I’m excited to share this gem of a Bay Area redwood wedding venue – Samuel P Taylor State Park located in Lagunitas in Marin County, CA. In the early part of 2023, I had the pleasure of capturing Vivian & Alex’s wedding here. The couple rented the enchanting Redwood Grove Group Picnic Area for their outdoor spring wedding celebration.
Massive redwoods create this natural cathedral vibe, ideal for intimate ceremonies, a mix of old-growth and second-growth. Soft sunlight played peek-a-boo through the leaves, giving the vows a cinematic touch while acoustic musicians struck up the couple’s favorite romantic tunes. Pure magic!
Reviews from past couples gush about the tranquility and laid-back feel, which I can also attest to! It’s like stepping into a woodland escape where wedding stress is on vacation. Being in a natural environment, there is less emphasis on perfection and more on embracing nature’s beauty.
If you’re interested in booking this unusual wedding for your woodland wedding, let’s chat! In this article, I’m going to give you a deep dive into Vivian & Alex’s day and a glimpse into what Samuel P Taylor State Park can offer for your big day.
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About Samuel P Taylor Park for weddings
Nestled among towering redwoods, most camping sites at the park are breathtaking (some even include charming new cabins!). The park contains about 600 acres of old-growth forest, some of which can be seen along the Pioneer Tree Trail.
Just be aware that between December 1st and March 1st, the Creekside Loop (sites 1 to 25) is closed due to seasonal flooding, but Orchard Hill Loop is open for reservations throughout the year.
The park boasts an impressive 2,882 acres, featuring stunning redwood strolls along Lagunitas Creek and invigorating Barnabe Peak hikes, which offer some of Marin County’s most beautiful views.
As this was my first time at the park, I can only speak to the area where I photographed Vivian & Alex’s wedding – the Redwood Grove Group Picnic Area. I can’t recommend it enough. Their celebration comprised around 80 people and it felt spacious enough but at the same time, retained an intimate feel.
That intimacy was one of my abiding memories of this April wedding. This is no wedding factory; it’s nature’s party! That vibe resonates with couples after the real deal.
Though there’s limited camping on-site here at Samuel P Taylor Park, Vivian and Alex opted to camp at the Rob Hill Campground in San Francisco to accommodate their needs.
Who would this venue suit?
This venue suits outdoorsy couples who are looking to incorporate nature into their day as more than a pretty backdrop – they want to be immersed in it. Because it’s completely open air, those looking to marry here would need a wet weather contingency plan.
Samuel P Taylor State Park lends itself well to couples who are on a smaller budget. But that doesn’t mean a shoestring budget will cut it, because while you’re saving on venue rental fees vs a traditional venue, there are still many other facets that add up:
- Backup venue or marquee rental in case of rain
- Catering (with limited kitchen facilities) and servers or buffet station
- Planning & coordination
- Rentals for dining tables, display tables, ceremony chairs, benches, ceremony arch, linens, crockery, cutlery, stemware etc
- MC for announcements
- Shuttle service
- Marquee for musicians
- Tea and coffee station
- Games, photobooth or cocktail hour activities (they had a Polaroid station guest book and a bubble exit)
- Changing tent
- Parking permits and lavatory rental (I’m unsure if that’s included)
- Floral design
Vivian and Alex saved money by choosing an off-peak day which has lower minimums for many service providers. In fact, their date was April 1, likely advantageous as most first-choice vendors were likely available!
They also went with rented artificial flowers, had a friend help instead of a professional planner, forwent videography and a DJ, and kept decor simple so as not to upstage the beautiful natural setting.
I love that they interwoven meaningful moments throughout the day which didn’t cost a dime, such as a private vow exchange on Pioneer Trail with a babbling brook behind them. Also they brought their dog Bixby along as the dog of honor. 🐶
Timing of events at Samuel P Taylor State Park
While one might be tempted to think that a relaxed wedding requires less planning, it actually demands more. The couple diligently visited the Redwood Grove Group Picnic Area several times in the weeks and then days leading up to the wedding. It had been raining heavily so they painstakingly removed buckets of water from the waterlogged site. Definitely a labor of love!
Also, Vivian was a master of spreadsheets! Together with her planner Tifini (who was in fact a reliable friend helping out), this bride prepared the most detailed timeline I’ve ever seen in over 400 weddings.
It was literally down to the minute – a thing of beauty (and I thought I was organized 😅).
The timeline in its entirety won’t be super relevant to others, but I’ve created a simplified version below with key events.
This couple’s total photography time was 8 hours, from 10.45am until 6.45pm (right around sunset time).
Sample timeline for Redwood Grove Group Picnic Area wedding
|Helpers, planner, caterer, rentals and couple arrive at venue
|Couple change into wedding attire
|Photography start time
|Groom and photographer go to Pioneer Trail for first look
|Bride goes to first look location
|Private vow exchange
|All guests needed for photos to be on site and photo-ready
|Earliest guest arrival time
|Musicians arrival time
|Caterer sets up cake table and dessert
|Ceremony start time
|First Dance and Parent Dances
|Toasts X 4 including couple
|Lunch served buffet style
|Dance party & mingling
|Last call at the bar
|Musicians’ departure time
|Grand Exit with bubbles
|Couple and photographer take photos
|Teardown complete. Guests to be off site
As the photographer, I spent from 10.45am – 5pm on site. We used our time according to the timeline above. After Samuel P State Park, we all drove to the Rob Hill Campground. There were shuttles provided for guests.
I captured everyone setting up their tents, some fun photos with boba, and then I drove the couple to the Golden Gate Bridge for sunset photos with their dog, dropped them back to festivities, and that was the end of the photography coverage.
Overall pros and cons of Samuel P Taylor State Park
I asked my AI assistant to summarize some pros and cons of Samuel P Taylor State Park using TripAdvisor reviews. Bear in mind, the information out there is almost exclusively for general day use of the park from hikers, tourists, local families, etc. Here’s what it had to say:
- Serene Redwood Setting: Visitors rave about the beautiful redwood forest, providing a peaceful and natural backdrop.
- Great for Camping: Campground facilities are well-liked, offering a rustic experience for nature enthusiasts.
- Hiking Trails: There are various trails for different skill levels, making it a haven for hikers.
- Limited Cell Service: Some mention spotty cell reception, so it’s a true escape but might be a concern for some.
- Maintenance Concerns: A few reviews note issues with maintenance, suggesting occasional cleanliness and upkeep challenges.
- Crowded on Weekends: Weekends can get busy, impacting the tranquil experience sought by some visitors.
- I’ll also add – parking can be tricky, especially for larger weddings. For Vivian and Alex’s wedding, they hired a bus to shuttle them to the venue and then on to their evening campground.
Overall, it seems like a gem for nature lovers, but weekdays might be your best bet for a more serene visit. 🌲🏞️
Photography: Zoe Larkin Photography
Catering: Abroad Catering
Florals: Silk Stem Collective
Rentals: Celebrations of Marin
Hair & makeup Artist: Jessie Hoang
Music: Amethyst Trio
Rings: Shane Co
While every wedding venue has its unique features and advantages, Samuel P Taylor Park offers a blend of natural beauty, tranquility, and a touch of whimsy that can make your special day truly memorable.
As a photographer, I’ve been honored to capture these moments and share in the joy of couples who chose this wonderful location. Hit me up if you’re looking for a photographer for your wedding at Samuel P Taylor State Park!
Photos from Samuel P Taylor Park wedding
About Zoe Larkin Photography
Looking for a Marin County wedding photographer? You can learn more about my services at the links below: