orange county venues

Outside the Lines

T

he collective clink of Champagne flutes marking five years of marriage. An ear-to-ear smile from behind 40 flickering candles artfully arranged. Pride and joy as the 12-year-old makes his grand entrance. Life’s milestones deserve to be celebrated, and pausing to mark them creates lasting memories.

The first step in planning for such occasions is to find a venue, and, in temperate Orange County, the wish list usually includes fresh air. Three local hotel properties got the memo and have designed spaces that provide stunning—and practical—backdrops for virtually any life cycle event. The event teams that represent The Resort at Pelican Hill,® Island Hotel Newport Beach® and Hotel Irvine encourage planners, be they individuals or pros, to think outside the lines and outside the box.

An Italian-themed bridal shower dovetails with the Palladian architecture of Pelican Grill’s private dining room and ocean-view terrace. Photography by Taylor Kinzie.

Vision Statement

Breathtaking alfresco spaces have been purposefully integrated into the event planning process at Pelican Hill.® The Andrea Bar enclosed terrace overlooking the Pacific, for example, offered an idyllic setting for an intimate 80th birthday dinner and afforded the guests privacy without walling them off from the convivial buzz of other diners.

“Much of our initial process is aimed at getting a feel for what’s bringing a guest to us and understanding their vision,” said Carly Curtis, the Resort’s private-dining manager. “Through that conversation, we uncover their true desires and motivation and can make those dreams a reality.”

Alejandra Berliner found inspiration in Pelican Hill itself. Last October, she welcomed 23 guests to a one-of-a-kind bridal shower for her daughter.

“Lindsay loves Italy, so it made all the sense to gravitate to the theme of Pelican Hill,” said Berliner, who makes the Resort her home when visiting Orange County. The shower featured their favorite elements of this home away from home: an olive oil tasting, a gelato station and harvest-inspired florals.

At Coliseum Pool & Grill, cabanas become secluded enclaves for sharing sunset cocktails or intimate dinners. Expansive views of the infinity-edged pool, golf course, Rotunda and Pacific Ocean can make it difficult to focus on the cabanas. But with their distinctive Palladian design, lolling ceiling fans and resort-style privacy draping, they exude sophistication and comfort.

“I’ve seen the cabanas configured in so many creative ways,” said Amanda Reeve, the Resort’s director of meetings and special events, “and each time it feels like I’m walking into a picture postcard.”

Strung together to accommodate several couples or families, cabanas offer flexibility and room to mingle. Their proximity to the spacious Coliseum Terrace also means that they can be used in concert with the terrace as food and beverage stations or breakout spaces.

Incorporating sentiment-rich details—be it pouring the same vintage wine that a couple sipped on their wedding day, or printing birthday party menus featuring baby photos of the honoree—infuses events with personal meaning and goes a long way toward exceeding the expectations of Resort guests.

Versatile Aqua Lounge at Island Hotel offers airy elegance for any gathering. Florals By Mitzi  |  Balloons Pluss

Themed Variations

While Aqua Lounge at Island Hotel is, on most evenings, known as a sultry cocktail den featuring a live DJ, ambient lighting and handcrafted libations, by day, the space is sunny and open and offers customization opportunities galore. Floor-to-ceiling glass panels retract and open onto a secluded patio that provides ample room for stations dedicated to gifts, games and desserts. More and more modern-day birthday parties, graduation celebrations and showers are finding their way to this Newport Beach hideaway.

The indoor-outdoor setting is the perfect spot for a small group birthday party. Guests can mark another year in style by dressing up the lounge with balloons, luxe floral arrangements and elegant dessert tables featuring tiered cakes, cookies and other treats.

Parents-to-be also are discovering the unconventional and versatile venue at Aqua Lounge. For a recent baby shower, Special Events Coordinator Stacie Nishikawa added pops of pink to the décor to complement the Lounge’s palette of aquamarines and creams.

“Traditional baby showers for the ladies have evolved into co-ed cocktail receptions,” said Nishikawa. “Aqua Lounge offers two spaces for men and women to gather together in anticipation of the big day.

“It was very girly,” she said of the recent shower. “We made pink lemonade, pink specialty cocktails [and] my client brought in a popsicle vendor that served ice cream treats with pink stripes. We even created a pink backdrop with a ‘Welcome, Baby’ message written in flowers.”

Clients seeking an entirely outdoor experience will find an ideal setting at Oak Grill’s Fireside patio. “Some people don’t even realize it’s an option for a private occasion,” Nishikawa said, “but it’s actually perfect for more intimate, understated events.”

On the patio, twinkling lights encircle the trees and flames dance above fire pits, enhancing an elegant, natural setting. Nishikawa encourages hosts to funnel their creativity into grownup activities like wine or whiskey tastings.

Take it outside with farm-to-table flair at Hotel Irvine’s The Backyard.

Blank Slate, Hidden Gem

Outdoor events at Hotel Irvine are limited only by one’s imagination, no matter how vivid. It’s just another afternoon—or evening—in The Backyard, an expansive and welcoming open-air space for guests who enjoy customizing every detail of a most personal event.

“Some people are bored by a ballroom and want to take the party outside,” said Jeffrey Chirinos, Hotel Irvine’s executive director of catering and event services. “We offer up The Backyard for a variety of special events—bar and bat mitzvahs, birthday and going-away parties, family reunions and more.”

With a valet entrance and few restrictions on noise or décor, The Backyard offers versatility that is hard to find at an indoor venue. “During the day, The Backyard feels completely tropical because it’s surrounded by a lush canopy of greenery,” said Chirinos. “At twilight, we create a glittery, magical effect with a collage of colors that lights up every tree.”

All it takes is a theme to elevate the simplest occasion. When a recent host expressed interest in a food truck vibe, Chirinos and his team created a backyard buffet with outdoor grills giving off the enticing aromas of sizzling meats, fish and farm-fresh vegetables. The crew pulled out all the stops, imbuing the space with old-fashioned flair as rustic picnic tables, oversized versions of chess, Jenga and Cornhole, hay bales and a wagon replica dotted the lawn.

At night, The Backyard transforms into a dazzling sound-and-light show. For an international bridal shower, Chirinos’ team designed an 1800s-style speakeasy that featured cigar girls passing out cocktails and underlit Rococo couches placed to form miniature sitting rooms. “Starting with The Backyard as an empty canvas and adding sound, color and décor lights,” Chirinos said, “turns the space into something out of this world.”

Because not everyone has the capacity to host life cycle celebrations at home, finding a venue that can readily transform itself to reflect one’s personal style can mean the difference between sharing a table and making a memory for life.


To explore creative options for a fresh air event of your own, we invite you to begin the conversation: The Resort at Pelican Hill®   949.467.5291   privatedining@pelicanhill.com  |  Island Hotel Newport Beach®   949.760.4926  ihcatering@islandhotel.com  |  Hotel Irvine   949.225.6640   info@hotelirvine.com

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