Wednesday, January 22, 2014

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...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for sharing your thoughts in a respectful manner. Please do not link to your blog; comments with links in them will be removed. We can look at your blog by clicking on your username!