Santa Barbara: Perfect Wedding Escape


April 9, 2020
Words by Kimber Westphall
Photos courtesy of

Sunny California is a no-brainer for destination weddings. Beachside vibes, an abundance of sunshine and mountainside views. Santa Barbara, in particular, has traditionally been a premier location for weddings and honeymoons alike. From Old Hollywood celebrities like Clark Gable to President JFK and Jackie Kennedy, this is a classic respite to declare love. One of the reasons it’s so popular? The romantic city’s signature red-tile roofs, white-washed buildings and lush gardens are nestled between a dramatic mountain range and the sparkling sea, evoking the topography and architectural aesthetic of the European Riviera—with a distinctly Californian twist. Weddings guests will flock to these nuptials in a heartbeat. We’ve gathered some of the most memorable and unique-to-Santa Barbara experiences for you to keep in mind as you’re crafting your wedding weekend guest itinerary.


Food and Wine Take Center Stage for Wedding Guests

Just 90 miles from Los Angeles, it’s an easy spot to get to for wedding guests, in close vicinity to many desirable destinations along the coast. In addition to the wedding being the main attraction for out-of-town guests, many newlyweds like to incorporate wine-tasting activities for their guests to enjoy amidst the wedding weekend. Santa Barbara County is actually home to more than 220 wineries in its downtown and surrounding areas. And is 45 minutes away from the vineyards in Santa Barbara wine country, renowned for its pinot noir. With these wine tours, Santa Barbara combines small town appeal with big-city amenities, including Urban Wine Trail, luxury sailing experiences (for receptions) like chartering the Channel Cat or a sunset sail on Santa Barbara Sailing Center’s Double Dolphin.

And of course, with any vacation, wrapped up with wedding festivities, culinary experiences are top of the list. Santa Barbara is undergoing one of its most transformational periods in decades, with the arrival of vibrant new eateries and food complexes. Buzzy new restaurants and bars in scenic waterfront and downtown settings, plus exciting food complexes are opening in spades. Santa Barbara County’s ingredients, from world-class wine to seafood and produce, take center stage. Many couples are integrating the local fare into their wedding menus for guests to sample the local cuisine.

Time-Honored Santa Barbara Wedding Traditions

Most guests are excited to celebrate a wedding on Santa Barbara’s beaches, amongst downtown’s unique history or in wine country. Wedding dishes and tokens evoke these landscapes. One of the most popular wedding favors you’ll spy at a Santa Barbara wedding includes a Spanish tile escort card, to reflect the downtown architecture and rich history. Others opt for a local vineyard’s bottle of wine as a welcome gift or souvenir from the wedding weekend. One of the sweetest additions to the wedding favors are chocolates from Chocolate Maya or flower-pressed cookies from Loria Stern (or even a wedding cake, custom-made by Local Flora).

Where to Stay

Just as important as the dining, libations and activities, is where to rest your head at night. Santa Barabara has a variety of choices, ranging from luxury resorts to ranch-style accommodations.

Hotel Californian, a stunning 121-room luxury resort spanning three city blocks, opened in September 2017. Located between Santa Barbara’s most popular tourist areas—the beaches and downtown shopping corridor—the hotel brings a sophisticated new look to the popular Funk Zone wine-tasting area while preserving the Spanish architectural style and sweeping coastal views that make The American Riviera inimitable among California luxury destinations.

Rosewood Miramar Beach Montecito, a 124-room, 37-suite idyllic coastal resort, is located directly on one of the most beautiful and secluded beaches in Santa Barbara. Visitors enjoy early-morning yoga on the sand and sunset walks along the water, or stepping out from a bungalow to lounge by one of two pools, unwinding at the expansive Sense spa or dining one of the resort’s six restaurants and bars. 

The Ritz-Carlton-Bacara underwent a multi-million-dollar renovation in 2017, including all 358 guest rooms and suites. Its signature restaurant, Angel Oak, is helmed by Parisian chef Vincent Lesage, whose experience includes Michelin-starred restaurants L’Astrance and Bras in Paris, as well as The Ritz Paris. A new Ritz-Carlton Club Lounge with dedicated concierge services, check-in/out and daily culinary presentations is not to be missed.

San Ysidro Ranch is home to three event venues on their 1,380 square feet indoor space. Planners can choose between the cozy Hydrangea Cottage (60 guests), the Wine Cellar (30 guests) with barrel-vaulted ceilings, or the Old Adobe (8 guests), a California historical landmark dating back to 1825.

Photos courtesy of (in order of appearance): Mark Weber (1st & 2nd); Jay Sinclair (3rd); Santa Barbara Culinary Experience (4th & 5th); The Ritz Carlton Bacara (6th)

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