Want a Napa Valley Wedding? Read this First

napa valley wedding
Photo via Charles Krug

Having a Napa Valley wedding is a dream for couples who enjoy a glass (or bottle) (or two) of wine. And let’s be honest, that probably applies to most of us. But there’s one problem about having a wedding in one of the most picturesque destinations in America: Most Napa Valley wineries aren’t allowed to perform weddings on their property. We’ll dig into why, as well as your alternatives below.

Can you have a wedding at a winery in Napa?

Due to an obscure 1989 law, Napa Valley wineries are strictly prohibited from hosting weddings on their grounds. The Winery Definition Ordinance (WDO) was put in place in the late ’80s to protect the agricultural land used for wineries and wanted to be very specific about what types of activities can (and more importantly can not) take place on these grounds. And apparently weddings are on the “not” list.

We asked Aram Chakerian of the Napa Valley Vintners about the rule and he said, “It’s highly illegal for wineries to host weddings unless they had the right to do so prior to the Winery Definition Ordinance.”

The Winery Definition Ordinance classified wineries as agricultural processing facilities. By doing that, the ordinance stated that they could produce and sell wines, as well as host wine-related educational activities (such as tastings). However, weddings are not considered agricultural or educational, and are therefore not allowed.

But do wineries ever find a way around this ordinance? Sort of.

According to Aram, “Some places list themselves as somewhere to host a wedding reception, not necessarily a wedding. But the Napa Valley government are quite firm about the WDO and a winery can lose their operating permit if they don’t abide by the rules.”

Well, we don’t want to cause any of these wonderful vineyards to lose their ability to produce wine, now do we? Which brings us to the question…

Which wineries in Napa can host weddings?

Luckily there are five wineries that were grandfathered in before the law was put in place. The wineries where you can still perform a Napa Valley wedding are:

  • Charles Krug Winery (St. Helena)
  • V. Sattui Winery (St. Helena)
  • Merryvale Vineyards (St. Helena)
  • Hans Fahden Vineyards (Calistoga)
  • Beringer Vineyards (St. Helena)

You can get more info on VisitNapaValley.com as well.

WGM Says: You can also consider a wine country wedding at a resort, several of which have the same feel as a winery.

Now that we’ve covered where you CAN’T have your special day in Napa, let’s talk about where you can. But first, we need to discuss cost.

The average cost of a wedding in Napa

If you’re looking to have a Napa Valley wedding, you should know going into it that it’s not going to be cheap.

The average wedding cost for Napa Valley wedding venues is close to $36,000, and is one of the top 1/3 most expensive places to get married in the U.S. Keep in mind that while that is the average price, you can easily pay double if not triple that for wedding packages in Napa. Below you’ll find some of the current prices we’re seeing:

  • Venue Fees: $6,000-$12,000+
  • Catering Cost: $175-$250+/pp
  • Local Photographers: $5,000-$8,000 (6 hour coverage-full day)

There are also certain elements you’ll need to consider for a Napa Valley wedding that you wouldn’t have to in a sprawling metropolitan area like San Francisco. One of those is transportation for your guests, which can add $1,000+ to your budget.

If you’re having a destination wedding (and most in Napa are), you’re also likely going to looking for a great event space for rehearsal dinners. This can be a golf club, terrace, mansion, wine cave or inn…just know that affordable options with a classic Napa backdrop are limited.

WGM Says: Looking for the Napa Valley vibe without the high price tag? Consider Sonoma County or the Russian River Valley, which tend to have lower prices than their flashier neighbor Napa.

Where to get married in Napa

Whether you’re looking to get married under oak trees, in a barrel room, or envision dancing in a ballroom all night long, there are several types of Napa Valley venues to search for.

The first type, as listed above, are wineries which are limited. The second would be a resort or hotel/Inn. You could also consider a restaurant or other non-hotel venue of which there are a few to choose from. Here are some of our favorite picks:

Napa Hotels/Resorts:

  • Carneros Resort and Spa
  • Auberge Du Soleil
  • Four Seasons Resort
  • Hotel Yountville
  • Poetry Inn
  • Harvest Inn
  • Silverado Resort and Spa
  • Meritage Resort
  • Vintners Resort

Other Napa Venues:

  • Culinary Institute of America at Greystone
  • Farmstead Restaurant
  • Bottega Restaurant

Venues to Consider Outside of Napa

Bottom line? If you’re dreaming of a Napa Valley wedding, it can be done. Just make sure that if you want to have a winery wedding ceremony, you’re aware of the potential limitations. However, if you are willing to have your ceremony somewhere else, then you will have plenty of options in the area. And if you want to invite us, we’d be OK with that, too (we love a good Napa Cab!).

In the meantime, be sure to check out all of our California wedding venues.


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