El Adobe de Capistrano

Wedding Venue Review

31891 Camino Capistrano
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675


El Adobe Colorful Wedding


I was once walking by the Big Ben and so many historical sites in London with a friend. She works close by. I asked her if she ever marvels at the history. She simply said "nope."  In Southern California we're not used to places we visit with that much history. So when we do find it, it really is special. If you get married at El Adobe you will be getting married at a state historical landmark with history that is nearly as old as the United States.

When you think about historical what does it mean to you? Parts of El Adobe date back to 1797. Lets put this into some very real terms. The United States was just 21 years old when this structure went up, and the United States was still fighting off the British. When some of the walls of this building were built, the President of the United States was George Washington! When George looked at a dollar he didn't see his portrait, the dollar at the time was from Mexico, the Spanish Dollar, Peso De Ocho (Pieces of Eight).El Adobe Restaurant candid

The building is actually a combination of a few different pieces of property including a stagecoach station courts and jails. When you go inside there are different looks to the building. This is because it's tying in all these different pieces of property under one roof. Speaking of the roof, it's the only one I know of that retracts and lets the stars in at night while you're having your first dance.

Fast forward, past the war of 1812 where we kicked out the British once and for all, and 1849 when the California Gold Rush, past the end of World Wars One and Two the very first wedding ceremony to occur at El Adobe happened on July 8, 1948. So, for nearly 70 years people have been getting married at El Adobe. Just a stone's throw away from Mission San Juan Capistrano El Adobe is hardcore Southern California heritage.

President Richard Nixon used to love to eat at El Adobe. He lived close by in San Clemente after office. The chef made him Mexican food though the restaurant served continental cuisine at the time. It was these Mexican Dishes that inspired the restaurant to serve Mexican food. It was a good idea because as it turns out, most of this Mexican restaurant predates California becoming a state in 1850. Some restaurants can brag about having authentic Mexican food. But how many can brag that they were originally built in Mexico?

El Adobe Restaurant ceremony siteWhat type of bride would like this place?

IF you were to make a list of the nicest venues in California a disproportionate amount of them would be in South Orange County. I've been all over Los Angeles for weddings and they do have have their stellar venues as well. They aren't that close to each other. In certain parts of South Orange County you can walk from pretty venue to pretty venue. With this in mind it's hard for anything to stand out. Some other local venues have that eye candy exterior when you pull up. With El Adobe you've got what appears to be a nice but inconspicuous Mexican Restaurant.

The one thing that has stood out in my mind is that I can remember each time I've gone to El Adobe. Each bridal wedding I've covered were bridal couples who were wonderful people, and each of their events were memorable. Most important of all, they really seem to get it.  I believe El Adobe attracts the more low key bride. 

El Adobe is like no other venue in South Orange County. Outside you have this to die for ceremony site that is nearly perfect. Inside you've got an enclosed patio with a retractable roof that turns it into an outdoor patio in the evening.  But here's the thing to consider. When you're at most receptions you're contained in a room. Once they turn up the music your guests can't speak to each other. This tends to drive people out of the room. At El Adobe you're on the patio, and yet you can watch what's going on in the reception through the windows. Your guests can take a breather outside without missing the reception.

Photographic Potential

Are you kidding, it's fantastic! But, if El Adobe has a trump card. If you pick up and walk down the street you can find yourself a the San Juan Capistrano train station just a few blocks away. This is the place people come from miles around just to take portraits. It's a little artist community with many fantastic and very different backgrounds to choose from.

Potential Problems/ Work AroundsEl Adobe Restaurant front

I do recall that when I was 14 years old our family had a huge wedding. We went to a venue on top of a large hill in Los Angeles and the initial impression of the venue was very memorable. Some brides are all about this initial impression. If that's your thing, yes, I do understand. Unfortunately, El Adobe doesn't have this going for it, it's more about rustic charm.  Thus if you're going for the wow factor this may not be the place.  

Since it's located near the Mission San Juan Capistrano it should give you a very good idea of where it's at. If you've lived in Southern California for more than a few weeks you've had to have driven by San Juan Capistrano more than a few times driving down the I5. The Mission's exit is clearly listed off the exit and then things get a bit funky when trying to find it. It doesn't matter if you exit the 5 north or southbound, you simply head west toward the ocean on Ortega Highway and make a left (Camino Capistrano) when you get to the Mission. I consider this freeway close and it's not at all difficult to find, or at least it seems that way. When people make a right instead of a left which is a very common mistake they will head north and within a few blocks they will start wondering "Where did all the people go?" When they start heading south on Camino Capistrano they'll pass the Mission and El Adobe is clearly marked on their right.

The I5 South is one of the two main ways to get to San Diego from the greater Los Angeles basin. It does get a lot of traffic and one good SIG alert can mess up your day. There are side streets both south and north of the 5 that can get you here in case of a SIG Alert but you'll need to have this worked out in advance. If you're from the area it's not a big deal, if not you should study a map and check out a few different options. There is a toll road (The 73) not too far from El Adobe which makes the possibility of having a wedding ceremony in Newport Beach and being at El Adobe quickly regardless of traffic a reality. This means that most of North Western Orange County is most likely doable on your wedding day. I do have to warn you that the 5 is just one of those freeways that gets traffic even on the weekends. The grounds at El Adobe are beautiful for a ceremony. I'd encourage you to have your ceremony here as well if that is a possibility for your wedding.

The only other thing to consider is that since the roof retracts it does have the potential to leak if you plan on getting married here in the winter months.  Pray for no rain!

Overall Evaluation

The Mission is a throwback to one of the most interesting points of world history.  Spain, which funded the Missions also funded global exploration (Columbus 1492) , established one of the first recognized international currencies, and spread Catholicism world wide. The Spanish Dollar was too much money to spend, thus it was cut into 8 pieces (pieces of 8).  The pieces were called "Bits" thus the terms "Shave and a haircut, two bits" and "Two Bit floozie." (this means a 25 cent prostitute). Even the Mexican and Filipino Currency, the Peso comes from the term Peso de Ocho- Pieces of 8.    The parrot in 'Pirates of the Caribian' yells out "Pieces of Eight."   They didn't explain this in the movie.  The Spanish Dollars were made in Mexico and sent by ship to Spain.  The pirates of this era often raided these ships for the Spanish Dollars.   The Spanish Dollar was easy spending money recognized and accepted worldwide.  It remained the de facto currency for centuries.   San Juan Capistrano Train Tracks

The Mission ties us to 16th century Spain, and not only Catholicism but England's Henry the Eights decision to turn the Catholic Churches in England to Protestant Christian churches.  We don't get much old world history in Southern California. This Mission in particular, Mission San Juan Capistrano is world famous. It's one of the more popular missions and the story of the Swallows returning to San Juan Capistrano yearly is another thing that makes it magical. When people wander away from the Mission for lunch they'll find El Adobe. And how can you not fall in love with the charm of this place?

You can say El Adobe is a throwback to simpler times. At the time the first walls went up the United States was fighting for it's independence to the east and Mexico was yet to fight for it's  own independence against the French. If all of this wasn't bad enough people were dying of measles up in San Francisco. This was a simpler time? No it wasn't. But a common theme which motivated President John Adams was the notion that we'd have to struggle today so that our children can have a better life.

El Adobe symbolizes a few things to me. First it's a link between the Rancho Mission era and Southern California's modern society. But more importantly it was put up during a time of uncertainty and possibility. A few hundred years ago someone said "This is where I want to build my home" not knowing all the wonderful things that were going to happen down the road. There are many blessings that are part of El Adobe's blessings. Today there are people who have decided to make a commitment to stay together for life and have found that El Adobe is the place that they want to make it happen. The wonderful thing about life is that despite your best plans you'll never know where it will go and who will join you along the journey.

As for a wedding venue, my favorite part of El Adobe is that they seem to be hands off. Yes they keep the venue running during your reception but they aren't militant. It's a lovely little place that ideally suited for the low key bride. It's photogenic and has other areas that are also very photogenic close by. One question you'll probably have is why not use the Mission for photography? I've shot there a few times and I'm on their mailing list. Your photographer has to have insurance to enter the grounds and they are very particular about the insurance policy.  Then you'll need to make an appointment and then pay rates that are perhaps a bit too expensive. For the bride and groom by themselves it may be feasible. But for the family and bridal party, well, check the rates out for yourself. Yes,it's lovely as well but if you're interested in using it perhaps you'll be better off with an engagement session there where you'll have more time to utilize the grounds. The other possibility is to see each other well in advance and door your romantics at the Mission prior to your wedding.
El Adobe with roof closedThe other big selling point is the sliding ceiling. During your first dance the ceiling opens up and suddenly you're outside. It's a neat trick. Honestly, the music is so loud that you  can't hear the motors opening the ceiling and thus its one of those things where you look up and say "Hey, the roof opened up" at some point during the evening. It's neat but there is so much else going for this venue that it's one of those things that is icing on the cake. But it's also one of those things you'll never forget.

The term "Local Destination Weddings" comes to mind when I think of El Adobe. When you have to get on a plane and fly to your wedding the wedding planning complexity goes through the roof. Whatever you can't take with you has to be shipped, and that often is often more than you can imagine. Mexico used to be a local destination wedding haven. It was close enough to drive to but different enough to be considered a bit of a novelty. Now it's just too unsafe to go there anymore. Thus wedding venues that are far enough away that they aren't familiar but close enough to drive to seems to be in vogue. This are seems to be fantastic because it's so close to the ocean that it's wonderful. You've got golf courses, theme parks, 5 star hotels along with budget hotels all in the area. The San Juan Capistrano and San Clement areas tend to have enough going for it that you can plan a very nice wedding weekend in the area. It's very close to Laguna Beach. It's close enough to John Wayne Airport for your out of town guests. When you think of guests leaving at 10 PM at night from your reception they can be home within 90 minutes in an area that spans from San Diego through a good chunck of the San Fernando Valley and most of the Metro Inland Empire. 

El Adobe is a wonderful wedding venue and I highly suggest you check it out.

 El Adobe with roof open


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