California Wedding Photographer | Redwoods Wedding California | California Redwoods Wedding Venues
The story of how I ended up photographing Emily and Leroy’s California redwoods wedding is certainly unusual, but I’ll tell you that another time in person because their photos are all you need to understand. Can you imagine a more beautiful couple getting married under the fog-covered redwoods canopy?
On Emily & Leroy’s wedding day, the scene I arrived on was not at all expected. 90-degree days all week in the San Francisco Bay Area did not translate to this Oakland park wedding, because when I arrived it was a whoppingly low 54 degrees. It was raining. The chairs were all wet, and constant drops kept falling from the 80-foot-tall redwoods. Everyone setting up was in winter coats, and I was photographing with two jackets on!
To say it was colder than expected is an understatement, but as a photographer, that cloudy weather meant perfect lighting for Emily & Leroy’s afternoon ceremony under the towering California redwoods. When the sun is shining through, it can create stippled (uneven/splotchy) lighting while filtering through branches. This can be a cool effect when used right for portraits, but when it comes to a ceremony (where the photographer has no control over where everyone stands), even lighting in cloudy weather is my favorite.
San Francisco Redwoods Wedding Venue: Roberts Regional Park
When it comes to redwoods wedding venues, there are dozens around California—especially the San Francisco Bay Area. But shockingly affordable and beautiful for the DIY couple is this venue: Roberts Regional Recreation Area. Try saying that 3 times fast.
The Roberts Regional Recreation picnic areas offer several different spots to say your vows, with chairs provided via rental by the parks department. You can then have your reception around the Madrone Picnic Area just 100 feet away. It’s very DIY, and just a few hundred dollars to rent. You hire or bring in everything at this redwoods venue: Your florals, table runners for picnic benches, speakers, coolers, keg, catering, carpet, you name it. For a few hundred bucks and a chance on the weather, it’s kind of hard to go wrong with this incredible beauty.
California Redwoods Wedding Venues
Redwoods wedding venues can cost anywhere from under $1000 (here at Roberts Regional Recreation area) to $100,000 and more (the gorgeous Nestldown in San Mateo), so you can have a redwoods wedding while being as thrifty or as extravagant as you please. Having a woodsy wedding is usually a great choice in NorCal due to little rain and warm weather, so this was definitely an exception. If you do indeed decide to host your celebration in a forest wedding venue, make sure you have towels, high heel shoe warnings, a rain plan, layers, etc.
The many county, regional, and state parks around California (and Washington/Oregon if you want the redwoods feel but don’t mind some Sitka spruce, which looks quite similar) are a great option for the generally high (think $20,000/venue space to start) private redwoods wedding venue costs. If you use a public park, you do have to deal with weather, but you can reserve a time and place for next to nothing.
Even if you’re not spending much for your venue, make sure to choose your photographer wisely. Shooting in such a dark environment can be tricky, so you want to make sure your skin tones are accurate and not green-hued or shaded. As a destination wedding photographer based in both California and New York, I’ve photographed all around the USA and world, and have over a decade of experience in every lighting scenario imaginable. So, know what you’re looking for, and make sure your photographer knows how to properly expose for a redwoods environment, no matter the weather, getting plenty of epic wedding photos (wide-angle verticals) with the awe-inspiring redwoods, sequoias, and Sitka spruce.
A Rainy and Beautiful Woodsy Wedding
Luckily, I had a bunch of towels for emergencies in my car, so their friends went to work wiping off each chair and prepping the welcome book. Guests soon arrived, and I went with Emily’s father to wait for the limo. Up pulled a 1960s Rolls Royce, gifted by a friend of Emily’s for her wedding day. Emily and her two gorgeous sisters/bridesmaids all go out, and Emily waited nervously with her father.
The ceremony started as friends rolled out a crepe aisle, and Leroy and his mother walked down, followed by the ringbearers and flower kids. Then came Emily and her father walking in front of a foggy redwoods backdrop, Leroy grinning ear to ear upon seeing his bride.
Their vows were tearful but adorable, and because of this venue, I was allowed a more unique vantage point of taking photos from behind the couple, facing the audience. A seriously beautiful couple!
Let the Party Begin!
While guests went off to eat and drink, we took family photos and honored Emily’s mother, who passed away and was given a reserved front seat at the wedding. Despite the cold weather and dark woods, I loved capturing this beautiful family—and don’t even get me started on toasts, where pretty much everyone cried.
For portraits, we used the Rolls Royce and got photo after photo in the romantic woodsy areas. Redwoods wedding venues may be all around, but Roberts Regional Recreation Area is certainly hard to beat for being close to an airport (25 minutes from OAK and a bit more from SFO and SJC), out in nature, yet close to sightseeing and activities. Nearby in the SF Bay Area is not only Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco, but nature and more: Chabot Space & Science Center up the road, bay cruises nearby, events and theatre, outlet shopping, Napa/Sonoma just an hour away, and much more.
A Cold Yet Most Perfect California Redwoods Wedding Celebration
There was a lot of meaning and sentimentality with every trinket in Leroy and Emily’s wedding, and their laughter was present throughout every moment. A friend from their former home in Hawaii brought a fresh flower crown lei, another friend played ukulele and sang, and the bride held a photo of her mother. Emily’s faux mink bolero was perfect for this spunky bride—aaaand for keeping her warm in the weather. Plus, the food was DELICIOUS, with amazing mini cupcakes in many flavors.
The playlist and dancing started, they cut the cake, and even as the fog continue to blow in and out of the twinkling lights, no one even noticed they were cold anymore~
Kathryn Cooper Weddings: Redwoods Wedding Venues | Roberts Regional Recreation Area Wedding – Madrone Picnic Area | California Redwoods Venues