There are a million reasons to skip a big wedding – your family doesn’t approve of your betrothed, you don’t approve of your family, you spent all your savings on funemployment, you’re sticking it to the man, 2012 – but that doesn’t mean you need to take the next flight out to the middle of the desert to get hitched (even if the chapel throws in a few free plays at the craps table). And by staying local, you’re saving enough money that you could throw a great post-nuptials party (or pay your rent, whichever works). So grab your future life partner, get the paperwork in order, find an officiant and go!

Next to the Jackson Pollack Painting at SFMOMA
151 3rd St (second floor)
San Francisco, CA 94103

To be fair, pulling off a proper elopement at this location may take a fair amount of effort on your part. You definitely need to time the visit correctly and possibly pay off some security guards to look the other way… and/or be prepared to pass your vows off as performance art to gawking tourists. But think of the photo opportunities! And there’s a ton of great gadgets and toys in the museum gift shop that put the traditional overpriced wedding mixer bowl appliances to shame.
Oh and if you’re not keen on the Pollack, you can always marry next to those notorious lovebirds, Frieda Y Diego Rivera.
(Actually this tip works for pretty much any museum… but eloping at the SFMOMA is so, uh, post-modern.)

Sutro Baths – Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Point Lobos Avenue & Merrie Way
San Francisco, CA
415- 561-4323
Sutro Baths

Getting married on the beach is so cliché. Wouldn’t you rather steal a scene from “Harold and Maude” and brave some modern ruins instead? In Outer Richmond, north of the Cliff House and south of Land’s End is a romantic and dramatic relic of a Victorian time. The Sutro Baths were built by former San Francisco Mayor Aldolph Sutro. They opened in 1896, offering seven different pools of varied temperatures, waterslides, trampolines, flying rings and diving platforms. After Sutro’s death, the establishment changed hands (and incarnations) many times until it burned down in 1966. What you see now – white beaches, caves, dramatic cliffs – has been controlled by the National Park Service since 1973.
Of course if you do traverse this fading monument to the Gilded Age in your nuptials, make sure to exercise some common sense. The tide can be very rough, the rocks slippery and the cliffs steep. Heavy fog is also rather common, which can provide an element of drama (great for photographs)… but also legitimate danger. (Honestly, no one wants a broken neck on their wedding day.)

City Hall
1 Carlton B Goodlett Pl
San Francisco, CA
City Hall

Why mess with a classic? City Hall is open to the public Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you want to stage a ceremony, the city lets you rent space by the hour on weekdays and in a two-hour package on Saturdays before 3 p.m. You’re also allowed to wing it, but be mindful of your fellow citizens.
Fun fact: Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio eloped here in 1954. Here’s hoping your marriage works out better than theirs did.

Point Reyes Lighthouse at Point Reyes National Seashore
Point Reyes Station, CA
(415) 669-1534
Pt. Reyes Lighthouse

Do you want a place that is historic, gorgeous and almost guaranteed to sweep you off your feet (with high winds)? Then head north and west to Marin County’s most famous monument.
The visitor center and lighthouse are open Thursdays through Mondays, all year (except for Christmas Day) from 10:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Weather permitting, the lens room inside the lighthouse is open from 2:30 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. However, when winds exceed 40 miles per hour, the steps to the lighthouse are closed to the public.
The park service recommends visitors bring clothing that will let them sustain rain, fog and winds. Oh and pack some hiking shoes because the lighthouse is 300 steps up from the visitor center, which itself is almost a half mile walk from the parking lot. So, basically, this is a great place for outdoorsy types who enjoy a chance to see grey whales and sea lions on their wedding day. The high-maintenance crowd may fare better in a more controlled environment.

Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant
7871 River Rd
Forestville, CA 95436
Farmhouse Inn

If your budget allows for a long weekend among the grapes and redwoods, we highly suggest hightailing it up to Napa or Sonoma Counties to elope in a vineyard. Though there are plenty of places that offer an elopement or small wedding package, none seem as lovely or as intimate as the Farmhouse Inn.
Nestled in the center of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, the Farmhouse Inn provides luxury accommodations, dining and spa treatments for its guests. It’s also an easy bike or car ride to the area’s best vineyards, hiking trails and cultural spots. The Inn’s concierge has a fantastic list of activities for the newlyweds on the go… and offers champagne to those who want to stay in.
The Inn offers fantastic online deals and discounted rates to those who can make the trip on weekdays – so if you’re flexible, you can achieve some pretty impressive luxury at a semi-affordable rate (especially compared to a real wedding).

By Lizz Westman