Wow for this beautiful Chateau Carmel Wedding! I love the amazing places that my couples find. When they told me about Chateau Carmel I was above all, intrigued.
This unique, elegant European-Style villa is available on Airbnb and VRBO. I know, right, it seems so crazy to think you can find an incredible wedding venue on Airbnb! But that is how the wedding industry adapts to technology and the times.
The French-inspired chateau sleeps 15 and feels super secluded. I suggest taking plenty of supplies with you, battening down the hatches and getting some QT in with the ‘endless pool’. Yup, it’s a perfect intimate wedding location for a lazy (I mean, relaxing) wedding weekend.
The wedding weekend (or even wedding week) trend is on the uptick right now. With a 2-night minimum, Chateau Carmel is begging you to stay longer.
What I love about Chateau Carmel is how unexpected it is. It has such an old-world charm. You drive up the 100+ cypress-tree-lined private drive. You are not too sure what you’ll see at the end of the majestic driveway.
Only when you drive through these gates that it dawns on you. Wow, Chateau Carmel is something really special. It’s grand, it’s charming. It’s the real deal! Trust me, when you rock up here, it looks even better than the photos.
I’m so glad my clients Elspeth and James found this place!
About the wedding couple
They met in New York when they were both undergraduate students. After a friend introduced them casually, they decided to give it ago. Unfortunately, the night of the date, Els fell asleep.
Undeterred, James had a plan for a middle-of-the-night road trip. The car rental place in New York City had a deal where they did half-price rentals between midnight and 6 am.
So one night, James picked Elspeth up from her apartment and they drove for two hours. (It’s New York, and there’s traffic even in the middle of the night!)
They watched the sunrise on the beach. That was the start of their relationship.
But get this! The funny thing is that they actually grew up in the same neighborhood in Singapore. However, they never met until New York. Elspeth actually knew James’ sister – and they went to the same church in their neighborhood!
Other wedding events!
Elspeth and James already got married officially at San Francisco City Hall a couple of days prior.
I photograph a lot of San Francisco City Hall weddings. I find that a good proportion of those couples have another reception at a later date.
The main reasons are so they can exchange personal vows, and also have a larger guest count.
This couple deliberately kept both of their wedding celebrations very small. The couple had family visit from Singapore so they could be part of the festivities.
It was a chance to relax and for the families to get to know each other informally, ahead of any possible larger wedding events at a later date.
Planning their wedding
Elspeth and James’ relaxed approach to planning worked out amazingly well for them. They contacted me less than 2 months before the wedding.
This is another great advantage of a venue like Chateau Carmel. It currently isn’t fully booked, and if you’re flexible with your date you can find something without having to book months or years out.
Their early May wedding date also was a great time, because wedding season isn’t in full swing yet! The dates that will sell out first are likely late May, June, September and October.
I’ve never quite figured out why, but wedding season in Cali tends to calm down a little in July and August, before ramping up and reaching its peak in October.
If you are thinking of having a wedding here, be sure to chat through with the host and their team. There are lots of options to discuss and additional fees to accommodate wedding groups.
The large size of the property means you could easily have a lot more guests than the 11 that Elspeth and James chose to have.
Order of events at Chateau Carmel wedding
I spent 9 hours shooting this wedding. I can’t tell you how great an idea it is to take your time on your wedding day.
This one was so relaxed and fun. I started with Elspeth photographing her getting ready. The couple skipped a first look, because they wanted to see each other for the first time during the ceremony.
Speaking of which, you can do something really special for your Chateau Carmel wedding ceremony. The unique setting of the property means that there’s an exquisite balcony and staircase that leads down from the getting ready suite.
Elspeth was walked down the aisle by her father and James watched and waited under the natural ceremony arch.
The ceremony was emotional and involved participation from the guests – more on that in a bit.
After the obligatory family formals with the delightful Chateau in the background, we began the Tea Ceremony. Elspeth changed into a gorgeous red dress, and gifts were exchanged as is customary.
Soon after, they headed out for lunch by the pool. Catered by Tarpy’s I can personally vouch for it being friggin’ delicious.
Then the portrait session! My favorite part of any wedding day. These two prioritized lots of time for couples’ photos. We started with Elspeth in her red dress, then she changed back to her white, Western-style dress.
Other areas we shot in aside from Chateau Carmel were Garrapata State Beach, right outside the dinner restaurant Rocky Point, Bixby Bridge and a few roadside stops where the couple wanted me to pull over.
We finished up right around sunset time (though it was an overcast day) the light was still magical.
There are two things that stand out about this couple’s ceremony. The first was the ring-warming ceremony in which the rings are passed around each guest. Each person is invited to bestow a personal blessing or prayer over the rings.
The second was that the scripture reading they chose was read out aloud by all guests present. Each person spoke a verse and then passed it along to the next person.
It was a beautiful and unique way of involving every guest with participation rather than spectating.
Claire, the groom’s sister, played the music for the ceremony.
Elspeth and James’ wedding rings were handmade – forged in the fires of love. While they were in New York City they made the rings themselves.
The amazing officiant, Lauren, was a previous bride of mine! I shot her and Scott’s wedding in a vintage bookstore in Oakland.
Unique features of Chateau Carmel
The property itself is absolutely huge. It’s over 8,300 sq. feet and is set on 15 acres. Luxury and authenticity are what this place is all about – but in a relaxed, oh-so-Californian way.
It’s most easily compared with a French villa, and was built to resemble the style. It does an amazing job.
The location is just breathtaking. With 360 views over ocean and valley, the location is just stunning. You’ll be able to see the ocean in the distance. The entire Carmel Valley is right there, surrounding you.
The property itself has 6 bedrooms and 4 full baths plus 2 half baths. I can’t decide if I like the inside or outside areas more.
There’s an ‘endless pool’, solarium and sauna overlooking Carmel Valley and the mountains.
Photo-worthy areas inside include the living room with a huge fireplace, a formal dining room, large and Rotunda room great for formal dinners.
Even the simple entryway was grand enough to inspire these gorgeous photos!
Chateau Carmel is HOT on Airbnb right now, with hundreds of views a day. I wouldn’t be surprised if its reputation is spreading!
More couples are veering away from traditional wedding venues to something tailor-made. A longer-lasting wedding experience is another trend that’s taking off. Really hope to shoot there again, soon!
Venue Chateau Carmel
Floral designer Floral Art + Decor
Rentals Chic Event Rentals
HMUA Bridal Beauty on the Go
Officiant Lauren Patrus
Catering Tarpy’s Roadhouse
Outfits DB Studio, David’s Bridal | Calvin Klein | Men’s Wearhouse
Rings Blue Nile | New York Wedding Ring (made by couple)
Shoes Nina Shoes | Johnston Murphy
Musician Groom’s sister
More about Zoe Larkin Photography
I love getting to know my couples and crafting a photography experience that’s tailor-made for what they value based on their unique relationship and desired wedding experience. Ready to find out more?