44 PERFECT PLACES TO SAY “I DO” IN CALIFORNIA
Picking your dream wedding location—one that reflects who you are as individuals, and as a couple—is a key part to creating your perfect celebration. California has an unmatched variety of perfect settings for your ceremony—from low-key to luxury, wild and beautiful to rarified elegance. Here, we help you find the California destination that best matches your big day.
• Romantic Hideaways
• Natural Splendor
• LGBT Weddings
• Wine Country Luxury
• “Only in California”
California excels at exclusive (and discreet) retreats fit for movie stars—and anyone else who wants 5-star luxury in ultra-romantic settings. These destinations are known for sigh-inducing settings and spoil-me-now lodgings. Along the North Coast , Mendocino , with wisps of fog above coastal bluffs dotted with charming cottages, is a wedding favorite. Luxury B&Bs and resorts abound, many with complete wedding packages. Further south along the Central Coast , wedding options abound. Consider Clint Eastwood’s historic and meticulously restored Mission Ranch in the beautiful Carmel Valley , or the dream destination of Post Ranch Inn , perched on cliffs high along the spectacular Big Sur coast. Santa Barbara , with its ocean vista and red-tiled rooftops, this idyllic city has a host of spectacular hideaways, like El Encanto and Four Seasons’ The Biltmore .
Lake Tahoe , with an alpine setting unlike anything else in the world (except maybe Italy’s Lake Como), features some spoil-me lodgings at or near the lake, on both North Shore and South Shore , such as the Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe . You can even get hitched on a luxury yacht .
Warm evening air, a desert breeze, cabañas by the pool—what’s not to love about a luxurious wedding in the California desert , especially with choices like The Parker Palm Springs , or Death Valley’s Furnace Creek Resort . Another ultra-lux option: Beverly Hills , a town known for movie-star liaisons, with plenty of exclusive—and posh—places to get married, like the expansively refurbished Beverly Hills Hotel and Bunglows (Elizabeth Taylor had six of her eight honeymoons there).
Views might be even more beautiful than the bride at California’s national (NP) and state parks (SP) and state beaches (SB). In general: you can’t just show up—parks may have fees and requirements, so contact individual sites for details. The choices are as varied as nature. Along the North Coast at Redwoods SP and NP , groves of soaring coast redwoods create breathtaking natural cathedrals. Redwood Adventures helps you set up the perfect location for your wedding at various park locations.. (For more wedding ideas in the area, click here.) Further south in Sonoma , at Sonoma Coast SP , find a site along a 20-mile-long string of remote beaches, squawking gulls, sunning seals, and spouting whales will be ad-hoc wedding guests.
In the High Sierra, Yosemite NP , with granite monoliths and thundering waterfalls, plus an idyllic steeple-topped chapel framed by views of Half Dome, is a standout location (more ideas and nearby locations here ). Find amazing mountain vistas around Mammoth Lakes . At Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP , have your wedding party form a human chain around the trunk of a giant sequoia, the world’s largest living thing. Then celebrate at pretty Wuksachi Lodge , or a collection of historic cabins .
Thinking more sun and surf? Protected beaches along the Orange County coast can be breathtaking backdrops for weddings. Given the nod as one of the state’s prettiest beaches, Crystal Cove SB , just north of Laguna Beach also has historic cottages for rent (reserve as far in advance as possible).
WINE COUNTRY LUXURY
Vistas of vineyards, local wines in your glass, in settings ranging from 5-star resorts to low-key farms with gnarled olive trees and rustic barns: if this sounds like heaven, then plan your wedding in California wine country. Choose from castles, manors, and elegant estates in the celebrated Napa Valley . For an intimate experience just north of San Francisco, consider the rolling hills and lush vineyards of the inviting Sonoma Valley . Travel to the North Coast to discover wineries, many focusing on organic growing techniques, trimmed with tall redwoods. Just east in the bucolic Lake County wine region, find surprising elegance in under-the-radar vineyards.
If you dream of a wedding with relaxed country appeal, consider the Central Coast . In Monterey Wine Country , quiet country roads lead to low-key and friendly wineries with beautiful settings. Santa Ynez Valley , known for producing exceptional Pinot Noirs, has wineries and vineyards nestled in rolling coastal hills. And in Paso Robles , former ranch land is known an acclaimed wine region, but cowboy hats and boots still abound.
And, for the warm evenings that truly turn weddings into magical affairs, try this trio. First, the Central Valley’s Lodi Wine Country , with more than 70 boutique vineyards on inviting grounds, many available for weddings. Another option is the Temecula Valley and its expansive wine region . Roughly halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs, this are has both lavish wine estates and low-key wineries—and hot-air balloon rides too.
“ONLY IN CALIFORNIA”
For a wedding that truly couldn’t be anywhere else in the world, consider one of these Golden State originals. Start with some of the state’s oldest amazing sites, California’s 18th and 19th century Spanish missions , stretching from San Diego to Sonoma; Mission La Purisima Concepción , now a state park north of Santa Barbara, is considered to be the most meticulously restored.
At Lake Tahoe , consider getting married at a majestic lakefront mansion at Tallac Historic Site , once the playground of San Francisco’s 19th-century elite. Just south, get hitched in a real-life ghost town at Bodie State Historic Park , with sagebrush-scented winds flutterin’ your veil.
Along the Central Coast, there’s Hearst Castle , where you can wed in ornate opulence created by publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. Want to spend your wedding night in a caveman’s lair? A ship captain’s quarters? Choose from over 100 themed rooms at Madonna Inn , a monument to kitsch in San Luis Obispo. In Southern California, consider Kimberly Crest in Redlands; the 1897 Victorian chateau is wrapped by more than six acres of Renaissance-style Italian gardens.
For the ultimate fantasy, say your vows at Disneyland Resort , SeaWorld San Diego , or another iconic theme park. Give your wedding that Tinseltown glow by having your ceremony at a world-famous film studio, like Universal Studios Hollywood , Warner Bros. , or Paramount . Vamp like Marilyn at San Diego’s Hotel del Coronado , where the blond bombshell steamed up Tony Curtis’s glasses in 1959’s Some Like It Hot.