Coastal Mendocino – California’s Secret Wedding Wonderland

If you like the dramatic cliffs of Half Moon Bay –  and the foodie charm of Napa – but don’t want your destination wedding to be a budget buster for your guests, you should check out the coast of Mendocino County. Just north of the rolling vineyards of Sonoma and a three and a half hour drive from San Francisco, Mendocino has award-winning wineries of their own, a generations’ old tradition of hyper-local cuisine, and most of all, miles and miles of pristine coastline with sweeping views of the Pacific. Uncrowded, with a friendly casual atmosphere, Mendocino has been a favorite secret destination for couples who love the outdoors for many years.

Activities abound. Hike through some of the oldest redwoods on earth, explore sea caves and gentle rivers on a kayak, wine taste without the fees, or just stroll the quaint Victorian village of Mendocino and browse art galleries and boutiques.

You won’t find big chain hotels on the Mendocino Coast but you will find inns with charm to spare and experienced wedding planning staff.

Here are two Mendocino inns that have particularly attractive packages for weddings of up to 200 or 99 people, respectively:

You can host up to 200 at The Little River Inn, the Mendocino Coast’s only full service resort. The original inn is a stunning wedding cake Victorian overlooking the Pacific that has been augmented with more modern buildings tucked around it. The property has 66 rooms at every price point – every single one with views of the ocean. Run by the same family for five generations, the Inn is extremely geared to families and kids – they even welcome the family dog. Amenities include an onsite spa and salon, an award-winning restaurant, and Ole’s Whale Watch Bar, where you can do just that over a locally brewed beer and a chat with a crusty local. Packages start at $6,000. Options include the fun Game Day package that takes advantage of the inn’s regulation tennis courts and golf course (for up to 80; starts at $11,500). Or select the elegant Mallory Cliff Top, (starts at $24,000 off-season for 200 people) with a romantic bluff-top ceremony, an additional catered event, and four nights use of a stand-alone seaside cottage complete with two private ocean-view hot tubs.

For a more intimate affair, the Inn at Newport Ranch is an elite playground on a 2,000-acre private preserve where you can have a wedding of up to 99. The recently built inn oozes rustic chic – from the Main Inn with a walk through fireplace to the Fireside Spa in a grove of redwood trees. The fascinating buildings were handcrafted with the object of bringing the stunning outdoor setting inside and the property is totally unique. It has the ambiance of a 5-star resort and much of their “ranch comfort” cuisine comes from their own organic gardens. There are 20 miles of trails, empty beaches, stands of ancient trees, and 50-mile panoramic views across the sea from their 7-person hot tub on a re-purposed water tower. You can explore on foot, horseback, or via an ATV-tour. Because the wild and wonderful experience is why you come to this wind-swept corner of the world, all of the packages require you to reserve all of the property, which sleeps 34. Kids are only permitted with a buyout of the property and pets must be left at home – the inn is adjacent to a working ranch. Weddings for 6-34 people start at $20,000. At the upper end, the Coastal Bluff wedding for up to 99 starts at $55,000 and includes three full days of events for your guests – from your rehearsal and welcome reception the night before overlooking the Pacific to the full ranch breakfasts the day after your ceremony.

**Contributed by Emily Polsby | Images used with permission.