We love beach weddings!
Here are some photos that we took of weddings at local beaches and parks. Every beach has advantages and disadvantages! We suggest you spend a lovely day exploring the different beaches just driving up the Orange County Coast on PCH (Pacific Coast Highway).
For a larger wedding (50+ guests), we recommend getting married in a pretty park overlooking the ocean, instead of trying to manage everyone down in the sand. For smaller ceremonies, there’s nothing more intimate or memorable than getting married with your feet in the sand (especially 30 minutes before sunset). Dana Point has the nicest parks for weddings, and easy access from the freeway. Laguna Beach has the prettiest beaches!
As you scroll through the beaches and parks below, you are starting in south Orange County, and working your way north along PCH. You could literally start your day at Calafia Beach in San Clemente, hit each spot in order, and end up in Huntington Beach or Long Beach. But we recommend you look at the beaches and parks in Dana Point and Laguna Beach, as they’re the BESTEST!
CALAFIA BEACH – San Clemente
You would get off the 5 freeway at Calafia and head towards the water. There is ample pay parking, bathrooms, and a nice beach. You walk across the railroad tracks to get down to the sandy beach. There’s nothing particularly sexy about this beach, but it has easy access, and is easy for old people to get down to the sand. Also, the City of San Clemente doesn’t care about weddings, as long as you aren’t setting up chairs or structures.
MAIN BEACH – San Clemente
Another pretty beach that you have to walk across the railroad tracks to get down to. It’s more crowded, but there’s a huge pay parking lot near by.
OLE HANSON – San Clemente
There’s a community center called Ole Hanson that we do a lot of weddings at. The city charges somewhere around $4000 to rent out the upstairs patio, and there’s a big oak tree in the grassy yard to have the ceremony. You can also have a ceremony on the sand right there in front of Ole Hanson and the train station.
There’s a beach parking lot on the corner of Coast Highway and Beach, but the beach isn’t very deep there and it’s really rocky. The wedding ceremonies we’ve officiated there haven’t been very nice. Skip it.
PINES PARK, Dana Point
This is a pretty park overlooking the water. Will accommodate a large group with chairs set up. The train goes by below. The City of Dana Point issues permits to get married in all of their pretty parks and the cost is very minimal!
PALISADES GAZEBO, Dana Point
The Palisades Gazebo overlooks the ocean, and has a pretty rose garden in front of it. You can get a permit and set up chairs if you like, and the cost for a permit is very reasonable in Dana Point locations. The only negative is the train blows through down below (we just wait while it rumbles by) and there are no bathrooms, and parking is a couple of blocks away, but it’s a very nice location!
LOUISE LEYDEN PARK, Dana Point
There’s not much here. It’s in a residential neighborhood, doesn’t have a gazebo or a perfect “spot” to perform a wedding ceremony, but it’s very quite and private (until the train goes by below).
DOHENY STATE BEACH – Dana Point
Parking is $15/car. You can get a permit to use one of the facilities and you can get a permit to serve alcohol. You can use the Palapa for weddings, but there are going to be people in swimsuits all around. Doheny Beach is a good way to have a large wedding on a shoestring budget, but again, it’s not very sexy (sharing the beach bathrooms with all of the surfers and families at the beach).
LANTERN BAY PARK – Dana Point
This is the pretty park overlooking the ocean, up by the Marriott Hotel. Some weddings will set up on the large expanse of grass, while other weddings will use the amphitheater, which is fairly well hidden and quite private! Although we’ve officiated quite a few weddings her, I don’t have a great photo to post. It’s a pretty big park, and there is a playground with a public bathroom (praise the Lord), but on a busy summer day parking can be a problem.
HERITAGE PARK – Dana Point
Heritage Park has a large, round, elevated area (with compass points in the patio) overlooking the Dana Point Harbor and Marina. Plus there is a huge expanse of grass overlooking the ocean, so you can set up your wedding site wherever you please . The City of Dana Point has VERY reasonable permit fees, if you choose to get married in one of their pretty parks overlooking the ocean. Although most parking is on residential streets, it’s not a problem. The ONLY negative is that there isn’t a bathroom, which is stupid because the City of Dana Point has lots of money and they can afford to put in a water fountain or a bathroom!
BLUE LANTERN GAZEBO – Dana Point / This has been CLOSED – not sure if it will reopen!
This gazebo is very private (doesn’t get much use). It overlooks the marina and harbor and is very quite. However, you don’t see the sunsets. Located right across the street from the Blue Lantern Inn. When a bride and groom are too late for their beach wedding (they arrive after dark), we move the wedding to this gazebo.
OCEAN INSTITUTE BEACH / BABY BEACH – Dana Point Marina / Harbor
We don’t recommend having your wedding anywhere in the harbor. The Ocean Institute beach goes under water at high tide, and baby beach is just gross (I can’t believe parents allow their children to go in that cesspool of water) – and you can’t get a permit to get married on the sand in Dana Point. But if that’s your spot, you need to check the tides (just ask Google) before you schedule your wedding! The garden out past the institute makes a pretty place to get married, if you aren’t able to access the beach. You can park in the Ocean Institute parking lot, and wander out to the beach along a dirt road that goes out to the right of the Institute. The sun sets behind the Dana Point rock, so you don’t get the splashdown at the end of the day.
There’s a community club building there in the harbor that you can rent for weddings. Also, a lot of weddings take place at either Cannons Restaurant, or at The Chart House, up on the hill overlooking the harbor. Those are both lovely places to get married and have your reception.
THE STRANDS and SALT CREEK BEACH – Dana Point
These GORGEOUS beaches are situated below the Ritz Carlton, with rich people houses up above on the bluff. You can sneak in a small wedding standing on the sand at The Strands, and there is a free parking lot on Selva Road. But you have parking, bathrooms, a funicular going down to the sand (if grandma can’t do stairs), and a gorgeous beach.
If you’re going to have a big wedding on these beaches, going through all of the paperwork is difficult, time consuming, and costly. If your budget allows, call the St. Regis Hotel and see what they can cook up right there on Salt Creek Beach. If you have some money and are having a small wedding, the Ritz Carlton can set you up with a gorgeous patio area for your reception, and man do they buff you out!
THOUSAND STEPS BEACH – Laguna Beach
There are 235 steps down to this gorgeous beach (I counted). It’s really lovely. But parking is a bitch (street parking on PCH, or up the hill in the residential area).
TABLE ROCK BEACH, Laguna Beach – our FAVORITE beach in all of Orange County. Good for small weddings (no permits) and you have to handle the stairs
The cross streets are Table Rock and Pacific Coast Highway, but Table Rock is easy to miss, so map it out. You can park on Eagle Rock, across the street from The Coyote Grill.
Table Rock Beach in Laguna – these rocks are at the center of the small beach (you go down 140 stairs to get to the beach, but it’s worth it!) and there’s a rock wall to the north side of the beach that kids jump off of or men fish from. There’s a high wall and a cave towards the inland side of the beach, and it’s very intimate and private (usually just a few teenagers hanging out at sunset).
The advantage of Table Rock beach is that you ALWAYS have a sandy beach – even at high tide, and you ALWAYS have a sunset on the water. The disadvantages are that you can’t get a permit to get married on this beach (so only small weddings with no more than a dozen guests), and the stairs.
WEST BEACH – Laguna Beach
West Beach is gorgeous too! It has the same drawbacks as Table Rock Beach. It’s the main gay beach in Laguna, so if you go at 1pm on a sunny Saturday afternoon, you will see the most attractive and buff young men playing volleyball in black speedos.
TREASURE ISLAND / BEACHES BELOW THE MONTAGE HOTEL
There is a pay public parking lot just south of the Montage, beach side of PCH. Beautiful walkways and gardens, and stairs going down to pretty beach. There are bathrooms here too!
However, I received a letter from the City of Laguna Beach telling us NOT to have weddings there!
MOSS BEACH, Laguna Beach
Moss Beach in Laguna Beach is really pretty and private, with lot of rocks, but you have to check the tide tables… the sand completely disappears at high tide. You CAN get a permit to get married at Moss Beach from the city of Laguna Beach for $210. Also, the last step at the bottom of the stairs can be a doozy (the city keeps replacing the sand). You have to scramble over some steps down at the bottom. These folks going down the stairs were taking a baby stroller down to the sand.
SURF & SAND HOTEL – Laguna Beach
This hotel is lovely! They are very friendly to same sex couples, you can get married on their patio, or down below on the sand below the hotel. But do check the tide tables before.
HOTEL LAGUNA – Laguna Beach, downtown.
This hotel has a lovely rose garden courtyard with a gazebo, or you can get married down on the sand. The public areas are very nice, but the rooms desperately need updating (if you’re staying there – they haven’t bought new furniture since the 70’s).
DOWNTOWN – Laguna Beach
Don’t do it. Just don’t. It’s crazy crowded with tourists, the city doesn’t allow weddings on the main beach, and there are so many better alternatives.
BAD IDEA: At this wedding at Divers Cove, they set up a ton of decor and THE TIDE WASHED IT ALL AWAY.
HEISLER PARK – Laguna Beach
Just north of downtown, right past Las Brisas Restaurant, there is a long skinny park running along the rim over the ocean. You can get a permit and get married at the gazebo (but be aware, the tourists can be extremely rude – you need to post signs to keep them out), anywhere in the park, or down on the sand at Picnic Beach or Divers Cove. Check your tide tables before you plan your wedding on the beach there.
Crescent Bay Park, Laguna Beach
Crescent Bay Park (near Divers Cove, just north of the downtown area of Laguna Beach and north of Heisler Park) has a pretty little amphitheatre and lovely views of the ocean. The City charges $250 for a permit to marry here, but for a private small wedding, you may not want to bother.
For planning purposes, please know that any of the beaches / parks near downtown Laguna Beach have terrible traffic, and parking is a problem, on beautiful summer days. During the summer, driving up Pacific Coast Highway can take an extra 20 or 30 minutes just to wait through the traffic. If you’re planning a wedding for July or August, you’ll be happier if you choose a more southern location with access from Crown Valley Parkway.
CRYSTAL COVE STATE PARK
You just CAN’T get married here without going through the park. The park rangers won’t even let you in the parking lot if they suspect you’re having a wedding. But if you have a decent budget, you can book a wedding at several spots throughout the park.
CORONA DEL MAR BEACH
This is a public beach, just south of the Newport Beach Harbor. There’s lots of parking and bathrooms, but it’s usually VERY crowded. You can get a permit to get married in several locations like Inspiration Point, or you can scramble over the rocks and hill to get to Pirates Cove (I think that’s what it’s called).
NEWPORT BEACH / HUNTINGTON BEACH
The City of Newport doesn’t care if you have a small wedding on the sand. But from Newport Beach and north, you’re not finding the pretty cozy beaches – instead, you have the large expanse of fairly flat sand. Same thing with Bolsa Chica State Beach, and Huntington Beach. We do a lot of weddings at the Hyatt in Huntington, and they have a really nice facility and it works very well for weddings.