What works well for a wedding

What Works & What Doesn’t

Based on the hundreds of weddings we’ve officiated, here’s an oddball list of what seems to work, and what doesn’t work (in no particular order), at wedding ceremonies: 

What Works

  • Personal vows.  ALWAYS a winner!
  • A friend singing
  • Throwing flower petals and/or blowing bubbles
  • Giving flowers, a rose, a lei, to mothers/dads/grandparents during the ceremony
  • Live music – a friend strumming guitar, strings, bongo drums
  • Having someone who loves you contribute to your ceremony by reading a poem, saying a marriage blessing, or even telling a little story.
  • Laughter
  • Being surrounded by people who love you.
  • Having both mom AND dad, or two dads, or just mom – walk the bride down the aisle.
  • Having the parents walk in with the groom – in some cultures, that’s tradition.
  • Bringing in any and all cultural traditions to your ceremony (stomping on a glass, jumping over the broom, tea ceremony, lasso, coin exchange, etc.).
  • A sand ceremony – works great at beach weddings – and it’s really fun when the bride and groom have their kids participate
  • Having a glass of champagne (or a shot of tequila) BEFORE the ceremony.  It calms the nerves.  However, having SEVERAL drinks goes on my second list.
  • A bubble machine.
  • Creating your own unique wedding traditions to hand down to your children.
  • Serving a glass of champagne to your guests as they arrive.  The celebration starts the moment they get there.
  • Bare feet or flip flops at a beach wedding.
  • Cramming everyone into a party bus or a limo to get to the wedding site, on to the restaurant, and back to the parking area (it’s fun!).
  • Getting someone (your sister or your wedding coordinator) to call ALL YOUR VENDORS with a friendly reminder the day before your ceremony.
  • WHAT WORKS: Anything that makes you happy and makes you smile.


Licenses in Southern California

MARRIAGE LICENSE INFORMATION Note: The different County Clerk’s offices are open and closed at odd times, so check their office hours before you go.  There is an office in San Diego that’s open on Saturday mornings, and I know the downtown Riverside office is now closed on Fridays.  Also, the counties have a weird new rule where you must either go to their office in person, or have the request form (for a certified copy of your marriage license) notarized – so if they offer it, pre-order your certified copy at the time you pick up your marriage license. 

Click for marriage license information in Orange County and to fill out the application on-line.  The two of you must go in person to the County Clerk’s office and take your drivers licenses.  You can apply for your license at the Old County Courthouse on the corner of Broadway and Civic Center Drive in Santa Ana (it’s the big old red building pictured at right), or you can go to the Laguna Hills Civic Center on El Toro Road in Laguna Hills.  If you go to the Old County Courthouse, be sure to take an extra 15 minutes to go upstairs and see the historical courtroom, jury room, recorders room, and judges chambers that are on display and don’t forget to feed the meter –  I got a $47 parking ticket there.  If you want to talk to a human at the County Clerk’s Marriage License Office, call 714-834-2500 between 8am 4:30pm, press 6 for an operator, and ask to talk to a live person in Marriage Licenses.  Click HERE to see locations and hours (they are open one Saturday a month at the Santa Ana location). 

Note:  They’re having furlough days in some of these counties.  Check to make sure the office is open before you drive there. Click for marriage licenses in Los Angeles County.  The Los Angeles County Clerk’s department is really slow.  They need 6-8 weeks to “record” your marriage license and send you a certified copy, so if you need a Certified Copy of your marriage license quickly, you should drive down to Santa Ana in Orange County and get your license there – Orange County takes just two weeks to send your copy.  Also, Los Angeles charges about $25 more for a license than the other counties, and (frosting on your cake) they’re extremely rude to you at the Norwalk office with long wait times. 

Click for marriage license in San Diego County In Riverside county, call their clerk’s office at 951-486-7000.  Their web-page for marriage licenses is broken. If you pick up a “confidential marriage license”, you MUST get married in the county where you obtained the license.]]>


13 Ideas of places to get married in Orange County

When choosing your wedding site, the sky’s the limit!  Chapels, restaurants, banquet halls, scuba diving, a hot air balloon, or someone’s back yard… we’ve married couples at wedding venues from fabulous restaurants overlooking the Los Angeles basin in Hollywood Hills, at a quiet spot in Two Harbors on Catalina, on a big charter boat out in the ocean, to under an old oak tree up in the San Diego Mountains. 

But if you haven’t found the perfect place yet, here are some ideas:

1. El Adobe Restaurant in San Juan Capistrano

El Adobe Restaurant in San Juan Capistrano is lovely and relatively affordable for any size party.  Instead of gouging you for booking the room, then charging you separately for the meal and drinks, they charge you a fee for the room, but the fee goes away when you spend a minimum dollar amount on food and beverages.  They have about six rooms to choose from (depending on your headcount), and discounts at various times of the year.  Go to their website for more information at El Adobe De Capistrano, then drive over and visit the place.  Ask for a brochure outlining costs – and if you’re on a budget, perhaps a brunch menu with champagne would work for an early wedding. 

If you’re having an itty bitty wedding with no more than 8 people (maybe they would squeeze in an extra person or two), you could get married in the wine cellar (Cárcel) which was the old jail!  With a $200 food tab, jail is free.

2. Table Rock Beach

Table Rock, the prettiest beach in Orange County – located down a romantic flight of stairs at the end of Table Rock in South Laguna.  Your guests must be able to navigate some serious stairs, plus parking up along PCH can be an issue.  Most suitable for small wedding parties of no more than 10-20 people.  

Moss Beach and Mountain Beach are also pretty, fairly private beaches in Laguna Beach, but both beaches go under water at high tide.  Call the city for information about obtaining a permit (every city has different rules, and they keep changing the rules).

Table Rock beach is a County beach, and the County does not permit weddings on the sand – but that has never stopped us from having a quiet ceremony.

3. Garden Cottage Inn

There’s a sweet Bed & Breakfast in San Clemente that has lovely indoor, and outdoor, facilities where you can have your reception AND get married in their garden.  Ask them, but the place probably can’t handle more than 50-75 guests.  Go to: http://www.gardencottageinn.com

4. University Club, at UCI

University Club, at UCI (University of California, Irvine).  The club is lovely, with a large grassy outdoor area and a beautiful gazebo.  The price is affordable (say, $7000 for the wedding site, music, banquet room, dinner and dancing for approximately 150 guests – it’s a non-profit organization, so they don’t overcharge!).  Go to:  University Club

5. Doheny Beach

Doheny Beach is great for large parties ($15 per car parking fee) and you can bring in food, but it’s not the prettiest beach.  Additionally, liquor is not allowed without a permit. 

Go to:  Doheny State Beach  for more info about Doheny Beach. 

Also, check with the rangers regarding obtaining a permit for wedding ceremonies in the park.  You can’t sneak by with a large gathering without that permit!

6. Captain Dave’s Safari

How’s this for a fun idea?  Captain Dave’s Dolphin Safari.  They’ve got catamarans suitable for different sized groups, or for ye landlubbers, they have a spacious 2nd story deck overlooking Dana Point Marina.  Go to their web-site Dolphin Safari for more information and prices (their prices seem high?).

7. Crystal Cove State Park

Crystal Cove State Park is lovely and they have six places they use for weddings, but you must have a permit (they won’t let you in the parking lot if you haven’t got a permit).  Check with their Special Events coordinator for more information:  Crystal Cove State Park

8. Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach is romantic.  Pay $200 to reserve the gazebo overlooking the water next to Las Brisas restaurant (however, the gazebo isn’t comfortable for large groups of 40 or more people).  Print out this form and call the City of Laguna Beach: Laguna Beach Park/Beach Wedding Permit.  Have your reception at any lovely restaurant in town.

The view from the Gazebo

If you want to get married on the sand, you may obtain a permit to do so between the months of October and May.  The City of Laguna Beach will not issue permits for weddings on the sand during the summer months (but check out Heisler Park and other places).

9. The Inn at Laguna Beach

The Inn at Laguna Beach is right next to Las Brisas.  Rooms are from $200 and up with lovely views.  Or stay at the Inn At Laguna – rates are $195-$350, plus they have a link to their reception rooms on their web-site at:  Hotel Laguna.

Las Brisas has different rooms available for private booking and food packages starting at $25 per person for lunch + tax + gratuity.  They offer house champagne at $18 a bottle (it’s a little sweet, but after the first glass no one cares).  For a small wedding party, you could certainly enjoy brunch in the main dining room.  Click HERE to go to their website.

WARNING!  TRAFFIC IN LAGUNA BEACH CAN BE VERY, VERY BAD IN THE SUMMER!
It can take an hour to get into the town.  Consider getting married in South Laguna, and your guests can travel to your ceremony via Crown Valley Parkway.

10. Ritz Carlton, Laguna Niguel

If money is no object, get married at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel (they can set you up right on the sand at Salt Creek Beach, or use a banquet room, or erect a private tent for your party), or

 The Montage in Laguna Beach (both right on the water). 

11. St. Regis Hotel, Monarch Beach

There’s also the St. Regis Hotel in Monarch Beach (near the Ritz Carlton) with lovely views of the golf course and ocean, but it’s not right on the water.  The event managers at the hotels are often willing to negotiate, so ask!  At The Regis, the wedding manager allowed us to have a small wedding in their gorgeous gazebo for just $200 since the gazebo wasn’t booked and the brides were staying at the hotel. 

12. Blue Lantern Inn

If money is an object, staying at the Blue Lantern Inn at the end of Blue Lantern Street in Dana Point would be a lovely thing to do.  Get married right outside the front door at this pretty little gazebo that overlooks the marina.  Rooms are $175-500, but go to their website and click on SPECIALS, as they often have special rates advertised.  However, they don’t arrange any weddings at the Inn.  Go to: Blue Lantern Inn for reservations, and the Inn does have a room you can rent for smaller (up to 40, I think?) private parties.

13. Gazebo

This photo is of the gazebo at the end of Blue Lantern street (right next to the Blue Lantern Inn), overlooking the marina.  It’s lovely for an intimate gathering – but not for more than 10-20 people – and it’s been very popular with my Marines for a lovely wedding ceremony at an inexpensive price.