A shore thing

It’s possible to find a Lake Tahoe wedding venue without blowing the budget

As the world’s second-largest alpine lake and one of the most picturesque backdrops on the West Coast, Lake Tahoe is one of the top tourist destinations in the country—and this is especially true during wedding season. Year-round demand for the stunning waters and laid-back charm of the surrounding communities can leave local couples feeling priced out, but the following venues specialize in balancing breathtaking scenery with a modest budget.

Riva Grill
900 Ski Run Blvd., South Lake Tahoe, California
(530) 542-2600

On close to the southernmost point of Lake Tahoe is Riva Grill, a lakeside lodge specializing in beach weddings and with space for both extended families if needed. The entire restaurant can be rented to feed and entertain up to 400 people between its two floors and wrap around ground-level deck and second-floor balcony. Pricing, of course, scales by level of service, but a ceremony for a couple and 75 guests starts as low as $800.

“That’s pretty much on the low end, and you are able to bring in your own vendors to kind of help make it your own space,” said Kimberly Bjerke, group sales manager at Riva Grill. “Then the reception directly follows inside the restaurant on the second floor, which has beautiful views of the entire lake, and sliding glass doors that open up to a small deck.”

Riva Grill’s rates are broken down into à la carte items with flat rates, like a flat $600 dance floor setup fee or $16 per guest table preparation, meaning budgeting is simple for prospective couples. There are also nearly a dozen pri fixe menus with pricing per guest.

“One thing to note is that it is a public beach, but I think that’s pretty common around the lake,” Bjerke said. “There’s not very many places that offer a private beachfront, but it’s still beautiful and accessible.”

The place is named for the Riva wooden boats that were once must-haves for the lake’s boating elite. They’re similar to the Gar Woods, both the name of another brand of wooden cruiser and of Riva’s sister restaurant on the North Shore (5000 North Lake Blvd., Carnelian Bay, California)—which is also available for weddings for a comparable price.

Lake Tahoe Bleu Wave
2435 Venice Drive, South Lake Tahoe, California

Plenty of couples want to get married on the shores of Lake Tahoe, but few know that getting married on the actual lake is an option with the Bleu Wave.

“It’s a 70-foot yacht, and it’s a 1966 Burger, so it’s like that classic yacht look,” said owner and wedding coordinator Laura Forvilly. “She’s beautiful.”

The Bleu Wave has taken passengers on cruises around some of Lake Tahoe’s most scenic waterways for the past 13 years. It’s also a floating wedding venue, complete with a ceremony on the open deck with the captain as the officiant—in accordance with maritime law, of course. Forvilly offers eight different wedding packages, with the lowest package starting at $999 for an official ceremony during the Bleu Wave’s daily lunchtime cruises.

“This is also a great one for couples who just kind of want to elope, and they want to have something romantic for just the two of them,” Forvilly said. “We can take up to 47 passengers, and there are usually about 10 to 15 people. So, it’s usually smaller, but it just depends on you group.”

Also offered at $999 is a dock-side wedding with a longer ceremony. It’s also the base pricing for the custom package, where couples can choose specific elements like in-house photography or floral arrangements, or even a full three-hour sunset cruise around Emerald Bay.

Forvilly also mentioned that, as operating costs for the boat and vendor prices vary from year to year, and in the absence of seasonal price drops, she offers certain discounts for committed couples.

“If you booked before the New Year, you get last year’s pricing, even if it was booked for the next summer,” she said. “I’m usually do a 20 percent off if paid in full. So, we try to help our brides and grooms out as much as possible.”

Tahoe Biltmore
5 NV-28, Crystal Bay

The Tahoe Biltmore is a hotel, lodge and casino on the Nevada side of the lake, and has enough venues to provide for pretty much every type of Tahoe wedding—even if guests might want their own private nightclub, for example—broken down into a single à la carte menu containing both winter and summer rates.

“It can be incredibly frustrating because a lot of places say, ‘OK, we want you to inquire first before I give you any rates,’” said Jamie-Lee Jurgensen, events and sales director at the Biltmore. “And then you get back some crazy number that you weren’t expecting.”

Couples can pick and choose amenities like renting the chapel for two hours for $500, or one-hour beach ceremony for $1,600 with a street car-like trolley to transport guests back and forth. Prices are clearly marked in bold wording, and information like payment schedules or liability policies are stated as plainly as possible.

“We can build a wedding to match their budget as well,” Jurgensen said. “Instead of starting at a baseline of how many guests or what type of ceremony are you looking for, we start with that baseline price, and we build from there.”

With a maximum capacity of up to 300 people, a 24-hour bar and on-site casino, guests will have no shortage of things to occupy their time.