Welcome back to wedding planning land... where we are realizing that the time of our trip to California is approaching fast, and I've been driving myself a bit insane making sure I've researched every possible beautiful and affordable redwoods site in the Bay Area.
I mentioned in our last wedding post about the overall look of our wedding about our desire to get married in the redwoods, but I wanted to add a little note about our decision to go to California for the wedding, even though we live across the country in Massachusetts. Since our families and friends are so spread across the country, we realized that anywhere we go, at least half of our guests would have to travel to get to us, so we decided we should just choose wherever feels right to us. We love the outdoors, nature feels much more appropriate than a church for us, and the redwoods have that amazing spiritual feeling that is perfect for a wedding. We were both born in the Bay Area, and even though we only lived there as babies before moving to Oregon (me) or Massachusetts (Chris), we both still feel a connection with that area; since it's so expensive, we will probably never live there, but it seems right to have a lovely vacation and marriage there. Also, there's something about the Northeast that feels like Chris's territory, and something about Oregon that feels like my territory, so California is a nice, neutral ground for us. So there you have it, the idea to go west was the first and easiest decision we made, and we haven't looked back!
|We would love some giants like these, but sadly they're all way too far from the airport for convenience... from here|
We have a lot of requirements for what we want in a venue, and even though I keep finding more possibilities, I always come back to my favorites. These are the two (and a half... you'll see) sites that have been consistently at the top of the list. What do you think looks best?
A quick breakdown of what we were looking for:
- Redwoods! Lots of them... It was a must for us to have the ceremony location surrounded in tall, beautiful redwoods.
- A reception space that will comfortably fit our small wedding (we're thinking it will be somewhere around 50-75 people) without feeling too big or small
- A reception space with both indoor and outdoor areas that feel connected
- Multiple catering options. We want lots of delicious food, but we want to be able to shop around to find a caterer who will give us something awesome on a small budget.
- A site (and caterer) who will allow us to bring our own alcohol. Keeps costs down, and lets us be more creative with what we offer (hopefully some home brews... more on that another day)
- Affordable! The goal is to keep the venue costs around or under $3000. Of course we had to pick an area (the Bay Area) that's inherently expensive, but we you know we have to stick to a budget here.
- Convenient to local airports and hotels so it will be easy for all our out-of-town guests
First, our current favorite (actually it's been our favorite since we found it, but who knows what will happen once we go there...):
UC Berkeley Botanical Garden
We would have the ceremony in the Redwood Grove and Amphitheatre, which is crazy beautiful, surrounded by a mini-forest of redwoods:
This is easily our favorite ceremony location. The amphitheatre means we won't even need to rent chairs, which is a small savings.
Who needs an aisle, when you have gorgeous paths through the redwoods?
I can't wait to see the botanical garden in person. It has amazing lush places in the redwoods for pictures, and...
All sorts of different areas representing plant life from around the world, so we would have tons of variety in our photos.
We could also rent the "Conference Center" at the Botanical Garden, which would be convenient for our guests (just walk down a path to get from ceremony to reception), and a beautiful spot in the midst of the Cycad and Palm Garden.
The cost is also right in our range:
If we had a Sunday wedding (which we are seriously considering), it would be just over $2500 for the ceremony site for 2 hours and the reception site for 7 hours (plus 1.5 free hours of set-up time). A Saturday wedding would run about $3000 for the same time frame. It's all by the hour, so we can decide exactly how much time we need and schedule accordingly. Prices also include a rental monitor, security guard, set up of tables, umbrellas, and seat cushions in the amphitheatre.
This venue has every single one of the requirements I listed above, which is awesome.
The inside of the conference center is simple, but nice. The curtain is drawn over the big glass windows in this picture, but you get the idea.
Here's the interior set up for something other than a wedding, but you can see what's in there better. I love the lights against the wood ceiling.
Another option would be to have the ceremony in the Redwood Grove, but then hold the reception at another location on the UC Berkeley campus (this is the half venue I mentioned at the beginning of this post):
UC Berkeley Alumni House - Toll Room and Patio
We thought of this idea, since we're not 100% sure that the conference center will be perfect, so we figured it's a good idea to have a back-up reception site nearby.
I couldn't find many good pictures, but it still looks pretty awesome from what I've seen. This is the patio that's surrounded by lovely trees and even has an outdoor fireplace.
Here's the patio set up for a wedding. Through the big glass windows and doors, there's this big, beautiful modern room:
Again, the curtains are pulled, and I couldn't find a picture from the inside with them open, but you would see the lovely patio outside. I'm a little worried this place will be too big for the number of guests we have, but we'll have to see it in person. Unlike the conference center, this place would be really close (like a 5 min walk) to the hotels where we and our guests would be staying, which makes it a bit more convenient.
We love the style and look of the Alumni House, but it will be a bit more expensive than the conference center, coming out to somewhere just over $2500 for the reception rental (about 8 hours), plus an extra either $600 (Sunday) or $700 (Saturday) for the ceremony in the Redwood Grove Amphitheatre. We're just going to have to see if it's worth it!
Our second favorite option, which has actually been growing on me the more I look into it, is:
The Trocadero Clubhouse at Sigmund Stern Grove
This is a funky old Victorian house on the grounds of a park that is mostly used for musical performances at an amphitheater on the other side of the park. It's off on the west side of San Francisco in a more residential area away from downtown. As a site administered by the Recreation and Parks Dept, it has its pros and cons.
Pros: less expensive at just under $2500 for the FULL day (10 am - 11 pm). Also, it has fewer regulations, namely there is no preferred vendors list (like the botanical garden with its preferred caterers list), so we would be able to get more creative with that and possibly save lots of money by doing something fun like a food truck. Plus I think the place has a great vintage vibe.
Cons: it doesn't seem like it's quite as epic as the botanical garden, which is understandable because it's just a normal park that happens to have a little redwood grove, not a botanical garden where they spend lots of money to make it huge and awesome and well-kept. The house sounds like it won't be as well-kept as the other reception sites either, since I doubt parks and rec dept cares about it since they're not really making much money on it.
There's a little redwood grove right outside the house, where you can decide how to set it up for your ceremony. I love what both of these couples did...
There's also a meadow that some people used for various things, and there would definitely be lots of great areas for pictures.
There's even a beautiful big pond thing, and sweet rustic wood rails next to the paths.
The house has a great large front porch, which would be perfect for serving food and mingling...
Inside there is a large room downstairs that can be pretty much set up however you need. There are also smaller rooms upstairs for changing or storing things. I like what these people did with the christmas lights around the windows.
Doesn't that just look like a fun, funky little place?
We also considered the Amphitheatre of the Redwoods at the Pema Osel Ling Retreat Center in the Santa Cruz mountains, which looked gorgeous, but we've recently decided that it's just not right for us since it doesn't meet all our criteria like these two do. We didn't like the interior spaces very much, you are required to use their on-site caterer, and it seemed like it would get over-budget fast. We looked at a TON of other places, but I wanted to mention this one since it was right up there on our list until very recently, and it does look awesome.
So what do you think of our venue ideas? Which one is your favorite? Do you know of anywhere else we should look into? Or any other things we should keep in mind when looking at these places? We'll let you know more once we check them out in two weeks!