Why not start out with a unique venue away from the maddening crowd? Choose a place that’s a bit out of way, a place perhaps you’ve only been to once before – when you found that perfect site for your wedding. Perhaps a location that none of your guests have been to before.
Here are a few out-of-way places in northern California…
The Pietra Santa Winery, is a family owned/run estate, in Hollister about 45 minutes from both San Jose and Monterey. Its name is translated into English as “Sacred Stone.” This is a lavish Tuscan style winery in the Cienega Valley. This valley is a secluded wine region just outside of Hollister. Here, you’ll enjoy views of chaparral covered hills and fields of green grapevines. This winery also cultivates olives and has several varieties of olives among their 5000 olive trees. They make their olive oil using an Italian “Pieralisi” press.
This location offers a variety of options from the casual to the elegant. Marry in a meadow under the boughs of a mighty oak tree, or, in front of the spectacular hand-carved arched doors winery’s Bell Tower. Another option is the lovely garden of a quaint cottage. Have your reception on the tiled loggia surrounded by the gardens and tons of Old World Charm. Or step inside to a barrel-lined cellar, perhaps decorated with tall candle tapers and clear twinkle lights. (Contact them at www.pietrasantawinery.com for more information)
Next, we’ll go to a B & B near the unique town of Mendocino in northern California. This is the Shambhala Ranch. Its unusual name comes from a “legendary Himalayan kingdome where an enlightened society lived by a set of Tibetan Buddhist teachings.” The ranch does vegetable farming, has fruit tree orchards, beautiful gardens, timber and farm animals. Here your guests will enjoy a natural and relaxing environment. You can also rent out all of the guest rooms for your party but please book early as they fill up way in advance. Extra guests can find a variety of lodging options in Mendocino or at Orr Hot Springs.
Jeans or tuxedos – each will be at home at the Shambhala Ranch. Wed in an intimate garden, a beautiful meadow, or the lush lawn overlooking the spring-fed pond. Your reception can be held up on the West Deck surrounded by wonderful views. From cocktails out on the deck, you can move inside for dining and dancing. Their competent and friendly staff will provide you with a list of caterers, florists and other vendors to help in planning your special day. (For details see www.shambhalaranch.com)
The next choice is a pretty popular venue for weddings and special events so perhaps it’s not really off the beaten path. But, it’s too irresistible to ignore. The Peach Tree Island at Lake Hughes between Antelope Village and Santa Clarita. This is a working ranch with, of course, orchards of peach trees, and other fruits. The vast ranch has a private island in the middle of a small lake surrounded by weeping willow trees. Their event season runs from mid April to mid November.
The have a bridal cottage for dressing along with a groom’s cottage for the groom and his entourage. There are wonderful opportunities for spectacular photos both before and after the ceremony. Imagine walking over their wooden footbridge, glimpsing the ducks floating underneath, and, onto the island for your ceremony. Or, have it in the Rose Garden with a gazebo facing the lake and surrounded by rosebushes. You’ll be delighted to dance under the stars following a superb dinner. There are heaters available to take the chill off of evening receptions. The staff will provide you with the names of vendors they like to work with. (Visit www.peachtreeisland.com for additional information.)
Next, we’ll travel into the Sierra Nevada Mountains for my personal favorite. Now, it’s a very, very popular place but if you’re from northern or southern parts of the state, it’s very possible your guests have never been there. It’s Bass Lake, located about an hour outside of Fresno, in the Central Valley, and about 30 minutes from Yosemite National Park. This is like a miniature Lake Tahoe and you can get married overlooking the water. Ducey’s Lodge/The Pines Resort has several wedding packages for you to choose. You’ll need a minimum of 50 persons for any of the packages.
Their restaurant will handle the catering and they have vendors who will come in and take care of the wedding cake, flowers, etc. There is ample room for dancing and your ceremony and/or reception can take place indoors or out. There is also an adorable little white church just across the parking lot – perfect for an intimate ceremony. There are many guest rooms at the hotel, many of them overlooking Bass Lake. There are also several chalets which can be rented by larger groups. In addition, to those accommodations, there are many lovely motels and B & B’s in Oakhurst about five minutes away, plus individual and unique cabins you can rent in the area. I’ve spent many weekends staying in some of those very cabins. (Contact www.basslake.com for more information.)
There are many other great wedding sites that are “off the beaten path.” So, go and explore and find someplace wonderful for your very special day.