Here Comes The Guide's Blog

North of Wine Country: California's Secret Clearlake Wedding and Event Venues

While I’ve lived in the Bay Area for 30 years, I took my very first trip to Lake County only recently when I rented a house on Clearlake for a much-needed family vacation. Now that I’ve finally visited, though, I’m already starting to wonder when I can return to this peaceful region north of the wine country. Of course I managed to scout out some ideal wedding ceremony, reception and rehearsal dinner sites while there. A couple of my new favorite places:

Makiivka Estate Makiivka Estate: Owner Jan Attard’s mission to create a taste of old Europe amongst California’s vineyards has already been achieved in their lovely ranch house, but I learned there are even bigger plans for this property. Situated on a picturesque stretch of organic farmland near Lakeport, Makiivka Estate will soon boast a reflecting pool, a spa and an olive grove for outdoor ceremonies. Proceeds from events will benefit an orphanage in Makiivka, in the Ukraine. Jan refers to this location as her “passion in progress,” and I’m confident that this passion of hers will quickly become the highly sought-after wedding venue she envisions.

Chapel at Terrill Cellars Terrill Cellars: If you get a thrill finding places off the beaten path, you might be just as drawn to Terrill Winery as I was. The Tuscan-style grounds include an adorable 22-seat chapel right next to their tasting room. Guests can stay in nearby Kelseyville, where we found a charming vacation rental with sunset views overlooking the entire lake.

I imagine that saying your vows in a place as quiet and natural as Clearlake can be a spiritual experience. If you’ve discovered some of your own wedding locations in this region, let me know so I can have a good excuse to go back.

Wedding Venues with a Wild Side

Would you like to have a giraffe crash your wedding? It’s possible, and for animal lovers it would make a jaw-dropping story to tell for years to come. If you want to get wild at your wedding, consider these animal-friendly wedding locations in Southern California:

San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal ParkSan Diego Zoo’s Wild Animal Park: Exchange your vows while herds of giraffes, rhinos, gazelles, and oryx roam nearby, or maybe say “I do” at a lagoon surrounded by rare birds and plants. The staff at the San Diego Zoo can design your own customized wedding “habitat,” complete with animal print linens and whimsical leopard-dotted and zebra-striped cakes.

The Condor’s Nest Ranch: With pot-bellied pigs, goats and horses, The Condor’s Nest Ranch outside of San Diego won my heart with their gorgeous skyline views and serene poolside reception area. Their on-site wedding coordinator encourages animal encounters for visitors—which would be a great way to keep children entertained at a wedding!The Condor's Nest Ranch

Chocolate Changes The World

In case you’re wondering how to express your love on Valentine’s Day: Love is chocolate. Just ask the Buddhist monks who make Intentional Chocolate™.

Infused with the intention of health and well-being by experienced meditators—some of whom trained with His Holiness the Dalai Lama—Intentional Chocolate nourishes both body and spirit.

Valentine Raspberry Hearts by Intentional ChocolateNeed Justification to Indulge?
Through rigorous scientific testing, researchers found that one ounce of Intentional Chocolate per day for three days increased subjects’ well-being, vigor and energy by an average of 67 percent and, in some cases, up to 1,000 percent. Besides being a great treat for your significant other, it’s also the perfect pick-me-up for couples exhausted from spending all their free time planning a wedding (including yourselves!), and it makes a thoughtful wedding favor.

Share the Love.

Girl's Night Out

If you’re going through party withdrawal after the holidays, grab your girlfriends and head to the Central California wine region’s Cellar360 Paso Robles for their Girl’s Night Out event Friday, January 23.

Meridian VineyardsThey’ve got the works: eye make-up application techniques, organic cooking demonstrations, massage therapy, reflexology, oxygen bar samples. You’ll even get a private shopping experience in their retail store with wine club discounts—and of course, plenty of wine tasting and bubbly!

While you’re sipping and shopping, do yourself a favor and take a moment to imagine your wedding at this breathtaking winery.

Girl’s Night Out cost: $20 per person in advance or $25 per person at the door. RSVP today: 805/226-7133.

Looking for Central California wedding inspiration? Check out Jolene Rae Harrington’s new Central Coast Wedding article for wedding location ideas.

History and Romance in San Diego

If you’re on the lookout for a San Diego wedding location that has a history as special as the one you and your fiancé share, you’re in luck: Many of the San Diego venues we feature have historical significance that is only surpassed by their impressive architecture. Here are a few of my faves:The Prado at Balboa Park

  • The Prado at Balboa Park was chosen as the site of the 1915–16 Panama-California Exposition for it’s “flamboyant group of Spanish Renaissance-style structures.” Ceremonies are performed in the Casa del Rey Moro Gardens, and receptions take place in the Prado’s on-site restaurant, whose award-winning food will knock the socks off your guests. If you’re trying to make a lasting impression, this is the place.
  • La Valencia Hotel has always been one of my favorite stops in downtown La Jolla. Our writers sum it up, saying, “despite her venerable age, this grande dame of luxury hotels has hung onto her youthful charm.” She’s a beauty that brings life to her city.The Abbey
  • The Abbey, a renovated 1910 church-turned-restaurant, seems perfect for a Renaissance wedding. Its two enormous, domed stained-glass skylights bathe the space in a pale yellow glow, while the twelve luminous stained-glass windows cast their own celestial light. Its extremely high ceilings leave no doubt that The Abbey was built with the goal of directing worldly minds to the heavens.
  • And you just can’t take in San Diego without a trip to the iconic Hotel Del Coronado. Situated along 28 oceanfront acres, the dramatic Victorian landmark is famous for one love story in particular: The Hotel Del is presumed to be where England’s Prince of Wales began his courtship of Wallis Simpson in 1920, costing him his throne. Now that’s crazy love! As you and your beloved stroll around the hotel and its beautiful grounds, you, too, may succumb to its romantic spell.Hotel Del Coronado