Plan your wedding to take place in Lake Tahoe and be assured of a spectacular day. A wedding in Tahoe puts the focus on that blue, blue water and those endless sunsets—a backdrop that requires little to no embellishment.
Plan your wedding to take place in Lake Tahoe and be assured of a spectacular day.
We summer in Tahoe, we ski in Tahoe—all just two hours from our front doors—and sometimes we forget we’re looking at some of the most gorgeous scenery on Earth. But a wedding in Tahoe puts the focus on that blue, blue water and those endless sunsets—a backdrop that requires little to no embellishment. “When you have floor-to-ceiling views of the lake, you don’t need to over-decorate the room,” says Bryan Davis, director of sales and marketing at Edgewood Tahoe. “And when you get to this location, you really want the chance to take it in, especially for people who don’t see it every day.”
Because the majority of Tahoe weddings are “destination weddings,” most venues have—or can suggest—experienced coordinators to help couples plan from afar. “We have a full-time event staff and two people fully dedicated to weddings,” says Missy Frey, marketing director for West Shore Café. “And we have a list of preferred vendors that we highly recommend.”
In short, it is easy to take the plunge and say “I Do” right on the lake. Here are four examples to get you started—and the hardest part may be choosing between one of them and the scores of other beautiful lakeside venues.
THUNDERBIRD LAKE TAHOE
This 6.5-acre historic estate was built in the 1930s by San Francisco millionaire George Whittell Jr., whose father founded PG&E and left him $29 million—money he protected by liquidating his stocks just weeks before the market crashed. (Always financially savvy, he built Thunderbird in Nevada to avoid income taxes.) In his day, he threw card parties for Howard Hughes and Ty Cobb, with showgirls from Cal-Neva smuggled in through tunnels. He even kept a pet lion, who sat in the passenger seat of his Murphy convertible roadster for drives around the lake.
More recently, Thunderbird has hosted presidents (Reagan and Clinton), as well as figures from the business, sports and entertainment industries—many of whom got married on-site. “We have a lot of celebrity weddings here,” says Bill Watson, chief executive and curator of the nonprofit Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society. “And they’re often very spontaneous—I’ll get a call from an agent asking if we have availability for the coming weekend. Those are usually 10–20 people, very intimate, very low profile. They’ll have the ceremony, have champagne, wander the grounds, then go off to dinner—or have our private chef cook for them.”
The society’s board vets all wedding applications, and only accepts six to eight large weddings a year, which are capped at 150 guests, primarily to protect the setting. The donation you make to rent Thunderbird—for the day or a few hours—also goes to fund preservation efforts. “We are the only venue where a significant portion of your wedding (costs) can be deducted from your taxes,” says Watson. Couples choose Thunderbird for their ceremony and reception, but also sometimes for a rehearsal dinner. Site options are the Main Lawn and several secluded terraces, the Lighthouse Room or the Old Lodge. Guests are also given a docent-led tour of the estate, including the famous Thunderbird yacht. “You are getting to step back into time,” says Watson. “This is a very unique, magical property.”
Plan to book Thunderbird six to 12 months in advance and be aware there is limited event parking (although boat shuttles are available). 5000 NV-28, Incline Village, NV, (775) 832-8750, thunderbirdtahoe.org.
Edgewood Tahoe is lakefront and includes an alpine lodge where each room has a gas fireplace and outdoor terrace, an 18-hole golf course with lake and mountain views, three restaurants and a full-service spa. “Definitely the venue is dramatic,” says sales and marketing director Davis. “It’s an authentic place you can touch and feel. It fits the area we’re in. But the lakeside location is its greatest selling point.” In fact, whether you choose an inside or outside event space, you can’t avoid the amazing views. “It gives you a little bit of everything,” says Davis. “Beach, snow-capped mountains, grass and golf course, real rock and real wood in the lodge, and a pier.”
Edgewood also provides a seasoned event staff—all with 15 to 20 years of experience there—as well as preferred vendors, including fireworks companies for a show over the water. You can book lodging for your guests at the time you book your wedding, and there are plenty of activities at the resort to keep everyone happily busy—whether it’s teeing off, grabbing a craft beer on the deck at sunset, or enjoying a foot massage in the spa. Special arrangements for the bride and groom include a round of golf; hair, makeup and nails done at the salon; or a couple’s hot stone massage. “People are pleasantly surprised at our service and quality of product,” says Davis.”We don’t just rely on our location—we follow through.”
Plan to book Edgewood nine to 12 months in advance for high season; at least six months in advance for winter. 100 Lake Parkway, Lake Tahoe, NV, (775) 553-6956, edgewoodtahoe.com.
This 11,703-square-foot, two-story Queen Anne was built in 1902 as Pine Lodge, the summer home of a wealthy San Francisco banker, Isaias W. Hellman (he was president of what eventually became Wells Fargo). When Hellman died in 1920, his youngest daughter, Florence Ehrman, inherited it, and the family continued to vacation there—with a full staff—until Ehrman died in 1964. Her daughter sold it to the state in 1965, and the property was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
It’s now part of Ed Z’Berg Sugar Pine Point State Park, one of the largest remaining natural areas on Lake Tahoe, with 2 miles of lake frontage. There are two outside event spaces: a lakefront site, which can accommodate up to 200 guests, and a site directly in front of the mansion, which can seat 150 people. The mansion itself can’t be used for special events, but you can register your guests for one of the public tours of the inside, which includes a unique redwood dining room, hardwood floors, leaded glass cabinets and 1930s period furniture. Guests can also hike, stroll the grounds, kayak or paddleboard.
The park staff encourages couples to use their imaginations, and the venue has—for example—hosted a sunrise ceremony on the beach, a wedding party that arrived by boat, and an 1800s-themed wedding. The special events office also provides a list of experienced vendors who do weddings at the mansion on a regular basis. Nearby lodging includes Granlibakken Tahoe (granlibakken.com) and Sunnyside Restaurant & Lodge (sunnysideresort.com).
A lottery for wedding applications at the mansion is held each May; after that it’s first-come/first-served. (If you’re flexible, it’s possible to snag a date just a few months in advance.) 7595 West Lake Blvd., Tahoma, CA, (530) 525-3345, parks.ca.gov.
WEST SHORE CAFÉ
West Shore Café is adjacent to Homewood Mountain Resort and provides a variety of wedding sites—all of them with stunning views. “People love our venue because of the accessibility to the lake,” says marketing director Frey. “We are lakefront and have a dock, with lots of options to get married on the lake and then be outside or inside for the reception.” One choice, for example, is to “let the lake be your something blue,” and hold your entire event on the deck and pier. “Brides have even arrived via a wooden boat,” says Frey, “and hopped off and gotten married.” Or take a chairlift to the top of Homewood’s mountain and have your ceremony there, with panoramic views of the lake, then come down to the lodge for cocktail hour and dinner. Fireworks over the water can be arranged as well. “It’s definitely that kind of venue, where the staff is very experienced at special requests,” says Frey. “And (as the bride) you really don’t have to do a lot of work.”
Couples can also do a “full buy-out” at West Shore, which includes all the outdoor space, the restaurant, the bed-and-breakfast’s six rooms, and two villas that each sleep eight to 10 people. (West Shore partners with several local inns and boutique hotels if you need additional lodging.) And it’s undeniably a place where you—and your guests—could while away the weekend, with on-site bike rentals, nearby hiking trails and a marina with sailboats right next door. “Where we’re located on the West Shore—well, we call it the ‘Best Shore,’” says Frey. “It’s quieter, more the Old Tahoe feeling.”
Plan to book West Shore six to 12 months in advance. 160 West Lake Blvd., Homewood, CA, 530-525-5200, westshorecafe.com.