next day beneath a 300-year-old Valley Oak Tree: Chef-packed boxes feature sandwiches with house-made chutneys and jams, and, of course, vino by the bottle (starting at $34).
Per the Winery Definition Ordinance, which went into effect in 1990, most wineries in Napa County are actually not permitted to host weddings or receptions (because of land-use protections for the area’s agricultural preserve). But if your heart’s set on a Napa winery venue, don’t fret: A few spots have been excluded from this rule due to their pre-regulatory status. One of them is the charming Beringer Vineyards, the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa.
The sweeping property—deemed a historic district on the National Register of Historic Places—boasts several scenic venues for exchanging vows, hosting large-scale events both inside and out. But it’s an equally stunning spot for an intimate affair, too. At its center is the Rhine House, a wood-paneled mansion with elaborate Victorian accents, ideal for a group tasting of around 10 people. And an outdoor courtyard surrounded by redwoods and adjacent to a massive 150-year-old walnut tree makes for a shady setting to say your “I do’s.” If you’re gathering a few loved ones (minimum 25), consider fêteing the occasion with a fancy meal inside Beringer’s wine caves, hand-dug into the hillside of Spring Mountain over a century ago. Though it comes at a steep price ($350 per person), it entails a 30-minute reception and extravagant three-course wine-paired dinner, all in the high-ceilinged tunnels built to sustain comfortable 60-degree temps year round.
A charming marriage of boutique accommodations and luxe amenities—an on-site Michelin-starred restaurant, feather beds, private steam showers and saunas—makes Farmhouse Inn an elopement dream. And its fifth-generation Sonoma owners’ close ties with local vintners will weave wine-country vibes into almost every element of your stay. You’ll enjoy complimentary wine receptions each evening at 4:30pm and a curated wine refrigerator in your room, as well as free or discounted tours and tastings at such sought-after spots as Seghesio Family Vineyards and Williamson Wines. There are only 25 suites and rooms on-site, and Farmhouse hosts weddings for groups of just 14 people or fewer. Just the two of you? The elopement package includes a bouquet and boutonnière from Dragonfly Floral, a ceremony officiated by a non-denominational celebrant, an in-house coordinator, and a photographer who will provide you with all the images from your special day. (To inquire about pricing, email firstname.lastname@example.org.) Kick up the romance factor by adding an hour-long couples’ massage at the Farm to Table Farmhouse Spa and turndown service: You’ll return to your room to find candles surrounding the tub, romantic music playing, and a bottle of Champagne on ice.
Sonoma Valley was an easy choice when this late fiction writer, a rugged individualist and romantic to the core, sought a place to reconnect with nature. In 1905, he began acquiring run-down farms in Glen Ellen, which he would soon revive to their former glory—now, 1,400 stunning acres on the slopes of Sonoma Mountain criss-crossed by trails studded with oaks, firs, and maples. These lush woodland surroundings make Jack London State Historic Park a majestic ceremony and reception venue, its Oak Grove Picnic Area ($500 from 10am to 3pm, or $2,000 from 10am to 8pm) particularly suited to small groups. This shady plateau lined with picnic tables overlooks vineyards and historic stone barns below, and can be reached by way of an accessible gravel pathway from the ranch parking lot. If you’re up for a post-ceremony adventure, book a horseback ride through the park’s redwood groves and grassy meadows (from $90). As a double-bonus, your reservation will include a pass for a tour of London’s former home on property and a tasting at the neighboring Benziger Family Winery.
Despite its circa-1869 establishment, this 64-room hotel gives off cool, calm, collected vibes—the same way you and your spouse will feel in the days before “I do” should you choose to find your zen in one of its wellness-centric programs. Weekly yoga classes on the property’s sunny lawn, a mid-century pool surrounded by greenery, and a spa with services using flowers and fruits grown on-site (lavender body wrap, anyone?) will make for an elopement as restful and restorative as it is exciting. Not to mention beautiful—and popular: MacArthur Place is situated on seven acres of manicured gardens filled with winding pathways and quiet nooks, and in 2020 was voted the #4 hotel in Northern California in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. Book the elopement package ($3,500), and you’ll get free roam of the space for two hours of portraits following your ceremony, as well as a seasonal bouquet and boutonnière, petite wedding cake, couples massage at the spa, and two-night stay in one of the chic on-site suites, where you’ll be greeted by sparkling wine and chocolate-dipped strawberries.
Like the fine wines aging in barrels a few minutes’ drive away, this lovingly maintained country estate has aged well over time. Its buildings were transformed from a private residence to an inn in 1981, turning the 19th century Madrona Manor into a quiet hideaway on eight acres of wooded grounds ripe for exploration. And the included breakfast each morning isn’t your average continental, but instead, a hot buffet furnished by the property’s Michelin-starred restaurant—where you might dine by candlelight on the eve of your big day. Two all-inclusive elopement packages available Sunday through Thursday take planning out of the equation: Both offer a minister to officiate your service, a bouquet and boutonnière, wedding cake, welcome cocktail, five-course meal with wine pairings, and an in-room couples’ massage, as well as a two-night stay. The pricier option puts you up in one of the Schoolhouse Suites—two of the most luxe retreats on-site, with a Jacuzzi and private deck (from $3,050)—and the other, in one of the mansion’s original Victorian bedrooms (from $2,950).
Steep yourself in Sonoma Valley history by having your elopement at this charming Folk Victorian home, around the corner from the sun-washed adobe storefronts and courtyards of Sonoma Plaza. Home to one of the area’s first vintners in the early 1900s, The Maysonnave House was restored in 2008 by the Sonoma League for Historic Preservation, and now serves primarily as an event space. Inside the main house, quaint sitting and dining rooms outfitted with period furniture can seat six guests each (ideal for gathering a few loved ones pre- or post-ceremony), while the gravel courtyard and gardens make for quiet, colorful spots to exchange vows alfresco. The intimate-affairs package gives you full access to the property’s spaces for 4 hours with up to 25 guests (call to inquire about rates). The cherry on top? The location places you in the heart of Sonoma’s pedestrian-friendly downtown district, where you’ll find the area’s top tasting rooms and restaurants—make a toast with aperitifs at the girl & the fig—as well as boutiques, galleries, and even hilltop vistas, all within a quick walk.
This mini Napa hideaway—just 11 guest rooms with dreamy canopy beds, fireplaces, and rain showers—goes big on romance. Once a stagecoach rest-stop during the California gold rush, Milliken Creek Inn & Spa occupies three landscaped acres on the banks of the Napa River, dotted with oaks and magnolias under which you can arrange a picnic lunch with the on-site weddings team. At sunset, step inside the main house for magic hour: Every day, local vintners pour boutique reserves paired with artisan cheeses, breads, and freshly baked cookies. Book the elopement package (from $2,350), which comes with a two-night stay, and you’ll exchange vows in a quiet alcove in the property’s gardens, then retreat to your room to find a chilled bottle of Champagne, chocolate-covered strawberries, and a sprinkling of rose petals throughout. And that’s just the beginning: Milliken’s wedding concierge can organize a host of other lovey-dovey touches for your elopement, from a butterfly or dove release, to a couples’ massage in the outdoor spa canopy, to wine glasses engraved with your names, a favorite saying, or a manifesto of your love.
Elope to the Italian countryside without leaving the states at V. Sattui—everything from the rustic stone tower and greenery-filled courtyard and terrace to the artisan deli and salumeria exudes Italy at its most enchanting. And it’s no wonder why: The original owners immigrated to the U.S. from a small hilltown near Genoa. Today, its deli and catering services are run by Italian Michelin-star chef Stefano Masanti and his sommelier wife, Raffaella. On your big day, arrange for a picnic and enjoy Masanti’s house-cured bresaola sandwiches with crisp Zinfandel beneath a giant oak, or retreat to the underground barrel-aging cellar for a cozy wine tasting with food pairings. Though V. Sattui’s vineyard-view outdoor spaces generally cater to larger groups for ceremonies and receptions, the on-staff events team can work with you to coordinate a personalized elopement on the fountain patio or in the lower courtyard (just reach out to email@example.com). Then, plan a wine-paired candlelit dinner for up to 14 people in the Gold Room, a brick alcove lined with bottles of V. Sattui reserves.
In California, marriage licenses are issued by county and valid throughout the state. For Napa County, you’ll find the county clerk’s office in Napa, at 1127 1st Street, and for Sonoma County, it’s in Santa Rosa, at 585 Fiscal Drive.
You’ll choose between a public and confidential marriage license (the latter being unique to California). While both documents will make your marriage official, the confidential type restricts access to your marriage license to just you two and anyone who obtains a court order. Some elopers prefer this option because it requires no ceremony witnesses (whereas the typical public option entails at least one), and any notary public (who has approval from the county clerk) can issue the confidential type, even at the ceremony site on the day of your wedding. For this type, you’ll also need to sign a statement attesting to the fact that you and your spouse are living together at the time when you apply.
For either type of license, you’ll begin by applying online via the Napa County or Sonoma County portal. The fee is $83 in the former and $82 in the latter for a public license, or $95 and $98, respectively, for a confidential one (with a $15 additional fee for a certified copy). Then, you’ll both need to appear in person at the respective county clerk’s office with photo ID (e.g. driver’s license, passport), and if either of you was previously married, you’ll need to provide the date of dissolution. (In Sonoma County, if a previous marriage ended within the past 90 days, a copy of the final judgment must be shown, too.) Once you have the license, it’ll be valid for 90 days, during which time you’ll need to have your ceremony officiated by a person authorized by the state, or by a friend or relative who is deputized for the day in Napa or Sonoma county.