Located just an hour away from Los Angeles, a burgeoning destination wedding site has emerged in the unlikeliest of places — Riverside. Though it might not be the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of a quintessential Southern California wedding, the city is becoming a popular wedding and honeymoon option for a number of reasons. Take its location, for example. Riverside’s close proximity to Temecula Wine Valley and Palm Springs make it an exciting place for wedding parties who are looking to explore the surrounding area. When planning for your upcoming wedding, it might be time to think beyond tried and true Los Angeles. You just might be pleasantly surprised when you do.
Part of the Riverside’s major appeal for wedding and honeymoon options lies in a hidden gem full of a colorful romantic history: The Mission Inn & Spa. The property has hosted everyone from celebrities to U.S. presidents, and remnants of these extravagant affairs still adorn the property today. In its stunning St. Francis of Assisi Chapel, 22-foot mahogany doors reveal an expansive wedding chapel decorated with an18-karat gold Rayas Altarpiece from 18th -century Mexico, Tiffany stained glass, and other decor from around the world.
There is more than 20,000 square feet of space for events, including four restaurants (don’t miss the lobster bisque at Duane’s Prime Steaks and Seafood) and a 7,000 square foot Tuscan-inspired spa for pre-ceremony relaxation. Mission Inn has 238 guest rooms, including 27 suites, giving wedding parties an array of overnight options. Architecture includes Spanish archways, secluded gardens and a tasting room inspired by the archetypal wine cellar.
After the ceremony, if you want to relax in the style of world leaders, book the Alhambra Suite, where Ronald and Nancy Reagan spent their honeymoon night together. In her 1980 autobiography, Nancy, she wrote, “The manager had placed a beautiful bouquet of roses in the bridal suite. The next morning before we left, we deliver them to an elderly woman across the hall (whom) had learned was quite ill. It somehow seemed fitting to share our happiness.”
The Mission Inn’s famed romantic history doesn’t stop there. Starlet Bette Davis wed William Sherry in the St. Francis chapel before heading off to Mexico City for their honeymoon. Judy Garland and musician David Rose spent part of their honeymoon here. Richard Nixon and his wife Patricia were married in front of the fireplace of the Presidential Suite in a small ceremony with an intimate reception in the Spanish Art Gallery at the Inn.
There are romantic traditions still present on property today, too. One includes bridal couples pausing after the ceremony to sign their names to a register before stepping down a double marble stairway to their wedding reception. Another is the collection of lip prints that adorn the register’s pages, inspired by a bride who once kissed the paper and started the tradition.
Just outside the Inn, Riverside’s Main Street offers a number of outdoor dining, imbibing and quiet evening strolls. Enjoying the perks of its Southern California location, the city offers warm temperatures nearly year round. For outdoor lovers, Mt. Rubidoux Park is a great option for a hike that reveals a panoramic view of the city as a reward. Or, relax at Mission Inn’s pool with a margarita from Las Campanas in hand. Yes, this is Riverside.