Considering making a Calamigos Ranch wedding? Or you’ve already chosen this awesome place for your special event? Make sure you read this guide. We spent quite a lot of time putting it together 🙂
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Location & History of Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club
Calamigos Guest Ranch and Beach Club is a historic property and event space with over 5,500 acres of beautifully landscaped grounds. It’s located in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains in Malibu Wine Country, just 30 minutes from Downtown Los Angeles.
Grant Gerson, a Navy officer, and camp counselor was the founder of Calamigos Ranch. It was opened in 1937 as a boy’s travel camp. It had to resemble the town in the Old West. “Calamigos” is a Chumash Indian word that means “Come As My Brother/ Friend”. Since then, the ranch has expanded to many acres and hosted for more than 80 years children’s camp, corporate events and conferences, workshops, and celebrations of all types.
The Calamigos Ranch includes:
- private 250 acre Ranch grounds that serve as the first-class-resort,
- the Calamigos Beach Club, a private 5.5-acre beach estate for the guests of the Ranch,
- expansive outdoor restaurants (the Malibu Cafe, etc.),
- and private outdoor ceremonies sites & reception areas (there are 4 at the moment). That’s what we’re going to talk about next.
Calamigos Ranch Wedding Services & Amenities
The Ranch offers 4 different outdoor ceremony options, each with its own unique reception site:
- The Redwood Room,
- The Birchwood Room,
- The Oak Room, and
- The Pavilion at North Point.
They are available year-round, daily, including holidays. Now you can imagine the scale and number of weddings performed at the Calamigos Ranch: there are about 300-350 wedding celebrations yearly, 3-4 times per week. The Ranch can host 4 weddings on the same day in 4 different locations: for your wedding, you have to choose one of them.
With the booking of one of these naturally beautiful areas, you will have the full-service of Calamigos Ranch. The package of Calamigos Ranch wedding includes:
- valet parking;
- bridal & groom suite/changing rooms are available two hours prior to the ceremony;
- on-site catering & kitchen facilities, including outdoor cooking; the couple can choose between a formal sit-down dinner or elegant buffet food stations;
- dining tables, chairs, linens, glassware, silverware, and china including choice of linen colors for the tablecloths and napkins;
- bar service includes three hours of unlimited beer, wine, champagne, and soda service;
- ceremony coordination & rehearsal;
- AV/Meeting Equipment (extra fee possible);
- outdoor night lighting.
The curfew of the venues is at 11 p.m. It’s one of the few venues in Malibu that allows celebrations until this time. Others around the area end already at 10 pm because of the noise ordinance.
Additional information about Сalamigos Ranch wedding costs you can find on their official internet page.
Calamigos Ranch wedding venue locations
The Calamigos Ranch has a unique vibe of the hidden forest full of waterfalls, trees, and beautiful flowers. It has several areas specially made for wedding celebration depending on how many guests you are expecting. All 4 wedding venues are pieces of natural beauty. I have photographed in all of them and have something to tell especially in terms of photo opportunities and convenience for the guests. Let us take a closer look at photos that I made at Calamigos Ranch Malibu weddings and speak about every venue.
The Oak Room for the Calamigos Ranch Malibu Wedding
The Oak Room is located in the south of Calamigos Ranch near Lake Love within walking distance from the Malibu Cafe.
The capacity of this room is up to 175 guests. As you see, it’s nice for small intimate Calamigos Ranch weddings. The name of this room derives from the design of the area: the ceremony site is surrounded by old impressive oak trees and massive dark stone waterfalls. They are the calling card of this place.
Groom & Bride Preparations in the Oak Room
The bride & groom are supposed to use a rustic wood two-story cottage for their preparations. On the first floor, there are spacious rooms with big balconies. The trees around the building create a soft diffuse light on the balcony. But…although during the early day hours the light is quite well, at other times the space inside these wood walls is lit poorly. I would suggest making pictures outside of the cottage. We made them in one of the small cottages of the estates nearby.
First Look at the Oak Room
The First Look can be done right in front of the building or on any of the walkways around the cottage. Another option may be a wooden bridge surrounded by greenery. The beautiful little forest of canopy oak trees and hanging twinkle lights will be a perfect backdrop for two loving persons.
Family & Wedding Party shots in the Oak Room
In fact, Calamigos Ranch is fairly strict with keeping to your specific section of the ranch so as not to interfere with other couples. But if you find a possibility, plus your wedding timeline and mood of your guests allows – just explore the grounds (as we tried – without disturbing others) and take photos in other locations. You will find some really stunning spots as we did.
Ceremony site of the Oak Room
Ceremonies are held on a large Oak Deck stretching across a tranquil pond, while natural waterfalls are a stunning backdrop. To begin the ceremony the bride will walk across the pond and the groom will stay waiting in front of the waterfall arbor bordered by curly eucalyptus, pine, and oak trees.
One important note: If you consider making a video during the ceremony, keep in mind that the waterfall will drown out the sounds of vows and speeches. It happened to us during the groom’s speech. A possible solution would be to turn off the waterfall during the ceremony.
Reception party in the Oak Room
Another highlight of the Oak Room is the dining room next to the cottage — the construction from glass and wood. With a vaulted glass ceiling and walls combined with natural wood accents, it creates a gorgeous open, yet intimate space. The window ceiling of the room is maybe one of the biggest and most impressive you’ve seen in your life. This reception area of the Oak Room has been featured in a handful of films and television shows.
The elegant setup is another eye-catcher of the room: white table linens contrast nicely with the warm pine beams and doorframes. Buffets are often served on the adjoining deck, which is partially shaded by oak branches.
The reception area is also inviting warm and cozy: there are a river rock fireplace and rustic chandeliers on the wood walls. The 360-degree French oak doors maximize light and views of the outdoors and remind us again of the venue’s name.
The Redwood Room for the Calamigos Ranch Malibu Wedding
The Redwood Room is located in the South-East of the Calamigos Ranch area, on the other side of Lake Love, quite far from the Oak Room. The previous name of this room is Main Dining Room. It is the most historic site on Calamigos Ranch with the 100-year old weeping willows. A willow wood as one of the species may have red color: the redwood, so is the name of the place. The vines of the Malibu wine country give the rustic charm to this area as well.
The capacity of the garden ceremony at the Redwood Room venue is 300 guests.
For the Redwood Room receptions (including the garden) the guest count is up to 375.
Groom & Bride Preparations in the Redwood Room
The bride & groom can use nice guesthouses near the Redwood Room for their preparations. Guesthouses are very cozy, with big windows and plenty of light in the morning. I won’t get tired of repeating that lighting plays a crucial role in getting quality pictures. As the area is well-shaded, it’s better to use any possibility to catch natural light: to go to the terrasse or the balcony or even make some getting ready shots outdoors. It will help to capture wedding preparation details and get more expressive shots.
First Look & Family & Wedding Party shots in the Redwood Room
The green area with flagstone pathways on which the newlyweds can pose is well-shaded and perfect for quality portraits. The even natural light adds a romantic ambiance during the day and at dusk a dramatic touch. The staircase leading up to the Redwood Room provides gorgeous scenery as well. Besides, you can use a little wood bridge next to the ceremony spot for scenic shots or make some pictures under giant trees.
And for sure the pearl of the Redwood room area – the cascading waterfall – is the marvelous backdrop for any of the shots including Family & Group pictures.
We also had time to walk through the areas that didn’t belong to our venue and took some pictures in the Malibu cafe. Use all the opportunities to get your perfect shots.
Ceremony site of the Redwood Room
You will enter the Redwood ceremony site by crossing a rustic wooden bridge. Redwoods and eucalyptus trees create a natural canopy above the ceremony lawn. The storied oak trees make a soothing shade around the site that protects against the direct sun.
At the altar, you will see a redwood arbor surrounded by greenery and cascading waterfalls. While guests are seated on either side of a stone aisle facing the arbor, the newlyweds will stay on an elevated open stage. Even the last rows can see the couple perfectly. Besides, this open staging area with the altar together is very transformable with any kind of decorations. There is really a large amount of space to use. The wide steps of the aisle you can use to group your wedding party as we did to get nice shots.
Reception party in the Redwood Room
Wedding dinner is served in a spacious dining room with a historic stone fireplace across the dance floor. It was the original fireplace in the main lodge house before the fires destroyed the building in the 1970s.
This room is very sun-filled thanks to light streaming in through glass French doors. They reveal the breath-taking views of a “water curtain” that descends like a light rain. This romantic waterfall is one more of the room’s remarkable features. The entire reception room is light-filled and open air. In the evening the beautiful uplights around the reception room create an enchanting ambiance.
However, to make clear and bright reception pictures I suggest to use additional lighting equipment as wooden beams of the ceiling and walls don’t reflect enough light in the evening. We used some flash units in the corners and got our gorgeous shots.
The Birchwood Room for the Calamigos Ranch Malibu Wedding
The Birch Room is the smallest one of four venues with a maximum occupancy of 140 guests. It’s located near to the Redwood Room and is also famous for its impressive old weeping willows and a natural waterfall. Two grandiose old birch trees that gave the name to the room welcome the guests at the entrance to the ceremony site. The area will fit you perfectly if you love natural simplicity and modest yet romantic greenery.
Groom & Bride Preparations in the Birchwood Room
The cottage of the Birchwood venue has rooms for bride & groom preparations. However, I didn’t use it for Getting Ready shots as the yellow color of the walls and light coming only from one small window could hardly serve as a perfect background. We placed a sofa outdoors and made some beautiful shots there by catching the most flattering natural light. Groom’s preparation I captured on the reception site. So, by this way, we solved the problem of dim and uninteresting getting ready shots.
First Look in the Birchwood Room
We used a small stone patio in front of the cottage to make First Look shots. Thanks to diffuse light coming through the leaves and the calming atmosphere of the place the shots turned out very intimate and personal. Another possibility is to make it on the pathway leading to the ceremony spot surrounded by green trees.
Also, you can make some impressive shots going through the archway of two huge Birchwood trees at the entrance. And sure, the wood stairs of the cottage can be a great backdrop for simple yet very romantic pictures.
Family & Wedding Party shots in the Birchwood Room
I advise again to use every piece of the surroundings and if possible go outside of the venue by searching for creative group photo spots. For example, the Carousel near the Birchwood Room gives this opportunity. It can be used perfectly for romantic shots or funny wedding party pictures. Another good backdrop is a simple village fence surrounded by trees in full bloom. Wood pathways and green arches will be also perfect frames for Family & Couple photos.
Ceremony site of the Birchwood Room
Two majestic birchwood trees greet the guests at the entrance to the Birchwood room. Guests go through the outdoor patio directly to the ceremony spot. In the evening the patio is also lit up with enchanting twinkling lights. As you see, you’ll get perfect scenery for your best day without lots of decorations.
At the ceremony spot, there is a simple wedding arch on the backdrop of a boulder waterfall surrounded by roses, plum trees, and jasmine plants. It is a naturally beautiful scene for your ceremony. Still, I advise having some wedding drapery or flower arrangement on the spot so that the whole altar place with a background waterfall will look more attractive in the photos: not as a too shaded empty hole.
Keep in mind that surrounding trees also can shed leaves in autumn and this can change the look of the place. Besides, the sound of the waterfall can interfere with the vows and speeches. Be aware of these points while organizing the ceremony here.
Reception party in the Birchwood Room
Dinner is served outdoors on a private multi-tiered deck just some steps away from the ceremony site. This is only one venue at Calamigos that has its reception completely outdoors.
The lighting is perfect: the dining area is lit up with crystal chandeliers and twinkling lights that are suspended above from the branches of towering trees. One of them is a hundred-year-old California Oak Tree growing through the floor. The thousands of these twinkling lights will highlight especially the beauty of a sunset or evening event.
The dance floor is indoors and it is quite convenient for dancing. However, due to the low ceiling and not much lighting, the best shots can be captured outdoors under the trees with whimsical twinkle lights.
The essence of this venue surrounded by big trees, plants in bloom, and a couple of streams is a simple serene idyll. It looks like a treehouse out of a fairytale with all these lights. The Birchwood room will be great for small intimate celebrations: in terms of wedding style – elegant & classic or boho & romantic.
The Pavilion at North Point for the Calamigos Ranch Malibu Wedding
The Pavilion at North Point, as the name suggests, is the northest venue at Calamigos Ranch. It is located away from other wedding places. Besides, the capacity of this venue is bigger: it can host more than 500 guests. It will rather fit for Calamigos Ranch wedding celebrations on a large scale.
Groom & Bride Preparations in the Pavilion at the North Point
Couples usually use the cottages nearby for their preparations. There are quite spacious soft colored rooms with all facilities inside. However, if you need more interesting getting ready pictures, try to take some shots on the balcony or place your wedding details outside. Outdoor light coming through green leaves and the relaxing open-air atmosphere of the venue can help to create really astonishing prep pictures.
First Look in the Pavilion at the North Point
The advantages of this venue are, apart from the incredible ceremony spot, many options for a First Look & Group photos. The Pavilion venue offers a lot of opportunities: around a small fountain of the courtyard, near the Ferris wheel, in the vineyard, on many pathways ringed by trees and natural landscaping. But keep in mind that the area is quite spread out, so it may take time to walk from spot to spot. Plan it according to your wedding timeline.
Family & Wedding Party shots in the Pavilion at North Point
You can enjoy your cocktail hour in front of the majestic Ferris wheel. This iconic wheel offers the most beautiful views of Malibu. Surely it is one of the most fascinating spots for a photoshoot. There are lots of other places where you can take amazing group pictures, including in little forests or in the grapevines.
At night the place is changing: the lighting with all these “twinkle stars” soaring in the air is perfect and offers a great opp to make impressive night portraits. Particularly the spot under the Oaktree will be a beautiful scene for romantic shots.
Ceremony site in the Pavilion at the North Point
The ceremony site at the Pavilions at North Point is a magnificent raised terrace under a five-story California Oak in front of a multi-level waterfall and pond. It is maybe the best spot of all Calamigos wedding venues. The Oaktree is lit up with cascading lights twinkling throughout the branches. They look like a grandiose starfall, especially in the evening. The couple also can tie the knot next to the pond at the base of a river rock waterfall. The ceremony site has enough space for both options.
By the way, the aisle and the ceremony terrasse both attract anybody’s eye without any decorations. It will be more than enough to place a simple wood arch maybe with a drapery just to customize your event.
Reception party in the Pavilion at the North Point
The diner takes place in a huge tent-like construction. Under a white canopy illuminated with twinkle lights wafted along the ceiling guests can enjoy views of the meadows, the vineyards of the Malibu Wine Country, and of course the Ferris Wheel. The indoor area with a bar and a dance floor is very spacious and guests can easily walk from the outside tent inside.
The lights used throughout the venue make it magical in the evening. However, some couples prefer to use handmade decor to give a more lively vibe and incorporate their wedding theme. But honestly, you don’t need much to dress up the area.
Advantages of the Calamigos Ranch Malibu Wedding
- If you are in search of an outdoor wedding with a rather rustic vibe than with hotel ballrooms, the Calamigos Ranch is a perfect choice. It is close enough to good hotels while still feeling like a destination.
- All strategic details on and around the ranch are made exactly for a perfect wedding celebration. The smallest detail (from lighting to AV equipment, from catering to parking lots) was created to make the wedding running as smoothly as possible. Calamigos Ranch wedding price is more on the premium side but it’s totally worth it.
- The Ranch is very large and there are a lot of great photo opportunities, not only on ceremony & reception sites but also in areas around.
- As many guest reviews describe, the service is beyond praise. The staff of the venue is highly professional and caring to make sure your day turns out to be the best for you.
- It’s one of the rare venues in Malibu that allows celebrations until 11 pm, while other venues may close at 10 pm because of the noise ordinance. This is perfect for anybody who plans to enjoy dancing and spending more time with guests.
- Calamigos Ranch offers a great option for your rehearsal or engagement dinner: it’s the Malibu cafe with exceptional food and service.
I have photographed several weddings over the years on all venues of Calamigos Ranch. The couples I worked with have found numerous wedding options of the Ranch extremely comfortable and the staff very supportive and professional. Besides, the management constantly maintains landscapes and changes the amenities to make them more convenient for events. The most advantage of the Ranch is the location: the mountain air, waterfalls, and giant trees make guests feel that they are far away from the city without actually leaving Malibu. The Calamigos Ranch is the perfect example of a rustic romantic wedding venue.