How To Choose Your Orange County Wedding Venue - molliejanephotography.com

How To Choose Your Orange County Wedding Venue

Orange County Wedding Venues

Choosing your wedding venue is one of the first, if not the first, thing that you will do when planning your wedding.  This can be VERY overwhelming!  I hope this article can help alleviate some of this stress, especially if you are planning an Orange County wedding.  These are a few steps to help you get started:

  1. What is the style of wedding that you would like?  You don’t necessarily have to pick your colors or anything, but what is the feel that you would like for your wedding day.  As a couple, what is your vibe?  What kind of venue would match that vibe?  I have put together a list of wedding venues in Orange County and I have found that they fall into one of the six categories:
    1. Outdoors
    2. Golf Course/Country Club
    3. Historical
    4. Beach
    5. Contemporary
    6. Hotel
  2. What is your budget? This is very important!  The Knot has a budget calculator (https://www.theknot.com/wedding-budget).  Once you have this number, it will be easier to determine which venue is possible.
  3. What is your wedding date? By choosing your venue, you are basically choosing your wedding date.  This is what you will base booking all other vendors off of.  With your fiancé and your families or the people important to you decide on days that would work.  Be flexible and have options.  Most venues book up at least a year in advance!  So being flexible with this with help with the process ( and your anxiety levels).
  4. Come up with an approximate guest count. A lot of venues have a limit of 150 or 200 people, you don’t want the stress of running out of room.  Knowing this will also help determine your catering budget.
  5. Start researching online (or use the list that I put together at the end of this article). My suggestion is to create a spreadsheet.  Do you know Excel?  I don’t.  But that would be a great option.  I would get a big ol’ piece of paper and write it out with the columns below:
    1. Name of Venue
    2. Location: What city are they in?
    3. Availability: This may be hard to tell from the website, but if you can…
    4. Style: What is the style of the venue (maybe from my list above)
    5. Rates: A rough estimate of what their website provides
    6. Website: So it’s easy to come back to.
    7. Restrictions: Any restrictions that would affect your decision?
    8. Amenities: What do they have that you like?
    9. Catering: In-house catering? Preferred Caterers? Do you have to find your own caterer?

Orange County Wedding Venues

I would also check reviews at this point and search for real weddings there.  Once you are at these venues, you could easily fall in love and a good salesperson can SELL.  If you don’t like the reviews or what actual weddings look like there, it is best not to go.

Orange County Wedding Venues

  1. Visit your favorites. Once you have all of this down.  Decide which ones interest you the most.  Call to see what days they have available around your desired wedding date and set up site visits.  Be sure that you go with questions ready.  Booking a venue is the trickiest part of the wedding planning process, so many variables.  Ask the questions and get it in writing when you sign the contract.  This is a great list:  https://www.herecomestheguide.com/wedding-party-ideas/detail/questions-to-ask-your-wedding-venue.  A big question to ask, especially in Southern California is:  What is Plan B in case of inclement weather.  We are so used to beautiful weather and plan so much outside, but what if the rain comes?  Is there an inside area?  Is there a tent?  How much does that cost?
  2. Sign the contract. Read it!  Be sure that everything is there.  I just had a bride that was so excited about her upgraded taco bar at her reception.  And when it came to that time, it was their basic chicken dinner.  Get everything in writing so there are no surprises.

Orange County Wedding Venues

Picking your Venue from a Photographer’s Perspective

I am a photographer, so I really couldn’t leave this part out.  If you could have a photographer come venue shopping with you, what would we look for?  LIGHT!  For real, that is the most important thing!

Big windows where you are getting ready, check out the getting ready area at your venue.  Are you getting ready in a locker room?  Or a tiny room with only one window and only overhead tungsten light bulb?  This isn’t a deal-breaker, but I might consider getting an alternative area that has big windows and natural light for these pictures.

Orange County Wedding Venues

What is the light where your ceremony will take place?  Diffused, even light is best.  It is not always possible, so just not “splotchy” light.  Meaning, for example, under a tree where just little amounts of light stream through, but other places, it is full shade.  This is easily fixed by adjusting the ceremony time.

Big windows in the reception area.  String lights, for outdoor receptions, in the evening, are amazing!  Always!

Another thing that makes a venue amazing for pictures?  Diminishing lines.  What is that?  I’ll explain with some examples:  fence lines, bridges, long walkways, rows of trees, vineyards, alleyways, a row of buildings.  All of these things make a photographer’s heart so happy.  OR, a scenic vista.  Here in Orange County, the beach is our most common scenic vista.  Or a beautiful golf course.  But anything with sweeping views is beautiful!

Orange County Wedding Venues

A lot of venues, particularly golf courses, restrict where you can take pictures.  This is a good thing to ask.

One question that I see asked everywhere concerning photographers and venues is:  Have you worked at my venue?  Or Does it matter if a photographer has photographed a wedding at my venue?  This is a simple answer. NO!  Is your photographer or the photographer you are looking at a seasoned photographer?  Any photographer with experience should be able to look at a venue, find the light and take beautiful pictures close to instantaneously.  Over my 15 years of photographing weddings, I have shot at many venues multiple times, but every time the light is different.  Every single time I look at that venue with fresh eyes.  THAT is what you want.  You want an experienced, talented photographer to come to your wedding with fresh eyes to capture your unique wedding beautifully.  Ok, I’m a little passionate about that.

Orange County Wedding Venues

Below is a list of Orange County wedding venues that I have either worked over the last 11 years that I have been photographing weddings in Southern California or have been to.  I have them separated in the 6 categories that I have listed above.  Some could fit in multiple and I tried to make a note of that.  I have linked to their website, just click the name.  In the parenthesis I have what city they are in, the price they have given themselves, whether they have on-site catering or if you have to get that off-site and how many people they allow at the venue.

I hope this is helpful!  We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place with SO many options to hold one of the most special days of our lives!  This is not at all an exhaustive list, there are MANY other venues, but this will get you started.

Orange County Wedding Venues

Outdoor Venues

Oak Canyon Nature Center (Anaheim, $, Ceremony Only)

Red Horse Barn at Huntington Central Park (Huntington Beach, $$$, Catering: On Site, Up to 250)

Ranch at Laguna Beach (Laguna Beach, $$$, Catering:  On Site, Up to 300)

Turnip Rose Promenade Gardens (Costa Mesa, $$, Catering:  On Site, 300+)

Ole Hanson Beach Club (San Clemente, Beach Front, $$, Catering: Off Site, Up to 150)

Orange County Wedding Venues

Golf Course/Country Club Venues

Bella Collina (San Clemente, $$$, Catering: On Site, Up to 250)

Marbella (San Juan Capistrano, $$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

Black Gold Golf Club (Yorba Linda, $$, Catering: On Site, Up to 250)

Coto de Caza Golf and Raquet Club (Coto de Caza, $$$, Catering: On Site, Up to 250)

Coto Valley Country Club (Coto de Caza, $$, Catering: On Site, Up to 250)

Aliso Viejo Center by Wedgewood (Aliso Viejo, $$, Catering:  On Site, Up to 300)

Mesa Verde Country Club (Costa Mesa, $$, Catering: On Site, Up to 200)

Old Ranch Country Club (Seal Beach, $$$, Catering:  On Site, 300+)

Strawberry Farms (Irvine, $$$, Catering:  On Site, Up to 250)

Alta Vista Country Club (Placentia, $$, Catering: On Site, Up to 250)

Los Coyotes Golf Club (Buena Park, $$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

San Clemente by Wedgewood (San Clemente, $$, Catering: On Site, Up to 250)

Dove Canyon Golf Club (Coto de Caza, $$$, Catering: On Site, Up to 300)

San Juan Hills Golf Club (San Juan Capistrano, $$, Catering: On Site, Up to 200)

Talega Golf Club (San Clemente, $$, Catering:  On Site, Up to 200)

Orange County Wedding Venues

Historical Venues

The Villa (San Juan Capistrano, $$$, Catering: On Site, Up to 150)

Heritage Museum (Santa Ana, $$, Catering:  On Site, 300+)

Franciscan Gardens (San Juan Capistrano, $$, Catering: On Site, Up to 200)

Rancho Las Lomas (Silverado, $$$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

Nixon Library (Yorba Linda, $$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

Chapel of Orange (Orange, $, Catering: On Site, Up to 150)

Muckenthaller Mansion (Fullerton, $$$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

Ebell of Santa Ana (Santa Ana, $$, Catering: On Site, Up to 250)

Summit House (Fullerton, $$$, Catering: On Site, Up to 250)

The French Estate (Orange, $$, Catering:  Off Site, Up to 150)

Villa Del Sol (Fullerton, $$$, Catering:  On Site, Up to 250)

Estate on Second (Santa Ana, $$, Catering: On Site, Up to 150)

El Adobe de Capistrano (San Juan Capistrano, $$, Catering: On Site, Up to 400)

Casa Romantica (San Clemente, Beach Front, $$$, Catering:  On Site, Up to 150)

Sherman Library and Gardens (Corona Del Mar, $$, Catering:  On Site, Up to 150)

Historic Cottage (San Clemente, Beach Front, $, Catering: Off Site, ? Guest count)

Serra Plaza (San Juan Capistrano, $$$, Catering: Off Site, 300+)

Casino San Clemente (San Clemente, $$, Catering:  Off Site, Up to 300)

The Hacienda (Santa Ana, $$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

Orange County Wedding Venues

Beach Venues

Hornblower Cruises (Newport Beach, $$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

Descanso Beach Club (Avalon, $$$, Catering:  On Site, 300+)

Surf and Sand Resort (Laguna Beach, $$$, Catering: On Site, Up to 200)

Harborside Grand Ballroom (Newport Beach, $, Catering: On or Off Site, Up to 500)

Occasions at Laguna Beach (Laguna Beach, $$$, Catering:  Off Site, Up to 180)

Beachcomber Café/Cottage at Crystal Cove (Newport Beach, $$, Catering: On Site, Up to 200)

Orange County Wedding Venues

Contemporary Venues

Newport Beach Civic Center (Newport Beach, $, Catering: Off Site, Up to 150)

Seven4One (Laguna Beach, $$$, Catering: On Site, Up to 150)

Segerstrom Center (Costa Mesa, $$$, Catering: On Site, Up to 200)

The Harper (Costa Mesa, $$, Catering: On Site, Up to 250)

Fete The Venue (Costa Mesa, $$, Catering: Off Site, 300+)

Marconi Automotive Museum (Tustin, $$, Catering: Off Site, 300+)

Colony House (Anaheim, $$, Catering:  On Site, Up to 250)

The 1912 Santa Ana (Santa Ana, $$, Catering:  On Site, Up to 150)

Vintage Rose (Orange, $$, Catering: On Site, Up to 250)

Hanger 21 (Fullerton, $$, Catering:  On Site, 300+)

The Ranch (Anaheim, $$, Catering:  On Site, Up to 250)

Terra Laguna Beach (Laguna Beach, $$$, Catering: On Site, Up to 150)

Eureka Building (Irvine, $$$, Catering: Off Site, 300+)

Orange County Wedding Venues

Hotel Venues

Laguna Cliffs Marriott (Dana Point, Beach Front, $$$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach (Huntington Beach, Beach Front, $$$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

Avenue of the Arts (Costa Mesa, $$, Catering: On Site, Up to 250)

Pelican Hill (Newport Beach, Beach View, $$$$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel (Dana Point, Beach Front, $$$$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

Montage Laguna Beach (Laguna Beach, Beach Front, $$$$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

Monarch Beach (Dana Point, Beach Front, $$$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

Waterfront Beach Resort Hilton (Huntington Beach, Beach Front, $$$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

Lido House (Newport Beach, $$$$, Catering: On Site, Up to 200)

Balboa Bay Resort (Newport Beach, Beach Front, $$$$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

Majestic Garden Hotel (Anaheim, $$$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

Disney Fairytale Weddings (Anaheim, $$$$, Catering: On Site, 300+)

Balboa Inn (Newport Beach, $$, Catering: On Site, Up to 150)

Orange County Wedding Venues

How to choose you Orange County Wedding Venue

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

@molliejanephotography

Follow us on Instagram