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Top 5 San Diego Wedding Venues for a Stunning Outdoor Ceremony

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

The Alila Marea Beach Resort

One of San Diego's newest and most sought after venues, the Alila Marea Beach Resort provides a blend of elevated amenities, stunning ocean views, world class cuisine, and a staff that goes above and beyond to meet your every need.

Photo: Willmus Weddings

After opening its doors in March of 2021 in the midst of the pandemic, the Alila Marea has quickly emerged as a showstopper for its ceremony views, beautiful ballroom, and exceptional service. Couples choosing to get married at the Alila Marea will benefit from panoramic ocean views at a stunning locale. As part of the World of Hyatt, the Alila Marea has the perfect blend of a well managed events team matched with personalized service to make each couple feel unique and special.

Located on Highway 101 in Encinitas with the famed South Ponto Beach just a brief walk down the staircase from the resort, couples gravitating toward the Alila find it the perfect place for their San Diego destination wedding.

Florals: Kristine Smith Designs

When you choose to host your wedding at the Alila Marea, your guests will be wowed by an incredible hand crafted multi-course dinner menu.

Never in my years have I experienced such a celebration for the palette. Home of the famed Zagat-rated restaurant Vaga, the team at the Alila Marea immerses all of your senses through the reception meal. Couples who select the Alila Marea will benefit from a luxurious menu tasting several months before the wedding where they meet with event staff and chefs to cultivate an elevated menu that leaves guests in awe of the culinary artistry.

In addition to the beauty of the venue, my clients love the fact that the Alila Marea is one of the very few venues in San Diego county that allows for your reception to end late. How late you might ask? They allow your reception to go until 1:00AM which is almost three hours later than most San Diego based venues. This allows for your DJ to keep the party going as long as your dancing feet will allow.

I truly feel that for the experience that it offers, the Alila Marea is the gold standard for weddings in San Diego county. Five star amenities matched with five star service keep this venue at the absolute top of my list of recommendation for couples seeking an elevated wedding experience. Here are some of my past events at the Alila Marea Beach Resort. I 10/10 recommend hosting your wedding here.

Wedding on the beach at the Hotel del Coronado
Photo: Petra Persaud

The Darlington House

The Darlington House in La Jolla is a gorgeous historic venue nestled in a beautiful area of La Jolla just steps away from the beach. Using the Darlington House for your wedding includes use of the Egyptian Patio, Andalusian Patio, Rose Garden and library.

Couples love to host their wedding ceremony on the Egyptian Patio for smaller ceremonies of less than 100 guests due to the beauty of the fountain and historic wrought iron gates, but you have the option of using the Rose Garden if your guest count is larger for an equally stunning experience.

The upstairs suites are available for brides and their ladies for their final steps of getting ready (the space is stunning for getting ready photos), and a downstairs card room is the perfect space for their partner to gather. One huge bonus about the Darlington House is that you will be the only event taking place on site for the day.

The team at the Darlington House are quick to reply to questions you have regarding venue guidance, and their carefully curated list of high quality caterers will ensure you have a fabulous event.

Our favorite Darlington House preferred caterer to work with is Toast Catering. Since the Darlington House has a fully functional kitchen on site, the team from Toast Catering is able to prepare your entire meal on site ensuring perfect temperature, taste, and presentation. This on site meal preparation allows for you to choose from a wide range of meal options include plated meal service, stations, or a buffet. We find that most of our clients gravitate toward a plated meal service, but stationed meal service is becoming a recent fan fave.

One of the most enticing features of the Darlington House is the overall beauty of the property. While clients love to add subtle touches of florals and create gorgeous tablescapes, the property itself is a showstopper with each nook and cranny making for gorgeous photo opps. The library space is truly stunning with its beautiful architecture, dark wooden bookcases, and multicolor flashed glass windows. Couples hosting their wedding at Darlington House receive special permission to ascend the beautiful library staircase with their photographer for stunning photos that provide an elegant vintage flair.

It is important to find vendors who can enhance the natural beauty of the Darlington House and who work to create special moments throughout that add to the elegant and classic beauty and charm of the house and not detract from it.

In our recent 2022 weddings, some of our favorite design choices include setting up an abundance of glass hurricanes and pillar candles around the edge of the fountain on the Egyptian patio and placing beautiful white and cream blooms in the fountain to float throughout the evening.

We love adorning the historic wrought iron gate with luxurious cascading blooms to create a focal point in lieu of bringing in an arch which could take away from the beauty of the aesthetic. We also recommend taking full advantage of the stunning architecture of the library by having your bar placed inside of the library. This creates a beautiful flow from the Andalusian patio into the library during cocktail hour and transports your guests to the 1930's as they are surrounded by the leather high back arm chairs, Moroccan fireplace, and decades old books.

As you are planning your Darlington House wedding, please note you will want to ensure to budget for your rental needs as all other items are separately sourced by the couple in terms of reception and ceremony tables and seating. Many couples love this feature because they are able to select their own vendors for furniture rentals, linens, and more. This is where having a wedding planner is helpful as they are knowledgeable of the vendors who have a positive working relationship with the venue and who are aware of the venue guidelines. We would love to help you plan your Darlington House wedding, to help you envision your big day, take a look at how we designed Tamika & Kareem's wedding in the Fall of 2022.

Tivoli Italian Villa

Wedding reception with farm tables, greenery and florals
Photo: Stephan Arias

This secluded mountain top venue is reminiscent of an evening spent in Tuscany which is why it made it to this list of top venues. It's sweeping mountaintop views, open courtyard with winding vines, built in bars, and beautiful grounds provide ample opportunities for guests to mingle and for you to have an amazing wedding day.

There are multiple options for the ceremony setup, and the beautiful Italian courtyard is the perfect setting for a beautiful family-style outdoor reception under the stars. As part of the Trademark Venues family, Tivoli has many amenities that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else. The venue provides all catering services, allows couples to BYO for their alcohol (can add up to a solid cost savings), and includes a number of complimentary decor items and furniture upgrades at a modest cost.

Couples selecting from Tivoli have the benefit of catering packages being included as well as on on site day of coordinator. The long family style tables make a beautiful statement for incorporating greenery garlands, taper candles, and beautiful lush blooms like we set up for Robert and Kelly's wedding. The beautiful shade sails over the courtyard, intertwined vines, and market lights give a soft romantic glow all evening long.

A huge benefit of the Trademark venues is their value. They provide an incredibly beautiful venue option at a cost that is within reach for many couples. I have worked with a number of the Trademark venues including Twin Oaks, Ethereal Gardens, and Green Gables and they are all beautiful venues with a staff truly committed to making your day flow seamlessly.

Grand Traditions Estate

Tropical wedding ceremony in a bamboo forest
Photo: Chrissy Gilmartin

If you are looking for a lush and green setting with waterfalls, roaming pathways through a gorgeous bamboo forest, and a million different options for show stopping photo spots, then Grand Traditions Estate is the venue for you.

The venue has several ceremony location options, but my favorite is the Arbor Terrace which is a lush garden area overlooking cascading waterfalls and hidden away among a

bamboo forest.

This venue, situated in the northern tip of San Diego County in the city of Fallbrook whisks you away from the outside world and truly allows you to feel like you are transported to a tropical oasis. The stunning views don't end with the ceremony, your reception will take place under a large tent with high peaks keeping the vibe light and airy. Behind your sweetheart table is another set of waterfalls as well as a built in fireplace for a romantic lounge. The venue you provides you with the option of adding hanging lanterns overhead and they provide all of the table set up for you.

Another excellent benefit of working with Grand Traditions Estate & Gardens is their staff. From the day of coordinator who oversees all the details, to the team checking in your guests, to the catering team serving your guests in a swift and graceful manner, you will be left with a feeling of being completely relaxed like Kevin & Marie were on their wedding day.

Ethereal Gardens

A romantic overhead canopy of live plants create a natural shade cover for a dreamy ceremony experience at Ethereal Gardens. Set in the hills of Escondido about 40 minutes north of San Diego, Ethereal Gardens provides an expansive venue to accommodate large weddings with endless options for show stopping wedding designs.

Most recently, Taylor Hasselhoff, daughter of celebrity David Hasselhoff hosted her nuptials at Ethereal and the internet was abuzz with this hidden gem venue. The property at Ethereal has a million different options for absolutely stunning photo opportunities. Brides and their ladies LOVE the bridal suite with its round corner hammock, built in rustic bar perfect for floral detail photos, and the bridal dressing pedestal with

full length mirror for exceptional dress photos.

The bar area which opens up for cocktail hour is reminiscent of a vintage 1940's bar with dark wood paneling matched with beautiful large picture windows surrounding the space. Oversized lounge furniture lines the room with large doors leading out to the lawn for cocktail hour.

The reception space provides a beautiful blank canvas for your wedding floral design dreams to come to life. With the high peaked tent creating an open and airy vibe, floral designers like me love to bring in large statement floral installations. We created these large floral bridge installations for a recent wedding at Ethereal which created drama and dimension to the room which helped fill the space.

As another one of our favorite Trademark Venues, clients selecting Ethereal benefit from having a professional venue coordinator to keep the flow of the day moving forward and ensuring that all aspects of catering, timing, and set up are completed to keep the day stress free which allows their wedding planner to support with all other aspects of the day including design and details.

Ethereal Gardens is a beautiful venue for larger weddings of 150 guests or more. We find that couples with larger guest lists gravitate toward Ethereal as the amount of space that the venue sits on allows for mixing and mingling without feeling restrictive. Many couples also love that Ethereal offers unique dinner stations with salads, savory sides, and carefully curated high quality meats for a decadent meal experience. Incorporating stations as a meal option is a departure from a traditional buffet and allows guests to mingle, graze, and build their own meal throughout the evening.

While the five venues listed above top the list for outdoor ceremony venues, we have included a list of other venues we see our couples frequenting.

The Crossings at Carlsbad

This golf course venue offers beautiful views, indoor and outdoor spaces, and a variety of packages for an elegant and sophisticated wedding.

The Fairmont Grand Del Mar

A luxurious resort with a variety of indoor and outdoor venues, including a Mediterranean-style ballroom, for an elegant and upscale wedding.

The Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa

This Mediterranean-style resort offers indoor and outdoor venue options, including a beautiful garden and courtyard.

The Rancho Bernardo Inn

This resort offers a variety of indoor and outdoor venues, including a golf course, for an elegant and sophisticated wedding.

The Estancia La Jolla Hotel & Spa

This Mediterranean-style hotel offers a variety of indoor and outdoor venues, including a garden and courtyard.

This is not a complete list of all of the fantastic venues available in San Diego because there are so many beautiful options. I encourage you to visit the venues in person and to help determine which one fits your style and budget. I would be happy to chat with you more about which venue you are drawn to and help you plan your perfect wedding day!


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