By: Kristen Castillo
San Diego Venues that Really Stand Out
One of the biggest wedding decisions you’ll make is where to host your ceremony and reception. While San Diego is home to many fabulous venues, some really stand out. From luxurious resorts to lush gardens to exotic backdrops, the venues below deserve your attention.
This 110-acre, private venue in Valley Center, which can accommodate up to 500 guests, hosts just one event at a time.
“The grounds are naturally beautiful,” says Julie Stroh, weddings and events manager/coordinator for the ranch. “It’s like you’re at a destination wedding, but it’s nearby.”
The venue is quiet and features longhorn cattle that roam the property behind the fence. There are a variety of ceremony and reception sites including a garden, as well as the barns, a lily pad area and an arboretum.
Arrive at the ceremony in style too.
“We have a horse drawn carriage, wagons and a royal car,” says Stroh. Melrose Ranch offers on-site catering in a farm to table style, which Stroh calls “fresh, gourmet catering.”
You can also use outside vendors including caterers, if you prefer.
“We don’t have cookie cutter packages,” says Stroh. “We customize.”
EL CORDOVA HOTEL
Built in 1902 as a retirement mansion for one of the founders of the Hotel del Coronado, El Cordova Hotel is a popular wedding venue along Coronado’s Orange Avenue.
“Our historic boutique hotel is very unique, and offers a romantic Spanish flavor to our brides and grooms,” says Paula Ruthenberg, the hotel’s sales manager. “The El Cordova Hotel attracts a lot of couples looking for stylish space with a great location. We have the best location in Coronado, right across the street from the historic Hotel Del Coronado and the gorgeous Coronado beach.”
The outdoor courtyard, featuring a water fountain and bright Spanish tiles with cobblestone is perfect for small weddings with fewer than 50 guests. The 1800-square-foot Casa Grande Suite, which has a private entrance and foyer and wall-to-wall windows, accommodates up to 50 guests.
The hotel’s restaurant partners: Miguel’s Cocina, The Brigantine Seafood Restaurant and Fabrison’s French Creperie are available for on-site catering.
STONE GARDEN EVENTS
Featuring a large covered patio, lush landscaping, a fireplace and a built-in a stone bar, Stone Garden Events is a private venue in Fallbrook.
“Brides and grooms love the natural beauty and personalization we can give to make their day special,” says Lisa Carusa, event coordinator at Stone Garden Events, which limits events to one per day.
This rustic, stylish space is available for rental on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Packages are geared for a six-hour event.
HOUSE OF BLUES
Located in downtown San Diego, House of Blues San Diego (HOB) is a great venue for couples looking for an out-of-the-box wedding.
Jennifer Leedom, HOB’s special events sales manager calls the venue “non-traditional and fun.”
With a menu that’s over 25 pages long, “The food options are endless,” says Leedom.
For a breakfast gathering, think omelet stations and waffles; for lunch, selections include burgers, pastas and salads; and dinners are hearty, like jambalaya, meatloaf, and voodoo shrimp, as well as carving stations such as ham and turkey breast.
Don’t forget dessert! HOB has lots of tasty treats like cheesecake squares, Mexican dark chocolate chip cookies and red velvet cupcakes.
HOB’s capacity is incredible too. Rent the whole venue to accommodate 1500 people;
The Grand Music Hall suits a wedding for 800 with 200 guests seated for dinner. Other options include The Crossroads Restaurant, Salvation Alley, and Patio, which seat 175 guests for dinner; The Crossroads Restaurant and Patio, which holds 120 for a seated dinner; and The Private Delta Room, which fits 80 for dinner.
THE LAFAYETTE HOTEL, SWIM CLUB & BUNGALOWS
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Lafayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows opened in 1946.
Fresh off a $6 million renovation, the 131-room boutique hotel is modern and environmentally sustainable.
The hotel now hosts many events including weddings, accommodating up to 500 people.
The Conservatory is “a truly unique space conveniently located adjacent to our fabulous Weissmuller pool and veranda,” says Julia Velez-Hernandez, the hotel’s catering sales manager, explaining the Conservatory has “high ceilings, natural lighting and a whimsical, garden-like ambiance.”
Lafayette Hotel’s Mississippi Ballroom was featured in “Top Gun” too, when Tom Cruise’s character Maverick sang, “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.”
There’s also a clamshell behind the stage in the ballroom, which makes for a cool backdrop for wedding entertainment, toasts and even a sweetheart table.
SCRIPPS SEASIDE FORUM
The Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment, also known as Scripps Seaside Forum, boasts stunning views along the La Jolla coastline.
The Forum can accommodate wedding banquets as small as 20 guests or as large as 200. You can rent the entire complex or choose the auditorium or other rooms at the venue.
It’s an eco-friendly space too, with LEED certification, drought friendly landscaping, plantation-grown interior and exterior teak and carpet made from recycled materials.
Brides and grooms must work with an approved caterer.
RANCHO VALENCIA RESORT & SPA
Rancho Santa Fe
An award-winning resort, Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa recently completed a $30 million property-wide transformation.
The property features 12,000 square feet of redesigned wedding space and can host weddings with as many as 300 guests. The newly transformed spaces include the 1,900-square-foot ballroom, the 620-square-foot Sunrise Room and 2,600-square-foot adjoining patio, as well as the 9,000-square-foot Croquet Lawn, which is surrounded by lush landscaping.
Another wedding option is the 5,000-square-foot Hacienda that received a $1 million update. The private three-bedroom villa accommodates up to 180 guests.
“Couples love hosting their weddings at Rancho Valencia as it provides a feeling of intimacy with courtyards privately tucked away, trickling fountains, pristine lawns and dramatic views surrounded by lush gardens,” says Tracy Apodaca, the resort’s director of catering and conference services. “Exceptional service coupled with a relaxed atmosphere makes Rancho Valencia the perfect location to start a new chapter together.”
Rancho Valencia’s transformation also includes guest casitas with private patios; a world-class spa; signature restaurant Veladora; the Pony Room bar; an award-winning tennis program and a fitness facility with a 1,000 square-foot Serenity Yoga Pavilion.
VINTANA WINE + DINE
This wedding site is definitely unexpected, but very cool. Vintana Wine + Dine, a 326,000 square-foot venue, located on the penthouse level the Lexus Centre of Escondido, will make your engine rev!
Vintana’s premiere venue, the 9474-square-foot Moonlight Veranda overlooks Escondido’s rolling hills and can seat up to 350 guests for dinner. It has cabanas, a fire feature and a built-in bar.
Another Vintana event space, the Crystal Ridge Room, seats up to 190 guests for dinner. The room has floor to ceiling windows and views of the hillside. You and your guests can also enjoy the Centre’s signature Fountain of Living Water.
“A contemporary space with 360-degree views of the rolling hillside, guests love the al fresco feel of the expansive terrace coupled with the modern aesthetic and open ambiance,” says Krista Romberg, Vintana’s director of special events and sales.
Chef/Partner Deborah Scott and her team custom create the wedding menu for each couple, featuring dishes like black and white sesame salmon; bruleed pork porterhouse; lobster and lamb shank.
For a “wild” wedding to remember, check out Safari Park in Escondido. This sister park to the San Diego Zoo has so many wedding options, for events as small as 25 people and as large as 300.
“There are lots of reasons people choose to marry at the Safari Park but some of the top reasons are: Nostalgic – they visited the Park often when they were a kids or as a couple,” says Angie Kemp of the Park’s event sales department. “Views – Safari Park offers amazing views with vast ‘savannas,’ tropical backdrops and a variety of lush settings.”
Other reasons to tie the knot at Safari Park include ceremony and reception venues like the recently remodeled Mombasa Lagoon and the upcoming Tiger Trail exhibit (opening in 2014); and supporting a Not-for-Profit organization since all proceeds support the Park’s “mission of bringing animals back from the brink of extinction,” says Kemp.
Host your wedding here and your guests receive free access to the park all day, which is a definite bonus for out of town guests and locals. You and your groom will also receive a complimentary one-year membership to the Zoological Society of San Diego.
Photo opportunities are everywhere at Safari Park as well, including backdrops like the carousel, animal statues, waterfalls and lily pads. Plus you, your hubby and your guests will have opportunities for meet-and-greets with exotic animals – another fantastic photo opp!