Manka's Inverness Lodge
When Margaret Gradé and her partner purchased the enchanting Manka’s Lodge 20 years ago, they appreciated its natural beauty but had no idea it would become so deeply rooted in their hearts. Comprised of four small properties, each possessing its own unique qualities, the site itself is an incredible piece of California history. Originally a hunting and fishing lodge built in the late 1800s, its sweeping landscape is located in the village of Inverness on the coast of California. Surrounded by Point Reyes with its rustic boathouse overlooking the crystalline Tomales Bay, Manka's picturesque location is the perfect rural escape for vacations and weddings alike.
From the spacious boatman’s quarters (Ralph Lauren himself would be inspired by such dreamy interiors) to its unaffected cabins on the hillside, Manka’s is woven with possibilities. “I think the best thing about our properties is that they’re really beautifully honest spaces. There’s a natural beauty about them that’s really compelling, and a great sense of history. In the context of a wedding, history is being made, so we always feel really lucky to be in the midst of such a celebration,” Gradé shares. As the co-owner of 20 years she has certainly witnessed and orchestrated a multitude of breathtaking weddings, all of which are special because of Manka’s sense of authenticity that resonates with so many of its guests. “I love that it has the feel that it’s always been here, but also holds the promise that it always will be here to return to,” she says. “There’s something really wonderful about having that touchstone—the unique aspect that you can get married in this space, enjoy a relaxing honeymoon and return for years to come.”
Formerly a neuropsychologist at the University of California at San Francisco, Gradé never could have imagined when she laid adoring eyes on the property in 1992 that love would manifest itself in all aspects of her life. After the initial purchase, she realized in the process that she loved to cook. She was quickly inspired by the breadth of accessible local produce and decided to exchange a career in science for one in culinary. With the help of longtime love and partner, fellow chef Daniel DeLong, their cuisine at the Olema Inn as well as the weddings they cater at Manka’s all showcase their delicious local fare. “Everything we use is completely within reach of our kitchen…from local beef, lamb, chicken, goat, quail, eggs, seafood and shellfish, this area has become the bread basket of the Bay area, with lots of farms and ranches nearby where we get our produce. Our menu changes nightly depending on seasonality as well as for the customers we cater to. For a wedding, we try to get a really strong feeling of a couple’s family traditions, cultural tastes, even re-invented family dishes inspired from their mothers and grandmothers," she relates. "It’s very personal and important to us.”
Although the four lodgings sleep only thirty-five people, Manka’s is surrounded by a wealth of wonderful accommodations a brief walk across the way. The convenience of additional lodging for guests in attendance is a feature many couples value, as it allows them to enjoy the area’s outdoor adventures of hiking and kayaking. Gradé encourages all couples to come and enjoy a tour before preparations begin, as each site has its own charming, pastoral qualities from which to choose. “People tend to form an attachment to one particular property. The boathouse feels like an old New York loft with its high ceilings and spacious captain’s quarters. The cabins which were originally hunting and fishing lodges have a distinctly rustic feel, with a lot of old French club chairs, deep plaids and Pendleton blankets. They all have their own little personalities,” Gradé muses. The key in planning “the leap of a lifetime” (as she fondly refers to it), is to allow the setting to be a reflection of the mood a couple wants to evoke in their wedding day.
The peaceful seclusion of Manka’s lends itself to effortless romance, the quintessential getaway for an intimate wedding. Thanks in part to Gradé’s efforts to preserve the integrity of its natural beauty and rich history, guests can experience the idyllic existence illustrated in classical poetry. And true to its close location to the incredible diversity of San Francisco, the most vivid recollections for this proprietor are less seen than heard. “I have a lot of great memories, as there have been so many beautiful celebrations we’ve hosted here. But some of my most favorite have been generated by music because of the great acoustics by the water’s edge and the wealth of talent being so close to the Bay.” Since the foundation of Manka’s remains true, the lush surrounding environment simply enhances the beauty of its original architecture. This allows guests the perfect canvas and an endless array of possibilities in creating the wedding of their dreams. For Gradé, authenticity and integrity will always remain the invaluable assets that set Manka’s apart as a leisurely country refuge. Her world-class cuisine and urbane amenities will continue to beckon individuals for weekend respites to weddings and every special celebration in between.
Produced by Rosemary Hattenbach, Rosemary Events
Concept Design, Florals + Styling by Nicole Sillapere
Hair + Makeup by Mar of Team Hair & Makeup
Fine Tabletop by Small Masterpiece
La Tavola Fine Linens
Chairs by HD Buttercup
Graphics + Lettering by Mara Zepada, Neither Snow
Cake by Sweet On Cake
Gowns by Samuelle Couture
Kristina B and Brooks Thomas of Look Model Agency, San Francisco