Protected beaches along the Orange County coast can be breathtaking backdrops for weddings. Given the nod by many as one of the state’s prettiest beaches, Crystal Cove State Beach, just north of Laguna Beach, has historic cottages for rent (reserve as far in advance as possible). Or go for a barefoot-on-the-beach style ceremony at Huntington Beach—a.k.a. Surf City, USA, with fire rings in the sand for after-dark fun. Celebrate the bands of gold on your fingers with the narrow band of sand known as Silver Strand State Beach, a one-side-ocean, one-side-bay finger of sand at the south end of Coronado Island, in San Diego Bay.
Along the Central Coast, have a barefoot wedding in the sugar-fine sand of Carmel Beach. (It helps that there are plenty of luxury lodgings, like the sumptuous yet relaxing Bernardus Lodge, where you can hold your reception.)
North of San Francisco, Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore offer incredible bay and ocean views in wild coastal settings. For elegance amidst all that natural beauty, try the handsome, half-timbered Pelican Inn at tucked-away Muir Beach, near Muir Woods. North on the coast, at Sonoma Coast State Park, find your dream site along a 17-mile-long string of remote beaches, with squawking gulls, sunning seals, and spouting whales standing in as ad-hoc wedding guests.
Along the state’s North Coast, consider tying the knot on an oceanfront bluff at Mendocino Headlands State Park—then head to one of Mendocino’s romantic B&Bs or lodges, like Stanford Inn by the Sea, for a cozy reception and even cozier wedding night.
Looking for a really unforgettable setting? Just south of Mendocino, Point Area Lighthouse makes an unforgettable backdrop as you say your vows, plus there are tidy housekeeping cottages on site in case you want to make a weekend of it.
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