A Santa Barbara Wedding Venue
Nestled back in the hillside of Santa Barbara lies a picturesque resort where Californian craftsman cottages fuse gently with mission-style casitas. As all Belmond properties, El Encanto (and its century of history) stays in harmony with the original design of the luxury resort while bringing modern interiors and contemporary cuisine.
Why am I telling you this? Because it’s the perfect location for an intimate Santa Barbara wedding and not just because it boasts amazing lighting for wedding photos. With 22 suites and 70 rooms, the 7-acre property is a vacation home to those who enjoy quiet luxury and the serenity of the south-central coast of California.
A stepping stone from Santa Barbara’s famed Mission, guests can venture into the sites of Santa Barbara while enjoying the serenity of a location just 10 minutes from the shores of the Pacific. An ideal base camp for a week of ocean-side festivities and wine tours, let’s look inside this location and why I love what it offers my engaged couples.
Each room or suite is surrounded by original architecture and an abundance of local flora and fauna. El Encanto blends privacy and closeness so seamlessly, hosting all of your guests at this resort is an ideal way to celebrate and relax into a weekend based on love and connection (while still maintaining your own space). Their on-site dining and full spa, of course, are the cherry on top.
Ever aware of the desires of the now, El Encanto is planning to create a more experiential option for guests as well. A newly-started chef’s garden will be home to cooking classes where guests can host intimate family dinners infused with flavors of thyme, rosemary, and more from the estate itself.
On-site Accommodations for Guests
An important factor for many of my couples is the ability to host their guests on-site. It’s important to create as many avenues for ease as possible so your weekend (or week) with family and friends is truly about the connections and not the logistics. Those who opt not to stay on site have an abundance of other local spaces to enjoy including Drift, a boutique hotel in the cozy downtown, or the famous Hotel Californian, just blocks from the beach.
My recommendation is to stay where the wedding is occuring, and guests will have no difficulty settling in.
The interiors are tastefully designed with neutral colors and traditional wood finishings echoing from room to room and suite to suite. Most spaces offer guests the comfort of a fireplace and custom windows, doors, and details from local artisans. The point? Your wedding guests will feel right at home, a key to creating a weekend experience based on connectivity and love.
Of course, I’ve saved the best for last: the lily pond. Able to host between 150-200 guests, the lily pond can be used for both ceremony and reception. Imagine emerging from the ethereal wisteria (May-July), the sunlight sending dappling shadows across your path, before walking down a custom bridge between rows of your dearest loved ones and friends. The lilies are blooming, reaching toward the sun, and there is nothing, nothing, that could be more beautiful. A wedding photographer’s dream, a guest’s delight, a couple’s fairytale.
That, my friends, is what this space offers.
The intimacy of the courtyard-inspired space is so surreal. A waterfall on the east, sprawling landscaping to the west, this space is perfect. Your wedding planner is able to flip the space from a glowing-sunlit paradise into a sparkling dinnerscape while you enjoy cocktail hour on the lawn beyond, overlooking Santa Barbara and the ocean below. Wedding photos are a dream in the trailing vines of purple blooms and the sunlit walkways of the Belmond here, and you truly, truly cannot go wrong.
Do you see this light? Absolutely surreal. My suggestion for your wedding ceremony is to place the couple in this orientation, with a floral wall hiding the drive beyond and allowing the sunset to flood the wisteria and blooms (organic tones and textures to really bring out the natural beauty of the space). Your images would be impeccable and (bonus) the majority of your guests would be in the shade. Take the last hour and a half of light to escape for your wedding portraits and cocktail hour before returning to find the location draped in the flicker of candles for your reception.
If the lily pond isn’t your cup of tea or you prefer to visit California in the cooler months, there are multiple indoor options as well. In fact, while the sound ordinance is 10pm in Santa Barbara, your after party can live on in the ballroom and it’s adjoining terrace at the bottom of the restaurant until midnight.
While California offers a variety of climates and seasonal activities, the wisteria is in bloom from May to July. If you prefer a more muted backdrop, August, September, and October are fantastic options to consider for your wedding date.
With a season in mind, you should connect with a planner and designer to work on your vision and handle the logistics with El Encanto’s phenomenal wedding team. Some amazing locals I can recommend:
- Rebecca & Erin at Indigo Event Design
Indigo Event Design is phenomenal at pulling together lush, multi-cultural events. Their attention to detail and guest experience are sublime. Of course, I love any excuse to share this stunner at a private estate in Ojai, not far from Ojai Valley Inn.
- Amy at Amy Nichols Special Events
Amy is such a powerhouse in the world of high-touch events. Her wedding are refined and exude the ease and organic nature we’ve come to expect from something truly luxurious. Not to mention, we’ve both visited the Aman properties in Bali, Indonesia. For that delicious California lighting, I recommend viewing her recent outdoor wedding at the Annadel Estate Winery.
- Courtney at Drake Social
This southern pro brings her knowledge of that classic hospitality to her events. Guest experience is A-plus and her mission is to leave everyone in awe. While particularly enamored with this event at the St. Regis Hotel & Garden Room in Atlanta, I also love Courtney’s approach to Californian Design.
- Tyler at Tyler Speier Events
Known for his lush florals and outgoing personality, Tyler designs events abundant in joy and classic romance. For some Santa Barbara magic, take a look these colorful wedding photos from his event at Klentner Ranch (Carpinteria).
All of these amazing wedding planners are available in Santa Barbara, Montecito, Santa Ynez, Ojai and beyond. I can’t wait to see (and photograph) the your event at this gorgeous Belmond estate or one of the other amazing properties in the area. To inquire about availabiliy, please head here.