Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Still Planning...

Hi guys! Sorry it's been so long since I have updated this! Turns out planning a wedding isn't as fun as thinking about planning a wedding. Again, I'd love to have more time for blogging, but unfortunately this is just a hobby for me for now, and I've had to prioritize my time differently than I'd prefer. Between wedding planning, changing jobs, DOING my job, a couple of gigs on the side, home renovations, and attempting to maintain a social life... I haven't had a lot of time left over for me. I'm hoping come June, that will change!

I'll go back and try to do some recaps on each individual piece of planning, but in broad strokes, here's what we have done.

We booked our DJ and Florist about a year out from our wedding date! We also began cake tasting, but haven't found a baker we're thrilled with yet (more on that later). In October, we took engagement pictures, and we managed to just get Save the Dates out this past week (I know, I know, it's a little late). What you don't realize before you get knee-deep in a project is that, often, you have to figure out certain components that seem unrelated before you can move on. For instance, we had to finish our wedding website before we could send the Save the Dates out because the URL was printed on them. Sure, we wanted our guests to go to the website, but we also wanted to make sure it looked nice, had relevant content, and was accurate. None of these place-holder paragraphs or "please check back later" messages that the incomplete pages were littered with...

I've also got my dress.

I know, big deal, right? The bridal consultant managed to pick something out! It was an ordeal, I spent a lot of time in wedding dress hell, and for something I didn't want to be such a big deal, it ended up feeling like a big deal. I think because this is my profession, it felt tied to my identity in a much more real way than I anticipated. Clothing is always a reflection of who you are, and a wedding dress is an extreme example whether or not it's your job.  But this is a story for a different post.

Bridesmaids have been asked, dresses ordered (and arrived), accessories are being picked out, tuxes are purchased. We're on our way to getting married.

With all that done, it would be easy to think we're done! Nope, not even close. We've still got to figure out our officiant, cake, invitations, and decorations, among other things. I'm probably forgetting something. This is driving me nuts. Don't get me wrong, I'm excited for the wedding, and I know the planning will be worth it, but it is definitely a challenge.

Monday, February 17, 2014


In an effort to work through as much as we can as early as we can in a stress-free environment, John and I have started thinking about invitations and paper products. We figured this was something we could work on and then just let sit until we were ready to have them printed, so we didn't feel rushed to make a decision. We are also trying to coordinate our save the dates, invitation suite, and the paper products that will be at the event itself (programs, menus, escort cards, table numbers, etc...) so the sooner we decide on a motif, the sooner we can start working on those bits and pieces.
Black and gold wedding invitation with monogram
Via Pinterest.com

The paper products are also something that we both care about more than most people might; I've had friends and loved ones point out to me that it's just a piece of paper that will likely be thrown away after the information is entered into someone's calender, but I disagree. Whether it's intended or not, I firmly believe that the invitation sets the tone for the wedding and can do a lot to raise the excitement level. For most (if not all) guests, it will be the first tangible part of the wedding they encounter.

Black and White Art Deco Invite | Vintage Tea Roses http://vintagetearoses.com/vintage-1920s-art-deco-brides-wedding-inspiration/
via Pinterest.com
Like most couples, we've been using Pinterest for inspiration. The pictures you see throughou this post are things I've found on Pinterest (although I tried to cite the original creators in instances where I can figure out where the image came from). I've also found loads of helpful information on websites like www.marthastewartweddings.com, www.weddingbee.com, and even online invitation retailers. I didn't know very much about invitations before starting this venture. I was perplexed by what was ok to print on an invitation and was gauche, what inserts were, why one might choose a pocketfold over simply stacking a few pieces and putting into an envelope, what types of fonts were traditional, how to address envelopes, what an inner envelope is, etc... I'm starting to feel like I have a pretty good handle on what some of the options are, but it is still overwhelming at times. John and I looked high and low for invitations that included all of the elements we'd fallen in love with, but didn't see anything within our price point that we adored, so we've started designing our own invitation suite.
Art Deco Invite
Via Pinterest.com; originally from www.sweet-paper.com

 It's just in the beginning stages, but I'm really excited about the prospect; I've found several companies that will print the invitations for us, and we are strongly considering having them letterpressed or foil stamped. I love the idea that we are so intimately involved in the entire process of designing the invitations. If this really is our first opportunity to set the tone for the wedding, then I want absolute control over every aspect of the invitation (maybe that's the control freak in me talking, but I don't care). I want to choose the paper, the ink colors, the printing method, and the font! I want to give everyone a glimpse of what my vision is. Furthermore, we are planning on using a lot of paper products at the wedding itself, so it will probably end up becoming a strong decorative element; we don't want one of the strongest aesthetic elements of the wedding to be something we don't feel strongly about.

Black and Gold Art Deco wedding invitation. Gatsby inspired.
Via Pinterest.com
Black felt art deco retro Hollywood glam wedding Custom Invitations
By Fides Design via zazzle.com
So, what has the design process looked like so far? We started by looking at inspiration on Pinterest and wedding blogs. We then started looking at invitations that we could order to see if we found anything close to what we had in mind. Finally, I sketched out an idea of what my ideal invitation would look like, and John is working with me to create the design in Illustrator. We have a "rough draft" of the invitation, and are working on choosing fonts right now (easier said than done); I've been combing through free fonts and downloading every option that gets close to what we have in mind; we'd like to do a classic, intimidating, bold font for our names, and a more "period" looking typeface for the information. Finding two fonts that work with each other as well as with the graphic, geometric design of the invitation has been a challenge! Once we finish this part of it, we'll have to begin experimenting with adding a color and printing tests on different colors of paper, and then we can move on to designing the rest of the suite. It's not a process for the faint of heart, and I'm sure there's a better way to do it than we are (obviously neither of us is a professional invitation designer, or even graphic designer), but it has been a fun hobby for the last week or so.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Choosing a Venue: Sacramento

The last area we looked at venues in was Sacramento! Neither John nor I have any particular ties to the area, but it is only a couple of hours away and is the halfway point between us and my dad (which is nice if his family from out of state wants to take the opportunity to visit his home- the wedding may be the only time many of them come to the West Coast this decade!). We had also heard that wedding things tended to be much less expensive in Sacramento than in the Bay Area.

We looked at three places in Sacramento, the first of which was The Firehouse Restaurant. This was a restaurant in an old historical building that used to be a firehouse. The interior was very 19th century Bordello, but in a kind of neat way. They have a lush outdoor patio that is used for the ceremony; they air condition the patio, too!

They use one of the smaller dining rooms for the reception.

I could really see this working for a Roaring Twenties style wedding with a bit of a prohibition-era speakeasy feel.
The Bar
We worried that the scale of the venue wasn't quite what we had envisioned; there's something intimate about a restaurant wedding, and we were hoping for more "grand" than "intimate". It was also a little bit dark-feeling; the exposed brick, old paintings, just-below-street-level setting, and walk through the bordello-esque dining room to get to the section where they hold weddings set a tone that wasn't quite what I had in mind. Honestly, I could see that working really well for a certain type of wedding, and John and I knew that we would probably have to tailor our wedding to suit wherever we ended up, but this was starting to feel a little bit too different in tone, although it was a step in the right direction when compared to wineries and barns.

Some neat old artwork
My only other misgiving was that the tour we had set up was... unsatisfactory. We had something scheduled, but the tour was very brief, and our contact wasn't exactly trying to sell us on the place... It felt like she just wanted to get us out of there as quickly as possible. One really neat thing about this venue is that it is located in the historic part of Sacramento that has a very Old West feel; there is a lot of character to the area! This looked like a pretty budget-friendly option, but the pricing was different from other venues we'd visited since it is a restaurant; most of the money would have gone to the food and beverage, and the beverages were really REALLY pricey.

Our next stop was to a venue called Vizcaya... no, not the one in Miami! This Vizcaya consists of an old Victorian that houses a bed and breakfast, a garden, a patio, and an "event center", which looks like a modern building built in the Beaux Arts style nextdoor to the original Victorian.
The B&B half
The party half!
We really liked the idea that there were several guest rooms at the venue so at least close friends and family could stay where the wedding was being held, even though most out of town guests would have to stay elsewhere. We also liked how professional they seemed; they were very friendly but clearly knew their stuff. John's main misgiving was that Vizcaya struck him as a "wedding factory": it is clearly a place that specializes in weddings, which to him took away from some of the charm. Honestly, that didn't bother me, and I knew it meant they probably had a system that ran really smoothly. They also had a place for both bride and groom to get ready; many venues did not have that available on site, or if they did there was only a place for the bride and the groom was on his own.
Pretty fountain outside the reception building!
There are two outdoor venue options at Vizcaya; whichever is not used for the ceremony is used for cocktail hour. The first one is the larger, it has some greenery which gives it a garden feel... You can do the ceremony up against the vine covered fence. It also has a pretty cheesy white gazebo. Hmm.
The second ceremony site was much better! It is located behind the event center, and is much smaller, but it has two tall Italian cypresses and there are lights strung up across the space (the expensive-to-rent kind)!

Vizcaya also provides a lot of things that you generally end up renting. Most of the venues that we looked at included tables, chairs, and basic linens; Vizcaya provided white Chiavari chairs (they are a BIG DEAL if you know anything about wedding rentals; they go for $9.25 a pop through the company my shop works with, and that's without cushions) as well as a ceremony arch, podiums, easals for signage, etc...

The event center was really nice. It was all done in neutral colors with lots of tall windows and floor length curtains. It's basically two hexagons; dancing happens in one, eating in the other.
The eating hexagon!
We really liked the idea that there were separate spaces for all of the stuff that would be going on during the wedding without it feeling like it was divided up; ceremony flows into cocktail hour, everyone goes into the event center and people can chill and talk while others dance within view.
The dancing hexagon!
Oh, another big deal: Vizcaya is BYO alcohol. This could save us a bundle, considering how expensive alcohol can get when you are purchasing it through a venue! We also like the flexibility this gives us to offer drinks that we really like, and not just the standard offerings.
The shape of the building is hard to describe. So here's an extra picture from one hexagon looking into the next. It's really open.
We left feeling really favorably impressed; it wasn't the most impressive, grandest feeling venue, and it was a little bit generic feeling, but it was pretty and John and I both felt like working with them would be a smooth process and that we could customize the decorations to make the event feel the way we wanted it to. However, they were a little sales-y, which was a bit of a turn-off, even if I feel like a hypocrite for saying so givven my line of work! They pulled the "where else are you visiting? oh yeah, they're great, (but you'll be back *wink wink*)" deal, they offered a coupon for booking within a week, etc... Sure, these are all things I do with clients... But it's different!
This is on the ceiling between the hexagons. I had to lay down to take this picture and the lady giving us the tour thought I was a total freak. Oh well. Maybe I am... 
The third and final venue we visited in Sacramento was Arden Hills.
The Entrance
This is a health club and spa with a very new, very small "villa" (bed and breakfast) attached. The Villa is the ceremony site we liked best; it has a garden done in a Meditteranean style. Sure, it doesn't scream Art Deco, but it is incredibly lovely.

They also have a couple of different ballrooms for receptions, but our favorite features dark wood and mirrors. I could definitely see a glamorous vintage feel to this space. They also provide nice mahogany chiavari chairs as their rentals, but unlike Vizcaya alcohol had to be purchased through them.

The hallway outside of the reception room
We really liked Arden Hills, too! We realized we could have booked either of the last two venues we saw that day and been completely happy. Arden Hills was willing to give us a Saturday date at a Friday price, which was really appealing. They didn't have a real cocktail hour area; guests just got to roam the grounds, but that was fine with us.
A casual seating area that could be used as the informal cocktail hour area. Ooh, a water feature!
 The Villa was really gorgeous, too; it is basically a house that we could have all to ourselves for the weekend if we wanted to book all of the rooms.

John and I commented on how BOTH of these venues would have easily cost twice as much for what they included in Sonoma County. Sure, it's not hot as balls in Sonoma in the beginning of June, but you can't have it all? By the end of the day, I think John and I were pretty sure that either Arden Hills or Vizcaya would be our venue; they were both an amazing value, were more in line with our theme (in a very neutral way) than many other venues we saw, and would be convenient for family since each had rooms on the premises. Plus, Sacramento has its own airport and lots to see and do since it is the state capitol. Honestly, I'm not going to lie; the price had a lot to do with us feeling like this would be the best choice. Neither John nor I want to feel like terrible people because of the cost of the wedding, so to be able to get a lot of what we wanted for a good price was incredibly appealing. The City Club was a great place to see to get an idea of the feel we wanted, but realistically, it just wouldn't work within our budget.

Hang in there, you guys are so close... I'll tell you which one we picked and why in my next post!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Choosing a Venue: Disney Wedding?

While technically not a part of our venue hunt in the traditional sense, I decided to include a discussion of choosing a Destination option as part of this series. John and I really seriously considered a few "destination wedding" options when we were talking about places to get married. While we considered destinations like Reno (where my dad lives), Las Vegas, and even my mom's small Florida home town, Choice Number One was actually either Disneyland or Disney World. John and I both love going ot Disney theme parks; what would be more fun that getting married at one and sharing that experience with our nearest and dearest? We also loved the idea that it would be a smaller, more intimate event; John and I originally envisioned a very small wedding with maybe 30-50 guests, and a destination wedding would be a great way to make that happen.  I won't bore you with the details of my research and what we learned about options and pricing, since there are already so many great resources on the internet for that information, but rather I'll talk a little bit to the pros and cons as John and I viewed them.

One of the first things that that we considered was cost. Turns out, it would almost certainly have been less expensive to have a "basic" wedding at a Disney venue than something comparable in the Bay Area. Sure, getting married in a theme park itself would have been more expensive, but they have really lovely themed hotel options that would have put most local hotels to shame. Most of the options that raise the price of the hotel options were things we were adamantly against, like renting Cinderella's carriage or having costumed characters show up. John prefers Disneyland in general, but I was really taken with some of the 1930's-looking options at the Boardwalk hotel at Disney World.  Had we gone with this option, we would have had a non-Disney wedding that just happened to use Disney-owned facilities, with the added bonus of being able to enjoy Disney theme parks with our guests on the days surrounding the wedding.

Photo not mine; via DISboards

Another consideration that I kept hearing mentioned when people brought up the idea of a destination wedding is that they are a selfish choice, since not everyone who wants to come can come. I think it is selfish to hijack a couple's day and say that if a couple of individuals cannot attend, the couple is being selfish to do what they want on their wedding day. We would have made sure that the people we really cared about would have been able to make it, and all of my family is traveling from out of state, anyway; to most of them, it doesn't make any difference whether they're flying here or flying somewhere else. My cousin had a destination wedding in Mexico, and those of us who were able to attend had a blast; it was an entire week of festivities, not just one day.

Ultimately, we decided against having a destination wedding since we felt like we wouldn't be able to personalize the wedding as much as we wanted to from afar, especially with Disney's restrictions. However, it was a hard choice, and I still daydream about the possibility of a small, intimate Disney World vow renewal ten years down the road...

In considering this option, I realized the thing that appealed to me most about having a destination wedding was getting to spend more than just one day with our guests, especially with our friends and family traveling from out of state. I realized that with a little bit of planning, there was no reason we couldn't do that even if we were getting married within driving distance of our home. So, taking this to heart, John and I have decided to put together a couple of itineraries for our guests so if they'd like to sightsee they have some options, and we're going to try to plan some group activities in the days leading up to the wedding so that, for those who are able to be with us for more than just a day or two, we'll be able to make the most of their visit.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Finding "The One": or, why I don't think the dress is the biggest part of the wedding

I know what I'm about to say may be surprisingly controversial (which is, in and of itself, alarming), especially for a bridal consultant, but I'm going to put it out there anyway. I do not think "The One" exists when it comes to wedding gowns (partners either, but that's a topic for another day). In fact, I don't even think that the wedding gown is all that important in the grand scheme of things. Sure, I think every woman deserves to feel beautiful on their wedding day, but having an emotional breakthrough surrounding the decision to purchase a dress isn't the only way to achieve that goal.

I know Say Yes to the Dress would have you believe that every girl has been dreaming of her wedding gown since she was two years old. Even if you aren't that girl, they want you to believe that the minute you slip into the perfect wedding gown, you're going to burst into tears and have a deep sense of satisfaction and know, beyond a doubt, that THIS is the dress you were meant to walk down the aisle in, $5000 price tag be damned!

I think this is a load of bullshit. I've watched a lot of women find their dresses, and I've been on the inside of this process myself. I think that this idea has done more of us a disservice than anyone would like to believe, and I want to know why I don't hear people talking about it. I have clients who think there is something wrong with them if they don't have an emotional reaction to a dress, and plenty more who start second guessing their decision since they didn't have that feeling that all of their friends and family and TLC are telling them they were supposed to have. Sure, some women spontaneously burst into tears when they put on a dress that helps them see themselves as a bride, but for every bride who does that, there are many more who simply make a logical decision and pick a lovely dress they think suits them and their event. I've had brides who don't visibly relax in an appointment until I gently remind them that, for some women, the dress isn't the most important part of the day. Up until that point, many of them don't think that is an acceptable feeling, and some of these women even question me: "I'm not the only one? Really? I thought everyone cared about the dress but me!"

Choosing a wedding dress is, for most women, different than choosing any other garment you will wear. It can be an event as well as a process. It is an emotional and logical decision, and depending on your personality, you may lean more heavily on the emotional side of this decision or the logical side. Yes, you have to satisfy both aspects of yourself throughout the decision making process. The logical part of your decision may involve whether or not you think the dress is flattering, will work for your event, and is within your budget. The emotional half of the decision may involve thinking about if your fiance will like it, if you feel like a bride in it, and if it fits in with your vision for your wedding. It may involve an ineffable feeling that may or may not lead to tears.

I guess what I'm trying to say here is, trust yourself, and don't feel the need to make it more than it is. Trust yourself if your instinct is that you won't cry, or if you know you are a rational (as opposed to emotional) decision maker. Trust yourself if you know that you will need to think on a decision for a month or two, and give yourself enough time to make that decision and not feel rushed. Trust yourself if you don't feel comfortable with the price tag on a dress you love, since it's likely there is one within your budget that you'd be just as satisfied with (even if it means adjusting your expectations slightly for what your dress will look like). Trust yourself if you really love a dress and want it RIGHT NOW but your family is asking you to shop more, or wait for the "epiphany". This is your decision, make it how you want to. A wedding is about more than having "the perfect dress"; it's a celebrtation of a couple's commitment to spend a lifetime together. And if you are that bride who burst into tears and had a moment where you knew a dress was "The One", then congratulations! That will be a beautiful memory that you will cherish for a lifetime, and I am certainly not trying to devalue that experience for those women who have had it. But for those of us who won't have that experience, don't fret! You'll have other wonderful, different moments full of emotion and meaning surrounding your wedding. And at the end of the day, your wedding dress is just that: a dress. I promise you, nobody will care as much about what you are wearing as you think they will.

I'll talk more about my personal journey in searching for a dress later. For now, I just want to put it out there that it is perfectly ok not to hear harps and see fireworks when you find your dress, and to not feel bad if your dress shopping experience isn't like what you see on TV. Embrace the process for what it is, and remember: it's just something to wear to get married in.

Choosing a Venue: The East Bay Part 2

Our tour of the East Bay resulted in quite a few more pictures than I wanted to put in one post, so I've divided up these venues between Part 1 and Part 2. If you haven't seen Part 1 yet, I think it's worth checking out, but of course you won't be lost if you read this post first.

After we checked out the Sequoyah Country Club, we went to the Orinda Country Club, another golf course/ private club that is approaching it's 100th anniversary. Apparently the rich and famous used to visit and play golf; the interior seemed a bit more polished than the Sequoyah Country Club, but getting in touch with these people to set up a tour was very difficult-- not a great start. We finally just showed up after a couple of unanswered emails and a few phone calls going to voicemail, but the woman who greeted us was really accommodating and even left her post to show us around, even though it wasn't her job to do so! We got pretty lucky, too, they were setting up for an event so we were able to see how things looked with round tables scattered throughout the space.  The space had really nice details on the tall ceilings, and once again borrowed from the Mission Revival/ Meditteranean look that was so popular in the teens through the1930's in California architecture. It isn't exactly the Art Deco look, and trying to overlay the Art Deco touches may have backfired, but it is a really lovely space.
Where they set up buffet...
Fireplace near the bar/ cocktail hour space
The buffet and looking into the room that would be the reception space

This is where they would set up the reception; the doorway on the opposite wall opens and that would be the ceremony space.
I didn't get a great picture of the ceremony space, but it is basically just another room like the room they use for the reception. Despite having beautiful sweeping views of wooded hills  (the golf course is almost hidden since it is in a valley, lower than eye level out of the club), there was no outdoor ceremony option, which was something John and I had wanted in an ideal situation.

Unfortunately, one of the major reasons we didn't pursue the Orinda Country Club any further was the communication. After our visit I emailed our contact again telling her we'd just stopped by, and asking some specific questions... She replied, but never did answer my questions. By this point in time, we didn't want to invest that kind of time and energy into courting a venue, we needed them to be willing to work with us. It may have just been bad timing on both ends, but we had plenty of other good, affordable options. Besides, the Orinda Country Club wouldn't have been as convenient for guests; it was located up in the hills at the end of a windy road, it's a bit more out of the way than most of the other venues we toured, airports weren't quite as conveniently located, and there were no hotels in the immediete vicinity. We had also been considering what guests would do in the days leading up to and after the wedding, and they probably would have needed to travel outside of Orinda to see anything of much interest. Sorry, Orinda! You're beautiful, but there's just not as much happening there.

Our next stop was to a venue in my hometown of Fremont, Palmdale Estates. The highlight of Palmdale Estates is Best House, the Caterpillar construction vehicle magnate's modest Tudor-style mansion. Best House is now owned by a convent which is also on the grounds, and is surrounded by a couple of gardens. Because it is owned by nuns, there are a few kind of quirky rules about when you can be on the grounds, when rehearsals can happen, etc... Fun Fact: I went to school/ church across the street from Palmdale Estates for years and years and never knew it was there. In fact, I saw the fountain in one of its gardens from the street across from Church and never knew what it was. The entrance is through an apartment complex, so all you see from the street is a fence and lots of trees. Honestly, that may have been a point against it; I didn't really like the idea of getting married a hop, skip, and a jump away from the least favorite school I attended as a child, and across from Mission San Jose (where my mom's funeral took place). I have a lot of history tied up in those two square blocks, and not all of it was good; not much of it includes John, either. Maybe I'm being too sentimental here, but it did feel a bit eerie to walk the quiet grounds and look across the fence and see those places. If you don't have that kind of history with the historic Mission San Jose district of Fremont then, by all means, check it out!
Part of the lawn
When you first walk onto the grounds (and you have to walk; they are very clear that you must park in a further away parking lot and walk up to the venue- there were signs posted all over, and they suggest you hire someone to help your guests park in the correct area and then lead them to the wedding), you approach a huge lawn with the convent situated on one edge of the cirle, Best House on another, and what appears to be a carriage house or groundskeeper's cottage between them. The huge lawn, as it turns out, is one reception option.There is a wishing well located on the lawn; there is also a small pine grove in this area that is a cocktail hour option. They set up the bar within the small circle of pine trees.
Mini Pine Grove
Off to one edge of this large lawn is what they call the Sunken Garden, a ceremony option; it hosts a cute little wrought iron gazebo.
Sunken Garden
The house, while being Tudor on the outside, is very Victorian/Edwardian in feel once you get inside.
Best House
It has some pretty ornate stained glass and murals on the wall with birds being a constant theme throughout. This was the reception option we would have taken. Gold chiavari chairs were included in the rental, which was another nice perk. I could have framed this venue as a home built 20 years before the Art Deco period playing host to a fashionable period party. That could have worked, but it would have been a bit of a stretch. If we chose this venue, John and I knew we'd have to compromise on the look a bit, but that it would be pretty in a different way.
A room on the back of the house; I can't remember if they use this for dancing or the buffet. Maybe they flip it and it is for both?
In the "buffet room", looking towards the front of the house. Notice the birds on the gilded murals.
The main dining room, in the middle of the house. Topiaries! 
A small room that fits about three tables in the front of the house. Please notice the parrot stained glass. 
There is also a patio on the back of the house that is used for the bar and-- major perk-- all alcohol is BYO with no corkage fee. This is one of the things that made this option so appealing. It was one of the more affordable options we looked at. While there, John and I couldn't quite put our finger on what felt "off" about the venue, but it was this sense of having been manufactured. It felt a bit like Disneyland (one of my favorite places, but the comparison this time wasn't 100% favorable) in that it felt like someone had built this little hamlet in the middle of Fremont. Nothing felt authentic; although beautiful, it felt surreal!

One other thing that made us nervous about booking with Palmdale was that the convent was thinking of using Best House's backyard to build apartments for some of the aging sisters, and the venue wasn't sure how that would affect them. They explained that it was solely out of the sisters' good will that they had been able to use this as a wedding venue for the last 25 or so years, and that if they decided to implement policy changes, that was their prerogative. It was easy to envision both outdoor ceremony gardens going away, or severe amplified music restrictions being put into place if apartments were built in the backyard. We did like the sense of how secluded it felt, and the way that guests could move through the space of the house without feeling like they were all in separate rooms. It was definitely more unique than many of the other venues we had looked at up to this point!

Well, that is it for the East Bay; next, we venture up to Sacramento to see what this city has in store for us...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Choosing a Venue: The East Bay Part 1

Ready to look at more venues? No? That's what John said at this point, too... But I was really anxious to see some more of our options! I grew up in Fremont and went to high school in San Jose, so I was really comfortable with the idea of getting married in a different part of the Bay Area from our home, and I'd found some really promising venues during online searches out in the East Bay. John and I planned a day and off we went.

This was after our successful South Bay hunt, and by now we were feeling like the SF City Club probably wouldn't be our venue, but we were hoping to find somewhere that would have its own charm and be within our budget, while still being convenient for our out of town guests. The East Bay wouldn't have been as easy as the South Bay; airports are a little further away, and there are parts of the East Bay that are a little rough around the edges, especially from out of towners hailing from smaller midwestern towns, but there were some great historical buildings to visit. Our first stop of the day was a different City Club... The Berkeley City Club! Built by Hearst Castle architect Julia Morgan, it really and truly did feel like a mini Hearst Castle, between the architecture and decor. Ultimately, it was a little too ornamental for John's taste, although I thought it had a lovely period flare (if not Art Deco-specific). If it had been just me making the decision, I would have explored this option more, but it didn't resonate with John and his preference for simple, clean lines.

Price-wise, the Berkeley City Club was less than SF City Club, but still a little higher than where we were comfortable ending up. I loved the history, and it would have been almost like getting married in a museum, but we wouldn't have had much of an opportunity to infuse our personality into the space. John was concerned that the venue wasn't as well-versed in hosting a wedding as some of our other options. The rental would have included much of the upstairs area, but as we weren't able to schedule an official tour, I never did get it straight which areas were up for grabs. One ceremony space option was an upstairs terrace (which, as John pointed out, had a lovely view of the free clinic dispensing clean needles across the way).

Upstairs Terrace

The view into a small garden from the upstairs terrace!

Looking back into the Club from the upstairs terrace
Here are another two rooms that I believe may have been indoor ceremony options (although I was unclear on whether or not these were included in the rental).

And this is what would have been the likeliest reception space.

There was no nearby lodging for out of town guests, so we would have had to have figured out the parking issue at some point or another. It wouldn't have been impossible, but it's likely we would have had to ask guests to pay for parking-- not ideal! It was such a neat place to look through, though. Just for kicks, I've included a couple of other pictures of the Berkeley City Club. These are areas not included in the rental! It really is a hidden gem, if you live in the area I think it is worth seeing if you can explore, whether or not you're considering it for an event.
A small garden on the ground floor
The lobby
A lounge area
The indoor pool!
Our next stop of the day was the Sequoyah Country Club in the hills overlooking Oakland. It was a really pretty building that is just about 100 years old. The set up was a little bit funky; there was long open space that had columns separating the main hallway of the building from the reception area, and then a separate room across the hall would have been the dance floor.
The hallway; reception to the left of the columns
The reception room; I took the picture from under the columns/ arches

I didn't like the idea that people would have to walk down the hall to a different room to dance; I wanted a space where even the wall flower would be able to sit and relax and chat while watching others dance, so everyone would feel like they were part of the same event.
Dancing room!
The ceremony space was also pretty lackluster; it was just a corner of lawn outside the front of the building that overlooked the golf course to one side, and the parking lot to the other. It was so underwhelming, I didn't even take a picture... It felt very much like an afterthought. However, the building itself was really pretty and I could definitely have pictured our theme working within the space. Another mild gripe: there was a LOT of orange happening! I guess I'm pickier about color than I thought... But the awning outside of the reception/dinner space was orange and reflected orange light back into the building, the curatains in the dance room area were orange, and outside all of the umbrellas and trim were orange. One major perk was that they said they could arrange transportation from a hotel to the club, since the road to get to the venue is really windy, and the venue was a bit out of the way. However, the guy who showed us around admitted that the hotel he'd recommend is a bit out of the way because some of the surrounding areas could be a little bit rough. I think lots of parts of Oakland are beautiful, but keep in mind, my dad didn't even want me driving through Oakland when I was younger... I think he may have refused to allow his out of town family to stay within Oakland city limits! That could have been a problem.
The front entrance
Well, that's part one of our East Bay adventure! I had too many pictures to justify trying to cram in the other two stops of the day into one post. I feel like I am complaining a lot about all of the venues, and I am so picky! You're probably shocked to hear that we managed to come to a decision and choose a venue after all of my hemming and hawing... But we did! I'll tell you which one we went with soon, I promise! And I bet you will be surprised by our choice... I think John and I were pretty surprised, too!