Waterfall Lodge is a relaxed, rustic-chic wedding venue and retreat situated in Ben Lomond CA. Nestled high in the Santa Cruz mountains, Waterfall Lodge is set in 30 acres of lush redwood forest.
Despite its secluded feel, it’s just 30 minutes from the Santa Cruz beaches, an hour from San Jose and about an hour and a half from San Francisco.
It’s definitely a hidden gem! The groom, Greg sourced this venue. Guests commented that they had no idea it was here!
Well, it’s time to put this place on the map and explore a little more of what it has to offer.
In this article, as well as showing you images from the wedding I photographed there in 2021, I’m also going to let you in on helpful information about planning your wedding at Waterfall Lodge.
Table of Contents
About Waterfall Lodge
This venue is a little different from most in that it’s actually a laid-back, luxury retreat. It’s best to book it for the whole weekend though there are a limited number of one-day bookings available every year.
It’s such a cozy, peaceful place, you’ll want to stay longer than a day. Typically, guests go for a rejuvenating hike in the beautiful countryside the following day and you have full use of the kitchen too.
Waterfall Lodge requires a minimum of 9 cabins to be booked for multi-day weddings. It sleeps 86 guests within 32 onsite cabins.
Maximum guest count for weddings at Waterfall Lodge
If you have some other guests staying off-site, the venue hosts up to 150 wedding guests for the ceremony and reception.
For less of a snug fit, 125 guests is the optimum maximum number.
How to use the venue’s spaces
It’s up to you to work with the on-site coordinator to find the best configuration for your ceremony and reception location. There are many distinct areas both indoors and outdoors that work for different size groups, weather conditions and desired level of formality.
For this wedding, the couple’s ceremony was in the sunny and beautiful Redwood Cathedral, a manicured forest clearing. Sunshine slants in through the surrounding trees. An alternate ceremony space is by The Mother Tree at High Meadow Camp (an ancient redwood tree).
Their reception took place largely outdoors on the gorgeous patio paved with travertine stone beside the lodge. Everyone headed indoors for the first dance and open dancing.
This wedding was in mid-July so the days were long and the weather fair (though not warm per se after the sun sets).
Features of Waterfall Lodge
Waterfall Lodge is made from 19th Century reclaimed barn wood and lumber from local trees. There are 1820’s French carved wooden doors and beveled leaded glass windows that add to the rustic, historic feel. Romantic lanterns adorn the lodge also, casting a glow on the festivities.
The building itself is set on a lower level down a gradually sloping footpath, making for some fun photos as guests walk from ceremony to reception.
Some of the features you can access include:
- Thousand-year-old redwood trees including a set shaped in a circle, including the iconic Mother Tree
- Beautiful balconies for photo opps
- Comfortable A-Frame cabins
- Doors, windows, and gates laced with delicate wrought-iron ornamentation
- Paths and nature trails
- Sustainable, reclaimed wood buildings
There is definitely no shortage of options when it comes to utilizing and decorating the venue to your taste. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone!
A wedding planner is required in order to book this venue. Other than that, Waterfall Lodge allows you to bring all your own vendors. It does not offer in-house catering.
Order of events for this wedding
Getting ready & ceremony
For Allison & Greg’s day, we began at 2pm with ample getting ready time of 1.5 hours (this is much longer than usual, but Allison/ the planner wanted the whole time covered not just the ‘finishing touches’ that’s enough for most.
I was with Allison and my second photographer was with Greg on the lower level where the lodge is.
There was no first look, so the ceremony started earlier than usual at 3.30pm. Afterward, we moved straight into family photos, which Allison and Greg wanted a lot of as it was a priority for them.
We captured the reception space when it was fully set up. We also captured part of the cocktail hour before the couple arrived. Then our priority shifted immediately straight to the all-important (and best part of the day!) romantic photos.
I knew we wouldn’t have long, and always try to keep this as efficient as possible. It was tiring for the couple who hadn’t sat down for a minute, which is yet another reason we recommend keeping family photo groupings lists as short as possible – you want to keep your energy up!
During the cocktail hour and reception, the couple had the Tap Truck set up, a rad mobile beer truck that dispenses out of vintage American rigs. That was a talking point of this wedding!
Everyone sat down to dinner at 6pm. The couple began their program with a welcome toast followed by a buffet dinner soon after. Some great toasts ensued, then the couple mingled and greeted their guests.
Once the fire pit was lit and the dessert bar set up, the DJ invited guests to the dance floor. The first dance song was Ground Up by Dan + Shay. Our cue was to finish up after the end of the formal dances, but we ended up staying a bit longer to capture some open dancing.
This was a very short day of coverage by traditional standards. That’s fine by us as we offer a low minimum starting at just 3 hours for weekday weddings (which this was!). Our services start at 8 hours for weekends during wedding season.
To avoid feeling rushed, we always recommend that for more traditional weddings such as this (with well over 100 guests), 7 to 7.5 hours usually ends up being the bare minimum.
Check out similar redwood wedding venues around the Bay Area
Photography: Zoe Larkin Photography
Venue: Waterfall Lodge
Planning: Giselle, Encompass Events (no website)
Floral Design: Rosalea Design
Catering: Aptos St BBQ
Rentals: Alexis Party Rentals
HMUA: Bridal Bliss Company
Sweet: Cutesy Cupcakes (permanently closed)
Drinks: Tap Truck
Staffing: Lia Adams Events
Photos from Waterfall Lodge wedding
About Zoe Larkin Photography
Looking for a Bay Area wedding photographer? You can learn more about my services at the links below:
Hoping I’ll be back at Waterfall Lodge in Santa Cruz soon, shooting your lovely woodsy wedding!