Just 2.5 hours south of San Francisco, there's a magical place on the California coast where the redwoods meet the ocean and the ocean meets the mountains. The Monterey Bay has grown more and more as a destination over the years - and for good reason! People come from all over the world to see the abundant wildlife and drive down Highway 1 to see the views that California is known for. It's not a surprise that this area is also popular for weddings. Surrounded by such a diverse range of landscapes, there's wedding venues for every type of couple - redwood forests for a fairytale wedding in Big Sur, ocean-view terraces for romantic sunsets overlooking the Pacific Ocean, gardens flourishing against the Santa Lucia Mountains. And the best part is that oftentimes you don't have to choose just one! You could get ready in a redwoods cabin, say your vows in a garden, and chase the sunset on the coast all in one day if you wanted to. If that sounds like your dream wedding, out this guide on Big Sur, Carmel, and Monterey wedding venues!
Planning an elopement or intimate wedding instead? Check out the Big Sur Elopement Guide for more information specifically for wedding days with smaller guest counts.
For R + M, having an intimate destination wedding was always something they imagined. They absolutely loved roadtripping, and had spent time campervanning through Arizona, Utah, and parts of California. One challenge - many of their family members had never even set foot on a plane. But when they told their family in Texas that they wanted to get married in California, their family were on board. These two's love story that had started all the way from high school was one worth celebrating, and even worth conquering fears and trying new things. And it was truly was such a more heartfelt, joy-filled wedding. M surprised his bride with flowers and a video compilation recording of well wishes from their loved ones, which started the waterworks early in the day. He teared up as she walked down the aisle, and took a few deep breaths before saying his vows to keep it together. Their day was also filled with so many sweet details, like having their names embroidered in her veil, or even making a custom license plate for their getaway car. As we drove up the coast, we all talked about how much this day was the best of both worlds - a gathering with their favorite people while still getting time to just be with each other, taking in the incredible landscapes with no one else around. It couldn't have been a more perfect day. Check out the rest of R + M's Big Sur wedding below!
Big Sur was a special place for you two - not only had they driven down Highway for many road trips, but they even got engaged there! R proposed overlooking the cliffs at Garrapata State Park, where we also ended up taking their engagement photos. So for their wedding, they decided to get married right in the heart of Big Sur. Instead of having a wedding party, they gathered their closest loved ones to stay with them at Wind and Sea, a beautiful property overlooking the ocean that also served as their venue. Their guests got to walk around in awe of the views around them. What was even more incredible was the 5 minutes of sunset we got at the end of the day - where the incredible sun finally peaked out from the clouds and celebrated these two's wedding day with them. Check out the rest of their Big Sur wedding below!
Sometimes you meet a couple and they just radiate an incredible love for each other. T + C was that kind of couple. When these two met, it wasn't love at first sight (in fact, their first date was full of anxiety!) But as they got to know each other better, they grew into perfect partners for each other. When Keith, my husband and their officiant, asked them separately what they loved about each other, they both said that they found someone who matched their ambition - not for career or prestige, but for love. And that was true throughout their entire wedding day. From the moment that they saw each other for the first time, they were immediately overwhelmed with emotion. C was full of tears as they said their vows to each other privately in a sweet moment before their ceremony. Even the way they wrote their vows said so much about their love story. It wasn't just a small booklet, but rather a journal. One that they had written in with a few entries all the way up to their wedding day, jotted down with love letters that they could read back in years to come. With just an intimate group of 20 of their friends and family present to witness their day, they got to savor all the big and small moments with their favorite people. Check out the rest of their fairytale redwoods wedding at Sparrow Valley Retreat below!
This gem of a venue is one of my favorites - located in downtown Monterey, the Barns at Cooper Molera has a beautiful rustic barn framed by gardens and string lights (and also conveniently next the Alta Bakery and Cella Restaurant, two staples of the Monterey food scene!) A + D met 6 years ago doing what they loved - worship. They wanted their wedding day to be a celebration and gathering place for the people they loved, and everything about their wedding day reflected that. Plus, who can say no to boba and churro at a wedding?! Getting to capture these two laugh over the most incredible rap made by their friends, tear up with emotion during communion, and dance the night away to "I Just Can't Wait to Be King" as an ode to their love of Disney made all the long hours spent planning worth out. Check out the rest of their romantic pastel garden wedding below!
D + T had a big wedding planned for next year, but they realized they wanted to make sure that their grandparents could be there to celebrate with them. So they pushed up their wedding date and planned an intimate wedding in the city where they fell in love, where they had spent many long dates hiking and picnicking wherever they went (especially because they met during COVID!) D was a landscape architect, so they immediately fell in love with St. Hilary's Church, a historic church overlooking the bay. We ended the night at the Golden Gate Bridge, where we all laughed at how cold we were with the insane wind - the best way to end the day. Check out the rest of their San Francisco wedding below!
A + R eloped at Olympic National Park in the Pacific Northwest before moving abroad together, but they knew they still wanted to celebrate with their family and friends. Their nature-centered elopement was everything they dreamed of, so they wanted their wedding day to reflect that very same feeling they had on their elopement day. Since A had a passion for coastal restoration, getting married by the ocean couldn't have been more perfect! Their boho, free-spirited wedding was brought together by incredible vendors all while they were living abroad. Check out the rest of their Sanctuary Beach Resort wedding below!
When it came to grand gestures, P was both subtle and brilliant at the same time. Back when it was near impossible to get Hamilton tickets, P went out of his way to get tickets for M...and her friend. He hadn't even planned on accompanying her after going through all the effort, but that ended up becoming the start of their incredible love story. When they started planning their wedding, they knew they wanted a low-key, stress-free day. One thing that was important to them was starting the day privately - just the two of them, taking in the incredible scenery together and all the little moments in between. And it was those little moments that made their day so special, like the way that M twirled P, or how P would grin from ear to ear in a private moment between the two of them. As the day winded down, they got to sit down for dinner and watch the sunset together with their family and friends. No schedule of activities, just quality time with the people they loved the most. Check out the rest of their Big Sur wedding below!
A + R met in Monterey when he moved to the area to attend the Naval Postgraduate School. Little did he know that A had long picked her dream venue in Big Sur before they even met. She showed him all her favorite spots and they would spend their weekends hiking around Big Sur. Oftentimes they would see couples taking their wedding photos while on their hikes. So when they got engaged, it was finally their turn! It was so surreal to finally be the couple - the couple getting married, with grins ear to ear as these two shared their own private vows overlooking the epic coastline. When our plans to get photos in the redwoods didn’t pan out, I took them to one last spot on the coast just as sunset turned to blue hour. It couldn’t have worked out more perfectly as we watched the colors of the sky change right before our eyes. Check out the rest of A + R's Monterey and Big Sur wedding!
One of A + K's very first trips together was in Big Sur. They immediately fell in love with the sweeping coastal views overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and couldn't imagine getting married anywhere else. On a beautiful October day, they got ready in a private home in Carmel. Though they originally were going to do their first look in the backyard, I was immediately drawn to the oak tree tunnel on the street and brought them out for the first of many amazing views they got to experience on their wedding day. After their first look, I took them adventuring to some of my favorite spots along the coast of Big Sur. K, who had always loved classic cars, just had a blast as he drove the Porsche down the windy roads of Highway 1. They laughed together as K helped his bride navigate the rocky cliffs in her stunning custom-made gown, and A told me that she was so glad that they started off the day with just the two of them doing what they loved, adventuring in the outdoors. Once we pulled up to the venue, they made their grand entrance in the Porsche before continuing on to their ceremony overlooking the ocean. It was a night full of unforgettable memories -the overwhelming tears of joy A + K shared in a quiet, private moment while watching the sunset together, the twilight colors painting the sky purple and orange as they sat down for dinner, the outfit change into a jumpsuit so that A + K could kickstart the party with a coordinated dance number to "Uptown Funk," and even a dance-off competition where the wedding party showed off their best moves. Check out the rest of A + K's Big Sur wedding below!