Big Sur, that scenic stretch of California coastline between the Monterey Peninsula and the Central Coast, is definitely one of the most spectacular landscapes in the US. This is the land of writers like John Steinbeck and Henry Miller, and of poets Robinson Jeffers and Jack Kerouac. It’s known as a retreat for spiritual seekers, artists and celebrities! Model Karlie Kloss comes hiking here to decompress, and actress Natalie Portman got married at a private estate in Big Sur.
A beautiful couple from Sydney, Australia, Krista and Benjamin, also chose Big Sur for their nuptials! When they saw Wind and Sea Estate, perched high on a Big Sur cliff above the sea, it was a done deal for them… They decided right away that this was where they would get married and where they wanted their guests to spend a couple of days with them.
The perfect spot for a wedding weekend!
Guests may want to arrive a couple of days in advance of the wedding so that they can start their exploration on the Monterey Peninsula. A great spot to stay is the Intercontinental the Clement Hotel, which overlooks Monterey Bay. You can check into your luxurious room and then head out to explore the shops on Cannery Row. This is a great place to soak up the California Coast atmosphere… When it's time for dinner, consider the Chart House, an elegant seafood restaurant on Cannery Row with unobstructed views of the Bay and of the sunset.
Begin your first full vacation day with a leisurely breakfast on the hotel patio. While you dine, you can listen to the sea lions, who are basking just a stone’s throw away. After eating, hop in your car and embark on one of the most beautiful, scenic drives I have ever experienced: the famous 17-Mile Drive across the Monterey Peninsula. Take your time – this trip is not about getting to the destination, it’s about the road, the views, the secluded estates, the natural wonders and some of the world's greatest golf courses. You can stop at one of the clubhouses for a light lunch if you'd like. My favorite fairway-side eatery is Roy’s at Pebble Beach, which is located at the Inn at Spanish Bay.
Once you have completed your scenic tour, it’ll be early afternoon. I recommend spending the rest of the day at the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium. It is easy to find because it's right there on Cannery Row. Here, you will see a “fish dome” where schools of fish circulate overhead. There is also a huge shark tank, a beautiful jellyfish exhibit and a “hands-on” tidepool experience.
Since this is the day before the wedding, your hosts will probably arrange a rehearsal dinner. I have a top-secret dinner spot that I always recommend: Stonepine Estate. This 400-acre equestrian estate has been turned into a luxury resort. Not only can you hold your wedding at this property, you can also have a Western-style BBQ rehearsal dinner at their Equestrian Center. Stonepine is the epitome of relaxed elegance, and it will get all your wedding guests in the right kind of celebratory mood in no time.
The wedding day arrives...
While the drive down Highway One from Monterey to Big Sur is less than two hours, guests should take their time. The winding road follows the cliffs, which plunge down a couple hundred feet to the thundering surf below. You have to make a conscious effort to keep your eyes on the road because the scenery is so stunning. You will cross many bridges along the route. The most famous is Bixby Bridge, which is about 15 miles south of Monterey. This is a good spot to take your time (and take photos).
For lunch, you absolutely have to find that hidden gem of a spot called “Nepenthe." This��old-fashioned road-stop restaurant is perched high up on a cliff about 20 minutes north of Wind and Sea Estate. When the hazy coastal fog rolls in, the staggered cliffs silhouetted against the ocean have a dreamlike quality.
For the wedding itself, I had my heart set on Wind and Sea Estate, just like my couple, Krista and Ben. This property is large enough to accommodate a celebration for 50 guests, and it’s perfect for the couple to stay overnight in elegance and comfort. A striking wrought-iron gate opens to reveal a stunning property with its own beach access. Walking down the winding driveway towards the modernist house, the views of the Pacific Ocean keep getting better and better. The scenery is even great when you go inside the house. Every single room has a fantastic ocean view.
The ceremony will be held in a natural amphitheater in the sloping back garden, overlooking the ocean. For the cocktail reception, there is plenty of room outside in the expansive gardens, or on the North Patio, which is just off the kitchen. This location makes it easy to serve delicacies right out of the kitchen.
Dinner tables will be set on the South Patio. With the sun setting and the built-in pathway lights coming on in the garden, the atmosphere will be very romantic. Just throw in candlelight and music. If you want to dance, the living room right inside easily accommodates all your guests! Best of all, after the party has ended, the couple can simply stay at Wind and Sea and begin there honeymoon right then.
Instead of heading back to Monterey late at night, I absolutely recommend guests stay at one of the two local luxury hotels, the Post Ranch Inn or the Ventana. If they stay in these places, they can use the last day of their vacation weekend to head South for a day trip to Hearst Castle in Cambria. This famous building is a folly built for newspaper magnate Randolph Hearst by famous architect Julia Morgan. On the other hand, you might prefer to go hiking in Pfeiffer National Park and enjoy the natural beauty of this untamed stretch of coastline. Art lovers can spend the day in Carmel-by-the-Sea, a former fishing village turned artist colony (and tourist destination). This town has charming storybook-style architecture, countless boutiques, restaurants, art galleries and an incredible white sand beach…
I guarantee that if you have your wedding weekend here, you and your guests will all solemnly vow to come back one day and explore more of Big Sur.
Do you have any Big Sur experiences that you would like to share? Let us know about them in the comments section below.