I’ve been documenting weddings for over a decade, and have been fortunate to shoot at some really dreamy venues all around the world. I wanted to do a series of articles highlighting the most stunning wedding venues in California. There are so many incredible venues in the area, and quite a few hidden gems, that are not only incredibly stunning at first glance, but also have that extra special element of having the most incredible opportunities for breathtaking portraits – the light, the backdrops, the way the sun filters into the ceremony space….these are all elements that I’m drawn to as an artist and documentarian.
First, are the most stunning wedding venues in Orange County…
1. The Folly Estate – Dana Point, CA
This Hidden Gem only allows a select few intimate weddings every year, but this one is at the top of my list for it’s unique nature in Orange County. You are immediately transported to a European garden of Eden, and the property is decorated by the proprietor, who is an incredible interior designer. Moreover, lush gardens, topiaries, stunning architecture and whimsical design surprise and delight you around every corner.
2. The Villa San Juan Capistrano – San Juan Capistrano, CA
This stunning old world Spanish courtyard location has the perfect back lit spot for ceremony and reception. Furthermore, the added bonus is that it is across the street to the most photogenic spot in Orange County – the Mission San Juan Capistrano. Splitting photos between the two venues gives you so many incredibly unique backdrops that transport you out of Orange County, and into Europe. There are other venues in the area that have a similar advantage (Serra Plaza and The Franciscan Gardens for example), however, the Villa has the most character, design details, and charm.
3. Monarch Beach Resort – Dana Point, CA
This breathtaking venue is one of my favorites because of it’s stunning views and private beach access. On busy weekends, the private beach is really key to getting iconic California coastline without tons of tourists and beach goers to navigate. The views from their ceremony and receptions spaces, paired with that iconic staircase lend to a truly impressive California wedding.
4. Pelican Hill Resort – Laguna Beach, CA
One of my favorite venues! Pelican Hill is unrivaled for its architecture, back lit ceremony site and high end yet still cozy reception space – all with unrivaled Laguna Beach ocean and golf course views. There is even a hidden topiary garden on the property that is so graphic and stunning to photograph. I’ve also been so impressed with the staff at this venue. You have a dedicated liaison and person assistant following you around all day and helping to shuttle people to the best photo spots on this gorgeous, sprawling property. This is the ultimate sophisticated, luxury wedding venue.
5. Rancho Las Lomas – Silverado, CA
A lush, sprawling Spanish courtyard and hacienda style reception space and exotic animal menagerie make this a truly memorable wedding venue. The sprawling property is tucked into the hillside, so you can find shade from the sun even on the hottest days of the year.
6. Seven Degrees – Laguna Beach, CA
This venue is clean, modern and an architectural work of art. In a lot of ways the ceremony and reception space can be a blank palette, and I love the surrounding area for it’s clean concrete and corten steel walls that photograph so well.
7. The Oceana Estate – Laguna Beach, CA
Breathtaking architecture and views! What a dream venue. There are several private estate wedding venues in Orange County that could make the list, but this one is definitely a favorite.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but there are several others that deserve a mention: Bella Villa, Gray Matter, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Noguchi garden, and Newport Beach Library sculpture garden, Pasea Hotel + Spa, Shady Canyon Golf Club, and the Montage Resort and Spa
Here are some of my favorite resources for finding the best venues in the area: