Perhaps the biggest decision a bride and groom must make - apart from saying, “I do”- is finding the perfect location for their dream wedding.
For some, this is will be dictated by their budget, while others will know no boundaries when it comes to splurging on their ideal venue. Whether you’re looking to have a small, intimate outdoor wedding or a grand, black tie affair, here is a list of the top ten, most desirable wedding venues in California:
For starters, nothing says romance like an elegant outdoor wedding in Napa Valley. At the Beaulieu Garden, a blend of modern and traditional elements will create a fun, rustic feel to your wedding. Set in a stunning, secluded area, guests will enter the venue site by driving down a quarter-mile driveway, shaded by a canopy of sycamore trees. Vows can be exchanged in the sunken garden and dinner served beneath exquisite sycamore arbor. A sparkling pool, manicured lawns, and grape vines can be seen from every angle and boast extraordinary photographic opportunities. Accommodating up to 300 guests with catering provided, this gorgeous garden estate is simply magical.
Switching gears, a more quirky, fun location is the 30 acre Santa Barbara Zoological Gardens in Santa Barbara. Not only does the Palm Garden ceremony site feature a lush, green lawn and tall, shady palm trees, it is set among many exotic animals from all over the world. With the Palm Garden providing enough seating for 250-275 family and friends, steps away is the Hilltop reception site that can accommodate twice as many guests. Situated uniquely along the gorgeous Santa Barbara coast, guests can view animals, such as giraffes, while watching the sun sets over the clear, blue Pacific Ocean. During the reception, guests are welcome to take a train ride around the zoo, enjoy animal exploration, and participate in giraffe feedings as well. Without sacrificing an element of class or sophistication, this venue will surely leave an impression on all who attend your big day.
It’s hard to talk about California locations without mentioning the world renowned Malibu coastline. Of course there are numerous famous beaches to hold your ceremony, but The Sunset Restuarant is by far a favorite. Bringing chic style to a typically more casual wedding theme, The Sunset Restaurant is an upscale two-story beach bungalow steps away from the famous Zuma beach. Accommodating up to 150 guests, they strive to make your wedding planning as stress-free as possible by arranging a platform walkway, runner, and wood stage area on the sand, leaving the beautiful ocean as your back drop. The cool breeze, relaxing sound of waves kissing the shoreline, and picture-perfect scenery will transform your dream into reality and exceed all expectations. After the ceremony, guests can congregate on an outdoor patio of the restaurant and snack on hors d’oeuvres and sip cocktails while photographers capture every lively moment. The official reception is held in the Event Room featuring a ceiling draped with white fabric that lends a wavy softness to the space, and a row of windows curves shoreward to provide a spectacular view. With year round availability, this beach wedding venue is nothing short of amazing.
A very different, but equally impressive venue is the historic Mission Inn Hotel and Spa in downtown Riverside. Imagine Spanish Gothic architecture meets Renaissance princess castle. This famous architectural landmark is a known hot spot for presidents and celebrities alike, and has served as the wedding location of Pat and Richard Nixon and the honeymoon spot for Nancy and Ronald Reagan. Considered the largest Mission Revival style building in the U.S., the Mission Inn offers two wedding chapels and seven banquet rooms. Each featuring their own style and motif, the St. Francis of Assisi Chapel is exquisitely embellished with priceless treasures from around the world. Gleaming with a gold altar, jewel-toned Tiffany windows, and the capacity to hold up 150 guests, it is much larger than the St. Cecilia Chapel. This smaller room is also decked out in gold, but is perfect for small, intimate weddings, with seating for 12 close family and friends. For the reception hall, the bride and groom have the choice of the Music Room that resembles a Spanish castle, the Spanish Art Gallery that is adjacent to the Atrio courtyard, the Galleria that is adorned with priceless antiques, and more. The Mission Inn is truly a sight to see, and an unforgettable venue.
Another setting that’s sure to astonish you and your guests is the Casino Ballroom in Avalon on Catalina Island.
Not only is the serene island away from pollution, skyscrapers, and vehicles -since people get around by way of golf carts – this destination wedding paradise will make your guests feel as if they’re on a mini vacation. Built in 1929, the grand 12-story circular Casino is located on the edge of Avalon Cove. The top floor, 50-foot ceiling ballroom is large enough to house both your ceremony and reception without being cramped for space. A raised seating area encompasses a dance floor while a vintage full-service bar serves refreshments and cocktails. The room also features and elevated stage, and is perfect for a live band or other entertainment. In addition, the outdoor veranda encircles the ballroom and overlooks the dazzling Avalon Bay. From this astonishing spot, you and your guests can soak up the fabulous view of the mainland, sometimes stretching from Ventura to San Diego.
Back on the mainland, nestled along the peaceful outskirts of Los Angeles, the luxury Four Seasons Hotel in Westlake Village is also a highly desirable place to tie the knot. Offering Persian, Kosher, Lily, Orchid, Rose, Weekday, Indian, and Ceremony wedding packages, there’s a theme to fit every couple’s needs. The bride and groom can choose from various outdoor and indoor venues including the garden lawn/tent, gazebo, waterfall lawn, Chinese pagoda, and more. Depending on the size of your guest list, your reception can be held in smaller rooms such as the Malibu, Hampshire, or Sherwood room, one of the many ballrooms, or the grand ballroom. Picturesque gardens, world class catering, and an in-house florist and wedding salon, make it easy to plan and host the perfect wedding celebration.
For those who are sick of outdoor, garden, or hotel ballroom weddings, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is the ideal venue to throw the social event of the season. Depending on the number of attendants, the aquarium offers the rental of the Open Seas Galleries, Ocean’s Edge Galleries, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Café and Restaurant, or the entire aquarium. Imagine dining on a scrumptious dinner while feeling as if you’re underwater while seated next to a 90-foot glass window aquarium, watching as exotic sea life glides past you and your loved ones. Understanding that each wedding is as unique as each couple, event coordinators are there to assist with menus, pricing, and can even make your wedding “green” by organizing an environmentally friendly party.
Keeping with aquatic themed weddings, Commodore Cruises & Events in San Francisco offers six luxury yachts to choose from for a luxurious evening to remember. Sailing around the San Francisco Bay, you and your guests will be treated like celebrities. Willing to accommodate 10 to 350 guests –including kids and dogs, - a wedding specialist will help you plan and design every last detail for the wedding of your dreams. Providing a Captain to officiate the ceremony, you can create personalized catering and cocktail menus as well. Being extremely flexible, Commodore yachts will allow you to use outside vendors if you wish to do so.
From sea level, rise over 11,000 feet and consider getting married on the top of well-known Mammoth Mountain in Mammoth Lakes. Available year round, guests will board the Panorama Gondola at the bottom of the mountain and literally rise to the occasion. Once the ceremony is complete, the newlyweds are welcome to ski or bike down the mountain. Your reception can be held at the Parallax, an on-mountain fine dining restaurant, McCoy Station, located mid-mountain, or Little Eagle Lodge, the Mill café, and Mountainside Conference Center found at the bottom of the mountain.
Last but certainly not least, is the posh Chateau de Beverly Hills in Beverly Hills.
If you want to feel like royalty, this 36,000 square foot estate is extravagant in every way. With the exterior featuring a tennis court, elaborate pool with plenty of space for relaxation, and a perfectly manicured lawn, it is the ultimate venue to host your closest 150 family and friends. The interior absolutely drips with 24 karat gold from floor to ceiling, and the grand entrance is comparable to the White House. The imported limestone and onyx marble complete the ballrooms, dining halls, and library. The full-service space also offers catering and event staffing to ensure your wedding is over-the-top and classy.
Julia Henning has worked for Wedgewood Banquet since 2010 and oversees Wedgewood’s online marketing, print advertising and social media efforts. Prior to getting her Masters of Management in Hospitality from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, Julia also graduated from New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts with a B.F.A. in Theater. Her interests include music, comedy, art, data, and, of course, excel spreadsheets.