It's only natural that couples would want to sanctify their union at the "greatest meeting of land and sea"; it is, after all, where they probably became enamored, right after they fell in love with the scenery. Hundreds of them, in fact, in ways both sensational and simple, will get married each year in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Their focus? Something old, something new and a wedding with a decidedly west-coast view. From crashing waves on sunset beaches to jagged ocean cliffs at dawn, from steepled churches to stained-glass chapels, this is the sort of place that evokes commitment — to the land, to the spirit, to each other.
It can be done without the paparazzi or "in front of God and everyone," for the price of a $100 civil ceremony or the investment of a $2 million pageant.
Clearly, there's something for everyone. For convention, consider the Carmel's Mission San Carlos de Borromeo. For cosmopolitan, book the Inn overlooking the Carmel Highlands or the legendary Lodge at Pebble Beach. For classic, set it in the wedding gardens at La Playa Hotel. And for concealment from crowds or inclement weather, call the Cypress Inn for an intimate ceremony by the hearth.
Those who want a spontaneous barefoot beach wedding can simply wander down to the water and commune with the coastline at sunrise or sunset or whenever the light feels right on Carmel Beach. As long as you keep it to an intimate bridal party with no tables, no chairs, no pomp--just circumstance. But if you intend to invite 50 or more guests to stand in the sand, you need a permit, a release of liability and about 90 days to put it in place.
A reception is allowed on the beach, but it requires a special event permit and a licensed caterer. Under no circumstances can you obstruct the scenic view with tents or canopies or bridal bowers, and there is no reservation or delineation of space allowed. Which means you just might have a few hundred extra guests observing your ceremony by the sea.
The more conspicuous also might prefer the nature preserves along Highway One, the rolling hills and predictable sunshine of Carmel Valley or the craggy Big Sur coast. The natural cathedrals are as diverse as the view and the ceremonies, as different as the vows.
Couples tend to choose the Peninsula for the clear light, for the natural beauty and for the opportunity to marry in a honeymoon destination where the splendor never stops and the celebration continues in the coastal community.
They want scenic, they want special, and they find it here. Most couples want a sense of the outdoor environment, even if it's just the view from the chapel. Whether they know it or not, they also want the feeling this place evokes. And just maybe, at that moment when they actually realize they are marrying each other, the setting will begin to pale in comparison.
For a list of wedding facilities in Carmel-by-the-Sea, click here.
Or, contact the City of Carmel-by-the-Sea's community services assistant by calling (831) 620-2020.