From barns to beaches, downtown to mountaintop, railroads to redwoods—Santa Cruz offers quite an extensive venue selection. You could get overwhelmed by the amazing options, or you could take this early opportunity to solidify one of the most important factors for your wedding day success. Here’s how to choose an ideal reception venue near you that will enhance your wedding vision without adding extra stress and uncertainty.

The Nitty Gritty of Santa Cruz Reception Venues

Before you go any further with venue selection, we suggest that you open up a fresh spreadsheet and insert the following categories along the horizontal axis at the top.

Venue Name Contact Info Special Identifier Availability Capacity Privacy Versatility Value Support Tour Date Overall Impression

Save this spreadsheet and keep it handy. As you discover new venues you want to check out further, you should be able to fill in at least the first three fields: venue name, contact number and/or email, and a special identifier. That last item is the thing that stands out to you and sets this venue apart from the rest. It might be that it’s peacefully nestled into the Santa Cruz Mountains, or it has a spectacular garden, or it has an executive chef on site who would work with you to craft your perfect menu.

Then, as you continue to explore the venues’ websites and reach out for more information, you can fill in the remaining columns and have a handy, organized reference and an excellent way to compare your options at-a-glance. Of course, feel free to adjust the categories, add, or subtract some. When you set this up early in the wedding planning journey, it will motivate you to get really clear on what is important to you in a reception venue.

The Considerations for Your Ideal Santa Cruz Reception Venue



It may not be worth considering venues that have no availability around your desired date range. But, then again, the venue is arguably the most important element that will shape your big day. So, if you fall in love with a venue that fits your other criteria but doesn’t have an opening when you hoped, you may just want to reconsider your attachment to a particular date or time. Are dates important? Yes, if your work or other schedules limit your availability. Otherwise, the date will mean a lot less than most other details you bring together for the event.


Pay attention to each venue’s minimum and maximum guest counts. Depending on whether you’re planning for a big or small wedding, some reception venues will be more or less suitable—and this detail could be a dealbreaker. When you visit, you’ll be able to get a real sense of whether the space suits the atmosphere you’re hoping to achieve with you expected guest count.


The privacy of your venue is a consideration you don’t want to overlook. After all of your planning and anticipation, you don’t want your day to actually be disrupted by noises or crashers from the event taking place next door. Be discerning with what each venue can promise in terms of exclusivity—unless you’re willing to be flexible and open to surprises.


An adaptable venue is one where you’ll be able to decorate and personalize the space. It is also one that offers variability within the space, so guests can mix and mingle—they can find a quieter place to visit or go crazy on the dance floor or take a break for snacks or even a trip to the photobooth.


The question of value certainly depends on your budget and whether a venue can fit within your projected spending limit, but it’s not necessarily that straightforward. You have to really break it down and consider everything that is included in a venue’s package. One venue may display a total fee that is much lower than the next, but that second option already has everything you need—from furniture to food—and may end up saving you money in the end. Check out our guide for comparing DIY and all-inclusive wedding plans.


One important difference between a DIY wedding and an all-inclusive venue package is that the latter often comes with generous and expert support from start to finish. It can reduce your stress incredibly during the planning stages as well as during your wedding day. We suggest you keep track of which venues are going to help take some of the work and stress off your hands with the help of a venue coordinator or planner who really knows how to throw a successful Santa Cruz wedding.

Tour Date

Now that you have plenty of rows and columns filled out to compare important venue features, you may not choose to visit them all. But you really should plan to visit all the contenders. One venue might look great on paper, but once you’re on-site the vibe may not suit your personalities or your vision for the reception. Another venue might stun you because the online photos just can’t do it justice. You won’t really know the perfect venue until you’re there, imagining your reception coming to life before your eyes.

Overall Impression

We saved this consideration for after you’ve taken that tour. Now that you’ve done your research and you’ve walked around the venue, taking in its real possibilities, how do you feel about it overall? And what is your gut reaction? Is it the one? Or do the possibilities fall flat for you?

Following Your Intuition to the Perfect Venue

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of taking the time to visit all of your potential reception venues around Santa Cruz. You may not really know for sure if you’d rather be down in a venue near the water or up in the mountains until you allow yourself to imagine it in person. Just narrow in on that contact information on your spreadsheet, call them up, and set up a time for a visit. Most venues will be more than happy to accommodate you and your schedule. If they do, take it as another good sign that they’re interested in helping to make your wedding day the best it can be.

We welcome visitors all year round here at Kennolyn. We have two stunning venues to show you, both with indoor and outdoor spaces and features. Ours really is unique, spread out on 300 private acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Click here to find out about our all-inclusive wedding packages. And give us a call to set up a tour any time.

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