The protected beaches along the Orange County coast can make breathtaking backdrops for weddings. Considered by many to be one of the state’s prettiest beaches, Crystal Cove State Beach, just north of Laguna Beach, has historic cottages available to rent (book as far in advance as possible). Or go for a barefoot-on-the-beach style ceremony at Huntington Beach—aka Surf City, USA, with fire rings in the sand for after-dark fun. Or celebrate the bands of gold on your fingers on the narrow band of sand known as Silver Strand State Beach, a finger of sand with ocean on one side and bay on the other, at the south end of Coronado Island, in San Diego Bay.
On the Central Coast, have a barefoot wedding on the sugar-fine sand of Carmel Beach. (It helps that there are plenty of luxury venues, 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. Go up the coast to Sonoma Coast State Park to find your dream site on a 17-mile-long string of remote beaches, with squawking gulls, sunbathing seals and spouting whales standing in as ad-hoc wedding guests.
On the state’s North Coast, consider tying the knot on a clifftop 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 cosy reception and even cosier wedding night.
Looking for a really unforgettable setting? Just south of Mendocino, Point Arena Lighthouse makes an unforgettable backdrop as you say your vows, plus there are cute little housekeeping cottages on site should you want to make a weekend of it.
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