Central California is the perfect backdrop of a wedding–from its convenient access to some of the state’s most beautiful parkland to the countless miles of rugged coastline. From its breathtaking beaches on the western coast to the towering sequoias in the east, Central California has no shortage of wedding locations to make your big day a memorable one. Whether you’re dreaming of exchanging vows overlooking the Pacific Ocean or saying ‘I do’ against the Sierra Nevada Mountains, our ultimate guide to Central California weddings covers everything you need to know about local venues, entertainment, and more!
A joyous couple says 'I do' against the gorgeous wildflower fields at Carmel Fields
The Central California region begins near Monterey Bay in the north and spans east towards the Sierra Nevada Mountain range. Monterey Bay’s coast is lined with sleepy oceanfront towns, can’t-miss culinary destinations, historic hot spots like Cannery Row, and a number of locations to spot the area’s adorable sea lion population.
Just south of Monterey Bay is the world-famous Big Sur–a remote stretch of Central California’s rugged coastline that offers misty views overlooking the Pacific Ocean from seaside cliffs. Take State Route 1 (otherwise known as the Pacific Coast Highway) south for a scenic road trip full of winding turns and unadulterated views.
As you head inland, you will be greeted by the flourishing farmland of the San Joaquin Valley that borders the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Fresno offers all the amenities of a bustling metropolis with convenient access to Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. From the centuries-old sequoia trees to regal granite cliffs, the Sierra Nevada region is filled with beautiful photo opportunities and countless roadside attractions that make it a worthy destination for a day trip or spending a few days camping and hiking.
Newlyweds pose for a portrait on the grounds of Fresno Fields, a Central California wedding venue conveniently located near the Sierra Nevada foothills
Head down the PCH to the southeast side of the Central California region, where you will find the calm, glistening beaches or Ventura County that are a welcome respite from the hustle and bustle of neighboring Los Angeles. After you’ve soaked up some rays at the beach, head to one of Ventura County’s luscious parks like Point Mugu or Anacapa Island.
Pacific Tower View in Oxnard, CA, boasts panoramic views of Ventura County from the regal 22nd floor penthouse ballroom
CENTRAL CALIFORNIA WEDDING VENUES WORTH TOURING
- Carmel Fields in Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA is set against the picturesque Monterey Bay with beach access for an oceanfront wedding ceremony. Carmel-by-the-Sea is a sleepy coastal town filled with historic architecture, fine dining, and quaint boutiques. Your guests will fall in love with the ocean views from this Central California wedding venue and enjoy wandering the welcoming streets of this beachside village.
- Fresno Fields in Fresno, CA is conveniently located in the city of Fresno and is only a short drive away from California’s most beautiful parks. Fresno Fields features exclusive manicured gardens and a shaded terrace that is perfect for hosting an outdoor wedding ceremony. If camping and hiking are your style, you’ll love having access to everything the Sierra Nevada Mountains have to offer, including Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park.
- Pacific View Tower in Oxnard, CA combines the best of both worlds: an oceanfront wedding ceremony site paired with exquisite penthouse views overlooking Ventura County. After you exchange your vows overlooking some of Central California’s most beautiful coastline, head 22 floors up to enjoy 360-degree views of twinkling city lights and the Pacific Ocean for your wedding ceremony.
- Sterling Hills in Camarillo, CA is a Tuscan-styled wedding venue that boasts a grand entrance and an exquisite ballroom with a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows. Outside of Sterling Hills you’ll find views overlooking rolling green vistas towards the Topatopa Mountains. This Central California wedding venue offers both indoor and outdoor wedding ceremony sites, including lush manicured gardens with a charming gazebo.
GETTING MARRIED IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
CONSIDERATIONS FOR A NORTHERN CALIFORNIA WEDDING
- Selecting a season: Central California covers a large span of land and the weather can vary depending on where your venue is located. If fall colors and changing leaves are your style, consider selecting a venue further north for a seasonal wedding experience.
- Plan your view: whether you’re dreaming of a romantic sunset portrait against the Pacific Ocean or sweeping views of the Sierra Nevadas, work with your photographer and wedding venue to coordinate the times and locations for capturing the best shots on your wedding day.
- Choosing your attire: consider how the temperatures will impact your wedding day attire. Black tuxedos may be a bit hot and heavy for a beachside ceremony and sunset nuptials in the mountains may be a bit brisk, so brides and bridesmaids may want to plan for dressing in layers.
- Indoor or outdoor: since the Central California climate is generally mild and dry, it is the perfect destination for an outdoor wedding. Guests can soak up the natural splendor that Central California has to offer during your wedding ceremony and then head inside for a climate-controlled wedding reception indoors. If you’re planning a fully outdoor wedding reception as well, ask your wedding venue if they can provide heated patio lamps for brisk evening temperatures.
Enjoy a sun-filled wedding ceremony while soaking in views of palm trees and Topatopa Mountains at Sterling Hills in Central California
FUN CENTRAL CALIFORNIA ACTIVITIES:
Whether you are coordinating a destination wedding or hosting out-of-town guests for your Central California nuptials, the region offers countless activities within driving distance for friends and family alike:
- Catch some waves: the Pacific Ocean is known for its mighty waves that attract surfers from around the globe. If you are a newbie, consider taking a lesson with a certified professional. If you’re an experienced surfer, you’ve probably already located the best surf spot that the locals hang out at.
- Visit Capitola Village: this Mediterranean-style village is located on the northern shores of Monterey Bay and is a popular destination for dining, shopping, and soaking in the ocean views. The historic and colorful architecture make California’s oldest seaside town a fun spot to visit for unique photo opportunities.
- Visit Big Sur: with one of the longest undeveloped coastlines in the contiguous United States, Big Sur is certainly a sight to behold. This mountainous stretch of Central California features breathtaking views of Pacific Ocean, countless hiking trails, and unparalleled camping opportunities.
- Visit the national parks in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range: this mountain range is truly spectacular and has to be seen in person to be truly appreciated. Home to the world-famous Yosemite National Park and the tallest waterfall in the U.S., there’s an endless supply of adventures waiting around every corner.
- Go on a culinary adventure: Central California is home to a wide variety of culinary hot spots to please every palate. For a true culinary experience, make a reservation at Aubergine in Carmel for an 8-10 course plated meal by award-winning chef Justin Cogley. For lighter fare, head south to Paso Robles for some Spanish-style tapas at La Cosecha. If it’s something sweet you crave, Ventura’s Sticky Fingers Baking Company is sure to please - they even have vegan and gluten-free options!
- Go underground at Forestiere Underground Gardens: as you head east towards Fresno, be sure to stop by the Forestiere Underground Gardens. This hand-built network of underground passageways and courtyards is reminiscent of the ancient catacombs. Besides the beautiful architecture, the gardens are a perfect spot to cool off during the summer - with temperatures ranging from 10-30 degrees lower underground.
- Take a tour of the Paso Robles wineries: Napa isn’t the only destination in California for wine lovers. Paso Robles is home to more than 200 wineries in addition to a dozen craft breweries and a growing list of local distilleries. If you enjoy a glass of vino overlooking rolling vineyards, you have to plan a visit to Paso Robles.
If you’re dreaming of exchanging vows against the rugged cliffs of the Pacific Coast, consider saying ‘I do’ to a Central California wedding. From the stunning views to endless activities for guests, Central California is a perfect backdrop for your upcoming nuptials. Your guests will enjoy the hours of entertainment and breathtaking views, and your wedding photos will turn out spectacular whether you opt for oceanfront or mountainside nuptials. Check out our list of suggested Central California wedding venues to tour and start planning your special day.