In all likelihood, the site fee for the ceremony and reception is going to be our biggest expense. What we really want is somewhere in California with an ocean view, ideally a nice cliff overlooking the ocean and covered with wildflowers. Naturally, this is about as expensive as it can get, so finding a nice place that doesn't use up our entire budget is going to be our biggest challenge. It's frustrating for me because this is really what we need to do first, even before setting a date, but since I'm not in California right now, we can't really check places out. To make things more difficult, we don't know where in California we're going to be living next year which will further narrow our search parameters when we start looking for real. Nonetheless, I have started doing internet research near locations we might be living next year, and I found some places that might be acceptable.
Oceanside Marina Suites
This is the only place I've actually been to myself. Daniel and I checked it out while we were engaged before. The instant we walked in, we knew we loved this place. It's very nice looking, covered with palm trees and interesting decor. The staff were SUPER nice to us, and we really felt welcomed. The rooms are also particularly nice, each one being unique with a different theme.
Pros: It's right next to the ocean which of course is what we want. The staff were really willing to work with us to make the day great without us spending a ton of money on the location. The total we would pay them would be $3,000 though that may have gone up since we were there, but mostly importantly, we could hire our own caterers, bring our own cake, etc. which would REALLY help keep costs down. The fact that the ceremony and reception would be right next to each other would also be nice for our guests, so they don't have to drive in between. And I love the gazebo. I have a thing about gazebos, and I definitely want to get married under either a flower arch or a decorated gazebo.
Cons: $3,000 still ain't cheap, especially because this is purely the site fee. We would still have to pay for chairs and tables and just about everything else ourselves. They had people who could give us a deal when renting them, but it would still be nice to find a place where that kind of stuff was included. The biggest downside for me is that this location doesn't really have an ocean view. It's technically in a harbor, and though we would be able to see the ocean from our room, we wouldn't be able to see it during the actual wedding. Major downside from my point of view.
Laguna Beach is my number 1 location choice. I LOVE that area. It has incredible natural beauty, the "cliff overlooking the ocean" thing basically describes the entire area, and my parents got married there albeit underwater (long story, maybe I'll tell it later), so it has sentimental value as well. Of course, being prime Orange County real estate, it's one of the most expensive places to get married. However, the Capri Laguna has given me hope that I might be able to find somewhere to get married there anyway.
Pros: Beautiful location and potentially not that expensive! Rates start at a mere $1,200, and though we have to use their caterer, a sit-down dinner starts at $25 per person which is basically unheard of at most of the hotels I've been looking at. If this place is as good as it makes itself out to be, it may very well be where we get married.
Cons: The biggest con of course is that we haven't actually been there yet, but the wording they use for their price list also makes me think the site fee is more expensive than they let on. Basically, I'm not going to get my hopes up for anywhere in Laguna Beach or any hotel for that matter until I've talked to someone personally about what exactly we're going to be paying them.
When I started looking for locations, Laura recommended a stretch of park in La Jolla, CA that was overlooking the beach. Daniel and I checked it out, and IT WAS PERFECT. Stretch of bowl-shaped grass, cut off from the rest of the park, right above the ocean with a perfect view. I would have stopped looking there except for the tiny little problem that this is part of a very busy stretch of Southern California that would be flooded with tourists during the summer. No privacy. Daniel vetoed it. BUT, it got me thinking that the best thing we could do is find a stretch like it but in a more remote area where we would still have our cliff for a small view to the government, but we wouldn't have a bunch of tourists looking over us.
This is where I need your help! Are there any stretches of land near the ocean that you think are beautiful or that you think might work for a wedding? Or a hotel near the beach that is nice but not too expensive? Or a restaurant? Or anything else really. Anything you can give me would be helpful, even if it's just a general area. I can find locations based on that. I would really appreciate anything you can recommend on the California coastline.