Serendipity Garden Weddings is a unique venue in Oak Glen, California. The founder designed the venue specifically for weddings in a scenic area at the edge of a mountain canyon, overlooking an oak-sheltered creek.
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Location & Design
This private estate sits on 7 acres of land at 4,200 feet in the San Bernardino Mountains. The place is a bit over an hour from Orange County, but just 10 minutes off the 10 freeway. This distance is a nice change from the everyday hustle and bustle. Serendipity Garden Weddings are quite high and 10 or 15 degrees cooler than the flats below. Thus, this place is perfect for wedding festivities on hot Californian summer days.
The wedding package of the Serendipity Garden venue includes professional vendors, and surroundings with 650 white Floribunda rose bushes, grapevines, Oak trees, and spectacular waterfalls.
Serendipity Garden Weddings started as the ambitious project of a young teacher Tamara Kerbs coming from Orange County to Santa Barbara. In 2000 she decided to build a wedding venue which had to be all-inclusive. It took a few years of preparations and the first 6 weddings the owner hosted in 2006. In the recent 12 years, Serendipity Oak Glen has hosted over 950 weddings. The place also won the Venue of the Year Award from Southern California Bride in 2015 amongst more than 100 other venues.
Serendipity Garden Venue’s Amenities
Serendipity Garden venue is a wedding full-service place. It provides a variety of all-inclusive wedding packages and extras. The whole list of them you can find on the official page of Serendipity Oak Glen. I will just mention the most important services with some explanations which can help to make your best day at the Serendipity Garden venue unforgettable.
- The venue has a maximum guest count of 200 guests. But the prices for 2021 available dates start at the fixed amount for 125 guests. Bigger guest count you can discuss with the management.
- You will have the venue at your service for 5 hours. For extra hours (for example, to start the ceremony at 4 pm instead of 5 pm and end at 10 pm) you have to pay.
- This Oak Glen wedding venue has a large parking lot. From these parking places, guests will move to the ceremony area with a golf cart shuttle which service is included in the package.
- The area is quite hilly and the assistance of a horse-drawn carriage (included service as well) here is invaluable. Not to mention that the horse carriage makes you feel like in a fairytale.
- Serendipity Garden Weddings has a lot of vendors already included, among them a day-of wedding coordinator, a florist, a live piano, a DJ, a photo booth, etc. As you see, there are a lot of vendors included. All that you need is just a bit of additional touch to personalize the event to your taste — for example florist´s service and surely a photographer/ videographer.
- The management always adds/improves the features on their property. For example, they built a barn and paved walkways towards it, an extra restroom, etc. As couples note, the owners and the staff are also very responsive to any couple’s requests (including by email and phone), professional, and extremely helpful.
Food & Catering Service of the Serendipity Gardens
After checking more than 100 reviews about the catering at the venue since 2018 the owner decided to offer two of the best catering options which she is sure guests will like. In addition, couples are given a chance to taste the menu before their wedding day. The catering service pays careful attention to any dietary restrictions and also provides gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan food.
During wintertime, food can become cold very quickly. Trying to keep it at the proper temperature they warm each plate at the buffet line and provide a lid to keep the food warm on its way back to the table.
As you see, the management of the Serendipity Garden Weddings tries to make as best as they can to meet couple’s and guests’ satisfaction. The details of their menu you can also check here.
Locations for celebration and shooting at Serendipity Gardens
The map of the venue you can also find on their official page. Here I‘ll just give a short description of the locations. Further, I’ll talk about photo shooting there in detail.
- Houses for preparing the bride and groom
In the area you will find several cozy and elegant buildings: Bridal Suite next to the driveaway fountain, two cottages (Cottage Amor and Beauty Cottage) on the north side, and a Barn. Usually, the management includes the bridal suite in the package, other cottages will cost extra. Couples also use the barn if they prefer an indoor event: a cocktail, ceremony, or reception.
- Cocktail hour site
An expansive Cocktail Terrace is a place where guests can not only enjoy signature cocktails and hors d’oeuvres but also have the unique sweeping view of the valley to the south. It’s possible also to serve cocktails in the Oak Grove. That’s an intimate spot next to the new Barn, encircled by trees.
- Ceremony sites
There are two places intended for a ceremony. One is a simple wooden dais located halfway down the canyon slope, yet with a scenic panorama of the Inland Empire’s mountains and a breath-taking granite peak of Mt. San Gorgonio. Guests will sit on a lawn facing this view. A second option for a ceremony may be the intimate and shaded Oak Grove as well.
- Reception site
An outdoor reception takes place on a spacious stone-tiled patio where the staff will arrange tables and prepare a dance floor on one side (with the canyon as its dramatic backdrop) and a full bar with a blazing fireplace on the opposite side. The reception may also take place in the barn, adorned with huge faux candle chandeliers, bistro lights, and elegant white draping.
Bride and Groom Getting Ready Shots
As I’ve already mentioned, the preparation of the bride takes place in the bridal suite. It’s a picturesque house looking like a postcard from the French Alps. It has a lot of space and light to place bridal & bridesmaids’ dresses and accessories and to take gorgeous pictures.
Important note: you will have the bridal suite two hours prior to your event. You can reserve it longer than 2 hours, but it will cost extra. Other two cottages of the area — Cottage Amore, which is also an adorable space for the bride to get ready in, and a little Beauty Cottage you can also book additionally. Please ask the venue management for more information.
The groom preparation photos I’ve shot in the barn, this new rustic-chic building, with a warm, wood interior and open-beamed ceiling. Its interior is very transformable (with the help of white drapes, chandeliers, bistro lights) and you can use the room to make First Looks as some couples made or even to host a reception if desired.
First Look & Couple Photos
The area of Serendipity Garden Weddings is so visually appealing and astonishing that you will easily find spots for shooting almost on every piece of the grounds.
Here I just present my visual discoveries:
- near the soaring Chandelier Arch,
- in the horse carriage on the way to the ceremony,
- on the backdrop of the beautiful calm Koi Pond and on the bridge,
- In front of the barn and inside the barn,
- on the cocktail terrace overlooking the impressive mountains in the setting sun.
Serendipity Garden Family & Group Photos
By planning a group photo session keep in mind that Serendipity Gardens is a terraced venue with a varied landscape. For women in heels and elder guests, it may be a challenge when walking through the area from one spot to another.
In this case, a good solution for the shooting may be:
- on the backdrop of the barn,
- or in the Oak Grove nearby,
- in the area of the bridal suite,
- and on the cocktail terrasse as well
— in short, spots that are not far from the main events’ locations.
Serendipity Garden Wedding Ceremony Photos
Two golf carts will bring guests from the parking lot to the ceremony site approximately 30 minutes prior to the ceremony. The couple’s Grand Entrance will take place after the guests’ arrival — they will come in a horse carriage. This will be a good point to take impressive pictures as well.
A wooden dais for the ceremony is quite simple, but for sure you (or your florist) can decorate the pergola (this ceremony area of vertical posts or pillars) to your liking with hang tulle, fabric, flowers, or other decors. The staff will provide you with a ladder (stored under the pergola) for it. However, the best decoration for your best day at this Oak Glen wedding venue will be mountain surroundings and lush greenery around.
The management provides a sign in and gift table in the waiting/arrival area as well. Usually, this is located at the top of the walking path.
The staff will set up chairs for everyone on the grass and provide fans/umbrellas to help with the heat. This is extremely reasonable because there are fewer shades on the ceremony site, and even in September/ October it still may be very hot in the afternoon.
If you celebrate your wedding in wintertime consider using a tent. Decorated with candles inside and soft lights outside, it will be an extra cost but in chilly night weather with less than 100 guests, it will be a great investment in warmth and comfort.
The ceremony usually lasts not more than 30 minutes. The couple will have microphones from the DJ so even the big audience will hear everything. You may also have live music at the ceremony if you wish.
Serendipity Oak Glen Wedding Reception Photos
After the ceremony guests can enjoy a cocktail hour on the cocktail terrasse while the newlyweds use the benefits of sunset time to make great “golden hour” shots.
The reception starts when you finish the shooting and you are ready to conduct formal introductions. At this point, the staff already will set up chairs and tables, prepare a dance floor, etc. The patio place for reception looks very attractive and bright with lighting in the trees, little ponds, and waterfalls, fire pits, gazebo with a comfy couch, and blankets. However, in winter after the sun will set, it can be quite chilly. So, the staff will bring patio heaters scattered throughout the tables.
The first dance will occur after your grand entrance. Toasts are done right after your first dance, before the actual dinner starts — the DJ will release your guests to the buffet by table. At which moment your formal dances will start, you can discuss with your DJ in advance, but usually, it starts after the staff will remove the plates from tables. You can also choose the moment you like to cut a cake. They generally cut the cake after the formal dances. The live piano will entertain guests during the dinner as well.
One of the highlights of the Serendipity is the Sparkler Exit. Although the place belongs to a high fire danger area, the coordinator of the venue will help you to organize this memorable sight smoothly. The Sparkling Exit takes place exactly after the last song at approximately 9:45 pm because any reception at Serendipity ends at 10:00 pm due to noise ordinances in the county.
Advantages of the Serendipity Garden wedding venue
Let me just sum up all the advantages of Serendipity in Oak Glen that you will get choosing it as your wedding venue:
- The place itself is secluded in wildness and has such out of ordinary surroundings that you don’t need any extra decorations. Without any extras it easily impresses anybody, it’s still gorgeous and fairy-tale like.
- Serendipity is definitely one of the most organized venues I have seen. All the vendors work in great cooperation to make weddings a pleasant experience rather than a stressful one for brides. While being all-inclusive, you still can opt-out of some vendors or get an upgrade. It’s very convenient to customize your event.
- You will have some amenities that are not easily found together in many places. There is a big and close parking, the Sparkler Exit, and a spacious bridal suite with very good lighting.
The goals of Serendipity Garden Weddings in Oak Glen are to provide couples with a stress-free, all-inclusive wedding that allows you to enjoy the planning experience. Just keep in mind this one of the best affordable Oak Glen wedding venues is actually all outdoors, so plan according to the weather and advice of the venue’s coordinator.