We’ve photographed weddings all over the west coast and these are some of our favorite venues in Northern California.
1. The Sea Ranch Chapel on the Mendocino coast is for smaller, more intimate wedding ceremonies. Besides the shape of the building itself, the chapel gets its charm from all the stained glass windows, seashell inlays, and the ornate wood and metal detail; a totally unique, one-of-a-kind architectural masterpiece… and least we think so. I found out from our brides that reserving the chapel also includes the weekend use of a coastal Sea Ranch Air BnB, making the beautiful sandy beach just a few minutes walk away. See inside and all the details of Sara and Erica’s wedding here.
2. Cuffey’s Cove in Elk is another Mendocino coastal wedding venue and has everything from an ocean view to a barn reception. They use their collection of mis-matched chairs for the ceremony, then cart them down the bluff to use during cocktail hour and as seating for dinner. There is a ton of room for lawn games as well. Be prepared to give up the ocean view for a typical foggy Mendocino day, though we think that type of weather adds to the dreaminess and magic of a wedding day (and any day, actually). Plus when you get fog, you also get a cozy fire. See our full blog post of Ashley and Adam’s wedding here.
3. The Secret Gardens in Bodega Bay is easy to miss. A simple sign and a wooden fence are all that separate you from some Bodega Harbor docks and a mystical wedding wonderland. Our jaws dropped as we entered the gardens for the first time: redwoods, wild flowers, a large clearing for the ceremony, a couple of beautiful deck spaces for dinner and dancing and warm string lights everywhere. The space felt compact and spacious all at the same time and was the perfect location for the 140 guests at Sara and Kevin’s wedding.
4. Sequoia Lodge is located just off highway 13 and at the base of Joaquin Miller Park in Oakland. The highway and spacious parking lot make it very accessible, and the surrounding trees transform the space to make you feel far, far away from the nearby town. They have both indoor and outdoor wedding ceremony options, and of the three weddings we’ve photographed there, not one of them has been the same. We were really surprised by Kristin and Matthew’s indoor ceremony; the simple addition of string lights really warmed up and transformed the interior. Of course we loved the outdoor ceremonies under the trees as well.
5. Any CA State Park!!! There are just so many to choose from, they are on the more inexpensive side, and guests can usually camp out as well. When we were planning a big fat artists’ wedding (which we quickly scraped for a small beach wedding and new cameras), we had rented out both group campsites in MacKerricher State Park where we had planned to stay, wed, party with some ZeroDB silent disco, and of course sit around campfires with our family and friends. (Here’s what happened instead – but I still think that was a fabulous idea).