Category Archives: Venues

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.

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]

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.