Emerald Bay: it’s one of the most photographed locations in Lake Tahoe so it’s no wonder that so many people desire to elope there. I learned a fun fact while on the Cruise Tahoe boat for a vow renewal last week: Emerald Bay is actually emerald because the color of the water is reflected by the proximity of the trees in this small bay. While throngs of visitors clamber about the rocks and falls high above the bay every year, I’m here to strongly suggest that as you stand on the precipice of forever, there’s a much more extraordinary way to embrace the magic of Emerald Bay: by sailing into your forever together on the gentle waves of its waters. Literally – I think you should consider an Emerald Bay elopement by boat rather than by land!

Whether you charter a vintage wooden boat, Lake Tahoe Boat Rides Bada Boat, or a much larger yacht, it means that you will ultimately be literally surrounded by the emerald hues of the bay, much more beautiful light, and the panoramic grandeur of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Whether you’re an adventurous couple seeking a unique twist or simply captivated by the romance of water, or just willing to listen to this photographer tell you that it’s epically more beautiful down below than up above, I’m here to help guide you into an Emerald Bay boat elopement! Let’s dive into those details!

History of Emerald Bay

In 1928, Mrs. Lora Knight bought up all the land in Emerald Bay with the intention of building her dream home: her Scandinavian inspired castle, built by 200 workers whom she housed and fed on the property in the summer of 1929 was built in five months.  Vikingsholm still stands today and is the centerpiece of Emerald Bay.

In the center of the bay lies Fannette Island, a tiny isle formed by a glacier with a tea house on top, where Lora would have her servents row her and her guests out for high noon tea.  While Fannette Island is clearly seen from the heights up above, Vikingsholm Castle is only viewed by the shoreline or by boat.  It makes a unique and stunning backdrop for elopements and vow renewals.

Lake Tahoe Boat Elopement

Planning Your Emerald Bay Boat Elopement

To be honest, planning a boat elopement at Emerald Bay is wonderfully devoid of the complications that a land elopement requires.  For one, when you get married on a boat, there’s no permit required!  There’s no issues with overcrowded parking.  There’s bathrooms available. And best yet, there’s no strangers milling about trying to get selfies from the best vantage point. Best yet, your boat captain in most cases is ordained as a minister and can perform your ceremony for you!

You’ve got a choice of amazing boats to charter in town: from large vintage wooden boats like Tahoe Tasting’s Legend to Cruise Tahoe’s 1950 wood cruiser, the Tahoe to name a few.  You’ll want to factor in the number of guests to make sure everyone has enough space to be comfortable. If you’re hosting a large amount of guests (more than 20) you’ll want to consider the Tahoe Blue Wave or the Roundhill Pines Yacht, The Serenity.  Twelve to twenty guests? Charter the Golden Rose or the Legend.  Want to make sure you can take photos on the beach? You’ll want one of the smaller boats from Cruise Tahoe or Lake Tahoe Boat Rides.

Emerald Bay Elopement

Finding the Perfect Time

Light is everything! The only way to have a sunset in Emerald Bay is by boat. This is something no one seems to consider and people just LOVE to try to plan a “sunset elopement” in Emerald Bay, but because of the bay’s geographical orientation and the towering peaks of the mountains over you, there is NO sunset from the top of the bay.

Y’ALL: Emerald Bay faces eastward, with its entrance opening towards the east side of Lake Tahoe. As the sun sets in the west, the surrounding mountains and hills create a natural barrier that obstructs the direct view of the sunset from within the bay. This means that while you can experience the serenity of sunrise and the shimmering waters during the day, the bay itself doesn’t offer the classic “sunset over the water” view that is often associated with coastal or western-facing locations. Unless, that is, you are on a boat! You’ll want to plan to leave the dock around an hour and a half to two hours before sunset to get those beautiful rays in the back of the bay for your photos if you’re planning an Emerald Bay elopement by boat.