Santa Cruz Wedding Venues / Where to Get Married in and around Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz Wedding Venues / Where to get married in and around Santa Cruz, California
Santa Cruz has long been a weekend getaway destination for the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. It’s no wonder why it’s also a great place to get married! I recently realized there aren’t many great or unsponsored resources about Santa Cruz wedding venues. Many of the resources available don’t even have nice images that capture the spaces well. So I have compiled a few of my favorite wedding venues in the Santa Cruz region in hopes that it will offer some useful guidance to folks looking into getting married here! I haven’t been to every local venue yet, but these are a few that I love. I’ve tried to give a candid description of each one instead of merely sensationalizing them.
This post is being routinely updated as I discover new venues I love around Santa Cruz.
REAL QUICK: Why Getting Married in Santa Cruz is a Good Idea
First of all, let’s talk about what makes Santa Cruz and the surrounding area really special!
Santa Cruz is known for its moderate climate, natural environment, coastline, redwood forests, alternative community lifestyles, and socially liberal leanings. It is also home to the University of California, Santa Cruz, a premier research institution and educational hub, as well as the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, an oceanfront amusement park operating continuously since 1907.
Santa Cruz and the surrounding county has dank redwood forests. We have incredible beaches. We have amazingly refreshing coastal weather that is rarely too hot nor too cold. Fun fact: Santa Cruz is on a sun belt in Monterey Bay, meaning that we get a lot more sun, more warm weather and less fog than our neighbors to the north (Half Moon Bay) and south (Monterey). It’s an amazing place for a getaway whether you are from far away or just “over the hill”. If you want to make a whole weekend out of your wedding, you’ll have endless beauty to enjoy and endless activities for your family and guests to be entertained with.
Real fast, let’s dig a little deeper into the situation about the redwood forests: WE HAVE SO MANY BREATHTAKING FOREST AREAS. Seriously. Big Basin State Park, Nisene Marks State Park, Henry Cowell State Park, Pogonip, and Land of Medicine Buddha to name a few. Not only are these great places to explore (or maybe even elope in) but these wooded areas create an amazing backdrop for portraits. Many people who come to visit our awesome town only associate Santa Cruz with the beach but I think the forests are the best kept secret.
1. Fern River Resort in Felton, California
Vibe: Laid-Back Redwood paradise with a creek, outdoor ceremony & reception areas and lodging
Fern River Resort is a super special wedding venue tucked away in the redwoods of Felton. First of all, don’t interpret the word “resort” as the fancy kind with room service and a swim-up bar. It is more of a summer camp style resort– the kind of place where you might have a big outdoorsy family reunion. You can rent this whole place out for a weekend retreat and have your wedding among super tall redwoods and a creek! There are lots of great places to get married among trees in Northern California, but this one has a uniquely gorgeous setting. I seriously don’t know why, but it seems like not many people (even wedding vendors) are aware of this cool little Santa Cruz mountain venue.
Sidenote: where else can you set up a photo booth inside the base of a giant old tree?
2. Rancho Soquel in Soquel, California / An Exclusive Venue of “The Wedding Connection”
Vibe: Outdoor Barn Venue, Sunny, Lush gardens
Rancho Soquel is part of a network of venues run by a local wedding planning company called “The Wedding Connection“. This particular venue is for you if you want an outdoor wedding somewhere sunny, gorgeously landscaped with a ranch vibe. The grounds are blooming with amazing gardens. You can follow paths throughout the grounds that wind through large oaks and over a creek. Keep walking and you will find yourself in a number of different little hidden, charming alcoves, each as picturesque as the last. The ceremony and dinner reception area is on a large grassy area in front of an amazing wooden barn. There are also other zones for cocktail hour and a dance floor.
Something I love about this venue is that you can wander around and explore, play bocce ball, admire horses in the pasture, and generally have a mini vacation just being here for the day. There is plenty of space to spread out, too.
Sidenote: why not take advantage of the space and hire the local photo booth company, the Booth Bus to bring some fun into the post-dinner reception?!
3. Ampitheatre of the Redwoods at Pema Osel Ling in Corralitos, California
Vibe: Serene redwood paradise, redwood amphitheater for ceremonies, outdoor and indoor reception spaces, camping cabins and yurt lodging for guests
Amipitheatre of the Redwoods is part of a retreat center called Pema Osel Ling, so it’s tucked away in the most peaceful, quiet neck of the woods. This venue is a really down to earth, laid back kind of place for couples who want something made special by outdoor splendor without any frivolity. The feel of the grounds and the kind energy of the staff make it feel like you’re having a backyard wedding at a family friend’s place. It’s not fancy, but it’s in an insanely gorgeous area. The property is pretty huge and you or your guests can easily go exploring on a fun hike. The drive here is a fun and beautiful adventure on its own! Coming from highway 1, you follow a few backcountry roads that wind gently around past orchards and gorgeous forests. If you want a place to host all your friends overnight with a peaceful camp vibe, this is the spot.
Sidenote: The coordinators at Amphitheatre of the Redwoods are SO GREAT. Eden will take care of you in every possible way with a genuine smile on her face.
4. Seascape Resort in Aptos, California
Vibe: Coastal resort hotel, outdoor ceremony location with amazing ocean views, indoor reception spaces
Seascape resort has a totally different vibe than the venues above. This resort venue is situated on a beautiful bluff overlooking the ocean. Ceremonies are held outside in the most picturesque spot on the property. There are a few indoor reception options depending on the size of your group- each with a balcony overlooking great views. If you are looking for a classic and beautiful place to get married that isn’t too tucked away from civilization, this is it. The resort has plenty of hotel-style room, condos, a restaurant, hot tub and beach access.
Sidenote: something I really love about this venue is that you can hold an after party beach bonfire with your guests!
5. Sand Rock Farm Bed and Breakfast in Aptos, California
Vibe: Hidden Historic Farm with Lush Gardens and Rustic Charm
Alright, alright…. Sand Rock Farm is probably my most favorite venue in Santa Cruz County at the moment. I passed it several times before I ever knew it existed because its a hidden gem back in a wooded area. When you drive into Sand Rock Farm, I immediately realized I had underestimated it completely. Driving in, you’re transported to a secluded, lush zone that oozes with charm. The inside of the B&B is jaw-dropping 1800s style architecture and furnishings- even though you wouldn’t really know it from the outside. The grounds are expansive with winding paths through green areas. Sand Rock offers a variety of spaces for ceremony and reception sites, depending on your taste.
My favorite part of this venue is the Barrel Room, which is actually not a “room” at all– anymore at least! An arched doorway covered in ivy leads into the space and evokes a “secret garden” feel. Inside is an open air courtyard dripping with ivy and rustic charm. Bistro lights are strung across the space which make it feel more magical toward the evening. When I walked into it I was immediately reminded of the incredible Haiku Mill on Maui (a historic abandoned sugar mill that is now an open air jungle wedding heaven). The Barrel Room used to store wine barrels, but now it’s used as ceremony and reception space for weddings.
Sand Rock Farm is owned by an extremely sweet couple who offer a variety of wedding packages. Jen is a veteran wedding planner and Derek is a chef. Together they know how to give a great getaway experience for large and small weddings alike.
6. Waterfall Lodge in Ben Lomond, California
Vibe: Redwood Summer Camp Retreat
The Waterfall Lodge is a newly transformed venue with complete summer camp vibes! A gorgeous barn made of salvaged wood serves as a dance zone. Receptions and Ceremonies are held outside beneath huge redwoods. A patio with a fire pit is the perfect spot for cocktail hour. One of my favorite aspects of this venue are the little A-frame cabins dotting the property. They were built in the 70s and are the perfect way to bunk up all your tipsy friends after the party. Larger, nicer cottages are also available for guests who’d like more room to spread out. I love this venue so much that I am holding my own wedding here in 2019! More photos to come soon as I’ll be photographing a wedding here this season.
Other Santa Cruz County Wedding Venues:
- Roaring Camp
- Dream Inn
- Seascape Golf Club
- Waterfall Lodge and Retreat
- Cowell Hay Barn
- Seymour Marine Discovery Center
- Hollins House
- Slow Coast
Wedding Guest Lodging around Santa Cruz region:
- Dream Inn – Boutique Hotel
- Hotel Paradox – Boutique Hotel
- Brookdale Lodge – Newly re-opened famous lodge in the Santa Cruz Mountains
- Fairfield Inn Santa Cruz
- Hyatt Place Santa Cruz
MORE VENUES ARE BEING ADDED REGULARLY!
I will be posting more blogs soon about wedding venues in different Northern California regions. I will also be posting a blog on ideas for elopement locations! Stay tuned.
All Images by Melissa Ergo.
Fern River Resort Wedding- Planning and Design by Big Sur Weddings
Rancho Soquel- images by Melissa Ergo for Blake Weber.