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!

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