Wedding destination: La Jolla

Couple hold environmentally friendly event at Scripps Seaside Forum

Of the 2.4 million weddings that occur annually in the U.S., 16 percent are destination weddings.

The majority of these unions take place in Las Vegas, with tropical locales such as Hawaii, Mexico and the Caribbean coming in second.

With its gorgeous coastal backdrop, temperate weather, romantic ambience and plethora of options for just about any type of wedding, La Jolla is an underappreciated but much favored site for couples looking for that one-of-a-kind setting.

Who comes to La Jolla?

Rebecca Neborsky and Barry Schlansky were introduced by a mutual friend while in medical school in 2003. After becoming engaged, Rebecca -- who grew up in North County and attended La Jolla Country Day and whose father, Robert Neborsky, is on staff at UCSD -- knew she wanted their wedding to be held in Southern California, despite the fact that the couple, both physicians, were then living in Seattle.

“I knew I wanted it in San Diego because I love the ocean,” Rebecca said. “I have a special love for Del Mar because I spent a lot of time on the beach there, (but) I was hoping to find a place where guests wouldn’t need a car.”

They also took into account the fact that for many guests, this would be their first visit to California, so they wanted a location that showcased the region. Proximity to recreational and leisure pursuits, attractions, entertainment, restaurants and shopping was also important so that guests traveling a fair distance could extend the trip into a vacation, as well as offering options for guests not participating in all of the wedding activities.

“Many guests were from out of town,” said Sandra Neborsky, mother of the bride who helped plan much of the wedding and a resident of Olivenhain. “Therefore, we really had to create a big weekend for everyone.”

That’s when they settled on La Jolla.

“It was the beauty of San Diego captured in the Village and the Shores,” Sandra said.

More than a ceremony

The headline on the Web site Schlansky created for their nuptials read: “Barry + Rebecca, La Jolla, California 05/24/09.” It underscored the role The Jewel would take as an unofficial member of their wedding party.

“The whole wedding was La Jolla,” Sandra said.

As the inaugural wedding at the Scripps Seaside Forum (officially known as the Robert Paine Scripps Forum for Science, Society and the Environment), the “green” venue reflected the environmentally friendly values of the couple, while providing an oceanfront expanse of indoor and outdoor space around which to design their ceremony.

“I felt connected to the space,” Rebecca said, “and for his side of the family, it was a treat to be in this place.”

Featuring teak wood, floor-to-ceiling windows, a built-in bar, a concrete patio, lush lawns and just steps away from the Pacific Ocean, the Scripps Seaside Forum combines functionality with ambience.

“I think that when people come in from other states and see that beach, that’s what people imagine California to be,” said Donna Stout, manager of the facility. “It’s turned into a really popular place for social events and weddings because of its location and the setup. I know that people love how close we are to the Village.”

Scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, the couple created an itinerary around the many nuances of La Jolla.

The day before the wedding, Rebecca led friends and family through a yoga workout at Ellen Browning Scripps Park, followed by a festive taco cookout. The nontraditional rehearsal dinner included all of the guests and was held at the Whisknladle Bistro & Bar on Wall Street. In between events, many of the visitors went kayaking and snorkeling, or visited the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

“They really wanted to showcase the area and make sure everything in conjunction with the wedding -- the satellite events, the accommodations -- were convenient for the guests,” said Melissa Barrad, the couple’s day-of wedding planner and owner of La Jolla’s I Do … Weddings!

Planning a destination wedding

Whether traveling to Fiji or Key West, brides and grooms want an event that is personalized.

While there are many beautiful locations along the Southern California coast, Barrad said La Jolla offers couples several distinct advantages: family-friendly activities, affordable attractions, historic points of interest, water sports, all types of restaurants and caterers, a centralized location for accommodations and events, mansion rentals, beachfront space and the quaint appeal of the Village.

It is also a convenient stopover for couples who plan to continue on to a honeymoon.

“A lot of couples … will get married here in San Diego and then pop off to the next destination,” Barrad said.

For couples not honeymooning, such as Rebecca and Barry, who are in the process of completing medical residencies and planning a move, their destination was a wedding and romantic getaway rolled into one. The small cottage they rented fit the bill perfectly.

“We definitely felt like we were on vacation, away from all our responsibilities,” Rebecca said. “It felt like a mini honeymoon.”

Whether their style is a barefoot beach ceremony, an intimate wedding at a multimillion-dollar private estate or an all-out extravaganza at the Estancia La Jolla, one destination -- La Jolla -- has it all.

“I think the most important thing is finding a place you love and that you’ll come back to for your anniversaries,” Barrad said.