Here Comes the Guide brings you expert articles and blog postings about California wedding locations. We’ll give you tips on how to make sure you ask all the right questions and head’s up posts on the coolest receptions venues in the state.
The list below gives you the option to read longer, more detailed pieces from our Articles + Ideas section or shorter, topical and timely pieces from our blog. Either way, you’ll get great info from the experts on everything related to California weddings.
When my friends and Morris dancing teammates, Meg and Kevin, announced their engagement, I immediately sent them a copy of Here Comes The Guide to help them plan their wedding. That’s where Meg found the Montclair Women’s Cultural Arts Club in Oakland, the site they chose for their reception. Her daughter clinched the choice saying, “Lots of places are really elegant, but this one makes me happy.”
I remember the first time I saw Lake Tahoe—I had just moved to San Francisco for graduate school. My then-boyfriend invited me to a summer weekend at his family’s cabin on North Shore. As a city girl, I had precious little experience with life more than 10 minutes from a shopping mall, and was instantly enraptured with Tahoe’s quiet beauty and mountainous grandeur. Six months later, the same boyfriend took me on a spontaneous Tahoe jaunt for another first—my first time skiing. And even though at the end of the day the Bunny Hill still seemed like K2 to me, there were plenty of other joys to be had. I was amazed at how different and yet equally magnificent the blue lake was in its winter setting, and how crisp and clean the rustic terrain appeared with a dusting of snow. Hot chocolate just tasted better in the sweet mountain air, and surely Lake Tahoe had more stars in the sky than anywhere else on earth!
I’ll admit I’m a gardening junkie. My favorite part of any outdoor spring wedding is having the chance to explore a new wedding location with amazing gardens or flowers. If you love gardens as much as I do, you might want to think about celebrating this Earth Day in the Tri-Valley wine country (the other Napa).
Are you looking to have your wedding ceremony and reception in beautiful Santa Barbara—without breaking the bank? We’ve got two fabulous finds: The first is Elings Park, a private, estate-like setting sequestered in the forested bluffs above the Pacific Ocean. This non-profit park’s 230 scenic acres includes several special event venues with a breathtaking blend of city, hillside and coastal views. Exchange vows in a stone amphitheater, serve cocktails on an oak-shaded patio, and then let the reception unfold on a vast garden lawn!
On a recent weekend getaway to the Napa and Sonoma Wine Country area, my husband Phil and I decided to explore a different side of this famous wedding region. To me, an ideal wedding locale allows guests plenty of options for exploration, and the towns of Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, and Petaluma certainly kept us happily occupied.
Anyone who’s seen the film Sideways knows Central California is a wine lovers dream – but in the last 18 months or so it’s also become one of the top California Wine Country destinations for weddings. The amazing combination of oceanfront and beach locations just 30 short (and beautiful) minutes drive from gorgeous vineyard wedding locationsmakes the Central Coast irresistible. You can do your rehearsal dinner by the water and your reception amongst the vines, or vice versa. The best part? Because this region has flown under the wedding radar for so long, the prices for events are pretty reasonable compared with some of the other wine regions.
We’ve found that the best way to reward ourselves for reaching the sea is with a stay at the Inn on Schoolhouse Creek. The inn is tucked against gardens and deep woods, with a private path to an ocean cove… But the main appeal is that you will never, ever feel the stamp of the cookie-cutter here. Every accommodation is different – we especially loved the little stand-alone cabin with an observation deck (the better to listen to courting critters and watch a slowed-down world go by). During our last stay, my wife and I found that the private hot tub has its own benefits: The warm water freed up our joints, which led to some moves we hadn’t practiced for awhile. It was nice to pretend to be a 20-year-old again! Probably everybody who comes here feels like a 20-year-old for the night.
Everyone likes to talk about how stressful wedding planning is, but there’s plenty to enjoy. For example, looking for a wedding location gives you the excuse to try out different locales with a pre-wedding date—just the two of you. I was reminded of this last week as my husband and I shared some cozy bench time outside the Ferry Building. (Cheap date: we were craving the fig paste, arugula & CowGirl Creamery cheese sandwiches from Acme Bread, plus steaming cups from Peet’s.)