A mea culpa…of sorts

 

 

 

When I last left you, we were just two months away from the big day and had our first attempt at ring shopping thwarted by a very rude tire. Then I was swallowed up by the wedding planning monster as all the final details came rushing at me all at once.

And then this happened:

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It was an amazing day, even with the slight issues we ran into, and it really was over in a flash. I really wish I could go back and relive that day, partly to fix some of the things that went wrong (like this time I’d actually READ my vows instead of winging it at the last moment), but mostly because it was quite possibly, the BEST DAY EVER. It wasn’t the end all, be all of my life; but there was just this wonderful feeling that’s so hard to accurately describe. There was so much love and happiness in that place and in that moment that I really wish I could bottle it up and experience it all day, every day.

Now that the pressure of planning is finally over, I’m hoping to share a bit more about the planning stuff leading up to it as we wait for our pro pictures. I hope you’ll still follow along!

 

On rings and things

You know how sometimes you’re coasting through life and think you really have things under control? And then life rears up and knocks you back into place? And all you can do is laugh to keep from crying? Yeah. That’s what happened when we went shopping for our wedding rings.

We had been putting it off for a while; it took me several mentions to get the mister to actually sit down and look through some rings for ideas of what he’d like. But now that we’re only have about two months remaining until the big day [sidebar: WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?! I swear we had at least 6 months!] it’s probably time we got around to getting our wedding rings, right?

So last weekend we set out to go shopping. We had a game plan: after stopping at the bank, we were going to hit up three or four jewelry stores and then stop by Michael’s to pick up some more craft supplies (because the crafts never stop). As we were heading to the bank, I changed lanes and then heard the loudest pop and then crunch I’ve ever heard.

We pulled off onto a nearby street to survey the damage. It was not pretty.

pothole

Thanks for nothing, pothole.

That little pothole ripped a hole across my entire tire. Like, it did such a great job, both the tow truck driver AND the tire sales guy were impressed when they saw it. The mister suggested we reschedule shopping but I thought we could still make it – then after nearly breaking down while at the tire store, we both decided it was better for me to just go home and try again the next weekend.

So instead of shopping for our wedding rings, I ended up buying four new tires. Sigh.

Did anything disastrous sidetrack your planning? Do you hate potholes as much as I do?

Could You Please Take Our Picture?

AE1

From the very beginning, photography was very important to us, though for slightly different reasons. I wanted to have rich photos from our day because after the last dance has been danced, the food is all gone, and the wedding dress has been packed away, all we will have left will be our memories and the pictures. And I really wanted those pictures to be amazing. For the mister, since most of his family would not be able to make the trip from Michigan to our wedding, he wanted to have really nice photos for his family to view.

Our search for a photographer began and ended with one guy: Ed Pingol of Ed Pingol Photography.

Teana and Aaron Engaged - 0035_fhdr

Eddie is actually a friend of mine, so that makes him a friendor. I’ve been hounding him about being my wedding photographer since he first started in the business and I’m so excited that he’ll actually be taking our pictures.

Eddie is so incredibly easy to get along with and has a great eye for amazing pictures so having him as one of our vendors was actually a relief because we knew for a fact that he would be able to get along with our guests and other vendors (especially the DOC) and that we know that we’re going to get some really fantastic photos.

Ed Pingol Wedding Photography

Even though we were sure Eddie would be our photographer (he was the only one we met with), I still took some time to contact other photographers (23 to be exact) to see how his package would compare, but they either had amazing photos and astronomical prices or they had prices that were more aligned with our actual meager photography budget but their photos left something to be desired. We weighed our options and seriously considered the effects on our budget if we went with Eddie. There just wasn’t any comparison for use; these will be our tangible memories from the day and one of the few things we’ll be able to share with our children. So while we went way over budget to secure Eddie’s work for our wedding but honestly, I was more than happy to splurge here and tighten the belt elsewhere.

Ed Pingol Wedding Photography

 

How did you find your photographer? Did you splurge?

Building the Block

D1087~Gumby-Don-t-Be-a-Blockhead-Posters[Source]

One of the best things about my company is that they close the office during the Christmas holiday so I had a glorious 10 days to get some wedding tasks crossed of my list and try to reclaim the planning momentum we had at the beginning of the our engagement period.

First on our list: Wedding hotels.

While we have a rather small amount of invited out-of-towners, we wanted to go ahead and book a room block for our guests to help make it easier for them to plan. Not only will this help us avoid the “where should we stay?” questions that always occur, but with as big as the Bay Area is, I’m sure someone will think staying in San Francisco is a totally great idea because it’s so close to everything. Yeeeeeaaaaaah…no.

We toured the hotels in two days – the first was totally unplanned and spontaneous (we were in the area) and the second was more prepared (we had appointments!). In the interest of privacy, I’m not going to identify the hotels we toured right now. The first day we toured the hotel we will be staying at. It’s a smaller boutique hotel that I had been looking at since before we settled on our venue. We were given a very thorough tour of the hotel and grounds and were able to see some guest rooms which were surprisingly large. There are plenty of nooks and crannies to take pictures at and while it definitely caters to an older, calmer crowd, I know this will be the perfect place to rest up the night before the wedding and the wedding night.

We came back a second time to view the suites since they were all occupied when we first stopped by. There were two options: the studio and the one-bedroom suite. The studio suite was spacious and had the bed on a platform which I knew I would just trip over (full disclosure: I almost did during the tour!) and so did the mister. The one-bedroom suite would be perfect for the madhouse that getting ready that morning will turn into. The mister preferred this one because there was a separate area I could go to get away from the crowd that will be in that room. I wasn’t prepared to book the hotel room that day but the coordinator was able to get us an even cheaper rate than what’s quoted online!

Since we won’t be seeing each other before the wedding, I didn’t want the guests to see me either, so we’re having them stay at a different hotel that’s also more affordable than where I’m staying. The first hotel we toured was a regular hotel. The rooms were small and looked like any hotel in Anytown, USA. There was nothing distinct about the hotel; it was simply a place to sleep.

The second hotel we toured was nicer than the first guest hotel. They had two room suites with a living/dining area and three sinks in each room. I say this because the coordinator made a big fuss about there being three sinks in each room. The rooms were nice but I still felt like it was crowded – there is a LOT of furniture going on in those rooms. The hotel has a central atrium and a full-service cafe/restaurant onsite and offer free breakfast to the guests. The mister liked this hotel. I wasn’t so impressed with the atrium; it reminded me of a walled-in motel. Plus, we would be on the hook for at least 80% of the rooms so if we came short of 8 rooms, we’d have to cover the difference. Those were not odds I liked.

The final hotel we toured was my favorite, hands down. It had a hipper vibe and the rooms were spacious and decorated the way I like. I was impressed with the hotel from the moment we stepped into the lobby and continued to become more impressed as we toured the hotel. The coordinator there showed us the King suite they had and for a moment I rethought my plans to stay sequestered prior to the wedding.

While the mister preferred the second hotel, what we both liked about this one was that we wouldn’t be held responsible for any unbooked rooms; they’d simply release what we didn’t book. Perfect.

After some back and forth, we decided to go with the third hotel for our guests. The combination of the guest rooms,  amenities, and overall feel it just wasn’t much of a competition. They even offered a discount for guest parking (that was a bummer – ALL of the hotels charged for parking) and are extending the special rate for my future mother-in-law. I would definitely stay at this hotel myself and one I felt comfortable recommending.

Tip: Take the time to visit and tour the potential hotels. It’s a good way to learn more about the hotel that you can’t otherwise figure out from looking at their websites. Also, be sure to call ahead!

Are you reserving a room block for your guests?

Pulling My Head Out of the Wedding Planning Sand

Funny how life used to be drag on when I was younger (back when nearly 3 months of summer vacation felt like a lifetime) and now it pretends to be the bus from Speed, refusing to drive slower than 50 MPH lest it explodes. Unless it during work hours.

After sprinting out of the gates in May to research and pick our vendors (we had nearly every vendor tied up by September), I had started to slow down on the wedding prep, believing I had “so much time!” And I did. Back in May, that is. Now that we’ve turned the calendar to 2014, I’m staring dead into the eyes of our approaching wedding. And it is on the Speed bus.

wed seasonI just started reading Game of Thrones a few months ago and have been saying “Winter is coming” every chance I get. Because that’s not annoying. At all.

I Pollyanna’d my way through most of last year, casually taking care of craft projects and whatnot as the mood struck, which left me with various projects in different phases of completion. It was a bit overwhelming having so many projects going at once and I think that was probably why I put off diligently working on them. Because watching Chopped and The Mindy Project is a lot easier to handle than trying to design signage or write a blog post about finding your caterer.

People constantly asked how the planning was going and I’d always reply, “It’s…going.” Because it kind of was, just not really. I wasn’t even really paying attention to how much time we had left either. Then again, I didn’t really have to since everyone else seemed to know exactly how many months we had left.

But now…now I have 5 months left to tackle the rest of our projects and final details. Actually, it’s more like 4 1/2 months since I have instituted an “Eff it” deadline – if my projects are not done by a week before the wedding, then we’re not having them. Done and done. And if there’s one thing I thrive on, it’s the stress from a pending deadline. I used the Christmas break to work on some wedding projects and we got a lot done. Get ready folks, I have planning updates galore!

Did you experience a wedding planning slump? How did you get over it?

Finding our Florist

florist[source: Ralph Daily via Flickr]

Finding a florist was a study in contrasts. While I had a surprisingly easy time figuring out what kind of flowers I wanted to have, I had an equally difficult time finding a florist who could deliver what I wanted within our budget.

I get it: I live in the SF Bay Area – vendors do not come cheap. But I really thought our new $1,000 budget would make finding a florist not so painful. I can’t image how I even thought we would be able to do anything with our original budget! A few potential florists had $1,500 MINIMUMS while others informed me that it was impossible to get the style I wanted with our budget.

But I was undaunted. I was able to find a day of coordinator under budget so I knew I’d be able to find someone to put together our flowers. Out of the 12 florists I contacted, I scheduled meetings with three of them, all of which did not flinch at our budget.

The mister met with the florists with me, which was a great help because he’s the official “Asker of Tough Questions.” The first florist we met with was nice and took the time to flesh out more of what I wanted and gauge our price sensitivities. While I did appreciate her careful attention to our bottom line, I did feel like she was pushing me to lower cost blooms above all else. She asked me if I liked carnations and even after hemming and hawing and finally saying, “Well, I don’t HATE them,” when I received her quote, there were carnations everywhere, including the corsages for our moms. I’m more than willing to spend some extra dollars on our moms’ flowers! She was more than willing to revise her proposal so it was more in line with the other proposals we received and while she was the most affordable, we crossed her off.

We met the second florist at her home, which she works out of. I liked her but couldn’t really get a real read on her because she rushed us out of our meeting. After spending nearly an hour with the first florist, I wasn’t prepared to meet and leave in under 30 minutes but that’s exactly what happened. She asked a few questions about our wedding and what we had planned so far, what we wanted, and bing, bang, boom! We were shaking hands and walking out the door. Her proposal ended up being almost $200 over budget and another one bit the dust.

The third and final florist was my first choice and I had my fingers and toes crossed that she would work out. We met her at Starbucks and in between talking about our wedding and floral visions (she told me that if she were to get married again, she would like to use the flowers I chose!) we chatted about our families and life. It was almost as if we were already friends. I was nervous about what her price would be with all the additional pieces we discovered we needed (we added two bridal party members, flowers for my grandparents and some other decor pieces for the living room of our venue) but we both left the meeting wanting her to work out. She took the time to visit the venue to get an idea of what kind of arrangement would look good on the mantle in the living room and presented her proposal: while it was more than the first florist, she came in under budget!

I’m so excited to be working with Mayumi of Pricanti Floral Arts and Design. She has been a real sweetheart and we were really impressed that she took it upon herself to visit our venue. Not only did she come in under budget, but she also had the best floral recommendations to boot! Orchids, peonies, anemones and ranunculus? What?!

pricanti floral headerThis was the picture that made me fall in love with Mayumi.
[Source]

I’m confident that Mayumi will be able to bring my floral visions to life and I’m really looking forward to seeing what she ends up designing. Now let’s pray that I’ll get my parrot tulips. She emailed me back in July to tell me she saw some Parrot tulips at the flower mart so there’s definitely hope!

Tip: If you feel like your preferences are not being heard, SPEAK UP! Yes, the vendors are the pros and know how things work but if you’re not feeling their recommendation, you don’t have to accept it.

How did you find your florist? What factor went into your decision?

Budding Inspiration: Pretty Flowers!

One of the most surprisingly easy wedding tasks was figuring out what kind of flowers I wanted for our wedding. While I do enjoy flowers, I was kind of indifferent to them for our wedding. My indifference definitely was a positive considering the rather small budget we originally had for flowers. I considered DIYing our flowers and then hiring a professional to tackle the personal flowers while I handled the centerpieces, then I considered doing simple, single flower arrangements for the both the personal flowers and centerpieces and then…it kept going back and forth.

Then one day my mom surprised me by gifting the money to cover my dress and flowers because she wanted me to get something nice. So I’m hiring a florist to handle the flowers. Before I get into our florist search, here’s some of my floral inspirations. Warning: lots of pictures ahead!

Bridal bouquet: Since I will be wearing white/ivory, I wanted to carry a colored bouquet so there would be some contrast. The only flower I was really wanted are green Weber parrot tulips but since I don’t even know when they’re in season, I wasn’t married (heh) to them. Basically, all I wanted was something with a green tone, soft, romantic, and fluffy like a cloud.

bridal flowers inspiration

[Sources via: With This Ring, Style Me Pretty, Style Me Pretty, Style Me Pretty, Style Me Pretty, Project Wedding]

I plan on decorating the stem with a ribbon and one of my dad’s Army metals like this:

Bridal bouquet with military medal[Source: Style Me Pretty]

Bridesmaid bouquet: Similar to my bouquet, I wanted the bridesmaids’ bouquets to stand out against their dresses so I decided to go with all white and because I’m so well-versed in flowers, I described my vision for the bridesmaids when meeting with florists as “All-white and fluffy.” I’m a floral genius.

all white bouquet[Source: Stinkerpants.com]

I also want their bouquets decorated with extra long ribbons for an added flair of…ribbons.

Bridesmaid bouquets with ribbons[Source: The Bride’s Cafe]

Boutonnieres: Again, we’re not tied to any flowers so we’re pretty open to whatever. I’d like the mister’s bout to be white and the groomsmen’s bouts to be green.

groom bouts

[Source: The KnotLee’s Florist & Nursery, Once Wed]

groomsmen bouts[Source: The Knot, The Knot, Style Me Pretty, Tomobi Floral Art]

Centerpieces: I’m continuing the “fluffy” theme with our centerpieces. Our centerpieces pretty much set the overall design theme for our wedding: kind of elegant/modern rustic with a hint of vintage [if it sounds like I’m pulling this description out of my butt, well, it’s true. I’m totally making it up as I go along]. I was drawn to fluffy white centerpieces with birch vases.

White centerpieces with birch bark vases[Sources: Snippet & Ink, In This Instance,  Project Wedding, One Fine Day Events]

Tip: Whether you DIY your flowers or hire a professional, having inspiration photos will help provide a clear vision of what you want for everyone to follow, especially if all you know you want is “fluffy like a cloud.” 

On the next episode of Talda Plans The Weddening, I’ll share our harrowing search for a florist. Are you DIYing your flowers or hiring a florist? Or are you skipping the flowers completely for something different?

My Wedding Fairy Godmother

bride wars candance bergenBride Wars anyone?

Once we decided to have our wedding at the Hacienda de las Flores, we had to wait until we were a year out from our wedding date before we were able to book the venue so we were at a standstill until then since I didn’t want to start making plans until I knew for sure we would have the venue and the date, but once we signed on the line, I set out to find our first vendor: a day-of-coordinator.

While I can handle planning the wedding on my own (c’mon now, I’ve been planning this shindig for the past seven years!), I knew from the beginning that I wanted a DOC to take the reins on the wedding day. After watching several weddings before me, I definitely saw the benefits of hiring someone to handle all the details and timeline the day of. After all the time spent worrying about the details leading up to the wedding, I didn’t want to worry about the wedding day itself. If something happened, I didn’t want to know or stop the festivities so I could figure out how to fix it. All I wanted to do was show up, look pretty, get married, and eat cake.

Plus, I didn’t want to make my family and friends work on my wedding. That, and if I’m being honest, I’m a perfectionist (surprise, surprise) and I love my family and friends, really I do, but I don’t think I trust any one person enough to set everything up exactly the way I want them to be. Not that it would be impossible; it would just take me a while to convince myself things are fine. Hiring a professional alleviates a lot of these issues.

What I didn’t know was how expensive DOCs could be. We had a very modest budget and while I found several DOCs in the area, to say I had sticker shock was an understatement. Many emails and phone calls later,  I was worried and discouraged as my long list of coordinators quickly dwindled and worried that we wouldn’t find anyone within our budget, even after increasing it by two hundred dollars in hopes of finding someone.  After what felt like ages, we found two coordinators who were available for our date and fit nicely within our budget.

I met with the first coordinator after work and really liked her. She was relatively new but I felt that she knew her stuff and could handle our wedding. Plus, we got along fabulously, which is an important consideration since we would be working very closely with her. She was my favorite so imagine my disappointment when I saw her fall apart under  the pressure of the mister’s questions during our second meeting. He wasn’t especially hard on her; she just tripped over some of his more critical questions. Ultimately, while she seemed fully capable of doing a good job, he wasn’t fully convinced she would be the best fit for us.

We met the second coordinator at our venue. This meeting was a night-and-day difference from the first. From the moment she sat down, she chatted with us about our relationship and started asking questions about which factors were the most important for us, how we envisioned our wedding, and other details about the day. I had shared my Pinterest board for the wedding with her beforehand and she had gone through it before the meeting and knew what I was going for and had some great suggestions for us as we toured the venue. I was getting excited about her but did my best to temper my excitement since I needed the mister to be on-board. Then when she skillfully navigated the question and answer round from the mister, we knew instantly she was the coordinator for us. We hired her on the spot.

I’m excited that Linda of Simply Events will be our day of coordinator! She was a lovely woman and just as excited to work with us. While her business is relatively young, she has over 20 years of event management experience, including wedding coordination at wineries so we definitely got the best of both worlds: a newish coordinator establishing her own business with the experience of a seasoned professional. Plus, her rates was under our original budget! I’ve already been bouncing questions and ideas off her and she’s been really responsive and honest about her opinions. She was already our smartest investment.

Tip: Day of Coordinators can be expensive but keep looking; there are some great options out there for everyone!

Are you passing the buck to a day or coordinator (or a friend or relative) or do you think you’ll handle it alone?

This is where we’ll put our cake

Now that I had eliminated Long Meadow Ranch from consideration, we were back on our first choice venue. Like I mentioned before, this venue was always near the top of my list but for one reason or another, it didn’t quite fit in my plans. Then after another of my revisions, I asked the mister if he would consider having an outdoor wedding and after some thought, he agreed and I showed him this venue and everything just fell into place.

Do you remember that episode of Gilmore Girls where Lorelai was having trouble planning her wedding to Luke but then she found her dream dress and the entire wedding just fell into place in a day? That’s how it was for me, except it took longer than a day but you get what I mean. Once he agreed to an outdoor wedding, suddenly my vision for this wedding became clear. We visited our lovely venue during his next visit, toured the grounds, and peered into buildings and I just felt right about the whole thing. I tried my best to keep calm because  I didn’t want to get my hopes up in case he didn’t like it. Finally, after what felt like ages, I asked him what he thought and he said he liked it! And, to my heart’s delight, he added, “If we get married here, we can come back and visit on our anniversary.”

Did you just swoon? I swoon every time I tell that story.

So what is the magical place that made me swoon and will be where we’re putting our cake? Here, at the Hacienda de las Flores in Moraga. It’s a very peaceful and beautiful garden tucked away in the Moraga hills and while it’s easy to get to and right off a busy road, it feels like everything is miles away. There are two sections that are available for rent, the Hacienda and the Pavilion. We’re only renting the Hacienda so we’ll have access to the house and its expansive lawn.

Hacienda de las Flores, Moraga
The Hacienda de las Flores, Moraga
[photo by Moraga Hacienda]

Our rental includes the lower level of the house (the Dance Room where we’ll put our buffet and cake, the Fireplace room which we’ll use as a lounge for people to hang back in if they want to take a break inside, and the Mosaic room which we don’t know what we’ll do with [the venue coordinator told us one couple used it as a nursery for the kids – great idea!]) along with a dressing area for me and another room the mister can hang out in before the ceremony, those large market umbrellas, which will come in handy in the warm afternoons), and tables and chairs.

Hacienda de las Flores - Dance Room
Don’t mind the tables; it was set up for their cafe. I picture our cake sitting in that window.

Hacienda de las Flores - Fireplace Room
The Fireplace Room. All the furniture is included and can be moved around.

Hacienda de las Flores - Bridal Suite
The Bridal Suite. Where I already claimed that chaise in the corner.

Our ceremony will be on the lawn with the birch trees as our altar area. There are several other areas to have the ceremony but I love the look of the birch trees. We’ll have our guests facing the birch trees so the Hacienda will be at their backs.


IMG_1092
The birch trees where we’ll be getting married. As unknowingly demonstrated by the mister.

Once the ceremony is completed, we’ll have Cocktail Hour and the Reception on the patio. The tables will be on the patio surrounding the fountain. Our dance floor will the just within the fence there under the eaves (the DJ will be set up on the left side and our drink table will be on the right.

Hacienda de las Flores patio

And it already comes decorated!

There are a few quirks with the Hacienda that may turn some people off, but wasn’t an issue for us. The venue rental includes any 8-hour period between 9am and 10pm and extra hours are available but can only be added on to the beginning of your time. It is in the middle of a residential area (plus, it’s Moraga…so, yeah) so everything stops at 10pm. Non-amplified music is allowed indoors and outdoors but amplified music must be indoors (there are ways to get around this!). Also, there is no hard liquor allowed; only beer, wine and champagne within their allotment suggestions (basically a half bottle of champagne or wine or 3 bottles of beer per person). And while you can bring in any caterer or DJ you wish, you will be charged a deposit fee if you go off their list. Again, these things can definitely be deal breakers to some people, but really didn’t matter to us.

But in all, I am so excited to have our wedding here. It’s going to be a lovely day.

Was it love at first sight for your wedding venue?

But where will we put the cake?

ImageGolden Gate Club, The Presido
[Photo by Jennifer Baciocco Photography via Presidio.gov]

Where or where shall we wed?

While we were always positive we would be getting married, we just weren’t sure WHERE this wedding was going to take place. Being a long-distance couple made this conversation quite interesting: would we get married in Michigan near his family? or in California near my family? or in Jamaica near no one’s family (this was the mister’s fist choice).

The venue is the cornerstone of your wedding; it ultimately determines the size and theme of your wedding. This was definitely true for us since as we changed or refined our wedding day vision, I would often change my first choice for venues to fit that new vision. Starting out, I knew I didn’t want a hotel ballroom, country club or vineyard wedding. That’s just not us so I sought out different venues like restaurants, estates, and even museums. And while I did have a home church, I would have preferred to have the ceremony and reception in one place. Traffic in the Bay Area can be a little tricky depending on which freeway you’re using and I didn’t want people having to worry about traffic.

While I accumulated a long list of possible venues in California, Michigan and even Jamaica, our venue search was actually very short. Once we decided to get married in California, I looked over my list and knew exactly where we would get married. Surprisingly, out of my long list of venues, we only visited two. Actually, we only saw one together – the second I went with my best friend because I couldn’t wait until the mister’s next visit and I had to see it to get it out of my head.

That second venue was the Long Meadow Ranch in St. Helena. I happened upon it in a newpaper article about some other person’s wedding and thought it looked wonderful. I couldn’t get it out of my head and had to see it. I showed the mister a few pictures and his first reaction: “It looks like a plantation. I don’t want to get married on a plantation.” Greaaaaat. Minus points for LMR.

Undeterred, I convinced him it wasn’t a plantation and got his okay to visit the venue. Truth be told, I begged for it; he wanted to come check it out with me but I was too impatient to wait (we didn’t have any plans for his next visit) so he relented. So a gray March morning, my best friend and I made the trek to St. Helena to check out the place. The venue is attached to the Farmstead restaurant and our wedding would be held outside in the back in the garden. We met with Barbra who promptly offered us a glass of wine to sip on as we toured the facility. Not bad, Napa Valley. Not bad.

Front entrance to Farmstead Restaurant and Long Meadow Ranch WineryFront Entrance of the Farmstead Restaurant

Side view of Logan-Ives House at Long Meadow Ranch Winery

Logan-Ives House where we could use a room to get ready and hang out.

Barbra took us around back and gave us a tour of the gardens, which were lovely. It’s a working garden and the chef often uses the fruit, vegetables, and herbs in restaurant’s meals. We turned the corner and came into the clearing where the ceremony and reception would take place.

Private event space at Long Meadow Ranch Winery

It was beautifully manicured yet underwhelming. The canopy in the rear is one of the areas where we could have the ceremony and the canopy in the foreground is where we would set up the tables for the reception. I wasn’t very impressed. The area felt a little cramped and I had been anticipating having 150 people attending and had a hard time believing that 300 people could reasonably fit (maybe if they were all standing!). If we went with LMR, we would most likely have to have the ceremony at a separate location and reconvene here for dinner and dancing.

Waterfall on outdoor patio

The waterfall was definitely a nice touch

So how did LMR stack up? While the grounds were gorgeous, the food would be delicious (the restaurant provides the catering), and if we only had the reception there, we wouldn’t have a venue fee, just a food & beverage minimum of $3,000, there were a few downsides:

  1. Ceremony would have to be in a separate location. St. Helena is about an hour’s drive from my church so I would have to find someplace nearby to get married – that was a hassle I didn’t want to deal with.
  2. We would have to rent everything, including maybe a tent depending on the time of year
  3. We would be required to hire a DOC, florist, and valet parking service from a select list of vendors. Wine Valley florists are not cheap.
  4. We’d have to provide valet parking
  5. They have a $2/slice cake cutting fee (wha?!)
  6. The garden faces the main street (literally, THE main street in St. Helena. It’s a tiny town) and isn’t very private. Plus, while we were touring, the Wine Train rolled by twice. Uh…yeah.
  7. It’s a working restaurant so unless we buyout the restaurant, which wasn’t happening on our budget, then we would have to share the space and restrooms with restaurant patrons.

While we were having lunch across the street at Gott’s Roadside I went over my notes and decided it just wouldn’t work for us. And just like that, my infatuation with this venue had dissipated and I was more certain that our first choice was the right choice for us.