Complete Guide to Serra Plaza Weddings!

Serra Plaza weddings are known for their unforgettable rustic ambiance and beautiful Spanish architecture.

Serra Plaza weddings might be one of the best options If you like the idea of organizing your wedding outdoors with old European charm, yet under the Southern Californian sun. You will find here all the information to make the Serra Plaza your personal place.

Location & History of Serra Plaza San Juan Capistrano 

Serra Plaza is an outdoor event venue located in the historic downtown of San Juan Capistrano city in Orange County. Originally, the buildings of Serra Plaza and surroundings were a part of the San Juan Capistrano Mission. Such missions were established between 1769 and 1833 on the whole territory of California. Serra Plaza as other of this kind was founded by Spanish Catholic priests. The mission structures feature Spanish Revival architecture that was inspired by the churches built by colonial missionaries. This architecture you will recognize immediately by its plain, stucco, or stone exterior and red tile roof.

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Spanish Mission buildings are the oldest and most-visited historic monuments of their area. Nowadays, Serra Plaza like other buildings of the Mission is considered as one of the symbols of old California. 

So, the newlyweds planning their best day at Serra Plaza will feel like they are in an old Spanish town in Europe. The Spanish word “plaza” refers to a public open square often featuring walkways, trees, and places to sit.  All these plus much more you will find at Serra Plaza while creating your own “old Europe style” feast for your friends and family. 

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Serra Plaza Venue Amenities 

At Serra Plaza San Juan Capistrano you will have for you wedding:

  • the Plaza itself which can accommodate 450 guests outdoors; 
  • a parking lot with 269 parking spaces. Besides, Serra Plaza is close to major freeways and within walking distance of the train station; 
  • a bridal suite that is available two hours before the ceremony starts; 
  • tables and fruitwood Chiavari chairs for 200 persons included in Serra Plaza wedding costs; additional pews cost extra. 
  • a patio with an outdoor stone fireplace for your ceremony or cocktail hour; 
  • bistro lighting in the evening included but additional chandeliers will cost extra per item.
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Serra Plaza weddings start at 6 P.M. from Monday through Friday (because during the week the building works as a business center) and anytime on Saturday and Sunday. When I was there, the wedding ceremony and reception lasted up to 5 hours plus 2 hours for setup and 1 hour for cleanup after. 

Serra Plaza has some rules and restrictions: so, all music outdoors has to finish at 10:00 P.M. Nonetheless, it’s possible to move to the indoor area and celebrate until midnight. All Serra Plaza weddings have to finish at 1 A.M. 

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Besides, outside caterers are not allowed, as well as alcohol. You will choose from the preferred list of food vendors. Shots of alcohol aren’t allowed due to the venue’s liquor license. All the trash after the event has to be picked up. 

Serra Plaza wedding cost can vary from $5000 to $7000. If the wedding guest amount is more than 200 persons, there is an incremental fee for security which is mandatory. You will also pay a deposit: if no damage, it will be returned back. 

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Wedding event areas of Serra Plaza 

These areas of Serra Plaza will be available for your setup and wedding celebration:

  • a bridal suite; 
  • a Grand Plaza Courtyard with the Spanish style fountain usually serves as a ceremony spot  in the afternoon and in the evening for reception parties;
  • Grand Salon with an adjusted Patio is an indoor area with a stone fireplace that is perfect for cocktail hour. During rare rainy weather, a reception can be moved from outside to the Salon.

Down I will give a short description of thesу Serra Plaza locations regarding the photography and wedding preparations. 

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Bridal & Groom’s Suites at Serra Plaza 

The bridal suite is a light airy room in French style with vintage furniture: an antique armoire, a full-length mirror, and some seatings. You can easily hang your wedding dress there and place accessories there. A big window lets plenty of natural light inside. However, space there is not enough to accommodate big groups. That’s why some couples choose to make their preparation at hotels not too far from the venue, for example, at the Hills hotel. As for wedding party shots, it’s better to take them outside the room in the covered loggias of the building. 

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When I was shooting one of Serra Plaza weddings, the groom was provided with a small room for preparation as well. Nowadays, the availability of this room is better to clear up with the management in advance.

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serra plaza weddings

First Look at Serra Plaza San Juan Capistrano

If we speak about buildings in Spanish style & their outdoor spaces, we immediately imagine numerous stone pavers, covered loggias, and breezeways, arches, old wooden doors, clay pots in the corners with lots of flowers. All these things you will find at Serra Plaza in abundance. 

The most remarkable feature and eye-catcher of Grand Plaza is its Spanish-style fountain. It will serve as a beautiful scene for your First Look and couple portraits. The courtyard is ringed by big trees and flowering shrubs so this spot right next to the fountain looks very intimate and private. 

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Adobe walls of the Serra Plaza in soft sand color is another nice frame for couple shots. You can pose under the arches or in breezeways of the building, these elements convey the historical charm of the place to make your pictures unforgettable. 

Arched openings at windows, entries, and arcades showcase the same historical ambiance of Spanish Mission architecture. Like all the buildings of this kind, the main house has very little decorative detailing but still, it’s a great backdrop for your couple photos. 

Almost all afternoon until dusk the natural light of the area is very flattering and great for photography thanks to a heavy shade of trees. It’s a big advantage of this venue. Actually, any spot of Serra Plaza you will use for your photography will give you lots of great shots. 

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Wedding party & Family Shots at Serra Plaza

Use the spot near the fountain for group shots as well. That’s exactly the place that can accommodate big groups easily and everybody will be lit perfectly, nobody will stay in the shade or be lost among others. There is a lot of space in front of the building itself as well and its creamy beige walls you can use as a backdrop for more creative posing. 

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For elder family members, Serra Plaza is a nice photography spot because the grounds are paved and you don’t need to make the guests go far to make a couple of shots. Your friends on high heels will also say a big thank you. Just gather everyone on one of the stone pavers or under the arches and great shots are guaranteed. 

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Ceremony spots of Serra Plaza

At Serra Plaza, you can organize your ceremony both indoors and outdoors. 

The most beloved option is the Plaza Courtyard. Its space is really huge and well shaded. Big olive trees protect the square from the midday sun which is very important for an afternoon ceremony.  After 1-2 P.M. you can already expect a soft not too harsh light for your photography. 

Another advantage of the courtyard is its space. It allows the bride to start her Grand Entrance away from the main spot, with the effect of surprise. She will go across the covered breezeway and down into the courtyard to the fountain where the wedding arch stands and the guests take their seats. The fountain and the altar spot will look most beautiful with floral arrangements. The courtyard is a pure canvas for ideas of your florist. 

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The courtyard is also the dream area of a photographer because he can make ceremony photos from any angle and corner, even from above.  

After the ceremony, the guests are invited to the Serra Plaza’s Grand Salon for cocktails and appetizers. This indoor space can accommodate up to 150 guests with room for a dance floor. It’s a great location for an intimate ceremony or lively cocktail hour. Surely, you can choose the Salon for small intimate receptions as well. 

The Salon is designed in a Spanish style with white painted walls and ceiling and nice vintage furniture. A stone fireplace is the highlight of the room. For an indoor ceremony, it can serve as an altar spot and is easily decorated with draperies and candles.

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Reception site of Serra Plaza 

After the sunset, guests will move from the cocktail back to the Plaza Courtyard to dine under the stars and strands of market lights. The couple will make their entrance through the same breezeway as at the ceremony. The newlyweds will perform the First Dance on a paved dance floor in front of the seated guests, with the fountain as a backdrop. Their sweetheart table will be set right next to the fountain. 

The venue provides beautiful bistro lights included in Serra Plaza wedding costs as the huge space of the Courtyard requires additional lighting. You can also rent chandeliers, but it will cost extra, as well as additional drapes.

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In the covered loggias around the reception spot, food stations, a photo booth or bars can be placed conveniently. Take into account that the manager of the venue will advise where it’s better to place them according to the venue’s restrictions. 

The overall ambiance of the reception party in the Serra Plaza’s Courtyard  is very romantic and different from the usual indoor halls. At night, the drapery and lights mixed with the beautiful flowers and water fountain look magical as on the set of a movie. 

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Why are Serra Plaza weddings so special & memorable?

If you like the idea of making your best day almost totally outdoors and you are amazed by the old Spanish style architecture, Serra Plaza will be a great choice for your wedding. 

Serra Plaza weddings are quite affordable in comparison to others in Orange county: the venue will provide you with Chiavari chairs, vintage furniture, wedding decor signs, and string lights which all are included in the fee. You have to pay extra for church pews, chandeliers, and drapes in case of a big guest amount. Still, the pricing is reasonable and Serra Plaza  is very popular among other San Juan Capistrano Wedding venues.

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serra plaza weddings
serra plaza weddings

This outdoor venue still has an indoor option in case of unexpected weather, so you will not use or pay for a tent. 

Although Serra Plaza is an acting business center and a historical landmark, you will have complete privacy — no unexpected visitors and only one event at a time. 

Serra Plaza’s design and architecture will work both with vintage rustic  weddings as well as with classic ones with a modern touch, also with elegant “black-tie optional” events. All these options are possible to embody at this venue. 

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serra plaza weddings

If you still hesitate, read more about other venues in Southern California with their own unique vibes such as Serendipity Garden, Lake Oak Meadow (which is just a short drive from surrounding San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles counties), or Ponte Winery in the Temecula Wine Country. 

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