Forget Paris. San Juan Capistrano is becoming the City of Love.
Our fair town may have lost a wedding venue recently when the , but it gained a new one in Serra Plaza when it started offering outdoor weddings in its courtyard last year.
Then just this weekend, Serra Plaza opened an indoors solution for those wanting a more intimate setting with a fireplace – or for those looking to escape unexpected inclement weather.
“The wedding part has really taken off. We don’t have any Saturdays from June to October open,” said Mary Lallande, who manages the facility.
An office building by weekday, Serra Plaza seemed to have been built with entertainment in mind, Lallande said. The freshman facility got lucky with the weather last year – it was booked for weddings only through the warmer months of the year – but the plaza’s owner, Bill Griffith, wanted to expand, she said.
The space the new "Grand Salon" now occupies was originally designed to be a restaurant, according to city planning records.
Lallande decided to go with a warm vanilla paint, and brown stained concrete floors but left pretty much everything else a “blank canvas” for brides to build their dream wedding. This includes installing just hooks for rented chandeliers.
“As soon as I put up a chandelier I like, I’ll have a bride who doesn’t like it all,” Lallande said.
This weekend’s couple brought in red leather sofas to turn the Grand Salon’s adjacent outdoor patio area into a cigar lounge, Lallande said. Every bride wants to put their own twist on décor. Even last year, when vintage weddings were all the rage, no two set-ups looked the same, she said.
Serra Plaza may be fairly new, it opened in 2006, but its architectural lines with its arches and walkways mimic the feeling of historic San Juan, Lallande said. It’s a popular go-to reception area for couples exchanging their vows at . But it can also host weddings itself. Lallande found 100-year-old church pews she offers as an unexpected outdoor touch.
Other wedding venues in town include and The Villa. Even the city is in the wedding biz, renting out the . Council members have also targeted . They’re scheduled to discuss the city-owned property on Feb. 7.
Before she booked the Saturdays of the entire wedding season, Lallande said she was able to help one jilted bride-to-be who lost her deposit from .
“I said, ‘I could give you the venue for free.’ She started crying and sobbing,” she said. The bride’s February wedding was moved to April, the same day as her parents’ own anniversary. “So it ended up working out better for her.”