California Wedding Venues:
Everything You Need to Know
Are you and your partner California dreamin’? Finding the best wedding venue in California can provide the dreamiest possible atmosphere for your upcoming wedding celebration. California is a large and diverse state with access to the Pacific Ocean, mountainous areas and the warm weather associated with the West Coast. Are you interested in the more rustic, mountain wedding Northern California offers? Or is a beachside fête at one of the unique Southern California wedding venues more your style? Whichever route you choose, a California wedding comes with so many perks (not to mention, stunning photos!).
This guide will provide an overview of the best California wedding venues along with helpful hints on timing for your event, the value of the right vendors for California weddings and cost considerations that can help you manage your planning process much more easily. We will also look at some of the most popular attractions for guests visiting the state to attend your California wedding. And with our directory, you can find so many photos and information about real California weddings, plus celebrations that have taken place across the country and around the world. We do the research to help you make the best decisions when planning California weddings and deciding on vendors for your very special day.
Wedding venues in California come with a variety of surroundings, climates, and cost, among other factors. If you are looking for a particular wedding venue in California, this guide can assist you in finding the best areas to research and the vendors who can ultimately bring your vision to life. Our website allows you to sort California wedding venues by location and type of wedding to ensure that you land on the most “you” wedding venue in California imaginable.
What is the best time of year for a California wedding?
Because the climate varies widely from Northern California to Southern California and from inland areas to coastal regions, the best time of year to celebrate at California wedding venues is difficult to pin down precisely. Many of the most popular wedding venues Northern California has to offer are located in areas that experience more seasonal changes. Southern California wedding venues, by contrast, may have sunny and mild weather throughout the year. (A California Christmas is known to feature more sand than snow!). When deciding on the right time of year for California weddings, it is important to take into consideration the location of the wedding venue in California you plan to use as well as other factors that can affect your day overall. Here are some key points to consider when deciding on the right time of year for your California wedding.
- Winter weather: Inland areas of Northern California and some parts of the rest of the state are often dominated by mountains and snow-capped peaks. This can sometimes lead to chilly weather during the winter months. If you are considering one of the more popular wedding venues Northern California boasts, weather issues could put a damper on your celebration (especially if you opt for an outdoor event).
- Tourism: Summer is the peak season for tourism for many cities with California wedding venues. From the many small wedding venues Los Angeles offers to Northern California wedding venues, scheduling your wedding during one of the off-season months for tourism can often help you to avoid the crowds and enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors with fewer distractions. Selecting one of the many beach wedding venues California has to offer during a less-crowded time of year can also ensure that your wedding photos are as elegant and pristine as possible.
- Costs: While the price you will pay for some of the most popular beach wedding venues California has to offer will generally be more expensive than comparable Northern California wedding venues, costs do vary throughout the year. High-season pricing can dramatically increase the cost of an off-season wedding venue in California. Selecting the most unique Southern California wedding venues or unusual places in Northern California might add or reduce the overall cost too.
- Your preferences: Of course, the most important factor in deciding on your wedding date will be the preferences of you and your partner. If a specific date is particularly important to you, you may need to find a compromise on your wedding venue in California. This can allow you to secure the date you want at a cost you can afford.
Deciding on the most ideal venue for your California wedding can be challenging. That’s why we always recommend checking out photos of California weddings that can in turn help you locate some of the most popular venues in the area. Whether you are looking for the wedding venues Northern California offers in the mountains or central California wedding venues at potentially more affordable rates, we can help you to find the perfect venue for your celebration.
What are the different types of California wedding venues?
Working with a local California wedding planner can often provide you with insights that can help you identify which type of venue will work best for your big day.
- Vineyards: Northern California wedding venues are often located within easy driving distance of some of the most beautiful vineyards in the state. Some vineyards and farms also serve as elegant California wedding venues, which can make it even easier for you and your partner to find the perfect options for your upcoming wedding plans. Keep in mind that there are some restrictions for events hosted in the Napa Valley region, but Sonoma Valley and Temecula (located in Southern California) are great options for vineyard weddings too.
- Country clubs and estates: Planning California weddings in country clubs can take some of the stress out of the process for couples by ensuring that all the amenities are already in place. These versatile California wedding venues, located all over the state, offer access to kitchen spaces, indoor event spaces, and all the facilities necessary.
- Beaches: While some beach wedding venues in California may have facilities in place for receptions and for general public needs, you will often have to make arrangements for bathrooms and kitchens if you plan to hold a ceremony and reception in the sand. You can also touch base with one of the small wedding venues Los Angeles offers to see if you can take pictures on a nearby beach and hold your ceremony and reception at a nearby hotel or other event center. These wedding venues in California might also need approvals from the state, and there are likely requirements for the type of decor you can bring that won’t disturb the natural environment.
- Mountains: California weddings in the mountains can take place in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, which runs on the eastern side of the state and stretches from Northern to central California. Many people think that Southern California is only home to sandy beaches and hot deserts, but there are mountains there too. These mountain wedding venues in California include those on Big Bear Mountain and other perennially popular spots in the area.
- Resorts: Resort weddings offer all-in-one convenience for you when choosing a wedding venue in California. Accommodations, facilities, and dining opportunities are all available at these California wedding venues.
- Deserts: Some of the most popular options for California wedding venues can be found in the desert. Opting for a wedding venue in California with the most serene desert surroundings can allow you to enjoy a boho-style event you, your partner, and your guests will really love.
What are the different areas for California wedding venues?
California is roughly divided into three basic areas: Northern California, central California, and Southern California.
Northern California is forested and mountainous in many areas. As a result, many of the wedding venues Northern California couples recommend feature these towering peaks and the large old-growth forests in this area. However, it’s also home to big city life in San Francisco, so you can take in nature during the day and then host a celebration among skyscrapers by night. Some of the best California wedding venues are located in this region of the Golden State, which encompasses the following locations:
- Lake Tahoe is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, along the border between California and Nevada. If you are looking for one of the most scenic and dramatic wedding venues Northern California has to offer, opting for venues in this area can often provide you with stunning backdrops and outstanding views for wedding photos and the celebration you have always wanted.
- Napa and Sonoma Valleys are both known for their wine-growing operations. Planning a wedding at one of these wedding venues in California can often allow you to enjoy the serene setting and the beautiful scenery featuring gorgeous vines growing all over the property.
- Sacramento is the capital of California and offers a diverse range of venues and attractions. The Northern California wedding venues located in Old Sacramento often have a historic flair that hearkens back to the days of the Gold Rush, which can make these California wedding venues a wonderful choice for history buffs and vintage themes.
- San Francisco offers a clear view of the Pacific Ocean and is noted for its unique attractions, which include Alcatraz, Treasure Island, and the world-renowned streetcar system that navigates this hilly metropolis. The Golden Gate Bridge is another attraction that adds to the appeal of these California wedding venues, and the historic City Hall makes for some of the most romantic intimate settings for a ceremony or reception.
- San Jose is nestled in Silicon Valley, and the tech hub and offers some of the best California wedding venues for couples planning to get married in the Golden State. The Spanish Colonial Revival architecture and other building styles makes San Jose a great place to find the right wedding venue in California.
- Monterey is another popular option for couples seeking a wedding venue in California. Located on the southernmost edge of Monterey Bay, this vibrant city is home to several music and arts festivals and can provide an ideal solution for couples who want one of the best California wedding venues by the water.
Central California serves as the agricultural heart of the state and offers a number of options for those seeking a wedding venue in California. Some of the most popular central California wedding venues are located along the coast, in places like Big Sur. By traveling inland, however, you may be able to find a spot that suits your needs and that is more affordably priced than the beach wedding venues California offers along the coast. If you are looking for Central California wedding venues, these communities and areas are among the most popular options for California weddings:
- Big Sur is located along the central coast of California and features seaside cliffs that offer excellent views of the nearby Pacific Ocean. Both rustic and formal Central California wedding venues are located along the winding roads that make up this area of California.
- Fresno, California is in the heart of San Joaquin Valley and offers numerous attractions that include the Forestiere Underground Gardens, the Shinzen Japanese Garden in Woodward Park, and the Fresno Chaffee Zoo. Choosing Fresno for your event could potentially reduce the cost of your event, especially when compared with Southern California wedding venues.
- Yosemite National Park is located close to Fresno and is best known for its sky-scraping sequoia trees and the waterfalls that make up this serene and historic landscape. If you are looking for a mountain wedding venue in California, Yosemite is one of the most iconic options for your outdoor ceremony and reception. Before scheduling your wedding or signing a contract with one of the California wedding officiants who serve Yosemite, you and your partner should familiarize yourself with the California wedding restrictions associated with these venues. This can ensure that your wedding goes smoothly and without any issues that could affect your big day.
Southern California is the perfect place to find the mountain, desert, or beach wedding venues California couples most recommend. Many of the most unique Southern California wedding venues might be at a ranch or in a chic loft. If you are looking for the small wedding venues Los Angeles has to offer or are interested in finding the best Santa Barbara wedding venues, among other areas, the following cities and regions are great places to start your search.
- Ojai Valley wedding venues in California often take you into nature, and there’s plenty of it. You can take in the beauty of the area’s lavender fields, and enjoy lots of outdoor activities like horseback riding and hiking. It welcomes more unconventional event options than most Orange County wedding venues or other spots in the state, but many gravitate toward its charm and natural elegance.
- Santa Barbara wedding venues often take advantage of the city's location on the coast and its Spanish-influenced architecture to create a unique look and feel for California weddings. Some Santa Barbara wedding venues are made in the Monterey Colonial style, and many of them feature ocean views and beachfront properties. Finding the perfect Santa Barbara wedding venues can give a distinctive look and feel to your wedding that can make it even more memorable for your guests.
- Los Angeles is the largest city in California with nearly four million residents, and Los Angeles County has even more people and places to check out. While many of the largest wedding venues in California can be found in L.A., you can also find more affordable options at one of the small wedding venues Los Angeles has to offer. These smaller Southern California wedding venues often offer packages that can make your wedding easier to plan, and many hotels and event spaces come with on-site teams who can make your vision a reality. Whether you are looking for the small wedding venues Los Angeles couples most recommend or want to explore options on the beaches of Santa Monica or Malibu, this area can provide the right options for you and your partner.
- Long Beach is perhaps best-known as the permanent home of the RMS Queen Mary, a British ocean liner, and as the location of the Aquarium of the Pacific. California wedding venues located near these attractions can allow your guests to enjoy the benefits of easy access to sightseeing opportunities while you and your partner can choose from the best possible spots in the area. From spaces dedicated to this type of event planning to beachside celebrations, Long Beach is home to some of the very best California wedding venues.
- Coachella Valley is located in the Colorado Desert in Southern California. Its desert setting makes it a popular choice for a wedding venue in California and can allow your photographer to capture some of the most beautiful scenery in the Golden State. Trust us, palm trees are the most iconic and bright accents for all of your wedding photos.
- Orange County wedding venues include options in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, and more cities. Located just south of Los Angeles County, Orange County wedding venues are in demand for California weddings and can provide the most beautiful backdrops for ceremonies and receptions alike. Choosing these Orange County wedding venues will usually come with a view of the ocean, especially if you host your event in one of the more coastal cities. And with Disneyland and Knott's Berry Farm located close to many popular Orange County wedding venues, your guests have all the entertainment they need if there’s spare time.
- San Diego offers some of the most beautiful wedding venues in California in a diverse and vibrant environment. Parks and open spaces are characteristic of this city by the water, and they’re the perfect complement to the skyscrapers that characterize the downtown area of San Diego.
- Famous for wine festivals and other celebrations, Temecula is a great choice if you are looking for a wedding venue in California in a vineyard. Though Napa and Sonoma are well-known in Northern California, this is one of the Southern California wedding venues that offer such an expansive, green outdoor space.
Depending on your personal tastes, you can choose from Orange County wedding venues for beachside affairs, or opt for the mountains to the north. Santa Barbara wedding venues offer a particular charm unlike any part of the state too, and there are plenty of other California wedding venues that will certainly fit your style and preferences. The higher cost of living in California can put some of the best Southern California wedding venues out of reach for some couples, however. Researching the entire state’s options and selecting a wedding venue in California that fits your budget can potentially help you to cut costs. And speaking of…
How much does a wedding cost in California?
Whether you are looking for the most elegant wedding venues Northern California has to offer or looking at Orange County wedding venues for yourself and your partner, keeping track of your available budget can allow you to enjoy the perfect celebration at a cost you can afford. The average cost of a California wedding was $26,049 in 2020. This is significantly higher than the average national cost of $20,300 during the same year. On top of that, price hikes caused by supply chain issues may create even higher prices now and in the immediate future for some of the most important wedding necessities.
California is the third most-expensive state in the United States in terms of cost of living, trailing behind Hawaii and Washington D.C. in first place and second place, respectively. This can add up to higher prices for wedding venues in California and for California weddings in general. In particular, the most extravagant and unique Southern California wedding venues can often command a high price and may be booked for months or even years in advance.
Keeping California weddings small and intimate can also be a good way to cut costs. Intimate weddings usually have 50 guests or fewer, which can reduce the cost of California wedding venues considerably. If you and your partner are open to eloping, a San Francisco City Hall wedding can allow you to invite your closest friends and family members to share this moment without a larger, more formal wedding.
Creating a detailed breakdown of wedding expenses can often help you to identify areas in which you and your partner can cut costs, especially when it comes to deciding on wedding venues in California. Catering options vary in price considerably, and your venue might dictate which in-house or partner you can work with. Choosing a less expensive option may be a positive step in the right direction when deciding where to allocate funds for California weddings, and your planner should be able to help you manage your budget too.
How much does a wedding cost in California? The answer to this question is as varied as the couples who plan to wed in the Golden State. If you and your partner are currently planning your wedding and looking for a wedding venue in California, keeping costs in mind and consulting experts like your planner can help you to create the best possible day for you and your loved ones.
How do you find California wedding vendors?
Once you have found the right wedding venue in California, you will need to find vendors who can provide the services necessary for your upcoming celebration. From your trusted California wedding photographer to the top California wedding planners, there are so many experts available to give you a helping hand. Here’s a breakdown of some of the key vendors and what to expect from their services.
- Catering for California weddings: While some wedding venues in California work exclusively with a select list of catering companies, you will generally be responsible for locating and selecting your own catering company for your wedding reception. Depending on the wedding venue in California you choose, you may be able to tailor your catering options to reflect your overall theme and the location of your wedding.
- Bridal shops and designers for California weddings: Finding the best California wedding dress can help you feel and look as good as possible on your big day. Consider your venue when deciding on the right California wedding dress too. For instance, some of the beach wedding venues California offers for couples may not work well with dresses that aren’t prepared for sand or water. If your California wedding dress has a long train, just be ready for the natural elements to take over to some degree. Choosing a shorter hem or breezier fabric for your California wedding dress can often allow you to avoid these issues, though.
- Photography for California weddings: Working with an experienced and knowledgeable California wedding photographer is the best way to capture the moments of your wedding that really matter. Your California wedding photographer should have experience in the area in which you plan to marry and should know the proper lighting and shot composition to catch the perfect shots for you. In many cases, you can provide your California wedding photographer with a list of the types of photos you would like, and which portraits you need with your loved ones. This “shot list” can allow you to capture the magic of wedding venues in California, while also focusing on what really matters: celebrating your love with your favorite people.
- California wedding officiants: Some venues may already have California wedding officiants on staff to perform your wedding. If you must find your own California wedding officiants, however, you can often find the right information online or consult with one of the many California wedding planners. If you’re looking at outdoor wedding venues in California, you might also consider asking a friend or relative to marry you and your partner. If this is the case, just make sure they’re ordained or take the appropriate steps to be able to legally lead your ceremony.
- California wedding planners: Selecting a professional California wedding planner can help you make all of this happen. From narrowing down your list of the best California wedding venues to building a team of the right vendors for your upcoming ceremony and reception, this pro is one of the most essential and recommended parts of the process. Your California wedding planner can help you navigate the many restrictions and can assist you in obtaining a marriage license in Los Angeles, San Diego, or other cities (among other tasks!). If you are worried about California wedding restrictions and requirements for getting married in state parks, your California wedding planner can provide you with added help in managing these issues effectively.
Staying on the right side of California wedding restrictions, finding the absolute best wedding venues in California and managing your wedding plans can be easier is within reach thanks to your trusted team of vendors. With our directory, you can learn more about California wedding planners and build out your vendor list from there. .
What are some popular activities for California wedding guests?
California offers plenty to see and do, from north to south and everywhere in between. Putting together a list of the best activities in California and including this information on your wedding website can help your guests to get the most out of their trip to the Golden State. Some of the most popular attractions are listed below:
- California missions are located all over the state, and represent the state’s past. These were built in the late 1700s and early 1800s. These missions and their surrounding event spaces are considered some of the best California wedding venues too.
- Nestled in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California, Yosemite National Park is within easy reach of many of the wedding venues Northern California has to offer. Steep granite cliffs and giant sequoias are among the key attractions of this national park, which also features shops, a museum, dining spots, and even accommodations for travelers to this area of California.
- Redwood National & State Parks encompass an extensive lineup of parks that offer a chance to explore the great outdoors for you, your partner, and those you invite to your wedding. A hike or other outdoor activity here could serve as a great start to your wedding weekend.
- The Golden Gate Bridge offers an elegant backdrop for wedding photos, and on top of that, it’s a star attraction for guests visiting San Francisco and the surrounding areas.
- The fabled Hollywood Sign is a must-see attraction for guests in the Los Angeles area. If you’re attending an event at one of the many Los Angeles or Orange County wedding venues, making time for a trip to the Hollywood Sign can allow you to take iconic pictures that will commemorate your time in the Golden State.
- If your wedding venue in California is in the desert, don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience Joshua Tree National Park. The gorgeous rocks and iconic trees that give the park its name is well worth a detour too. Just make sure you bring your water and sunscreen!
- For families with children who will be attending your California wedding, Disneyland is a perennial favorite that offers rides, attractions, and an unforgettable experience overall. Kids and adults alike flock to this amusement park for the food and fun, and it’s an ideal spot for guests attending a celebration at one of the countless Orange County wedding venues.
- The San Diego Zoo is widely acclaimed as one of the best zoos in the world. Alerting your guests to the presence of this attraction near your wedding venue in California can be a great way to enhance their experience–and see some awesome animals in action.
If your guests are wondering what to see and do before heading to your wedding venue in California, this list is a great place to start.
Where are the best California wedding venues for celebrities?
California wedding venues are as varied as the couples who get married at them. Celebrity weddings are just as unique and have been held at local ranches, wineries, hotels, resorts, and even at San Francisco’s iconic City Hall. Whether you are planning an elopement to a smaller wedding venue in California or looking for the best California wedding venues for your celebration, you can select from so many places.
Stars including Chance the Rapper opted for one of the Orange County wedding venues, and he’s not alone in loving Southern California celebrations. Overall, the most popular California wedding venues for celebrities have breathtaking views of the mountains, beaches, or any other natural landscape. When looking for the best California wedding venues, you can sometimes take your cues from recent celebrity celebrations all over the state. These wedding venues in California could be deep in the forests of Northern California, or in a toes-in-the-sand ceremony in San Diego. Because California wedding venues vary so widely in location, atmosphere, and cost, you may be able to get married like a celebrity. If you have your heart set on the wedding venues in California most favored by celebrities for their own weddings, options like luxury hotels in Beverly Hills, vineyards in the Santa Barbara area, and waterfront properties in Newport Beach are all incredibly popular options.
How do you get to a wedding venue in California?
Many airlines fly directly to the numerous airports in the state, so you should be able to get to practically any wedding venue in California pretty easily. Depending on your starting point, you may also be able to travel by car to some of the best California wedding venues. Whether you are considering one of the beach wedding venues California has made famous or looking for Northern California wedding venues that suit your style, you can arrive by plane at any of the following airports:
Transportation to Northern California Wedding Venues
- San Francisco International Airport serves some of the most elegant and in-demand California wedding venues and attractions, including the famous Golden Gate Bridge.
- If your wedding venue in California is close to the city of San Jose, your guests can fly in to the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport. Named after the former mayor of San Jose, the airport is close to many of the most popular California wedding venues and to the tech center of Silicon Valley.
Transportation to Southern California Wedding Venues
- Los Angeles World Airport, better known as LAX, is one of the largest and busiest airports in California. If you have booked one of the small wedding venues Los Angeles offers or other Southern California wedding venues within easy driving distance of LAX, this airport is often a great choice for travelers. LAX is located within 80 miles of many Santa Barbara wedding venues too, which puts it within relatively easy driving distance.
- Long Beach offers some of the most elegant and beautiful California wedding venues, and it’s tucked on the coastal shores in between Los Angeles and Orange County. This community is served by the Long Beach Airport, which is located close to top attractions and wedding venues in California. This can make it easier for your guests to reach your wedding venue in California in a convenient way.
- John Wayne Airport is conveniently located close to many Orange County wedding venues, and is just a short drive from popular spots in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, and more cities. By having an airport in the heart of the OC, traveling through here will make it so much easier for you and your guests to navigate to your wedding venue in California.
- Close to many popular wedding venues in California, the San Diego International Airport offers easy access to the downtown area of this vibrant city. If you’re going to a celebration at one of the California wedding venues in Carlsbad or Escondido, this is a great airport for reaching those cities efficiently too.
Other airports in the state include the Oakland International Airport, the Hollywood Burbank Airport and smaller airfields, which could be located closer to specific California wedding venues. Plus, the Santa Barbara Airport is an excellent local option for people traveling to many Santa Barbara wedding venues.
Rental car agencies are available at these airports to assist your guests in reaching California wedding venues. When deciding on your wedding venues in California, considering the transportation options for guests is key. While many of your guests might be local, having clear routes and instructions about how to get to California wedding venues will make your guests feel prepared and comfortable navigating to your event.
How do you start planning your California wedding?
Finding the best California wedding venues can be challenging. At Carats & Cake, our directory photos and information on real-life wedding celebrations and California wedding venues that can provide you with inspiration for your own unique wedding day. To learn more about California wedding venues, visit our website and search for the locations you’re most interested in. Perhaps you want to select among Santa Barbara wedding venues, which have a plethora of Spanish Colonial Revival-style buildings? Or maybe you have your heart set on one of the countless Orange County wedding venues that feature crashing waves at almost every angle. It all really starts with finding the perfect wedding venue in California, and the best news is you’re so close to booking it with this information in your back pocket.