As the U.S.’s third-largest state by square mileage (163,696 square miles, to be exact), California has it all: vineyards, deserts, beaches, mountains, big cities, rustic ranches and celebrity credit like no other. The Mediterranean climate doesn’t hurt, either. That makes the Golden State one of the best places to hold a once-in-a-lifetime wedding.
From the wilderness of Lake Tahoe to the sprawling urban life of Los Angeles, there’s a bevy of places to host weddings in California. Check out Arista Winery in Healdsburg for a variety of event spaces, including the Russian River Valley. Or schedule the big day on Catalina Island, where you can go on kayaking adventures or gamble at a 1920s casino.
Regardless of you and your partner’s tastes, nothing says “California weddings” like sunshine, warm weather and iconic wedding locations. Here are the best California wedding venues to help you pull off an unforgettable fete in this West Coast wonderland.
Santa Margarita Ranch – Santa Margarita
A gem within a 900-acre piece of the California-mission system, Santa Margarita Ranch is at the base of grassy hills where many couples say, “I do.” Dinner and dancing are typically held in the Asistencia barn, and a vintage Disneyland train takes guests between locations at one of the best wedding venues in California.
Ace Hotel – Downtown Los Angeles
With handcrafted furniture, a vinyl library, art installations and a restored Spanish-Gothic theater, the Ace Hotel has become the center of gravity of the new downtown since opening in 2014 in the United Artists skyscraper that was built in 1924.
Arista Winery – Healdsburg
Arista Winery comprises a trio of flexible event spaces: Dine and dance at Oak Groove among century-old oak trees, sip cocktails on a tiered lawn, and soak in Russian River Valley views from the pavilion.
The Beverly Hilton – Beverly Hills
Celebrate in the world’s most famous zip code at the Beverly Hilton. Serve the official Golden Globes menu in the ballroom where awards are handed out, or cut a rug in the Stardust Penthouse a la Sofia Vergara.
Calistoga Ranch – Calistoga
Afterparties in Calistoga Ranch’s wine cave avoid the 10 p.m. noise ordinance at one of the best California wedding venues. Following a poolside ceremony, dine with up to 120 guests on the Lommel Lawn, overlooking Lake Lommel and buffered by mountains. Or opt for Sotero Vineyard, Napa Valley’s only hotel domain, which can host an intimate feast for up to 16.
The Carneros Inn – Napa
All 86 of the Caneros Inn’s 450-square-foot cottages exude luxury thanks to private gardens, fire pits and outdoor showers. Ride loaner bikes to a DIY winery picnic of fixings from the inn’s gourmet-foods store.
For the big day, choose from the apple orchard or the hilltop dining room with panoramic views (seats 80). For a larger group (up to 175 guests), two ballrooms are connected by a courtyard.
Carondelet House – Los Angeles
A 1928 Italianate manse with exposed brick, paned windows, tufted couches, sun-dappled courtyards and arched doorways, Carondelet House provides the ideal setting for vintage styling.
The southernmost Channel Island, Catalina Island offers everything from adventures (kayaking, parasailing) to architecture, like the 1929 casino. Recent additions like Island Spa Catalina and Descanso Beach Club’s new ballroom have increased the spot’s wedding worthiness.
Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery – Healdsburg
Venues at Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery include an outdoor park, a mission-style chapel and a large pavilion nearly covered in windows.
Minutes from Downtown San Diego, Coronado Island is one of the best California wedding venues by the beach. It has a relaxing hamlet with award-winning beaches and 70-degree temps. The jewel of Crown City — and a top wedding spot — a is Hotel del Coronado, rumored to be the inspiration for the Wizard of Oz’s Emerald City.
Culver Hotel – Culver City
Currently celebrating its 90th anniversary and an overhaul from top to grand-lobby bottom when new owners took over in 2006, the 46-room Culver Hotel oozes character. Think Regency wallpaper, crystal chandeliers and an old-fashioned fire escape.
The Grand Del Mar – San Diego
In July 2014, former NFL running back Reggie Bush wed at the Grand Del Mar, which flaunts the Aria Lawn and Moroccan Pavilion for events.
Faith & Flower – Los Angeles
Faith & Flower serves rustic Californian cuisine and pays homage to the area’s storied past with craft cocktails like the fiery tableside absinthe presentation.
Firestone Vineyards – Santa Barbara
“Home to the Crossroads Estate and countless mesa views overlooking acres of rolling hills and vineyards, Firestone Vineyards is one of the most highly sought-after wedding destinations in Santa Barbara wine country,” Joy Proctor of Joy Proctor Design said.
Wind & Sea Estate – Big Sur
Land, sea and sky meet at the secluded, six-acre Wind & Sea Estate. Natural light pours through clerestory windows onto blonde hardwoods. The lush grounds with bright wildflowers pop in pictures, too. Curvy paths lead to a stone amphitheater and fire ring, prime for partying late into the inky night at one of the best places to get married in California.
Malibu Rocky Oaks – Malibu
Located 30 minutes from Los Angeles, Malibu Rocky Oaks is a great option for those wanting to be near the beach and to have their reception overlooking the sea.
Meadowood – St. Helena
At Meadowood, one of Oprah’s favorite vacay spots, estate chef Alejandro Ayala sits down with each couple to customize every reception menu. Wed under towering redwoods, followed by cocktails and dinner on the Vintners Glen, glowing with hurricane candles, twinkle lights and fire pits at one of the top wedding venues in California.
Find your inner real housewife in Newport Beach, an Orange County locale that marries city convenience, stunning sunsets, sumptuous digs (the Resort at Pelican Hill) and crowd-pleasers like golfing, boating, shopping, spas and fine dining (Fig & Olive and Oak Grill).
Ojai Valley Inn & Spa – Ojai
Ojai Valley Inn set the stage for Jimmy Kimmel’s 2013 nuptials. Couples can pick from lawns, an herb garden and the Big Red Barn.
Parker Palm Springs – Palm Springs
If you’re looking for mason-jar affairs, book a Santa Barbara barn. Palm Springs specializes in desert-chic. Case in point: this posh picnic setup at Parker Palm Springs.
Post Ranch Inn – Big Sur
Andy Samberg chose an ocean-bluff backdrop when he married singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom at the Post Ranch Inn in 2013.
Shutters on the Beach – Santa Monica
Shingled sides, Vineyard Vines-outfitted employees, ballroom fireplaces and saltwater taffy at the ready make Shutters on the Beach Nantucket natty. But the Pacific Terrace’s ocean backdrop and nightly sunset shows are signature SoCal.
SmogShoppe – Culver City
Formerly a smog check center, SmogShoppe is creative reuse at its finest. Barely recognizable, save for the retractable glass garage doors, oil-stained concrete floors and various signs, the site is now a succulent-covered boho oasis of carefully curated found objects and mismatched furniture.
Sugar Bowl Resort – Norden
Whether you throw a peak-side parka party, fireside lodge festivities or a summer wedding at Sugar Bowl Resort’s sun deck atop Mount Disney, make a backup plan (weather can be unpredictable), and invest in heaters and umbrellas (you’ll likely use both).
The Jewel of the Sierras dazzles couples looking to get hitched at high altitude with sapphire water, emerald-green trees, black-diamond slopes and venues of all shapes and sizes.
“People often think of Lake Tahoe as only a winter destination, but the ski resorts are some of the busiest summer-wedding venues in town,” pro snowboarder-turned-planner Merrily Rocco of Merrily Wed said. “It’s a beautiful place for an event year-round.”
The Bungalow – Santa Monica
Kick off your wedding weekend in the Bungalow at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel. The upscale surf shack flaunts retro-cottage décor, marquee-letter lights that spell “amor” (“love” in Spanish), ping pong, pool tables, ocean views and food from the resort’s farm-friendly restaurant, FIG.
West Shore – Lake Tahoe
In the summer, Lake Tahoe’s namesake — with 72 miles of pristine shoreline — takes center stage. West Shore’s indoor and outdoor event spaces make the most of the picturesque views.
Smoke Tree Ranch – Palm Springs
“Be prepared. If you invite them, they will come.”
Joey Lizotte, Artisan Event Floral Décor’s creative director, has issued this warning to clients for most of the 18 years he has been orchestrating weddings in Palm Springs.
“Seriously, the falloff rate is less than 8%. People love an excuse to visit and make aw hole weekend of it,” Lizotte said.
No matter where you hang your veil, Lizotte encourages couples to make use of the architecture and geography, like these bridesmaids posing at the historic Smoke Tree Ranch.
Long Branch Saloon & Farm – Half Moon Bay
“Long Branch Saloon & Farm, a delightful western-town location, has an excellent staff and catering service,” Terry Plank of Weddings by the Sea said. “There’s a chapel for the ceremony and a large area for the reception.”
Squaw Valley – Lake Tahoe
Tucked between towering mountains on the eastern edge of the state, the North Lake Tahoe region is home to seven ski resorts, including Squaw Valley, where these ski-loving newlyweds stole a smooch, and one of the most beautiful wedding venues in California.
Rancho Dos Pueblos – Santa Barbara
“Only 15 miles from Downtown Santa Barbara, Rancho Dos Pueblos includes a private beach, a newly restored barn and an estate lawn at the historic 1922 Casa Grande,” Alison Rinderknecht of Alison Events said.