As soon as my fiancée and I returned to Los Angeles from our engagement trip, our first priority was to find a wedding venue. We were set on Descanso Gardens, as I took her there on our first real date. However, we were quickly out priced not just by their $7,800 venue rental, but also by their exclusive caterer Patina, who at (at least) $100 per plate, added an additional $8,000 to $10,000 depending on our guest count.
With a quote closer to $20,000 before the photographer, videographer, entertainment, tux and dress, or anything else, we went back to the white board. After the initial discouragement, we took a deep breath, and proceeded to research the best affordable wedding venues in Los Angeles — with a focus on nature-oriented outdoor venues.
While we found a number of decent choices during our seven months of research, we ultimately narrowed our options to the following three, plus an honorable mention.
Santa Barbara Zoo
The Santa Barbara Zoo is listed as the honorable mention given that it was magical, but not quite affordable (or even technically in LA). A venue with packages that include the nature-centered venue, exclusive catering, and bar service, the most affordable option (with only 50 guests) was $16,507. Between the breathtaking view of the pacific and access to a literal zoo filled with animals, the zoo was tempting, but alas above the entirety of our budget.
Hartley Botanica Gardens
Hartley was recommended to me by a coworker, and I can say with absolute confidence, that if it was not for her I would not have found this place. About an hour northwest from DTLA, right off the 118, Hartley is a small, hidden, man-made garden composed of an amalgamation of styles, nature, and turf. Still, it works. Unfortunately, at $13,900 for a required minimum 100 guests (on Sundays), plus sales tax (7.25%) and an 18% service charge, its $17,409 price tag was also above our budget.
The Castaway, which sits on a hill and overlooks Burbank, held our date in their books for months and nearly became our venue. With a beautiful ceremony site and several surrounding rooms at different prices ranging from $1,400 to $20,000 (depending on the day and time of the week), and with excellent discounts should you choose to use their restaurant’s catering, Castaway is an extremely affordable venue. The downside: Different weddings can and will take place at the same time in different rooms.
Orcutt Ranch Horticultural Center
Orcutt was a godsend. With the garden feel, flowers, and beauty of Descanso Gardens, the abundance of nature found at the Santa Barbara Zoo, the isolated privacy of Hartley, and the cost of The Castaway, Orcutt is the perfect venue in Los Angeles. Priced from $1,387 to $2,310 (with a refundable deposit of $500), Orcutt provides a stunning venue with unmatched affordability and the freedom to choose your vendors. Needless to say, it is my genuine privilege to be marrying Ms. Dolfi here in just a few weeks.
(Featured Image by: Douglas Gianini)