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By: Kristen Castillo

San Diego Venues that Really Stand Out

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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.

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MELROSE RANCH
Valley Center/Escondido

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.”

ElCordova1
ElCordova2

EL CORDOVA HOTEL
Coronado

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.

Brian David Fine Art Wedding Photography

STONE GARDEN EVENTS
Fallbrook

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.

HOB

HOUSE OF BLUES
San Diego

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.

Lafyette

THE LAFAYETTE HOTEL, SWIM CLUB & BUNGALOWS
San Diego

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.

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SCRIPPS SEASIDE FORUM
La Jolla

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.

RanchoValen

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.

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VINTANA WINE + DINE
Escondido

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.

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SAFARI PARK
Escondido

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!

By: Kristen Castillo

True Photography Weddings

Getting married in the San Diego area is always a great choice. With great weather, impressive amenities and many venue choices, you can’t go wrong. Whether you want a waterfront vibe, a downtown feel, golf and greenery or sophisticated eateries, we’ve got you covered. Read on for our editor’s picks of San Diego’s best wedding venues. for the hot styles for your ceremony and reception.

Favorite Restaurants

True Photography Weddings

The Marine Room
Since it opened in 1941, The Marine Room in La Jolla has been wowing customers.  A recipient of AAA’s Four Diamond award, the oceanfront restaurant can accommodate up to 200 people for a wedding. Executive Chef Bernard Guillas’s menu includes global cuisine, especially French classics.

Dennis Mock Photography

Peohe’s Coronado
Soak up the waterfront views at this private restaurant. Overlooking San Diego Bay, Peohe’s in Coronado has indoor and outdoor options for ceremonies and receptions. The restaurant, which can accommodate up to 150 guests, features a Pacific Rim themed menu with fresh seafood and island-style cooking.

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Vintana Wine + Dine
Located in Escondido’s The Centre, Vintana Wine + Dine is a contemporary venue featuring cuisine by Chef Deborah Scott. From the outdoor Starlight Terrace to the Moonlight Veranda to the Crystal Ridge room, this restaurant, which is run by Cohn Restaurant Group, has flexibility for celebrations large and small.

GordonB

Gordon Biersch Brewery & Restaurant
With two private patios and two private banquet rooms, this Mission Valley restaurant is a great choice for rehearsal dinners and other wedding parties. What to expect? Award-winning handcrafted beers that are brewed on-site, yummy food and cozy ambiance like vaulted ceilings and brick walls.

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Manchester Grand Hyatt
Located on the waterfront in downtown San Diego, Manchester Grand Hyatt is the largest hotel on the west coast. It has over 125,000 square feet of event space (including four ballrooms) and can accommodate over 1000 guests, as well as intimate gatherings. The hotel’s Coronado Ballroom has a private foyer and terrace showcasing views of Coronado and San Diego Bay. Executive Chef Sutti Sripolpa’s cooking is fresh and natural, using local and organic food.  In-house kosher catering is also available.

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The University Club Atop Symphony Towers
Atop the 34th floor of Symphony Towers in downtown San Diego, University Club is convenient for locals and out of town guests. The views of San Diego are impressive from this venue, which can host weddings as intimate as 12 to as large as 300 guests. You can customize your event menu too.

The Bristol
Situated in downtown San Diego, The Bristol has two event spaces, including the 4,400 square foot Starlight Room, which fits 400 for a cocktail reception or 180 for a sit-down dinner. Plus it’s the only venue with a retractable roof, giving you and your guests a panoramic view of downtown. The look and feel is both refreshing and glamorous.

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Hornblower Cruises and Events
Sail along San Diego’s coast for your wedding celebration! Host your wedding on one of the Hornblower yachts, which can suit events with 20 to 500 guests. Exchange vows and then continue the party for a three to four hour event. The romantic voyage has many picturesque photo opportunities as well.

Favorite Ranches with Charm

CampbellCreek

Melrose Ranch
This Valley Center ranch features gardens, vineyards and lots of rustic charm like the old barn. They can accommodate weddings as large as 500, with a menu of farm to table style cuisine. Melrose Ranch is big on grand entrances, including a royal car from England, a horse and carriage, and a horse-drawn wagon or tractor pulled wagon.

Historic Campbell Creek Ranch Estate
An outdoor-only venue in Alpine, Historic Campbell Creek Ranch Estate can host weddings with up to 300 guests. The 48-acre property provides a secluded, country experience with a romantic gazebo, a large lawn, tall pine trees, freestone walls and rustic bridges. Don’t miss the on-site photo opportunities too, especially a photo with one of the 17 horses that live on the ranch.

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Rancho Bernardo Inn
You and your guests will have everything you need on-site for a weekend wedding at Rancho Bernardo Inn. In addition to ceremony and reception sites on property, there are indoor and outdoor rehearsal dinner locations, a spa and tranquility pool and a championship golf course. This rustic inn has many relaxing amenities like a garden, fountain and a wishing well. The golf course views are stunning too.

The Country Club of Rancho Bernardo
The Club will only host one wedding a day, which means the staff is dedicated to your event. Since it’s closed to members, you’ll also have the entire clubhouse to yourselves.

Enjoy panoramic lake and golf course views from the banquet space, which has floor to ceiling window. You can even have your ceremony on a candle lit patio overlooking the golf course. The ballroom is a fit for up to 200 guests.

CMRCC

Carmel Mountain Ranch Country Club
Whether you choose a garden ceremony or a reception in the Mountain View Terrace, you’ll love the views at Carmel Mountain Ranch Country Club. Overlook the golf course during your celebration and don’t forget to shoot photos at the course’s 11th hole waterfall and pond. The venue offers all-inclusive packages too.

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The Crossings at Carlsbad
You don’t have to be a member to say “I Do” at The Crossings at Carlsbad. The public course is available for events in tents as well, with enough space for a tent that holds 300 guests. There’s a 28,000 square foot craftsman-style clubhouse with vaulted ceilings and a stone fireplace that overlooks the course. Host your ceremony on the lawn and your celebration will have ocean views too.

Fabulous Gardens

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Japanese Friendship Garden
A quiet and pretty respite in Balboa Park, the Japanese Friendship Garden allows you to enjoy nature during your big day. The garden is wedding-ready, thanks to all the beautiful natural décor. Opening in 2015 – a new, larger wedding venue at the garden with seating up to 300 guests! This new space  will still offer the same “zen” appeal.

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Humphrey’s Half Moon Inn & Suites
This tropical setting along Shelter Island is ideal for outdoor ceremonies and receptions. Celebrate romance and style at this venue, which can host weddings as intimate as 30 and as large as 1000. Kiss under the magic of twinkle lights against the San Diego skyline. The lush garden and waterfront views also make for beautiful photos.

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The Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa
Want a Hawaii experience in San Diego? Consider The Catamaran Resort Hotel & Spa on Mission Bay where waterfalls, palm trees, lush landscaping and tiki torches make you feel the Aloha spirit. The hotel also has three ballrooms, including the Aviary Ballroom that has a private balcony and boasts floor to ceiling windows with views of Mission Bay.

Paradise Point

Paradise Point Resort & Spa
This 44-acre resort along Mission Bay combines tropical beauty with romance. You can choose from the many ceremony and reception sites on the property, since the resort has over 60,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, including lush gardens, lagoons, lawns and beaches, as well as ballrooms. You and your guests will also relax in luxury in one of the resort’s 462 bungalows.

Kona Kai Resort
Fresh off a recent makeover, Kona Kai embodies Southern California style. With over 43,000 square feet of outdoor space and 13,000 square feet of banquet space, the resort is ready to host your wedding. Celebrate in a variety of places like the courtyards, patios and even a private beach.

Wedgewood Wedding and Banquet Center at the Golf Club of California in Fallbrook
You don’t have to be a member to enjoy your wedding at this golf club in Fallbrook, which impresses with views of the golf course lake and the nearby mountains. On property you’ll also find a fountain courtyard, indoor/outdoor fireplaces and 30-foot ceilings in the banquet hall. You’ll love the all-inclusive packages of this venue, which is close to both San Diego and Temecula.

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Marina Village
Conveniently located in Mission Bay near SeaWorld, Marina Village can host up to 350 guests. There are two outdoor ceremony sites with marina backdrops. You’ll get the ceremony site for three hours, with 100 chairs and a white wooden arch. Then celebrate in one of the event rooms, which have vaulted ceilings, loft spaces and built-in dance floors.

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Maritime Museum of San Diego
Add a bit of history to your wedding day by holding your event on one of the Maritime Museums of San Diego’s historic vessels. The 1898 Berkeley ferryboat is a fit for up to 1200 guests. It has two open-air decks and the Ladies’ deck and dance floor has Victorian styled stained glass windows. Another choice is the Star of India, which is ideal for weddings with as many as 600 guests. Built in 1863, it’s the oldest active sailing ship in the world. Did you know this ship circled the globe 21 times?

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The Prado
Located in the House of Hospitality at Balboa Park, The Prado combines timelessness and romance with style and sophistication. With food from award winning chef Jonathan Hale, the restaurant is owned and operated by The Cohn Restaurant Group. Ceremonies are ideal on the multi-level terraces of the Casa del Rey Moro Gardens. The Grand Ballroom, which has 27-foot hand-stenciled ceilings and seats up to 320 people, is also fully equipped as a Theatrical Stage.

The Centre Escondido
This venue in Escondido has it all: an event space, a car dealership (Lexus of Escondido) and food (Vintana Wine + Dine) as well as fashion and art. The Centre has a variety of event spaces, which are modern and have lots of natural light.  The venue whose motto is “time well spent” focuses on being elegant, yet approachable.

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El Cortez
Overlooking San Diego’s downtown, El Cortez opened in 1927. The venue, which has classic décor like a Mahogany ballroom floor, oiled bronze handrails and a 24 karat gold leafed ceiling with mica chandelier, can hold weddings with guest lists from 20 to 500.  Since the venue doesn’t have an on-site caterer, choose one of El Cortez Don Room and Terrace’s preferred caterers.

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The US GRANT
A historic hotel in the heart of downtown San Diego, The US GRANT offers luxury and romance, for parties ranging in size from 30 to 700. Among your event choices: the Crystal Ballroom, the Chairmans Court, the Chaffee Court, and the Palm Court as well as ballrooms for larger parties, the Celestial Ballroom and Presidential Ballroom (which has nine crystal chandeliers!).

Chelsea Anne Photography

San Diego Zoo and Safari Park
Show off your animal appreciation by holding your wedding at the San Diego Zoo or Safari Park, which both have multiple ceremony and reception locations for celebrations with 25 to 500 guests. The outdoor events feature lush backdrops and natural beauty. At the Zoo, indulge in a plantation-style reception at the Treetops Room and dance the night away at the Zoofari Party Area. With event locales like Lagoon Overlook, featuring exotic plants and rare birds, and Heart of Africa, an African safari feel, Safari Park’s wedding offerings are impressive and can take you and your guests “away” even though you’re close to home.