Selecting your wedding location is key to creating the perfect celebration. California has an unmatched variety of stunning settings for a ceremony—from creative to classical, rugged beauty to rarified elegance. Will you and your betrothed take your vows on a wide-open beach with waves crashing in the background? Or maybe a mountain ceremony with dramatic peaks is more your style? Choose from over-the-top opulent hotels, dreamy vineyards, Spanish missions, towering redwoods, quirky locales, castles, ghost towns, or even Disneyland Resort. You’re sure to find your fantasy destination in the Golden State.
Getting married is a monumental step, so why not choose a monumental setting? Lake Tahoe boasts glamorous resorts like Resort at Squaw Creek and The Landing. In Yosemite National Park you can stand among granite monoliths or have your ceremony in a picture-perfect chapel framed by valley views. Along the North Coast at Redwood State & National Parks, groves of soaring redwoods create breathtaking natural cathedrals.
Follow the Sierra Nevada south to Mammoth Lakes and you’ll find a summit setting accessible by gondola. At Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, your wedding party can circle the trunk of a giant sequoia before retreating to the cabins in Grant Grove. Southern California has alpine retreats too. Get married on a beach at a San Bernardino Mountain classic, Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa. Wedding venues at Big Bear Lake range from rustic retreats to elegant B&Bs and even a paddlewheel-boat wedding.
With more than 400 public beaches along the California coast, there are countless options for a seaside destination. In Southern California, choose from sunny locales like Crystal Cove State Beach, just north of Laguna Beach, with historic cottages for rent. Head to Huntington Beach for after-dark fun thanks to fire rings, or Silver Strand State Beach in San Diego, featuring water on both sides of the sand.
Along the Central Coast, have a barefoot wedding in the sugar-fine sand of Carmel Beach. Or venture north to the Bay Area where Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore offer incredible views in wild coastal settings. At Sonoma Coast State Park, find your dream site along a 17-mile-long string of remote beaches, with sunning seals standing in as ad-hoc wedding guests. Along the North Coast, consider tying the knot on an oceanfront bluff at Mendocino Headlands State Park or the unforgettable Point Arena Lighthouse, featuring cottages on site.
Unique wedding destinations
In many ways, your wedding is a reflection of your personality—so why not let your unique charm shine through? In California’s high desert, you can get hitched in a real-life ghost town at Bodie State Historic Park. Head just north of San Diego to tie the knot inside the Carlsbad Windmill, or head toward Joshua Tree to hold your big celebration at an Old West movie location, Pioneertown. If you’re after a rocker vibe, explore classic nightclubs like The Roxy and Whisky a Go Go in West Hollywood.
The Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo mixes kitsch with fairytale splendor, complete with a signature pink Champagne layer cake. For the ultimate fantasy, say your vows at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim or give your wedding that Tinseltown glow by having your ceremony at Universal Studios Hollywood.
California excels at exclusive retreats fit for movie stars—and anyone else who wants the five-star treatment. Consider Clint Eastwood’s historic Mission Ranch in beautiful Carmel, or the dream destination of Post Ranch Inn, perched on the Big Sur coast. Santa Barbara, with its ocean vistas and red-tiled roofs, has a host of spectacular hideaways like Belmond El Encanto and Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore.
For 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 the Oasis at Death Valley? Go Golden-Hollywood-style in Southern California at the Beverly Hills Hotel where Elizabeth Taylor enjoyed six of her eight honeymoons. In San Diego, vamp like Marilyn at the iconic Hotel del Coronado, where the blond bombshell steamed up Tony Curtis’s glasses in 1959’s Some Like It Hot.
Wine country weddings
If you dream of sprawling vineyards and local wines in your glass, look no further than California wine country. Choose from castles, manors, and elegant estates in celebrated Napa Valley. Or head to the more laid-back and pastoral Sonoma County right next door. For a relaxed country appeal, consider the Central Coast. In Monterey wine country, quiet country roads lead to beautiful settings. Santa Ynez Valley is known for vineyards nestled in rolling coastal hills. And in Paso Robles, former ranch land has gained international attention, but cowboy hats and leather boots still abound.
For the warm evenings that turn weddings into magical affairs, try these two destinations: Lodi Wine Country, with more than 70 boutique vineyards on inviting grounds, or the Temecula Valley, a sunny Southern California region blanketed with both lavish wine estates and low-key wineries—and hot-air balloon rides too.
For a wedding that truly couldn’t be anywhere else in the world, try a historic California location. Start with some of the state’s oldest sites, California’s 18th- and 19th-century Spanish missions. 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.
Along the Central Coast, there’s Hearst Castle, where you can wed in ornate opulence created by publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst. In San Francisco, the Golden Gate Club, a former enlisted men’s club, boasts views of the Golden Gate Bridge and City Hall, one of the most important spaces in LGBTQ history, has a beautiful cupola at the top.