Southern California is loaded with amazing wedding venues, from the Pacific shores to the Coachella Valley desert. While it's nearly impossible to narrow them down, these 10 favorites–all south of Los Angeles and easily accessible from multiple airports–are ideally suited for destination weddings, with a great combination of onsite services and unique takes on California style.
The quintessential SoCal ceremony spot, Catalina Point is set on a bluff overlooking the Pacific at Terranea Resort. — Photo courtesy of Kristen Manick Photography
Rancho Palos Verdes, California
This 102-acre resort is just 20 minutes from LAX but feels a world apart. Set on a peninsula in Palos Verdes, everything is designed to embrace the coastal views, from the 582 rooms and casita suites to the event spaces. The ceremony favorite is Catalina Point, an oceanfront lawn with an elegant wooden gazebo; it's paired with the Catalina Ballroom, which has an outdoor terrace and accommodates 230. The culinary team is outstanding, with creatively presented dishes using local ingredients such as sea salt cured onsite. Guests will love the four swimming pools, nine-hole golf course (with privileges at Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles just down the road) and Pointe Discovery activity center, offering everything from naturalist-led coastal hikes to classes in plein air painting.
The tree-lined entrance to La Quinta Resort & Club makes a great photo backdrop as well. — Photo courtesy of Courtesy of True Photography
La Quinta Resort & Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort
La Quinta, California
This storied desert retreat has been wooing couples for romantic getaways since 1926. Celebs from Frank Capra and Katherine Hepburn vacationed here, and dancer Ginger Rogers even wed here in 1953. Fresh off a multimillion-dollar renovation, it's better than ever. All 620 bungalow-style casitas are set in individual clusters around their own swimming pools (there are 41 on property), lending intimacy despite the resort's large size. Hold your ceremony by the waterfall, then have a reception for up to 200 people in the courtyard of La Casa, a Spanish Colonial-style casita once owned by Greta Garbo. A wedding-weekend golf tourney is a natural here (there are five courses, along with the new PGA WEST Golf Academy), as are beauty treatments at the acclaimed Spa La Quinta. They even offer in-room pet massages for your four-legged ring bearer.
A chic ceremony setup at the Pacific Lawn at Montage Laguna Beach. — Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Montage Laguna Beach
Montage Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach, California
The epitome of SoCal chic, Montage boasts an enviable oceanfront spot in sunny Laguna Beach, with 250 Craftsman-inspired guestrooms. The phenomenal spa is one of the best in California, with an expansive indoor-outdoor relaxation area and luxe menu of treatments. (Caviar facial, anyone?) Menus feature fresh ingredients drawn from the region's best artisanal producers and farms. The preferred venue spots are the trio of oceanfront lawns; each accommodates up to 300 for vows with amazing views. The two ballrooms are neutral enough for any décor, with sophistical details including Frette linen napkins, Christofle flatware and Spiegelau crystal glassware all standard. The onsite events team works seamlessly with outside planners (they require that you have one) who usually go all out for Pinterest-worthy productions.
The Italiante rotunda at The Resort at Pelican Hill was designed with weddings in mind. — Photo courtesy of Courtesy of The Resort at Pelican Hill
The Resort at Pelican Hill
Newport Coast, California
Designed with 16th-century Italian architecture in mind, the Resort at Pelican Hill set a new standard for luxury when it opened in late 2008. Guests stay in cushy bungalows with fireplaces and wood-beamed ceilings, and onsite amenities include a stellar spa and 36 holes designed by golf pro Tom Fazio. This signature event space is their gorgeous columned rotunda, set on a bluff 300 feet above the Pacific; surrounded by a beautiful lawn, it holds up to 500 for ceremonies. It's ideal when paired with the Mar Vista ballroom, lined with arched windows to drink in the surroundings. The resort focuses on service, limiting weddings to just one per day and offering one server for every 10 guests. To that end, their in-house Wedding Etiquette program, done in conjunction with Kathleen Cover of the Etiquette School of Beverly Hills and Newport Beach, offers afternoon sessions for to-be-weds, covering everything from invitations to cake cutting tips.
The Legends Lawn at Omni La Costa Resort & Spa overlooks rolling greens and fairways. — Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Omni La Costa Resort
Omni La Costa Resort & Spa
Couples looking for a full resort experience will love this expansive resort in Carlsbad, which has been hosting families since 1965. The resort encompasses 607 guest rooms, 77 suites and 137 villa suites–enough for the biggest of guest lists. For pre-wedding fun, arrange a tennis tourney at 17 courts, golf on their two courses or arrange excursions to local attractions like the San Diego Zoo. When it comes to the actual wedding day, Omni has loads of venues spread across their 400 acres. Golf fans love the Legends Lawn, with 180-degree views of rolling fairways. Follow it with an open-air reception at the Spanish-Colonial style Orchid Terrace, or a lavish indoor reception with all the frills at one of three ballrooms.
Sunset Terrace at LAuberge Del Mar, A Destination Hotel boast chic teak flooring and show-stopping ocean views. — Photo courtesy of Courtesy of LAuberge Del Mar, A Destination Hotel
L’Auberge Del Mar, A Destination Hotel
Del Mar, California
Set on five acres adjacent to one of California's prettiest beaches, the intimate property has 121 guest rooms and three event spaces facing the sea. The favorite for ceremonies is the teak-floored Sunset Terrace. Lined with fragrant rose bushes for extra ambiance, it's ideally situated to take advantage of the setting sun's light show and accommodates up to 200 for ceremony and reception. Every couple works with a dedicated onsite planner, who coordinates everything from reception menus to associated events like a farewell brunch, keeping stress to a minimum. Out-of-town guests will love the hotel's location in the heart of Del Mar, and within easy walking distance of the shops, restaurants and beach bars of this classic SoCal beach town.
You can't get closer to the surf than a reception on The Deck at Pacific Edge Hotel. — Photo courtesy of Tyler Branch Photography
Pacific Edge Hotel
Laguna Beach, California
There are plenty of formal spots to tie the knot, but some couples want something a little more laid-back and low-key, in keeping with the casual California surf vibe. Enter the 109-room Pacific Edge Hotel, which sits oceanfront in downtown Laguna Beach. A member of Joie de Vivre, a California-based hotel company known for its unique style and wit, Pacific Edge brings SoCal cool at affordable rates. The most popular event space is The Deck, a wooden deck perched above the sand for a unique open-air, beachfront experience. The onsite events team can help you customize menus and decor, and guests will love being in the middle of the action; Laguna Beach's seasonal trolley stops just downstairs, and your key card gets you discounts at shops and restaurants around town.
The lawn at The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe sets an intimate tone for inland weddings. — Photo courtesy of Bryan Miller Photography
Inn at Rancho Santa Fe
Rancho Santa Fe, California
SoCal is known for beaches but for couples looking for something different, The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe offers an exclusive inland environment set on 21 acres of lawns, gardens and eucalyptus groves. Interiors in the 80 cottage-style guest rooms are country-estate chic; think beamed ceilings, black-and-white equestrian photographs and cozy fireplaces. The preferred ceremony space is the croquet lawn, with focal point provided by a grand, 100-year-old Brazilian pepper tree. The private Azalea Lawn does receptions for up to 200, and is spare enough that it works with simple décor or a lavish tented party with details galore; after parties take place in the adjacent Azalea Ballroom. The inn only allows one wedding per day, in keeping with the rarified setting.
This pool deck is all yours when you take over Colony Palms for your wedding. — Photo courtesy of Courtesy of Colony Palms Hotel
Palm Springs, California
This desert town has been Hollywood's go-to weekend retreat since the golden age of Hollywood. For a funky destination wedding we love Colony Palms, built as an illegal casino/brothel retreat in 1936. The quirky décor, redone in 2007 by acclaimed designer Martyn Lawrence Bullard, is part Morocco (tiles and wrought iron), part old-school inn (wooden verandahs and rocking chairs). With a mere 52 guest rooms, they only allow weddings as part of a full property buyout–which means you have the run of the place for the wedding weekend, from the pool to the fantastic Purple Palm restaurant (named after the founder, mobster Al Wertheimer of the Purple Gang). Ceremonies take place on the side lawn, facing the dusky San Jacinto mountains; dinner movies poolside, where tables are scattered on the adjacent lawn and under striped cabanas; and dancing takes place inside the Purple Palm, where tassled lampshades and retro patterned wallpaper provides built-in décor.
The Grand Ballroom at The Parker Palm Springs boasts mid-century touches like starburst chandeliers. — Photo courtesy of The Parker Palm Springs
The Parker Palm Springs
Palm Springs, California
This design-forward hotel is credited with kicking off a Palm Springs revival when it debuted in 2004. Opened in 1959 as California's first Holiday Inn (then passing to owners including Gene Autry and Merv Griffin), its current design comes courtesy of Jonathan Adler, who took inspiration from old Palm Springs estates and then infused cheeky fun in everything from color to mid-century modern details. Ten years later, it's still a favorite. After a ceremony on a palm-lined lawn, move to a reception in airy Grand Ballroom, where floor-to-ceiling windows allow for light and mod starburst chandeliers play to sense of place without dictating décor. There are 144 guest rooms, ranging from simple estate rooms to pricier one-bedroom villas. The wedding couple should request the two-bedroom Gene Autry residence; with large living room, kitchen and private patio, it's the perfect place for informal gatherings between events, or prep parties with the wedding party.