The historic Alisal Guest Ranch and Resort has been serving generations of families. What few don’t realize is that it’s not a typical resort: it is almost like a time-share where families have certain dates they traditionally come and stay every year, their favorite dining table and other unique aspects that don’t allow someone outside their regular clientele to typically just pick up and stay at the ranch on a whim for a quick overnight like a regular hotel. But when you’ve had the opportunity to stay at the ranch, you’ll understand why. And staying any shorter than 2 nights isn’t worth doing, truly.

You see, when you invest in a stay at Alisal, you are investing in an experience with that price tag. Your breakfast & dinner are included. For breakfast, you have the choice to dine in the dining room, or take a horseback ride back into the private areas of the ranch and end up at a real cowboy cookout breakfast with bonfire, hearty pancakes and much more (or you can take a hay truck ride up there). Your investment also includes access to many day-time experiences at the ranch (archery, tennis, fishing or hanging out at their private lake or pool and jacuzzi) and it’s difficult to squeeze them all into one or even two days. So, it’s no wonder so many families have made this an annual tradition for their vacation experience for generations. And it’s also no wonder Alisal has typically required an entire ranch buy-out for any wedding. However, they have made some slight (perhaps temporary) adjustments to their policies recently, and so it’s worth asking a sales manager if you are considering hosting your wedding and reception at the ranch to find out what your options are.

I have been privileged to do many of the long-standing guest/family’s weddings at the ranch as one of Alisal’s preferred event partners. And it was especially meaningful that the last wedding of my 20 year, 600-wedding, 1000+ corporate event career ended with a super special family who allowed me to take their vision and run with it with an incredible event partner team. Below, you will see some planner’s notes on interesting details, and below that, a full photo gallery of the wedding from start to finish for Rachael and Alec and their families. Choose what you want to read / review below and enjoy.

Planner’s Notes: The ceremony – for about 200 guests- was held at the gorgeous Creekside lawn where, at the request of my clients, there was no decor at the altar because of the towering Sycamore trees overhead and picturesque views of the pasture in the background, so we focused on wine barrels with decadent arrangements at the back of the ceremony aisle (see photos); these florals were taken and repurposed later at the dramatic entrance of the dinner /dancing tent on the Oval Lawn. Cocktail Hour was in the adjacent all-window-walled indoor Sycamore Room overlooking Creekside with a gorgeous stone fireplace and roaring fire and Ranchero tables and benches from Ventura Rental with specialty rented wood bars (also from Ventura Rental). When it was time for the Grand Reveal of the tent, guests found their names on custom European table assignment wood boards and made their way in to a spectacularly -lit entrance, showcasing a glossy-white dance floor and cascading dripping white lights. Colors were burgundies/garnet and deep blue accents, which you will see from bridal party attire, to the tablescape and glassware all the way through all the florals designed by Anna Le Pley Taylor. The guest book was actually the photo booth- that is, as guests took their photo at the photobooth, they would tape their photo and sign the guest book at the photobooth. Dinner was nothing short of epic with Chef Endy delighting guests with a sumptuous ranch dinner buffet menu with Tomhawk Ribeye, Grilled Split Lobster Tails, Cedar Plank-Smoked Salmon, and Slow-Smoked Angus Brisket. Because of the size of the guest count and the tent layout, we created a buffet station on each side of the tent, corresponding Versailles-style bar (Ventura Rental) and intimate, styled lounge seating area on each side so the there was no bottlenecking in any one given area. As with all good design, it’s mission critical to ensure a professional lighting designer provides uplighting, spotlighting and more to highlight the special features, otherwise, all the incredible design gets lost in the shadows. Lighting is also one of the most economical ways to stretch your decor spending plan and provides maximum “bang for the buck”. Note on the styled seating areas: one was more soft and feminine and the other was a full nod to the ranch/cowboy flavor of the historic Alisal Guest Ranch (see photos below) . We got both in.

When the dessert buffet was brought out, and after the cake cutting (by the way, Alisal’s Pastry Chef can customize any wedding cake design you wish) we stoked up the s’mores stations just steps away from the tent and guests enjoyed toasting s’mores under a star-studded sky with multiple fire pits and seating areas.

PS: Helpful hint to maximize your photo backdrop experience at the ranch: In addition to the iconic tree-lined entrance every Alisal wedding couple must have for their memories, consider arranging in advance with your catering manager to have an Alisal rep drive you and your photographer up to the restricted area of the Alisal private lake and other vistas that provide unique and incredible photo opps.

Event Partners: Venue & Catering: Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort: Ceremony: Creekside; Cocktails in Sycamore Room; Dinner/Dancing on Oval Lawn (tented) | Tent, White Dance Floor, Lounges, & All Rentals: Ventura Rental Party Center | Lighting Design: SPARK Creative Events | Florals: Anna Le Pley Taylor | Ceremony, Cocktail & Dinner/Dancing Music + Photobooth: Gavin Roy Presents | Photography: Mary Jane Photography | Hair/Makeup: Chiffon Salon | Wedding Planning & Coordination: Kerry Lee Doehr of Santa Barbara Wine Country Weddings & Events.

Just steps away from the main reception were multiple fire pits and a s’more station for guests to enjoy toasting s’mores under the winter starry sky while staying toasty. (above photos taken by wedding coordinator)