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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- We would have to rent everything, including maybe a tent depending on the time of year
- 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.
- We’d have to provide valet parking
- They have a $2/slice cake cutting fee (wha?!)
- 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.
- 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.