California's Hidden Wedding Venue Gems

Intimate venues for gatherings of any size.
Written by
Sara Hubbard


California Wedding Day Fall/Winter 2021


While some couples dream for years of a big wedding, others look forward to having a day (or two or three) to spend in a cozy locale with their nearest and dearest. If you find yourself yearning for something slightly smaller, know that there is the perfect venue out there for your friends-and-family-oriented affair. Or if you still wish for a large luxe wedding but don’t want to venture down well-worn paths to find the most suitable of spots, these venues are refreshingly individual without sacrificing style.


Family owned and operated, this picturesque avocado ranch, perched on a hill in Simi Valley, is ideal for both outdoor events and intimate parties. The grounds of the historic Spanish-style estate are delightfully picturesque, with an elegant courtyard, flowing fountains, tall pine trees and towering oaks. Outdoor spaces abound for saying “I do,” from the brick patio tucked beneath avocado, lemon and orange trees to the lush manicured lawn and lovely courtyard. Cocktail hour by the pool—thought to be the first inground pool in Ventura County—offers a perfect segue to dinner under the stars. Regardless of your selection, saying yes to Quail Ranch means you’re giving back by supporting local farming and the sustainable agriculture community in California.


Tie the knot in the French countryside without leaving California at the award-winning Cal-a-Vie Health Spa in Vista, just 50 miles north of San Diego. Nestled on 500 private acres of sundrenched hills, cascading vineyards and blooming lavender fields, the wellness resort is the epitome of romance and luxury. Marry in the Provençal style in the 400-year-old chapel and then celebrate in the stunning L’Orangerie, both of which were imported from Dijon, France. The L’Orangerie is perfect for receptions, with its three fireplaces, Old World French chandeliers and sweeping hillside views from the terrace. Cal-a-Vie’s three-day experience is available as a wedding buyout and ensures exclusive use of the property with unlimited personalized fitness classes and all meals included. The exclusive weekend includes a stay at one of the 32 villas adorned with 17th- and 18th-century antiques; a customized schedule for guests from the spa’s roster of nutrition talks, morning hikes, golf, tennis and a variety of exercise classes ranging from yoga to high-intensity interval training. Also included are luxurious spa treatments that will melt away stress knots and leave everyone glowing—or just bask in the sun at one of the two pools. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind wedding venue steeped in luxury.


Greengate Ranch & Vineyard is renowned for offering a luxury-meets-rustic-retreat wedding experience. The Edna Valley wine country ranch boasts a pole barn, a lakeside ceremony lawn plus vacation homes available as accommodations or bridal suites. Now, the beloved location has added a new location to its roster of event spaces by refurbishing its 1950s horse stables for use as a charming modern wedding venue. With an illustrious history dating back to the 19th century, the entire Greengate property is rich in character, and the Stables are no exception. This 6,600-square foot space is a blank canvas for creative couples to make their own. Large glass-paneled doors open onto the patio, which presents sweeping views of the property’s vineyard and allows for indoor-outdoor options. Much of the original architecture remains, and there are even a few horse stalls in the lobby that still house the animals. And with an on-site catering kitchen, outdoor catering pad and plenty of lighting options, Greengate’s newest venue provides the perfect mix of modern amenities and rustic style.


Built in 1924, the Muckenthaler Mansion provides inimitable charm and character in North Orange County. The 9-acre property features dreamy landscaping and a two-story Italian Renaissance–style mansion. The property was donated to the city of Fullerton in 1965 and has since been transformed into a locale for touring art exhibits. You never know what will be on display at any given time, so each event held at the mansion gets a unique exhibition of art as its backdrop. Full bar and catering services are available as well, so everything you need to plan your ideal wedding can be found all in one beautiful place.


A pinnacle of elegance, The Riviera Country Club offers unmatched grandeur for stylish couples. “Our opulent ballrooms, beautiful ceremony locations and luxury hotel suites will delight your guests, while world-class service and outstanding cuisine combine to create an extraordinary wedding celebration,” says Tanja Janjic, director of catering at the country club. Whether you’re looking for an outdoor celebration overlooking the ocean or a more traditional ballroom fete, The Riviera Country Club has you covered: Its George Thomas Room features rich wood paneling, a marble fireplace and crystal chandeliers, and the Vista Riviera Garden invites couples to say “I do” with the Pacific Ocean as their audience. Or, follow in the footsteps of Hollywood royalty and choose the Crystal Ballroom, which once hosted Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. To put it simply, if luxury and excellence are must-haves, you cannot go wrong with The Riviera Country Club.


If you’re looking for a wedding in which friends, family and love take center stage, look no further than the Rush Creek and Evergreen lodges in Yosemite. Nestled next to the singularly stunning national park, these two properties provide exceptional wedding experiences. Evergreen is best suited to adventurous and fun-loving couples, while Rush Creek offers a more polished experience. Rush Creek includes a brand-new spa that couples and their loved ones can take advantage of. The spa offers the option of privately hosting your party, during which little ones can splash around in the waterfall features, and adults can indulge in massages and facials. And the open design of the spa means everyone can be together at the same time. Rush Creek recently launched two new wedding offerings for soon-to-be newlyweds and their loved ones: wedding wellness activities and wedding party “glow time.” The former features top-notch yoga classes—on the deck at sunset, on Boga boards in the pool or during a hike in the forest. The latter invites you to take time for yourself in the beautiful spa; for three hours, its unmatched facilities will be set aside just for your party. The day-of coordinators at both lodges are prepared to make everything come together seamlessly, so all you have to worry about is which hiking trail to take the day before and what to have for brunch the day after.