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Intimate Luxury Wedding in Big Sur | Jon and Ariana

Newlyweds laughing on the beach in Big Sur, California by Carmel photographer AGS Photo Art

When I heard Jon and Ariana’s love story, I KNEW they were my kind of people. They met in December 2015 at a bar in San Francisco at SantaCon! Jon was dressed up, looking dapper in his Santa suit and Ariana caught his eye in her Mrs. Claus dress. In a sea of people dressed the same, they found themselves connected. Must have been some mistletoe magic that night which ultimately led to an intimate luxury wedding in Big Sur, about two hours south of where they first met.

Bride and groom kissing by the beach in Carmel, California before their Big Sur Wedding

Originally from Belleville, NJ, Jon found himself in North California in venture finance. Ariana, hailing from Southern California, had made her way up the coast. As a Registered Nurse, she made a second home in the award-winning Stanford Health Care system.

Wedding portrait in Big Sur, California

The high-achieving couple and I bonded over our love for exploration and pups. Their mini Bernedoodle Choco would surely be BFFs with my mini goldendoodle, Tiger!

Groom crying of happiness as his bride walks down the aisle on the beach in Big Sur, California
Getting ready shots by photographer AGS Photo Art of groom writing his vows

The Proposal that Led to an Intimate Luxury Wedding in Big Sur

Proposing was on Jon’s mind in 2020, but then the pandemic hit. When things started opening up, Jon mapped out his plan. In May 2021, the couple took their second trip to Yosemite as a couple. Jon had the ring in his pocket and the perfect hike planned – but the universe laughed. When they learned that the hike they intended to explore was closed for maintenance, they ambitiously decided to hike the Four Mile Trail. This trail name is grossly misleading as it is actually a NINE mile hike to Glacier Point from Yosemite Valley. In addition to the distance, it’s also labeled on a difficult level as “Strenuous.” FUN! Our buddy Jon had to be prepared to break a sweat.

Beautiful photography of detail shots before wedding in Carmel, California

Despite Ariana’s many thoughts of turning back along the way and the countless number of proposal-worthy views passed, the couple trudged on. About 5 hours into the hike they reached the peak at Glacier Point with the most special stone still in Jon’s pocket. 

Vibrant flower arrangement bridal bouquet in Carmel, California

A Yosemite Proposal

Thankfully, atop the trail sat a snack shop. After a quick bite at Glacier Point, Ariana was eager to start the trek back to base camp, however, Jon urged that they soak in the views and take some photos as he began setting up multiple photo tripods (Ariana grew suspicious). 

Black and white BW film photography of bride and groom kissing on the beach in Big Sur, by AGS Photo Art

As most of the other guests cleared the way, Jon knew the time was now. In a failed attempt to be smooth, Jon dropped to the ground pretending he had pain in his ankle while Ariana was not fazed and continued to pose for photos. Jon on one knee nervously fumbled for the ring and opened his mouth to share all the sweet words he had prepared to say to Ariana, but with a blank mind just managed to barely say “I love you. Will you marry me?” handing Ariana the ring after hearing “YES!”’

Black and white BW film photography of bride at Cypress Inn in Carmel by the Sea, photography by AGS Photo Art

Getting Ready for their Intimate Luxury Wedding in Big Sur

From Yosemite National Park to Big Sur State Park, the outdoors hold a special place for the couple. They knew they wanted to bring their closest loved ones and share an intimate luxury wedding at Big Sur with them. Big Sur is about 2 hours south of their California residence, making it the perfect distance for a getaway without having a full-on destination wedding.

Bride and groom getting ready at Cypress Inn in Carmel by the Sea, by photographer AGS Photo Art

The Details

The couple got ready at the CUTEST and coziest Cypress Inn. The Mediterranean influence brought style and classiness to its overall feel and decor inside and out! It had so much character and luxury right in the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea. I can go on and on about all of the beautiful details Ariana and Jon thought of for their intimate luxury wedding. Their His and Hers forest green vow books (that Jon was still furiously scribbling away in!) and their perfume and cologne choices – Aqua Allegoria for her and Bvlgari Man Wood Essence for him. Ariana wore a beautiful pair of short beaded heels and Jon a set of smooth loafers.

Bride and groom getting ready at Cypress Inn in Carmel by the Sea, by photographer AGS Photo Art

Ariana’s dress featured a deep v-neck, covered with soft mesh. The floral design was heavy at the top and tapered off towards the bottom. The back of it featured a cutout laced with beads. It truly was spectacular. She accented it with dangling teardrop earrings and, of course, her gorgeous round diamond ring.

Bride and groom kiss by classic 1969 Thunderbird wedding getaway car, photography by AGS Photo Art

Getting Ready for the most GORGEOUS Intimate Luxury Wedding

Ariana’s mom was dressed pretty in pink with matching nails, accenting the bride’s pink florals in the bouquet. It pulled the mother and daughter’s beauty together and they looked perfect. Ariana and her mom chatted while getting ready like only a mom and daughter can. Jon described Ariana as kind, caring/nurturing, genuine, down-to-earth, as well as very random and hilarious in the same breath. The way we see her now laughing with her mom, we can see what Jon does.

Newlyweds kiss on the beach in Big Sur, California. Photography by AGS Photo Art

In his room, as Jon finished up his vows and his groomsman helped him with his bowtie. He looked like a husband ready to go! His friend poured him a glass of his favorite Glenmorangie whisky and they shared a toast.

Bride and groom smiling after getting ready in Carmel, California for their Big Sur Wedding
Bride and groom laughing and running playfully in the sand, photography by AGS Photo Art

Finally, the eager couple got to meet face-to-face in all their beauty. When Ariana came out for the First Look in the garden, Jon was GRINNING. He took her hands in his, cherishing the moment. We captured photos of them nose to nose, so sweet. Some of my favorite photos are of them laughing together.

Cute flowergirl laughing during Big Sur wedding ceremony

Big Sur in the Spring

What is the best time of year to elope in Big Sur? You can decide for yourself as there really isn’t a bad time to have an intimate luxury wedding in Big Sur. Some people say to visit in the summer for better weather, others say to avoid the summer due to the increased number of tourists. Ariana and Jon got married in April and I think that was a perfect time for them! If you’re interested in planning your own Big Sur intimate luxury wedding, we are happy to talk out all the date options with you!

Bride and groom kissing by the beach in Carmel, California before their Big Sur Wedding

Wedding Ceremony – Can you get married on the beach in Big Sur?

There are quite a few options for an intimate luxury wedding in Big Sur. Some popular picks are Loma Vista Gardens / Loma Vista Inn, Big Sur Lodge, and Ventana. For Ariana and Jon though, the stripped away bliss of an undisturbed beach and its rolling waters just felt right. And yes, you can get married on the beach! 

Newlyweds laughing on the beach in Big Sur, California by Carmel photographer AGS Photo Art

The Big Sur Sector allows various events at this park with an approved Special Event Permit. Events staged at this park are suitable for those wishing to have a low-key event in a rustic, outdoor location.  This is the only park in the sector with “exclusive access” event sites.  Special Events include weddings, elopements, receptions, rehearsal/welcome dinners, events that require the reservation of park facilities, and other events with vendors.

Contact the Special Event Permit Office at or call 831-667-0507 to obtain a Special Event Information Packet, check the calendar for availability, or apply for a Special Event Permit.

Bride walks down the aisle barefoot on the beach in Big Sur Wedding, by Carmel photographer AGS Photo Art

Ariana and Jon’s Ceremony for their micro wedding in Big Sur

As Ariana and Jon strolled down the path, her veil was beautiful flowing behind her. At the end of the steps to the beach, Jon, ever the gentleman, unbuckled her heels and they shared a sweet smile. Then, they made their way barefoot together to the beach. I took family photos with the rugged cliffs in the background. It was so secluded and beautiful – these landscapes are half the fun when being a Big Sur photographer! Ariana’s niece was the flower girl who stole my heart in her white dress, tights, and shoes. While she was waiting for her turn down the aisle, she sported a pink peacoat. 

Groom wipes his tears after seeing his beautiful bride in Big Sur, California

Ariana and Jon exchanged vows on the beach with six guests around them. Seeing his bride brought tears to Jon’s face. After they said ‘I do’ and shared a kiss, there were big hugs all around. You could tell everyone was just as excited for Ariana and Jon as they were. 

Wedding portrait in Big Sur, California

There’s no exact number, but a micro wedding traditionally means 10 or fewer people. While there are fewer people, by no means is the wedding itself any less. I actually think Ariana and Jon had the MOST in every other way, with even more special touches than some big weddings I have photographed! This wedding was nothing short of fabulous.

Happy newlyweds laughing on the beach in Big Sur

Big Sur Wedding Photography – Couple Portraits

Next, I stole the couple away for their solo photos. Jon was cracking me up. He held Ariana up like Rose on the Titanic, only they were still on the shore. They danced to Perfect Symphony by Ed Sheeran and Andrea Bocelli.

Newlyweds walking along the Big Sur coast. Photography by AGS Photo Art

“‘Cause we were just kids when we fell in love

Not knowing what it was, I will not give you up this time

But darling, just kiss me slow, your heart is all I own

And in your eyes, you’re holding mine.”

Bride and groom barefoot in the sand along the coast of Big Sur, shot on film by AGS Photo Art

I could feel the magic, like this song was written just for them the way they dance together. He spun her around close and she cupped his face, gazing eye to eye like no one was there. Their foreheads pressed together, breathing as one.

Black and white BW film photography of bride and groom in getaway car classic Thunderbird, shot by Camrel photographer AGS Photo Art

After the song ended, Ariana ran and Jon playfully caught up behind her to wrap his arms around her – his wife, today, forever. Their fingers intertwined and I captured some close-ups as well as some beautiful landscapes of Big Sur. We left the beach and headed up the floral path of the cliffs.

Bride and groom kiss in classic car in Big Sur, California after wedding

The colorful flowers splattered across the greenery. We captured some great portraits there and they made their way to their grand exit – a convertible firebird! Each with a hand raised, feeling the wind in their hair, they shared one last kiss and drove off to end their first day married, together. Goodbye, love birds!

Bride and groom with getaway car 1969 Thunderbird classic car by AGS Photo Art

A Luxury Sendoff

This intimate Big Sur wedding was such a joy to photograph and was done in such a beautiful, elevated way. This couple did it the right way IMO by having a black tie, really high-end feel for their wedding, and only having their core people there! They invested in a luxury wedding and with high-end vendors, but also had fun with it, got a getaway car, and added little elements to their day that made it uniquely stylized to them. If you are ready to plan your own micro wedding in Big Sur or a Big Sur elopement. Let’s make the magic happen! You can also find me in the Monterey area, where I am excited to hear your love story!

Bride and groom with getaway car 1969 Thunderbird classic car by AGS Photo Art

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