(Closed) Oak Canyon Nature Center vs the Beach

posted 9 years ago in Orange County, California
Post # 3
23 posts
  • Wedding: September 2012

We had friends get married at La Palapa restaurant in Long Beach. They had their ceremony, with an arch and chairs and all in the sand, but then were able to have a grand ballroom for their reception. There was a parking lot right there, though that day, half the city was shut down for a marathon or something. They were definitely on a budget, so I don’t know what it cost them (though I do know they had family make their entire Indian food buffet, which probably saved a boatload of cash).


About Oak Canyon, I do think I know someone who was thinking about having their wedding there, but I want to say something was up with photography, like, needing a permit, or…


There were two reviews about people getting married there that I found, stuff to think about, though with only partial one sided information, it’s hard to tell:




So i also got married here recently and my experience was a bit different. We had chosen and paid for the place over a year ago, when there was another coodinator(before Denise). I don’t remember her name but she was great, super informative, very relaxed and helpful.  Almost immediately after we had booked it, Denise took charge and things changed.  She abruptly said no to everything the nicer lady had said yes too(letting us set up a little the night before, letting us keep things in the building overnight, other things that would make the day easier), and just was very curt and not very helpful when questioned.

fast forward to three weeks before the wedding, where i realized we would need to come in earlier than our allotted time, and therefore i wanted to pay for the extra hour to set up.  I and two other ladies called and left multiple messages over the course of those weeks, with NO return call. we figured we would just go in early anyway.  So the morning of, my parents and friends are working on setting up the  ceremony and reception areas, the staff, who didn’t have a CLUE what was going on, yelled at them repeatedly about how we had too many cars in the area and how we weren’t supposed to have a reception(neither of which were ever mentioned previously and we had told them in the beginning we were having a reception!!!)

After the wedding, they then began bugging every single member of my family making sure they knew they had to get out at the allotted time(which they all knew full well and would have been done cleaning up faster if the staff had stopped being so rude), pretty much shouted at my father about some string that we had ‘left’ but was in fact there when we got there and wasn’t even ours, and complained again about the cars.  In the end they fined us an extra amount because we were there early(which i was willing to pay for anyway but never got a call back) but then got an extra fine for things like having a reception, which was absurd.  

in the end my wedding WAS absolutely beautiful, the spot is fantastic, i just wish it hadn’t been marred by the terribly incompetent and rude staff and Denise, who didn’t help in any way whatsoever.



I got married here last weekend!  So since I didn’t see any reviews for having a wedding here, I figured I would add my experience.  I think it’s becoming more and more popular for weddings since it showed up on a few bridal blogs–and I ran into a few other people taking measurements and stuff as I was doing the same.  That being said, I booked the amphitheater about 6 months in advance for our ceremony without a problem.  Denise Durkin was the person I dealt with and she was awesome–very knowledgeable, relaxed, and responsive to my emails full of questions.

This place is pretty darn cheap for a ceremony for all the things you get.  Included in the 4 hour ceremony rental (about $700) is great microphone system, electricity, access to the Nature Center’s restroom (which is much nicer than the public restrooms in the parking lot), they offered the use of their golf cart and driver to escort people from where they were parking to the ceremony site–a life saver for the elderly people attending the ceremony, and basically free reign to use any place in the park.  

There are a few things that are NOT included, though, that people should be aware of.  First off, this is a public park, which means you cannot close off any portion of it.  For our ceremony, there were a few people that walked along the back, but they were barely noticeable.  (Honestly, we considered that this might bother us, but for any cheap, public location you are always going to have this problem, but it’s not exactly Laguna Beach with tons of tourists stopping to snap pictures.  The few people we saw basically stopped for a moment or walked around.)  Maybe the most jarring aspect of this caveat though was when another bridal party showed up to take their pre-wedding pictures.   They were gone before our actual ceremony started and, honestly, it was kind of funny and we all wished each other congrats.

Of course we had the ceremony in their amphitheater.  I would call it small because it sort of feels that way, but our family and friends numbered around 150 people and no one had a problem finding a seat.  The location itself is beautiful with a stream running right behind the amphitheater that has plenty of water in it year-round.  If you’re considering this location, I would actually recommend getting married in the fall rather than spring because there can be a bug problem.  We noticed when we were there planning in May and June there were a lot more flies,etc, but the day of the wedding in mid-September there were barely any.    Overall, the location is about as dream-like/woodsy as you can get in Southern California.  If you are looking for a rustic, outdoor location that is shaded and beautiful, this is as good as it gets.  (Just an FYI: tell your photographer that they should be ready for “dappled” light conditions so they can bring the right lenses).  Some of my friends described the venue as “lothlorian” from Lord of the Rings, pixie-like, and foresty–but most just called it down-right beautiful.  You should be sure to tell your guests to wear closed-toed, flat shoes and warn them that they may get DUSTY!

In 4 hours, we also set up a “cocktail” hour (I put the cocktail in quotations because it was dry; we would’ve had to apply for a permit from the city to serve alcohol for another 600-700 bucks).  Right next to the ceremony location is a nice sized flat area.  We put out cocktail tables, benches, and a buffet table to serve drinks and some small foods.  We also had a shave ice company come in and set up because we thought it would be a hot day.  The nature center staff were fine with all of this and told us we could do whatever we wanted as long as we stayed within our time allotment and didn’t have any open flames or decorations that would hurt the natural setting (i.e. confetti, etc).  I think with the cleanup we actually went over our 4 hour time limit, but my coordinator said the OCNC staff was very relaxed and didn’t charge us for the over-time.

For a ceremony location, this was everything we wanted: cheap, relaxed, picturesque, unique, and memorable.  You can also have your reception here for about twice the price, but we figured logistically it would be easier to go somewhere without bugs for the food.  (The Anaheim Hills golf course is right up the street, although this isn’t where we went.)



Looks like its all DIY, so you’ll need to have a team to come in early and get everything done. and then be prepared to stay after and clean up. The food was probably light cocktail hour, not reception.



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