Ocean’s 11: Eleven Top Resorts for Beach Weddings

Seaside views and sandy I do’s: The Golden State’s top resorts for beach weddings.
From: Summer 2016 edition
San Diego’s historic Hotel Del Coronado

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something Pacific blue. While that’s not how the saying goes, the unlimited sun, surf, scenery and sand that characterize these California properties will have you calling for a rewrite. Whether you crave a toes-in-the-sand ceremony or sweeping views from atop a cliff, these 11 oceanside resorts are dream destinations for tying the knot.

SAN DIEGO

Love is in the salty air at the Hotel del Coronado, a sprawling and storied 1888 Victorian landmark on Coronado Island. As one of the only California properties boasting a private beach, it’s a great option as no special permit is required for a beach ceremony when planned directly through the property. Situated minutes from downtown San Diego, The Del can offer start-to-finish weddings, complete with fireworks, bonfires, lounge furniture, dance floors, cocktails and multi-course meals in the sand. The property’s Windsor Lawn offers similar ocean views and soirees set under the stars. Added bonus, the famous red-roofed property recently completed a major revitalization, which introduced new amenities such as the color-coordinated house Porsche for VIP guests. Tech-savvy twosomes will appreciate beach Wi-Fi and the rentable drone.

LAGUNA BEACH

There’s only one problem with exchanging vows at the Mediterranean-inspired Surf & Sand Resort: The spectacular, 180-degree view of the sea from the Catalina Terrace might steal a bit of thunder from the bride. It’s worth it, given that you can capitalize on that panorama for pictures. Smaller guest lists can be accommodated on the Ocean Terrace or Sand & Surf’s 500-foot stretch of sand. Your celebration can flow into a variety of ballrooms, differentiated by vaulted ceilings, patios, window walls, archways and fountains. No matter which space serves your nuptial needs, you can expect menus that reflect the season, regional specialties and personal tastes.

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Majestic seaside moments at Terranea Resort || Photography by: Chard Photo

PALOS VERDES

Terranea Resort rests on the tip of the Palos Verdes Peninsula, perched on dramatic cliffs high above a protected marine preserve and kelp forest. This 102-acre paradise is perfect for a wedding weekend that ensures no forays back to the real world, thanks to sophisticated casitas and suites, four pools, spa/salon, a well-curated boutique, grand ballrooms, a nine-hole golf course, eight restaurants, hiking trails, inviting courtyards, outdoor fireplaces, bars, bocce and a fitness studio. Down time can be filled with falconry, whale watching and “kayorkling” (an inventive mix of kayaking and snorkeling). Although it’s only 20 miles from Los Angeles International Airport, the site feels worlds away from the urban grind, especially when crashing waves and Southern California sunsets serve as the soundtrack and backdrop to events held at Catalina Point. Rent a golf cart to easily access the beach cove and sea cave for photos. The house-harvested flavored salts and honey make fantastic favors.

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Say ‘I do’ overlooking sand and surf at Shutters on the Beach

SANTA MONICA

The sun-splashed sister properties Hotel Casa del Mar and Shutters on the Beach are across the street from each other on a famous wide, sandy strand. Both resorts have a pedigree of personalized and attentive service, luxe lodgings, updated amenities and five-star food and beverage. But when judged on looks alone, they seem completely unrelated. Shutters’ vibe is laid-back East Coast cottage. Meanwhile Casa is appointed in ornate tiled floors, painted ceilings, chandeliers with décor boasting stripes and scalloping, giving it a classic Mediterranean manse feel.  

Both resorts can help facilitate ceremonies on the seashore, with a backdrop of Santa Monica Pier’s iconic Ferris wheel. The roofless Pacific Terrace at Shutters on the Beach gives a panoramic ocean views while elevating your event a floor above beach. Casa del Mar has a beautiful and elegantly appointed ballroom with an exquisite staircase that guarantees an “oh!”-filled entrance. Plus, the hotel’s three brand-new penthouses perfect are ideal for extending the wedding weekend after tying the knot.

MALIBU

Putter up the picturesque Pacific Coast Highway to the intimate Malibu Beach Inn, where every room has a view of Billionaire’s Beach and the pelican-crowded Malibu pier. Center your squad with a private yoga session mere steps from the foamy swells and later return to the same spot to swap “I do’s” accompanied by a seagull chorus as the sun melts into a mash-up of Crayola colors. The area will be shut down to everyone other than your invitees (30 or fewer). Packages are fairly reasonable, but all decor, flowers and an officiant must be brought in through outside vendors. If the tide or weather fails to cooperate, waterfront indoor venues such as the Carbon Beach Club’s terrace or private dining suite are available.

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Ocean breezes aplenty at Four Seasons’ Coral Casino in Santa Barbara || Photography by: Michael of Michael + Anna Costa Photography

SANTA BARBARA

Going for vintage glam? Seek out seaside splendor at the historic Spanish Colonial Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara in the exclusive enclave of Montecito. It’s a stone’s throw from the public Butterfly Beach, which works best for petite parties and elopements, and requires a permit. The resort’s on-site wedding offerings include the sun-dappled Mariposa Garden and the La Pacifica Ballroom and Terrace on the Coral Casino grounds, both of which showcase the big, blue ocean beside them without requiring anyone to get their feet dirty. Indulging in cosmos at the recently debuted Coral Reef Bar, featuring clear counters that double as functioning aquariums, is a must.

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Ocean views at Pismo Beach’s Cliffs Resort

PISMO BEACH

Sometimes the journey is as beautiful as the destination. Half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco on scenic highway 1, Pismo Beach retreat The Cliffs Resort is a full-service oceanfront destination. The bluff-top lawn and draped pavilion offer breathtaking views from atop the cliffs while cocktail hour on the Waterfall Terrace is the perfect prelude to the reception, typically held in the 3,000 square foot Grand Ballroom. A multitude of photo ops include wooded paths, coastal grasses, mature palms, tide pools and of course, the beach is just steps away (perfect for capturing sunset photos with rolling waves as the backdrop). Festivities range from casual buffets to ultra-glamorous affairs that include butler-served hors d’oeuvres and six-course meals with wine pairings. A variety of all-inclusive packages are available with customizable details.

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Serene views and an intimate setting at Big Sur’s Post Ranch Inn

BIG SUR

Big Sur, quite possibly the most naturally gorgeous swath of craggy coastline in the world, is equal parts bohemian and bourgeois, and that dichotomy is reflected in this pair of high-end hideaways, which have seen their fair share of celebrity commitments (Jack Black, Andy Samberg and Natalie Portman). In fact, those two schools of thought are employed in every aspect of a stay at the Post Ranch Inn and the Ventana Big Sur, both of which are bordered by the steep Santa Lucia Mountains.

Neither of the cabin-chic refuges has beach access, but the two inns make the most of their positions high on the cliffs with ceremony sites that use the aquatic horizon as an altar, with the sunset serving as dramatic lighting and entertainment. Post Ranch, which boasts an in-house officiant and issues licenses, excels at vow renewals, elopements and small, simple affairs, as its largest venue option only fits 40. In 2015, it unveiled the Post House, a 2,220-square-foot open-concept abode with a deck used for nuptial unions. Follow the ceremony with celebratory ribs on the original owner’s crank-style barbecue, or with a superb supper highlighting local delicacies at Sierra Mar.

Ventana Big Sur, with its 243 acres, allows as many as 150 people to RSVP, and offers a gourmet restaurant reception, two rustic outdoor ceremony posts with sweeping vistas of the bay and rocky outcroppings, and a terrace with the same watery views and mood lighting. Enjoy beet and apricot shooters, quail tempura or roasted duck with farro and mustard greens under the canopied arbor or next to the oversized fireplace.

MONTEREY

Get hitched at the Sanctuary Beach Resort amid a gentle sea breeze atop the swirling dunes or at the water’s edge as the sun fades and the purple twilight descends. Move the shindig from sand to the Kula Ranch steakhouse where island and Pacific Rim–inspired cuisine is served in two private dining rooms with access to private patios. Sidle up to a fire pit to enjoy exotically colored mojitos and rum punches before sleeping it off in a big bed covered in rose petals in a cozy, candlelit room.