10 Historic Northern California Wedding Venues We Love

Make a little history of your own at one of these notable spots.
by Jaimie Dalessio

The Historic Barrel Room at the Villagio Inn & Spa

6481 Washington Street; Yountville; (707) 945-4549; Villagio.com

A wow-worthy 36-foot-high beam-and-rafter ceiling, oversize wrought-iron bulb chandeliers and exposed brick walls give this room a cozy and romantic feel. In the 1870s, it served as the Groezinger Winery's maturation cellar. Now it's a modern event space equipped with state-of-the-art lighting to wash the walls to your taste. It can seat 150 guests for dinner with a dance floor, DJ and full bar.

Bently Reserve

301 Battery Street, San Francisco; (415) 288-0202; BentlyReserve.com

Fit up to 800 guests for a ceremony and reception in this landmark. It was built by the famed architect George W. Kelham in 1924. The marble floors and Greek-style columns in The Banking Hall, formerly part of the 1924 Federal Reserve, give the space a contemporary elegant look fit for any style wedding. Make sure to take pictures in front of the solid bronze doors and the mural by artist Jules Guerin in the lobby.

Cliff House

1090 Point Lobos; San Francisco; (415) 666-4017; CliffHouse.com

This waterfront structure, originally built in 1863, has had many owners -- and facelifts -- but through the years has remained a local jewel. Now, it's part of San Francisco's Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Celebrate inside The Terrace Room, which can fit up to 120 seated guests, after getting hitched out on the private outdoor terrace, where guests can still walk out for some fresh air during the party.

The Fairmont San Francisco

950 Mason Street; San Francisco; (415) 772-5000, Fairmont.com/sanfrancisco

Lovers of the city and music history alike will appreciate this little factoid: Tony Bennett first sang his infamous "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," in The Venetian Room, then this hotel's hopping nightclub. Hold your reception in the same room, which -- decked out in gold damask wall coverings and royal-looking carpet -- is the hotel's most glam event space. Exchange vows in the Pavilion Room, with wraparound windows offering skyline views.

The Firehouse Restaurant

1112 2nd Street; Sacramento; (916) 442-4772, FirehouseOldSac.com

Built in 1853, The Firehouse in fact used to be the Sacramento No. 3 firehouse. It was the first Old Sacramento building to be restored and named a historical landmark; it opened as a restaurant in 1960. Now it's a hot spot for cozy, romantic weddings. The Courtyard, which can fit up to 250 guests, is the place's most popular wedding spot. Shaded by leafy trees, it stays cool well into the summer. Heating lamps are available when it starts to get chilly, as well as the Golden Eagle room inside, which can fit 120 guests. It has windows looking out on the boardwalk, gilded mirrors, mahogany details and plenty of oil paintings on the walls.

Grand Island Mansion

13415 Grand Island Road; Walnut Grove; (916) 775-1705; GrandIslandMansion.com

San Francisco architect J.W. Dolliver designed this 58-room villa for his wife in 1917. Now the Italian Renaissance-style mansion is the largest private estate in Northern California and a full-service wedding venue. Most ceremonies take place in the front garden gazebo, then move inside. Dinner is served (for up to 225 guests) on the second level, and all the dancing takes places downstairs. The marquee outside can accommodate larger parties of up to 500 guests. If you'd like, reserve rooms for 13 couples to stay overnight, which Grand Island will work into the venue fee.

Holman Ranch

60 Holman Road; Carmel Valley; (831) 659-2640; HolmanRanch.com

Though it didn't get the name Holman until the 1940s, this 400-acre working ranch and vineyard has been around since California was still part of Mexico. Get married surrounded by amazing views of the Santa Lucia Mountains. After an outdoor ceremony on the Veranda, move inside the Carriage House, a rustic spot with an open-beamed ceiling perfect for dancing. For a smaller group, the private Hacienda Chapel holds 50 guests. The spacious, green Hacienda Lawn doubles as a ceremony or cocktail hour spot as well.

Kunde Estate

9825 Sonoma Highway; Kenwood; (707) 833-5501; Kunde.com

This family-owned property has four wedding sites, including the Dunfillan Ruins, where California's first varietal-labeled Cabernet Sauvignon was made and bottled. You can't beat that history, or the view of the five-acre meadow, but the ruins don't have running water, electricity or bathrooms. For more modern amenities, have your wedding in the Vineyard Terrace off the tasting room, and fit 150 guests.

Sir Francis Drake Hotel

450 Powell Street; San Francisco; (415) 392-7755; SirFrancisDrake.com

In the years following its opening in 1928, The Sir Francis Drake Hotel was a glamorous hub for vaudeville and movie stars, and the Starlight Roof became a legendary rooftop venue. Today, Harry Denton's Starlight Room is a nightclub, but you can rent out the space for your own private party. Wow your guests with the Empire Ballroom's hand-painted murals, or take advantage of the smaller spaces, like the Mezzanine, for cocktail hour.

Stonepine Estate Resort

150 East Carmel Valley Road; Carmel Valley; (831) 659-2245; StonepineCarmel.com

The current owners of this 330-acre property purchased it, fittingly, as a wedding gift to each other in 1983. The couple renamed it Stonepine Estate, after the Italian trees that had been peppering the land for more than 50 years. Work with the on-site wedding planner to organize everything from the rehearsal dinner to a post-reception brunch. For an English garden ceremony and outdoor reception, check out Chateau Noel. You'll find more of a country vibe at the Garden Gazebo at the Paddock House lawns. Pair it with the nearby Lamplight Pavilion -- it's perfect for dinner and dancing. A new onsite chapel is in the works for 2011.

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