Searching for Napa Valley wedding venues or Napa wedding venues?
Maybe you’re a California wine aficionado, visiting wine country vineyards in Napa and Sonoma on the weekends. If you’ve just started wedding planning, perhaps you’re dreaming of an alfresco reception dinner at a historic estate, wine caves, or a vineyard in Napa and Sonoma to host your wedding ceremony and outdoor reception with a backdrop of wine country and a gorgeous terrace.
Wherever you are in your wedding planning journey, we want to help you in your quests for wedding venues in Napa/Sonoma.
St. Helena and Napa, CA wedding venues are highly sought after.
Wine country, rolling vineyards, bookend mountain ranges, and sunsets that will blow your socks off are some of the reasons why Napa, St. Helena, and Napa Valley are most coveted for weddings – and there is certainly a lot to like.
But if you’re thinking about a wine country wedding or searching for Napa venues in St. Helena, you may want to think again.
Rather than a dream Napa wedding, it could turn out to be more of a nightmare for you, your family, and your friends.
Keep reading to learn 6 reasons why a Napa wedding and wedding venues may not be a great fit for you so that you can make the best decision for yourself. After all, you only get one chance to do your wedding.
1. Wedding venues in Napa are very, very expensive.
If you’re looking for cheap or affordable venues, you’re not going to find them in Napa wine country or the surrounding area. Because Napa, CA is a popular destination with a brand name, weddings tend to be on the pricier side.
How much does a Napa wedding cost?
Want to know how much does a wedding in Napa Valley cost? The starting price for just your wedding venue and 100 guests can cost around $13,000-$18,000 for the least inexpensive option. If you want the wine country wedding experience without the price tag, a venue on the outskirts of Napa/Sonoma can be a more affordable option.
2. Only a few winery/vineyard locations can hold a wedding in Napa.
Can you have a wedding in Napa? Are weddings allowed in Napa?
Yes, but you’re only going to find a handful of winery locations in the area that are legally allowed to operate as an event space in Napa, CA due to an obscure law enacted way back in 1989.
That law, the Winery Definition Ordinance (WDO) prohibits weddings at wineries, leaving all but a few (that were grandfathered in) to hold them.
These wineries charge a premium for the right to hold your nuptials there, making these venues the exact opposite of an affordable wedding venue.
Where can I get married in Napa Valley?
Napa Valley was severely impacted by wildfires in 2020, which forced some beloved wedding venues (including Calistoga Ranch) to close their doors for good. However, there are still a few venues that can host weddings in Napa, CA, and St. Helena.
- Auberge du Soleil – Resort & Restaurant
- Culinary Institute of America
- The starting cost of a wedding at the Culinary Institute of America is $8,250 for 50 guests ($165 per guest) and does not include alcohol.
- Charles Krug Winery (Private Estate Winery, Vineyard, and Historic Landmark)
- The rental fee starts at $8,000 for just the venue (no catering, alcohol, decor, etc.) The Historic Carriage House which dates from 1881 offers a completely renovated Ballroom and Dining Room.
- Farmstead at Longmeadow Ranch – Restaurant, Garden, Wedding Venue
- Hotel Villagio – Resort, Spa, and Restaurant
- Hiddenbrooke Golf Club (Golf Course/Country Club)
- Silverado Resort and Spa
3. Hotel and food expenses are outrageous in Napa/Sonoma.
Also, knowing that there are only a handful of wineries that can legally host weddings, the surrounding hotels in Napa/Sonoma charge some of the highest rates per room in the entire country and may require a minimum two-day booking.
If you have lots of money to spend, a Napa wedding may be for you.
But if you’d rather spend your money on a great wedding experience instead of markup wedding venues and hotels, you may want to look in the outskirts of Napa and Sonoma or elsewhere.
The national average hotel room rate is $100.00. The average in Napa? $325.00. That’s 3.25 times higher, a financial burden that you’ll be putting on all the friends and family you invite to your Napa wedding. And you won’t find any cheap hotels or motels either – they don’t exist there. But not far north, the average hotel room rate in Sonoma is $148 as of July 2021. So if you’re deciding between Napa/Sonoma, Sonoma is more affordable.
4. Napa is heavily trafficked with tourists.
Long lines of tourists in their cars on the two-lane Highway 29 is a harsh reality. It’s the only highway that travels the length of Napa, serving all the small towns (Calistoga, Rutherford, St. Helena, Yountville, and Oakville) as well as the city of Napa itself. You’ll find long lines at any reasonably priced eatery, like the famous Gott’s Roadside in Napa.
What do locals do? They don’t travel in the mid-afternoon when your guests will be trying to get to your Napa wedding. They use winding back roads unknown to anyone who doesn’t live in Napa Valley. We have dozens of stories about guests missing the wedding ceremony because they were caught in traffic trying to get to the event space.
Napa has been overrun by corporate America.
Years ago, visiting St. Helena was like ‘going out to the country‘ but, these days, it’s more like a corporate urban area with nice decorations.
Gone are the days of the little old winemaker selling his wine, made from his grapes. He’s been replaced by corporate wineries that have more in common with Las Vegas Casino’s than they do with farming.
Your wedding may not be the rustic, authentic, & elegant experience you desire – so keep this in mind in your search for venues.
5. The weather is fickle, at best.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing a sunset on a beautiful day, you know that it can be spectacular. The problem is, the river is part of the San Francisco Bay, where the weather can be as fickle as a feather, with fog and cold that can roll in and stick around for days on end.
It’s one of the reasons the area is great for growing wine grapes. But if one of those days happens to be the day you picked to exchange vows at your wedding venue of choice, well, let’s just hope you and your guests brought sweaters.
6. Small, intimate, and tiny wedding venues in Napa and Calistoga don’t exist.
Looking for small wedding packages at an event space or an elopement Napa wedding venue? There’s practically no such thing. As we mentioned, there are only a handful of winery wedding venues to choose from, and they aren’t exactly small or intimate.
Plus, with only a few available, you’ll need to book your wedding far in advance! There’s so much demand for wedding venues and the immediate surrounding area, including Sonoma, that booking a wedding venue means planning at least a year out, if not longer.
7. You’ll find a number of wineries that will not let you have your ceremony, just your wedding reception.
Dreaming of that indoor and outdoor ceremony and reception at one location? Think again! Many wineries require that you have your wedding ceremony at a different location. But why do you have to have your ceremony elsewhere?
They are trying to skirt the Ordinance. But if they get caught, what will happen to your wedding plans? It might ruin your special day. You might possibly have to rehire your wedding vendors, change your wedding date, your rehearsal dinner, and redo all your wedding planning.
Don’t trust Airbnb or VRBO to host your wedding.
Another sketchy trick is for some short-term rentals (Airbnb, VRBO) to offer you a space for your wedding and some guests to stay the night. They are trying to skirt not having the proper permits to host events, by saying they only rented the rooms and you are having the reception.
Of course, if they were just renting the rooms and space to you, but charged you more money for ceremony and reception, what is everyone going to tell the governmental officials when they show up at this private estate or home? Not a great interruption to your wedding ceremony or reception!
Vineyard Tours and Wineries near Mountain House Estate
Napa is the destination for wine, not weddings.
In the wine world, Napa Valley is one of the most coveted destinations. A famed retreat for wine aficionados and tourists alike, the region is home to countless wineries and thousands of acres of vineyards.
Event venues in Napa take advantage of these gorgeous outdoor features to create picturesque ceremonies – at an unbelievably high cost. It’s no surprise that most of the wedding venues that exist are wineries.
We wish you luck in booking the perfect venue for your wedding day.
Mountain House Estate, outside of Sonoma, is the perfect ranch wedding venue to escape to for your local destination wedding. Known for our relaxed vibe and flexibility, here are a few things our wedding couples love about our venue:
- Multiple indoor and outdoor ceremony and reception locations (great for social distancing) and indoor options for inclement weather
- No hidden fees, no unwanted surprises down the road from us like some outdoor wedding venues
- We operate exclusively as a wedding venue, meaning you have our undivided attention (read more here)
- BYOB (even wine and spirits), BYO food truck, BYO caterer
- We have a gorgeous bridal suite with a trifold mirror and a large area to do your hair & makeup
- We have an amazing groom’s room with video games, large screen tv, and more.
Is there an affordable wedding and event venue in wine country or Northern California?
Go ahead and scratch any winery venue and wines caves off your wedding venue list (wine caves are dark and damp, anyway). If you have your heart set on a winery and terrace, you can still look elsewhere.
P.S. – you can have wine at your wedding at Mountain House Estate (and we’re BYOB).
A winery will typically charge outrageous corkage fees anyway. We also offer the option to host rehearsal dinners.
Although, we advise against having your wedding at a California vineyard, winery, resort, hotel, historic property, spa, barn, or golf course.
Which is better Sonoma or Napa?
Napa is certainly more expensive and has the “branding” appeal, but Sonoma is more spread out, less expensive, and usually less crowded. Sonoma has a more laid-back style than Napa.
Napa and St. Helena Wedding Venues
– Crocker and Starr Winery
– Meritage Resort
– Merryvale Vineyards (vineyard views)
– V. Sattui Winery
– Beringer Vineyards
– Charles Krug Winery (historic Carriage House)
– Sea Ranch Lodge
– Meadowood Napa Valley (sadly affected by the Glass Fire)
American Canyon is another place to look in Napa.
Get with a wedding planner to help you pick your perfect venue.
If you’re on the hunt for an event space that hosts rehearsal dinners, has a gorgeous garden, all-inclusive wedding package, olive trees, a banquet hall, winery, vineyard, hotel, resort, catering outdoor wedding reception area, or whatever else your heart desires, we recommend hiring a wedding planner. They can help you pick the perfect venue, whether it’s in Sonoma or elsewhere in Northern California. Some specialize in winery wedding venues and other reception event spaces.
Searching for an outdoor wedding venue in California?
If you’re searching for an affordable wine country wedding venue, a smaller wedding venue, an elopement wedding venue, or an outdoor venue only, you can search on The Knot, but it may be overwhelming.
Your event reception can take place at a vineyard, hotel, winery, banquet hall, garden, or wherever else your heart desires.
Another plus about going somewhere besides Calistoga, Napa, or American Canyon if you’re looking for wedding venues is that you can actually find smaller wedding venues and more affordable destination wedding and event spaces.
In the Anderson Valley in Sonoma County, for example, the countryside is beautiful and there are plenty of winery event venues to choose from for your ceremony and reception.
You’ll find event spaces with wedding packages in Sonoma, Alexander Valley, Geyserville, Healdsburg, and Cloverdale – all excellent choices as well, with affordable hotels, far less traffic, mountain views, and a ‘country experience’.
UPDATE: It’s with heavy hearts that we inform our readers that Calistoga Ranch burned in the 2020 Glass Fire.