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Getting Married in Northern California - Guide to Beach Weddings in Northern California

North of the Golden Gate is where the locals say you’ll find authentic California. It’s where small towns preserve the past, and unspoilt nature rubs shoulders with the good life. Aside from the coast you can explore wineries, farms, lakes, rivers – and of course experience the magnificent California Redwoods.

The most northwestern corner of California, Del Norte County offers the rugged Pacific coast and spectacular beaches as a magical backdrop to your wedding day. And if you like your trees, the magnificent Californian Redwoods lining the cliffs will certainly be a bonus – Del Norte is where the trees meet the sea.

Sonoma County, a perfect combination of wines, spas and sea, would have to be one of the most romantic locations on the west coast. Imagine exchanging vows in an exquisite vineyard, surrounded by majestic redwoods, and overlooking the deep Pacific Ocean!

Mendocino County offers a relaxed and magical experience of life. With more artists per capita (and galleries and playhouses) than any other rural county in the US, it is the place of inspiration and fairytales.

Really, no matter your style or taste, there’s no shortage of options for a seaside wedding in Northern California!

Most Popular Beach Locations


Crescent City, Del Norte County - Forbes Magazine rated Crescent City one of the prettiest towns in the US. With breathtaking natural wonders, from skyscraping redwoods to panoramic sunsets over the long beach, Crescent City is as pretty as a picture. It also has an historic working harbor – a charming addition to your photo album.

Half Moon Bay, Sonoma County - A wedding at The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, sets a new standard in romantic elegance. This highly preferred Northern California beach wedding location offers the most comprehensive services, and specializes in creating a uniquely perfect wedding experience.

Mendocino Coast - Enchanting and vibrant, the Mendocino coast overlooks a rugged expanse of Pacific Ocean. Imagine a wedding on the cliffs, breeze blowing, waves crashing. Then you and your guests make your way into Mendocino, a delightful and enchanting place, for a lovely candlelit reception.

Patrick’s Point State Park - Patrick's Point State Park has beautiful vistas overlooking the ocean, including the aptly named wedding rock. Fee and permits apply. For information call (707) 677-3110.

Woods Hole, Pebble Beach - Woods Hole is a stately home on the fourteenth tee of world famous Pebble Beach Golf Links. With panoramic ocean views from every room, Woods Hole is a unique and spectacular location to enjoy the wedding of a lifetime.

Sonoma Coast State Beach - Sonoma Coast State Beach offers vistas of the rugged northern coastline and majestic Pacific Ocean. There are a number of spectacular and picturesque sites for weddings along the panoramic Sonoma County coastline from Bodega Head, south of Bodega Bay, to the far reaches of Salt Point in the north. For more information call (707) 865-2391.

Traveler Facts

Travel & Transportation (airports, ferries, etc). How to get there. - The best way to get to Northern California is to fly into San Francisco International Airport. From there you can hire a car and take a pleasant coastal drive north.

Entry Requirements; passports, visa, etc. - If you are from Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand you do not require a visa to enter the US. You only need a valid passport and proof of ongoing or return travel as long as your stay does not exceed 90 days. Citizens of other countries will require a visa. Note that the US government administers a strict entry regime. If in doubt, you should contact your nearest US embassy or consulate about your specific circumstances.

Languages Spoken / official language - The official language is English.

Currency - The official currency is the US dollar.

Tipping - In the US, most waiters and bartenders are paid below minimum wage, as they’re expected to make up the rest in tips. So if you’re in the US, you really should tip. A good rule of thumb is to tip 15 percent of the food bill to the waiter, and if the alcohol consumption has been substantial, split that part of the tip between the waiter and the bartender (if there is one). Always remember to pay the tip in cash directly to the person who has provided you with the service. Of course, if you think the service was terrible then you shouldn’t tip. For large groups, check your bill first as sometimes the tip is added automatically.

Taxes - In the US sales tax is applied to retail goods at the point of sale. There are also airport taxes, however generally these are paid along with the purchase of your airline ticket.

Electricity - The electrical systems in most residential and commercial sites in the US use 120V and 60Hz. The electrical plug in use is known as the Type A electrical plug, which has two flat parallel prongs.

Other (immunizations, health issues) - All travellers going overseas should be up-to-date with their routine vaccinations, which are usually given to babies and children, with some boosters given in adult life. Adults should have had a Tetanus booster in the last 10 years and consider having an Influenza vaccination if they have not had one in the past year.

Marriage Requirements, Licenses & Wedding Information

As State and County marriage license requirements often change, it’s important that you verify all information with a local marriage license office or County Clerk before confirming your wedding or travel plans.

Currently the Following Applies:

  • You do not have to be a resident of California to get married there.
  • You need to apply for a marriage license from a County Clerk.
  • You will need to provide a driver's license or other form of ID that contains a photo and your date of birth, and in some counties also a birth certificate.
  • The license fee will cost between $45 and $84 (varies by County). Cash is required in most counties.
  • There is no waiting period.
  • The license is valid for 90 days.
  • If you are divorced, you must show proof of divorce, death or annulment. You need to bring a copy of your final divorce decree if you have divorced within 90 days of your application for a marriage license (varies by County).
  • If applicants are under 18, at least one of the minor’s parents or legal guardians must appear with the couple and certified copies of their birth certificates. The couple must also have counseling and appear before a judge.
  • Same-sex marriage is not permitted.
  • Marriage ceremonies can be performed by Clergy, Justices, Judges, Magistrates or Marriage Commissioners (current or retired).

Requirements for a Beach Wedding:

Tourism Office Information

North Coast Tourism Council
California Welcome Center – Arcata
1635 Heindon Road, Arcata CA, 95521
Tel: (707) 822-3619


California Welcome Center - Santa Rosa
9 Fourth Street, Santa Rosa CA, 95401
Tel: (800) 404-7673

Other Northern California Related Websites

Climate Information & The Best Time to Travel

The coast of Northern California has a very mild climate with cool summers (daily highs around 64°F) and warm winters (daily highs around 44°F). This is due to the cool California current offshore and upwelling of cold sub-surface waters, which also often create summer fog near the coast (which could be quite enchanting). So while winter certainly isn’t freezing, it’s best to stick to the warmer months.

High & Low Season for Travel

As with most places, the low season is when it’s cold (unless you’re after a ski resort!). So if you want a good day for a wedding in Northern California, it’s best to pay the extra dollars for warmer weather. You could also consider weekdays (Monday through Thursday), when you’ll find cheaper airfares and accommodation rates.

Map of Northern California

Local Attractions & Must Do’s

Whether you’re an outdoor adventurer or someone who just wants to connect with nature, Northern California is the place to be. Hiking, cycling, boating, fishing, swimming, bird watching, whale watching – it’s all here.

Oh, and don’t forget the wine! With more than 2,800 registered wineries in the state, there’s a lot of sipping to be done. Known around the world for its wine, the best place in California for wine tasting would have to be Sonoma County.

But that’s not all Sonoma County has to offer, with 76 miles of coastline and an African safari, there’s lots more to do.

For the best of the outdoors, Del Norte County is second-to-none. It’s world-renowned for its towering ancient redwoods, the pristine waters of its rivers, excellent fishing, and exceptional bird watching. Located in the most northwestern corner of California on the rugged Pacific coast, it also boasts spectacular beaches.

If you’re more of an arty kind of person, then Mendocino County is for you. While still offering so much of the outdoors to explore, it really is all about the art, with more artists and galleries per capita than any other rural County in the US. So let your imagination run wild!

Top 5 Most Popular Hotels

Here are five of the best places to stay in Northern California. You can find more at Trip Addiction.

Bodega Bay Lodge, Bodega Bay - The Bodega Bay Lodge is the quintessential California coastal hideaway. From its seaside perch it offers sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean and Bodega Bay. The only AAA Four Diamond hotel on the Sonoma Coast, each room has a private balcony and fireplace. Guests can also access the spa and massage facilities.

Doubletree Hotel, Sonoma Wine Country - Surrounded by two 18-hole PGA-certified championship golf courses, this Tuscan style hotel features 245 spacious guest rooms and an elegant selection of suites. From here guests can access more than 190 wineries in the area.

Gaige House, Sanoma Valley - Gaige House features Asian-inspired ambiance combined with modern luxury. Nestled along peaceful winding roads and flourishing greenery, Gaige House is renowned for its picturesque setting, impeccable service, and unique luxury amenities. Gaige House is Michelin recommended and listed as one of Conde Nast's top rated small hotels in the world.

Heritage House - Wtih 37 acres of oceanfront property The Heritage House is as stunning as any place on the Mendocino coast. The farmhouse was built in 1877, and extensively rebuilt in 1949. There are three types of accommodations, most in private cottages scattered around the property. Many of the cottages have fireplaces, Jacuzzi tubs and private decks. Some of the most desirable cabins are reserved a year ahead.

Manka’s Inverness Lodge - Built in 1917 as a hunting and fishing lodge in the California Arts and Crafts style, Manka's is cozy, woodsy, and unpretentious. The cabins are the most luxurious accommodations in terms of space and amenities and these are booked as much as a year in advance. Manka's offers the opportunity to step back in time and enjoy spectacular natural beauty in complete comfort.

Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay - Situated 23 miles southwest of the San Francisco International Airport, The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay, provides a magnificent backdrop for your Northern California coast vacation. Commanding a stunning cliff top position, this luxury resort also boasts two golf courses and miles of walking trails. Wedding packages are available.