Los Angeles is a wonderfully romantic city between the Hollywood glamour and the natural wonders of the mountains and coastline, so it's a perfect location for a destination wedding. Whether your fantasy is to be married on the beach at sunset, at a rustic mountain vineyard, at a mansion or castle, on a ship or standing on a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, you can fulfill the dream with a Los Angeles wedding.
Having put in my time photographing weddings in the LA area, I've seen a lot wedding venues that accommodate from just a few to 1000 or more guests, some that worked out better than others. There is really no such things as a "top 10 wedding venues" when every bride has a unique vision of her wedding. So here are my suggestions for amazing, practical, unique and some totally extravagant locations for a destination wedding in LA. If you do choose a wedding location in LA, check out my tips on Getting a Marriage License in Los Angeles.
Check out this list for some amazing wedding venues around LA.
A Resort Wedding in LA
If you're coming to Los Angeles with an entire entourage for your wedding, having it at a resort or hotel location where you and your guests can stay is practical and can be very beautiful. Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes is on a bluff with stunning ocean views of its own, as well as proximity to cliff-top golf course wedding venues at Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles and Los Verdes Golf Course. The Wayfarer's Chapel is also just down the road to the south and the stunning views of LA Venta Inn about 15 minutes north heading toward Redondo Beach.
In Santa Monica, Loews Santa Monica and Shutters on the Beach can all arrange a beach wedding and put up all your guests traveling to town. In Orange County, the Hyatt Huntington Beach and Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel are prime oceanfront locations (note: Orange County venues require an Orange County Marriage License).
If you prefer a luxurious mountain backdrop, the Langham Pasadena and Four Seasons Westlake Village are lovely settings.
Yacht Wedding at Sea
If you know your entire wedding party is seaworthy, a wedding cruise aboard a yacht can be very romantic. Popular departure points for wedding cruises are Marina Del Rey, Long Beach and Newport Beach with Hornblower Cruises or FantaSea Yachts. Wedding cruises generally stay in the calmer marina canals rather than venturing out to open ocean. There are multiple hotels near all of the yacht harbors.
A Vineyard Wedding
Malibu Family Winery 200 has multiple stunning venues among the vineyards at Saddlerock Ranch in Malibu where you can get married among the vineyards. Kelsey Grammar, Lisa Kudrow and Don Henley are just a few of the celebrities who have tied the knot there.
Not technically a vineyard, but situated in Malibu Wine Country, Calamigos Ranch also has beautiful mountain settings for weddings, including one with a carousel and Ferris Wheel.
There are no accommodations at these locations, but there are hotels about 10-15 minutes away in Agoura Hills and Westlake Village.
A Castle Wedding in LA
For a fairytale setting with state of the art technology, the Hollywood Castle is 10,000 square feet of British castle architecture complete with a mini-moat and drawbridge. It can accommodate up to 500 event guests in the castle and gardens and is also available as a vacation rental if you want to stick around for the honeymoon. The rest of your guests will find plenty of hotels in Hollywood.
Lobo Castle is another castle property available for rent in Agoura Hills in the Santa Monica Mountains above Malibu.
Weddings on the Queen Mary
The RMS Queen Mary in Long Beach is a unique venue for a wedding, with the added bonus of also being a hotel, so you and your guests can stay on board. There are also plenty of other hotels nearby. It's an especially appropriate setting for a vintage Art Deco wedding. There is a small wedding chapel, and for larger groups, vows can be exchanged on deck or in a glamorous ballroom. The ship is pretty much grounded and doesn't move, so, unlike a yacht wedding, you don't have to worry about anyone getting seasick.
A Victorian Wedding at Heritage Square or Castle Green
Most couples who choose the Victorian settings at the Heritage Square Museum near Downtown LA or Castle Green in Pasadena do so for the beautiful setting, but they still organize a modern wedding. However, these backdrops are also perfect for a vintage wedding, and since this is LA, period wedding attire isn't all that hard to find.
Greystone Mansion and other Mansion Rentals
Greystone Mansion, an event facility managed by the parks department in Beverly Hills, is a very popular wedding venue. The 55-room estate has hosted many a celebrity wedding in its gardens and banquet rooms. You can choose from three exclusive catering partners for your event. Because it's a park facility, there are restrictions on hours of operation, so you won't be partying until the wee hours here. There are numerous hotels nearby for out of town guests.
If you want a more intimate venue, a little more control, and sleeping rooms, check tripping.com or tripadvisor.com for luxury vacation rentals. With enough notice, you'll find numerous wedding-worthy mansions available, like this Italian Villa or this Beverly Hills Luxury Estate. Be sure to take parking and proximity of neighbors into account when planning a wedding at a private mansion, and also look at minimum rental periods. Some are in densely populated areas with a noise curfew, where late night partying, especially in outdoor areas, will prompt a visit from the local police.
An Estate Wedding at the Huntington
If money is no object, you can hold your special day in any one of the gardens, or several indoor venues at the Huntington Library and Gardens in San Marino, near Pasadena. The property use fee is a flat rate, regardless of how many guests you have or which part of the estate you use and does not include anything except the venue, parking, limited security personnel and a wedding portrait session (not photography of the wedding and reception). It is arguably the most expensive wedding venue in the LA area. If you have to ask how much, it's not in your budget. You must use a qualified professional wedding planner to have your wedding at the Huntington. Guide to the Huntington Library, Art collection and Botanical Gardens.
Most of the public gardens in my Most Beautiful Los Angeles Gardens list, including Descanso Gardens, Exposition Park Rose Garden and various Japanse gardens are available for weddings at a much (much, much) more affordable rate. The gardens at the Getty Center and Getty Villa are NOT available for weddings.
Vibiana – the Un-Cathedral Wedding
Vibiana was originally the Cathedral of St. Vibiana, built in 1876 in Downtown LA as the home of the Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles, before it sustained earthquake damage and the new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels was built. The building was completely retrofitted and turned into a unique event hall by LA top chef Neal Fraser and friends. Weddings can be held indoors or in the garden. The makeover included adding AC and heating and upgrading the electric system to support the power needs of a full band on stage and a state of the art catering kitchen. You also get Neal Fraser's catering team. A professional wedding planner is required to plan your special day at Vibiana.
Yamashiro Restaurant in Hollywood
Yamashiro is a pagoda-like structure surrounded by Japanese gardens on a hilltop overlooking Hollywood Boulevard. So you have the serenity of the gardens or courtyard for your ceremony, the restaurant's famed Cal-Asian cuisine and the convenience of a diverse collection of Hollywood hotels for your guests to choose from.
A Disneyland Wedding
Given its fan culture, it's not surprising that Disneyland has a whole Disneyland wedding department ready to help create your dream wedding. There are multiple venues and resort hotels to choose from. Unfortunately, their website is not very user friendly, so you can't browse your options and check out venues at the park without making choices you may not be ready to make. As good as Disney is at theme parks, they're not very good at websites. (note: Disneyland weddings require an Orange County Marriage License)
A Wedding at the Museum
For something a little more off-beat, you could get married among the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, against a backdrop of a giant fish tank at the Aquarium of the Pacific or surrounded by classic cars at the Petersen Automotive Museum. A backdrop of stars and the sparkling lights of Los Angeles makes the Griffith Observatory a romantic choice.
Guerrilla Weddings in LA
If you're eloping or only planning to have a handful of people at your wedding, you could just go to the courthouse, or you could plan a guerrilla wedding with a private wedding officiant just about anywhere.
You can have a wedding for up to 50 people on most beaches around LA without a permit (up to 150 in Santa Monica). But if you don't plan on setting up any infrastructure, you can get married on a cliff top, a balcony, a helipad, on a star on the Walk of Fame or in a tea cup at Disneyland (so you can skip their wedding planning website if you want). All you need is an officiant and a witness, and the witness is optional if you get a confidential marriage license.
I have photographed guerrilla weddings up to about 20 people, including a Jewish wedding with a chuppah thrown up in 15 minutes at a park and another on a little league ball field, a beach picnic wedding in a Malibu cove, and an intimate ceremony for about 10 people at Hilltop Park in Signal Hill surrounded by a separate photo shoot going on and a bunch of people out to view the sunset.
There are numerous non-denominational officiants you can hire to perform the ceremony of your choice. In Los Angeles, with a few months notice, anyone can become a Deputy Commissioner for a Day to officiate a wedding. So if you have a willing friend or family member in the city available to be sworn in at the Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk's office, they can take on that role.