by Jolene Rae Harrington, Director of Creative Content
As a born-and-raised California girl, I knew one thing for sure—when I got married, it would be on the beach. Not next to the beach, not overlooking the beach or on an ocean view terrace, but actually on the sand. Maybe I’d seen the film classic From Here To Eternity one too many times (you know that famous scene where Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr embrace while lying in the crashing surf?). Not to be outdone, my ultra-romantic wedding fantasy included all the key elements: a movie-worthy stretch of sand, a spectacular sunset, and the two of us strolling barefoot at the water’s edge as a breeze carried our kisses out to sea…
I’m happy to report my wedding turned out exactly as I always imagined it would. And yours can, too! If it’s an authentic beach wedding you’re after, then any one of these coastal venues will arrange it for you, just the way you want it.
From North to South of the Golden State, the winners are:
Patterned after the quaint coastal cottages of 16th-century England, the Pelican Inn is a cozy world unto itself. Wedding groups have the run of the place, including a pub, a glassed-in conservatory, and a garden lawn. Couples can also exchange vows on Muir Beach, a mere two-minute walk from this storybook spot. Tucked against the forested hillsides of Mt. Tamalpais, Muir Beach captures the spiritual majesty of Mother Nature. Weddings here tend to be both unconventional and inspiring, with couples promising to have and to hold while gulls dive among pillows of sea mist. Then it’s back to the Inn for a celebratory toast and a hearty English feast by a roaring fire.
Gatherings is an all-inclusive event venue offering the perfect wedding trifecta: a vintage-style setting in a restored Victorian home; superb, made-to-order cuisine; and, of course, beach wedding ceremonies. This clever combo is the brainchild of Events by Classic, a family-run culinary and event production team that’s a local favorite. Gatherings will stage your ceremony on one of the area’s scenic beaches, like Lover’s Point, a lovely coastal enclave. And since it’s just a couple of blocks away, guests can easily return to Gatherings for the cocktail hour, while the newlyweds pose for photos among the waves.
For the couple who dream of saying “I Do” in full view of the waves and the dynamic Monterey skyline, this is the place. The resort is located right on the beach, so weddings here are a snap. The staff provides a wedding arch, white chairs and an aisle runner, and you can also rent a gazebo. Sunset weddings are nothing short of breathtaking; then, instead of moving to one of the ballrooms, stay right where you are for your reception. Go for something fun and carefree, like a luau or clambake; or add specialty menu items and upscale décor for a chic beach soirée.
Famous for family getaways and old-fashioned fun in the sun, Pismo also loves a good wedding. In fact, the staff at SeaVenture, a beachfront boutique hotel, will set up the ceremony for you—right on the powder-soft sand. Do it up fancy, with satin chair covers, a petal-strewn aisle, and white wedding arch entwined with garlands. Or keep the mood light and breezy, letting the vibrant seascape and boldly colored sunset accompany your vows. Other scenic bonuses include wind-sculpted sandbanks and a neighboring tidal marsh, home to ducks, sandpipers and a blanket of beach grass. Later, toast the panorama from SeaVenture’s upstairs terrace, a serene spot for cocktails or a moonlit after-party.
Ventura’s sandy beaches are both scenic and uncrowded—the perfect spot for exchanging wedding vows. How to organize the details? With the help of Wedgewood Buenaventura, known for their stress-free and affordable celebration packages. They’ll set the stage with an arch, flowers, chairs, torches and music system. Then say “I do” in front of the waves, with the Channel Islands in the distance—and maybe a spectacular sunset, too. Afterwards, host cocktails and even your reception by the ocean…or take the party to the nearby window-lined banquet room overlooking garden fairways. The best part: Wedgewood Buenaventura can make it all happen without breaking the bank!
It’s only a five-minute walk from the Club to Santa Claus Lane Beach—or rent a cute trolley to shuttle your guests to the sand. The Rincon Beach Club comes with an experienced catering and production team that is full of ideas: pay homage to the coastal setting, and mark the wedding aisle with seashells, coral or driftwood; set up a bamboo arch draped with rich fabric; or install an orchid-strewn canopy for some tropical flair—they can even lay grass sod on the sand! Rincon’s style squad suggests arranging the guest chairs facing southward toward a curve of shoreline; in the background, the silhouette of Moroccan-style buildings built into the bluff creates the illusion of marrying on an exotic Grecian isle!
Your wedding at Malibu Nature Preserve contributes to a worthy cause—safeguarding acres of mountain wilderness, historic Chumash caves and endangered habitat. Not only can you celebrate amidst the Preserve’s harmonious surroundings, you can also conduct your ceremony at neighboring Nicholas Canyon Beach. Opt for a simple ritual surrounded by a cluster of well-wishers; or go all out with a formal arrangement of white chairs, decorated arch and carpeted aisle. Dolphins, migrating whales and shorebirds occasionally make an appearance, while legendary sunsets are guaranteed. For your reception, return to the Preserve where sycamore trees, a flowing creek, and an ocean view clubhouse keep things real.
Tucked at the end of a side street at the tip of Point Dume, this restaurant faces a pretty stretch of relatively secluded shoreline, with a froth of white sand and phenomenal, multi-color horizons as the sun goes down. What’s more, The Sunset staff will arrange your entire ceremony for you, complete with platform aisle and small stage, chairs, electricity and sound system. Following the ceremony, guests take cocktails in the lounge while you and your wedding party frolic in the sand for your Kodak moments. Add to this fabulous food and a casually elegant reception space, and you can see why at The Sunset, living (and partying!) is easy and inspired.
Not only does The Chart House serve up crowd-pleasing food and wine along with panoramic views of the Pacific, it’s also is one of the only places in the area where you can wed on the beach. The staff arranges everything with ease—some couples exchange vows on a carpeted platform, while others pledge themselves, barefoot, right on the sand. The most picturesque time for a ceremony here is at sunset, with a soft orange and pink glow blossoming in the distance. During the cocktail hour, the wedding party can romp at the water’s edge for photos. Add a tent to the scene, and continue the reception festivities seaside.
The landmark La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club stretches along a picturesque cove, encompassing one of the last remaining private beaches on the fabled Southern California coastline. Stage a stellar wedding ceremony right on the impeccably groomed beach, just steps away from the club and reserved exclusively for your own friends and family. Your grand entrance begins down the curved staircase from your bridal suite to the sandy aisle. Then, accompanied by the sound of gentle waves lapping at the shore, exchange vows against the unforgettable panorama of the blue Pacific. This quintessential waterfront locale is so fantastic you might not want to leave!