A Beach Wedding in Santa Barbara on Labor Day Weekend
When my husband proposed, we both knew we wanted a beach wedding. Even though I consider it my home town, Santa Barbara wasn’t immediately our first choice. We considered eloping or having a small wedding / elopement in the Caribbean. But our parents really wanted us to have a more traditional wedding and in the end we agreed.
Ideally, I wanted to get married in the sand in front of crashing waves and a brilliant jewel-toned sunset (as if you can just place an order for sunsets). Since we had settled on September for our wedding date, sunset wasn’t until almost 7:30 and so saying our vows in front of the setting sun wasn’t a practical timeline.
We looked at venues all over Santa Barbara — vineyards, hotels, private estates and home rentals, the courthouse, and other event spaces. We decided to use Fess Parker’s Resort (formerly the Red Lion, now a Doubletree) because we could get married on the beach; have cocktails on the upper Rotunda with almost 360* views of mountains, ocean, and city; and have our dinner and reception in the Plaza Del Sol, set romantically under string lights and the stars. Fess Parker’s also has an ideal location, right at the beach, surrounded by tons of hotel options for guests, and very close to downtown Santa Barbara and its nightlife.
The night before our wedding, we met on the beach before dinner to rehearse. It was a cold, windy evening and we hurried, shivering, through rehearsal. Luckily, our rehearsal dinner was set inside the lovely Stella Mare’s greenhouse. It’s such a perfect little French restaurant set alongside the bird refuge, just down from the beach. The greenhouse room is all windows, giving you views of the stars and the water while you dine.
The day of our wedding was beautiful. We said our vows on the beach in front of the waves, under a bamboo arch strewn with sheer white fabric, white lilies and light blue hydrangea. We walked down the aisle to a string quartet and the guests picked up white parasols to cover them from the sun.
After the sunny ceremony, guests went to the upper Rotunda at the Fess Parker to have cocktails and appetizers while taking in the views of the ocean and mountains. Our band had set up a small area to play acoustic music upstairs while people chatted, drank, and ate. We had spent so much time doing tastings to choose “the perfect” appetizers (my mom is the pickiest of picky and must overdo everything), but we missed the cocktail hour! My husband and I never got to taste a single appetizer because we were taking photos the entire time.
The reception was downstairs in the Plaza Del Sol, a beautiful, Spanish-style, red-tiled, round courtyard lined with string lights, palm trees, and huge windows looking out into the ocean. We even had string lights twinkling above like stars.
We started the night out with our first dance to a live band, the Rembrandt Band (not the band the Rembrandts from the show Friends). Rembrandt band is just amazing. We had all decided music, food, and drinks were the most important, so after my mom talked me into having a live band, Rembrandt was the only one we could agree on. They play everything from music from the 1940s to modern pop, rock, and rap. They started the night slow for dinner, moved into dance music our older guests would enjoy, and finished the night with modern songs our younger guests enjoyed dancing to. After one of the singers finished and Eminem song, my friend even asked me if they were really singing or if they just played an Eminem recording — they were that good!
For dinner, we chose Fess Parker’s stations buffet with carving stations, the most amazing seafood display, and a dessert buffet that featured my and my dad’s favorite dessert — eclairs. We also had a wedding cake. I’d wanted a naked or smooth-frosted cake but I was outvoted and we ended up keeping with the beach theme — blue with white seashells. In addition, we had an open bar for guests. Having an open bar at a wedding makes for the best entertainment, but it’s a little scary when the ground is tile instead of carpet.
When we were choosing a venue, I’d always wanted to have it outside, or at least with a large outside patio. My husband and I loved the Plaza, but my mom (who overdoes everything, remember) wanted inside so we wouldn’t have to worry about weather (what weather?? we don’t have weather in Santa Barbara). Since we ended up outside, we made sure to have plenty of heatlamps. Then my mom added more. Then some more. At the night of the wedding we had 30 heatlamps (30!!)!! There were so many heatlamps my onsite coordinator said she wished she could get an aerial infrared of all the heat. We had to turn off heatlamps all over, we were so hot. To this day, I have no idea what the weather was like that night during the wedding.
Vendors: Venue, Lighting & Catering – Fess Parker’s Resort, Photography – Michael + Anna Costa, Florals – Juniper Floral Design, Cake – Montecito Confections, Linens – La Tavola, Rentals – Classic Party Rentals, Music – Rembrandt Band, Wedding rings – Tacori & Custom, Wedding Coordinator – Event of the Season, Make-up – Tomiko Taft, Hair – Mishay Salon & Spa