If you’re considering the Monterey or Carmel area for your wedding, I think you’ve made a fabulous choice! And I should know – I live in and plan weddings on the Monterey Peninsula full time!
It’s a beautiful wedding destination with lots to offer local couples and visitors alike, from great weather to gorgeous venues. It’s also a pretty popular spot in general and often buzzing with events and activities.
I love helping couples plan events across Monterey County, so I’ve put together this quick guide to give you an idea of what to expect. And I’ll provide you with all the insider tips and info to help you envision your dream Monterey wedding.
Why Plan a Wedding in Monterey County?
Some of California’s most iconic destinations are located in Monterey County. This includes some big names you’ve probably heard of: Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Carmel Valley, and Pebble Beach. Big Sur is also just a few miles down the coast.
No matter where you go, you’ll find some of the most breathtaking natural areas, from staggering cliffs to rolling farmlands. And, of course, stunning beaches! So whether you want a seaside celebration or a wedding in wine country, you can easily find your place in Monterey County.
Monterey is a charming city that sits right on the Monterey Bay and offers a ton of historic sites, museums, an iconic fisherman’s wharf, and several sandy beaches. It is also home to the infamous Cannery Row (thank you, John Steinbeck) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The Aquarium is world-class and is well worth a visit, so make sure to set aside a couple hours to explore.
Popular Venues in Monterey:
- InterContinental The Clement Monterey
- The Club at Pasadera
- Monterey Plaza Hotel and Spa
- Portola Hotel and Spa
- Hyatt Regency Monterey
- San Carlos Cathedral
- Monterey Beach House
- The Barns At Cooper Molera
- The Perry House
- The Memory Garden
Camel-by-the-Sea is a heavenly coastal town that many says has a European atmosphere. It is a bustling, incredibly walkable city, and its streets are lined with restaurants, hotels and inns, boutiques, and art galleries. Here, you’ll also find the sprawling white sand Carmel Beach, a popular spot along the city’s coast. You can enjoy bonfires right along the ocean at certain times of the year as you sit and watch dolphins swim by.
And if you just can’t have your wedding without inviting your fur baby, you’re in luck because Carmel-by-the-Sea has been recognized as one of the most charming, dog-friendly towns in the United States!
Popular Venues in Carmel-by-the-Sea:
- The Historic Carmel Mission Basilica (Catholic Church)
- Mission Ranch
- La Playa Hotel
- Carmel Beaches
- Sunset Center
- 7th and Dolores Steakhouse
- Links Club
- Many restaurants in Carmel!
If you’re more about rolling hills over sandy beaches, sunny Carmel Valley may be your cup of tea – Or glass of wine, in this case. Wine Enthusiast Magazine calls Monterey County one of the world’s top 10 wine travel destinations, and Carmel Valley is the center of wine country. You’ll find a treasure trove of world-class vineyards, gorgeous resorts, award-winning restaurants, golf courses, art galleries, and tasting rooms. As far as wedding venues, Carmel Valley offers the largest number and variety of venues. This means there are a lot of different options and different price points.
Popular Venues in Carmel Valley:
- Holman Ranch
- Gardener Ranch
- The Holly Farm
- Carmel Valley Ranch
- Bernardus Lodge and Spa
- Folktale Winery
- Tehama Golf Club
- Stonepine Estate
- The Camp Carmel
- Quail Lodge
Pacific Grove is a quaint, storybook town filled with old-fashioned charm, beautiful Victorian houses, and a main street that looks and feels like you’re walking through history. There’s also a butterfly sanctuary where monarch butterflies fly annually. And one of the oldest continually operating lighthouses is located in PG.
Pacific Grove is great for the bed and breakfast experience, but it only offers a few wedding venue options. It’s also worth noting that most places in this sleepy town close by 8PM.
Popular Venues in Pacific Grove:
Pebble Beach is synonymous with luxury and is home to several famous golf tournaments and the 18th hole on Pebble Beach Golf Links. And although Pebble Beach is a golf lover’s heaven, there’s more to explore than the links. Cruise down 17-Mile Drive and see the giant trees at Crocker Grove. Stroll the boardwalk above the beach at Spanish Bay. Savor some of the world’s finest food and wine at the Pebble Beach Food and Wine celebration. Or just enjoy some seaside tranquility and breathtaking scenery.
Popular Venues in Pebble Beach:
- The Lodge at Pebble Beach
- The Beach and Tennis Club
- Monterey Peninsula Country Club
- The Inn at Spanish Bay
- Poppy Hills Golf Course
Salinas and the Salinas Valley are known for agriculture and literature. The area is actually coined “The Salad Bowl,” as it produces a big chunk of the country’s total produce. And Nobel Prize laureate John Steinbeck called Salinas home and used the location as inspiration for many of his novels. You’ll see lots of places dedicated to Mr. Steinbeck.
So while there are plenty of interesting things to see and do in Salinas, it might not initially cross your mind as a place to host a wedding. But venture a bit outside of town, and you’ll find incredible ranches and farms that provide a gorgeous canvas for a celebration.
Popular Venues in Salinas:
If you have never looked out over the cliffs of Big Sur into the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, you are missing out! There is something magical about gazing out into the endless ocean that makes you feel so small but euphoric.
Big Sur is home to vast wildernesses with towering Redwoods and rugged mountains flanked by rocky cliffs and hidden beaches. It is home to romantic and luxurious resorts and several campgrounds. There are also plenty of incredible restaurants and roadside diners to explore.
Popular Venues in Big Sur:
- Ventana Inn and Resort
- Post Ranch Inn
- Big Sur River Inn
- Glen Oaks Big Sur
- Wind & Sea Estate
- Loma Vista Gardens
Planning a Wedding Around Major Events
The Monterey Peninsula is an active area that hosts many major events throughout the year. And while you should definitely put some of them on your bucket list, it’s best to avoid them when planning your wedding.
Hosting a wedding during larger events can increase prices, cause additional traffic, and make securing guest accommodations and experiences much more challenging. And many are multiple day events, making traffic heavy and venues and lodging scarce.
Another critical thing to note is that venues begin to book up about 12-24 months in advance. So if you want a prime date (a weekend in May through October), plan on booking early and try to stay flexible on your dates.
Below is a shortlist of significant events to be aware of. Planning a wedding around any of these will be challenging, especially for destination guests.
- AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am – February
- Relais & Chateaux Gourmet Fest – March
- Pebble Beach Food and Wine – April
- Sea Otter Classic – April
- Big Sur Marathon – April
- Carmel Winemakers’ Celebration – May
- Races at Laguna Seca – Throughout the summer months (affects traffic on HWY 68)
- California Rodeo Salinas – July
- Monterey Car Week and Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance – August
- California International Airshow – August/September
- Monterey County Fair – Labor Day weekend
- Big Sur Food and Wine – November
- Monterey Bay Half Marathon – November
General Planning Tips
Monterey County is subject to a noise ordinance that requires you to shut off amplified music at 10PM. This may come as a shock, especially if you’re coming from a big city where rules like this rarely exist. There are a handful of fully enclosed venues that will allow your event to proceed past the cutoff time. But you’ll find that the vast majority require music to end at 10PM – no exceptions!
Overall, Monterey County is a pretty friendly, laid-back area. But one thing it’s pretty strict on is vacation rentals. Many sites require that you book a vacation rental for a minimum of one week. And most don’t allow gatherings or events at the property. Naturally, this makes it hard to have a wedding at a vacation rental. But I do have a few properties that I work with for private events. So let me know if this is something you’re interested in learning more about.
Monterey County’s temperate climate means we enjoy beautiful weather (almost) year-round. But there are some things you should know before planning a wedding in this area.
One is that the fog can be intense! Especially in Pebble Beach, Big Sur, Carmel, and Pacific Grove. The mornings and early evenings are fogged in for most of the year. June and July can be particularly gloomy, which surprises a lot of couples. However, day time is still warm and pleasant.
The wind is the other challenge. In fact, it’s probably one of the biggest obstacles you will face in Monterey. The ocean breeze can be powerful, and many of the venues are outdoors.
Long story short, if you are planning your reception in an outdoor location, always have a backup plan for bad weather, including wind! Tents are a great way to protect you and your guests from rain, wind, and all kinds of extreme temperatures.
Let Me Help You Plan Your Wedding in Monterey County
Fallen even more in love with the Monterey Peninsula? I don’t blame you! And I’d love to help you plan your one-of-a-kind wedding in this beautiful location. Reach out, and let’s make the dream happen.