We’ve all seen the movie trope with the shy high school “nerd” pining for the popular football star. In one magical night, she removes her glasses, puts on a sparkly gown, and suddenly everyone realizes she’s gorgeous and amazing (no matter how many times I remove my glasses at the end of the night, this has not happened to me)!
The high school “nerd,” in this case, is the story of Temecula. For a long time, Temecula was a much-ignored city in the Inland Empire of Southern California. An LA Times story published in 1989 noted no one knew where the heck Temecula was located when local residents referred to their city.
Over the past few decades, Temecula has shed her nerdy glasses and, to modify a quote from one of my favorite movies, Zoolander, “Temecula’s so hot right now.”
Temecula is considered one of southern California’s “hidden gems” for couples looking for a wedding destination. Located in Riverside County, Temecula has been deemed a resort town, with a high concentration of wineries, golf clubs, and upscale accommodations for guests.
Temecula is best known for its wineries, with over 40 licensed wineries currently in operation. While one wouldn’t typically think of the Inland Empire as a great region for growing grapes, my research informed me the decomposing granitic soil and high drainage due to sand content is great for growing grapes (hey, I guess you learn something new every day!).
As a Temecula wedding photographer, I work with a lot of couples that are coming out here for their destination wedding! Not only do I help them find the best Temecula venues and vendors, I put this guide together to help them get familiar with the area and give their wedding guests guidance on where to stay and where to have fun!
Temecula’s located roughly halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, although it’s 27 miles closer to San Diego. This makes it an attractive option for couples in southern California who want a destination-style wedding without the hassle of getting on a plane. Temecula is located off freeway 15 (or THE 15, as all us locals call it!).
There are a number of wineries that have hotel rooms to accommodate both your wedding day and your guests! These venues include Europa Village, Ponte Inn, South Coast Winery, Carter Estate Winery, Temecula Creek Inn, and Inn at Churon Winery. Additional hotel options are closer to Old Town Temecula, such as Springhill Suites, Embassy Suites, and Ramada Inn. These hotels are about 5 miles away from the Temecula wineries on Rancho California Road.
The closest airport is Ontario International Airport (ONT), which is 57 miles from Temecula. San Diego (SAN) is 65 miles away. John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana (SNA) is 71 miles away.
Southern California is known for beautiful, sunny weather but inland southern California can get quite hot in the summer. August is the hottest month in Temecula, and it’s not unusual for the temperature to exceed 100 degrees. The area cools down quickly after the sun sets, but hot summer weather can make outdoor wedding portraits miserable, so keep that in mind when choosing your wedding date! February is the rainiest month, although the past several years rainy season has extended into April. It’s important to ask if your venue has a rain plan if you’re getting married in the spring.
Most weddings take place in Temecula from April – October. This span of months represents the growing season, and of course, most couples getting married in Temecula want pictures of themselves in the vineyard with leaves and grapes on the vines! I’ve photographed weddings well into November when leaves were still bountiful (although the grapes had been harvested). Alternatively, the vines typically start to bud in April and it’s iffy if there will be greenery in that month. All the wineries have Instagram accounts and they post “bud break” in the spring, so follow your favorite venues to see when the grapes start growing!
This is worth mentioning as the Temecula Valley gets VERY HOT. In my experience, August and September are the hottest months. The temperature drops quite a bit after sunset, but 100 degrees is no fun in wedding finery!
December – February can be quite chilly, and if you have a venue with an outdoor reception, you’ll definitely want access to outdoor heaters.
Marriage licenses for Temecula weddings are issued by Riverside County. The County Clerk issues licenses Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM. Both parties must come into a county clerk office together, be over 18 years of age, and have valid, current picture identification. The state of California recognizes and issues licenses for same-sex marriages.
The current fee for a marriage license is $90. The county clerk recommends filling out an application in advance of your office visit, which will stay in the system for 120 days. Marriage licenses are good for 90 days once issued.
If either party has been divorced within the past 90 days, you are required to bring a copy of the final dissolution. If the divorce was more than 90 days ago, you do not need a dissolution, but you do need to provide the date the divorce was finalized.
The marriage license can be used in any county in the state of California.
The completed license must be mailed back to 2724 Gateway Dr, Riverside, CA 92507. You will be provided with an envelope to make it easier to mail back the license.
Licenses must be mailed back within 10 days following the ceremony.
See the County of Riverside’s website for up-to-date information!
Several unpermitted venues have popped up in Temecula in the past several years. Riverside County issues event permits and it’s very important you check your venue is properly permitted. In general, wineries are properly permitted. To learn more, check out my article below.
Like many major cities, there are lots of venues to accommodate nearly any style. Most commonly you’ll find venues described as wineries, estates, ranches, and farms. These venues take advantage of the beautiful outdoor weather in southern California, and all the venues have thoughtful landscaping and outdoor features. There are also golf courses, traditional hotels, and even casinos. Whether you’re planning an elegant wedding day or a more rustic affair, there’s a venue fit for you in Temecula.
To view a list of some of the most popular wedding venues in Temecula, see my article on Temecula Wedding Venues.
Each venue has an individual approach to discounts. Most venues will offer some type of discount for a weekday wedding (whether this includes Friday is up to the venue). You’re more likely to get reduced pricing for your wedding if you get married in what’s considered the “off-season,” November – March. There’s no standard when it comes to discounting and of course the more popular the venue, the less likely they will have special rates.
Wineries are open to the public. They typically close to the public at 5:00 PM. What this means for couples getting married is that depending on the winery layout, sometimes the venue will not be completely private to you and your guests and it may impact some of your wedding preparations and photographs. During the summer months, the most popular wineries will have lots of people coming through for tastings. This may not be a downside for your day, just something to keep in mind. If you’re having a first look and want some images around the winery before 5:00 PM, you will have to contend with some non-wedding guests. As a photographer, I’m always happy to ask people to get out of the background of your image (and once people see the wedding attire, they’re happy to do so!).
Temecula venues can accommodate an event of nearly every size. The largest winery, Wilson Creek Winery, is able to host up to 1,000 guests. Most other event venues will accommodate 100 – 300 guests.
Larger venues in Temecula have the ability to accommodate multiple events. These venues have multiple staff supporting these events, and the experience and knowledge to help each event run smoothly. The only potential impact is you and your guests won’t have exclusive access to the property.
Each venue has a unique approach to the vendors that couples are permitted to bring into the venue. Some venues will only permit approved professionals to work on their property. Every venue will have a list of preferred vendors. Nearly all Temecula properties will require your vendors to provide them with a liability insurance certificate.
Much like venues, some vendors offer more pricing flexibility for weekday weddings or off-season weddings.
Your venue will either have on-site catering or a relationship with a preferred catering company. A common exception will be for your bakery providing your cake or desserts.
Most winery venues serve wine and sometimes beer. A few venues, such as Falker Winery and South Coast Winery, also have a liquor license and are able to serve a full bar at your event.
Sparklers have become more popular in the past few years; however, all forms of fire (especially at night…and especially with libations!) are extremely dangerous in southern California. Riverside County law does not permit the use of sparklers at venues.
There’s no shortage of fun things to do in Temecula! See the list below for an activity to accommodate any interest!
You probably wouldn’t be shocked to learn there are ton of wine tours, if you’d like a rehearsal day activity with your wedding party! Local companies include SoCal Wine Tours, Temecula Cable Car Wine Tours, Grapeline Wine Tours, and Destination Temecula.
If you’re looking to get in a hike, Santa Rosa Plateau is one of the best nature preserves, located off freeway 15 in Murrieta (a short drive from Temecula). If you love horseback riding, companies such as California Ranch Company and Vin Hestil Trail Rides offer a fun outdoor experience. There are a number of hot air balloon companies that operate out of Temecula, such as Magical Adventure Balloon Rides.
The largest casino in Temecula is Pechanga Casino.
If you’re getting married in the summer, you may want a place to cool off! Many hotels offer pool access, and select wineries also have pool access! These include Bottaia Winery, South Coast Winery, Ponte Vineyard Inn, and Temecula Creek Inn. At South Coast Winery, Ponte and Temecula Creek Inn, you need to be a registered hotel guest. You can buy a day pass for Bottaia Winery’s pool. Pechanga Casino also offers day passes for their pool.
Old Town Temecula is my first stop when we have guests in town! There’s a ton of restaurants and unique shops, all within a walkable area. Check out a play at the Temecula Community Theater and satisfy your sweet tooth at Old Town Sweet Shop.
Temecula Stampede is a fun country music and line-dancing venue in Old Town. Temecula Coin-Op is an arcade/bar with classic arcade games, pinball, Skee-Ball and more! Several venues in Old Town have live music, including Old Town Blues Club, Baily’s, and 4th Street Garage.
For those looking to shop, Temecula’s largest major mall is the Temecula Promenade.
There are plenty of activities for those with kids! Make some new friends with a visit to The Alpaca Hacienda. Sugarplum Zoo is an outdoor petting zoo and chocolate shop as well! Pennypickle’s Workshop helps kids discover the wonders of science through play. Harveston Lake Park is a beautiful park with a walking path, several play structures, and paddle boat rental if you’d like to take a spin around the lake!
Looking for a babysitter or on-call babysitting for your wedding? Munkin Minders is Temecula’s local connection for fun and creative babysitters!
There’s no shortage of excellent restaurants in Temecula! Wineries offer a high-end and romantic dining experience. Great winery restaurants include Leoness Cellars, Bolero Restaurante in Europa Village, Avensole Winery, The Restaurant at Ponte, and Altisima Winery.
While Temecula is known for wine, we absolutely have breweries and cocktails! Aftershock Brewery, Garage Brewing, Temecula Brewing Co, Oscar’s Brewing Company, Refuge Brewery, and Relentless Brewing are all great options for craft beers. I’ve had great cocktails at the Apparition Room, Thompson & Twain Prospecting Co, The Daisy, and The Goat & Vine. Not every winery has a full liquor license, but those that do include The Distillery at Oak Mountain, Bouquet Restaurant at Ponte Winery, The Vineyard Rose at South Coast Winery, The Pool Bar & Cafe at Bottaia Winery, Avensole Winery, Bolero Restaurante at Europa Village, and Fazeli Cellars.