Skylar is a Texas-based wedding planner & designer sharing her sanity-saving processes & templates.


Gardener Ranch – A California Wine Country Wedding Weekend Retreat

Are you looking for a wedding venue with onsite accommodations, multiple event spaces, and easy access to activities for guests? I might have found your dream California wedding venues, Camel Valley’s Gardener Ranch.

Gardener Ranch hosts weddings, social events, corporate retreats, and more – all with an exclusive, private property feel. With “24-acres of endless possibilities” and five homes that can accommodate up to 51 guests, Gardener Ranch is a dream for those looking for a home-base for their destination wedding weekend. An hour from San Jose airport, this stunning retreat is nestled in the hills just a short drive from neighboring Carmel-by-the-Sea, Monterrey, and Big Sur.

I recently had the pleasure of planning a Gardener Ranch wedding and was so impressed with their team’s efforts. It was truly a weekend dreams are made of and my clients (and their guests) had a blast from arrival to departure.

Let’s talk details.

Couple poses in-front of peaceful fountain at Gardener Ranch (Photo Credit: Kayla Esparza)

While Gardner Ranch does offer single-day wedding package, I’d highly recommend their “Wedding Retreat” package which requires a 2 night minimum stay for you and your guests – although I’d add on at least a 3rd night so you can really settle in and enjoy the area.

With a variety of event spaces there are plenty of options for multiple events (more on these below). My couple hosted a casual lawn games welcome party, rehearsal dinner, & wedding celebration. With a 12p check-out time, there is also enough time on your last day to host a farewell brunch.

Like most of California wine country, Carmel Valley is a fairly mild climate all year round. Average temps hover between 43 and 65 degrees (F). While summer days can certainly get warmer, the temperature varies greatly during the day. Layers are key in Carmel Valley as, once the sun sets, it can get chilly even in the height of summer.

Psst…. locals claim September to November as “secret season.” It remains warm into the fall, but tourism drops-off providing less crowds.

The five newly renovated houses on-property can accommodate up to 51 guests. All homes feature kitchens, ample living spaces, and complimentary wifi access. While you can host your entire wedding party (and then some) in the homes, don’t worry about having to keep your houses picture-ready for the wedding. There are private getting-ready suites for hair, makeup, and getting ready portraits. My absolute favorite part of the accommodations? Gardener Ranch is pet-friendly. So if you’ve dreamed of having your fur-baby act as your flower child, this is a great option.

If you want to enhance your stay – or offer some unique guest experiences – the team at Gardener Ranch can assist you in setting up private fitness classes, guided hikes, off-road driving experiences, spa days, cooking & cocktail classes, and Camel Valley wine tours. But keep in mind that guests have easy access to incredible food, wine, and physical activities all throughout the area on their own.

One item to note is that, for all events, you are required to use the Gardener Ranch bar service. I personally found this to be easy and fair. Plus, their team was happy to accommodate some featured drinks with some off-list ingredients.

One of the most enticing points to choosing Gardener Ranch for your wedding is the plethora of event sites. Choose a different backdrop for every wedding weekend event without ever having to leave the 24-acre property. Here are just a handful of the venue options the resort has to offer…

Gardener Ranch Venues

The Clubhouse

A look at the Clubhouse from the Woodland Lawn

The Clubhouse is the heart of the property. Its pool & lounge furniture are accessible to property guests the entire weekend. The pool deck is perfect for cocktail hours, welcome events, and day time parties.

When it’s time for the celebrations, its private indoor areas can hold up to 150 people – although I think 70-90 feels more realistic in each space. The Dining Room (wood floor) is ideal for dinner service and larger groups. The Breakfast Room (black & white tile floor) is a great dancing room or brunch space.

When temperatures dip in the evening, the staff will light fireplaces, fire pits, and portable propane heaters.

Woodland Lawn

Guests enjoy a dinner on the Woodland Lawn before inside for dancing (Photo Credit: Kayla Esparza)

On the same level as the Clubhouse is the Woodland lawn. This space is fit for both ceremonies & outdoor dining (like we did!). It boasts the property’s most iconic feature – a living arch that frames the lawn & makes a stunning backdrop for ceremony altars, sweetheart tables, and cake displays.

From a logistics standpoint, I love that this space is a quick walk to the restrooms & catering kitchens, making service and guest experience a breeze.

Grassland Lawn

Grassland Lawn from the east, facing the pool deck & Clubhouse (Photo Credit: Heidi McKay)

Positioned directly below the Clubhouse in a “sunken garden” style, the Grassland Lawn is perfectly positioned for dinners, cocktails, and lawn games. The pathways to the clubhouse and classic brick staircase offer a unique photo opportunity and naturally allow for grand entrances.

Our couple used this space for casual welcome drinks & lawn games. Easy to see from the entrance and with ample parking nearby, it was a great spot to kick-off the weekend and introduce guests to the property.

Oakland Lawn

Oakland lawn nestled between entrance and Main House accommodations

One of Gardener Ranch’s most versatile outdoor spaces, this open lawn is ideal for large ceremonies. It has also been used for group fitness activities, movie nights, and cocktail receptions.

This was the only space my couple didn’t use, but with a view of the venue’s striking fountain, I can visualize many great uses for the Oakland Lawn.

Riverwalk Lawn

Dreamy Riverwalk Lawn portrait at golden-hour (Photo Credit: Kayla Esparza)

Surrounded in trees along the banks of the Carmel River, this serene space is a favorite for ceremonies and cocktail hours alike. Riverwalk Lawn features another iconic Gardener Ranch aspect, a sycamore tree who grows along the hill’s curve as well as vertical.

This tree is why my couple choose the Riverwalk Lawn for their ceremony. Check out their Real Wedding Feature to see how we incorporated the tree into the floral for a stunning ceremony backdrop.

With 5 guest houses, 7 versatile event spaces, thoughtful service, and wine country location, Gardener Ranch is the NorCal wedding weekend retreat for you and your guests.

If you’re looking for a planning partner to come alongside you to provide expert guidance, creative vision, and on-site production management to make your dreams a reality, our team is here for you! Schedule a connection call with us to share your vision and hear how our team plans memorable, stylish destination weddings that are as fun as they are beautiful.

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Photography by Smith House Weddings