We recently just locked in a date and picked a venue! I am so excited that we have accomplished this part of the wedding planning process as it seems to be the most grueling. Luckily, my mom and I were quick to research and since my parents have already hosted a wedding, the experience gave an advantage. You may think “that was fast” but realistically, it takes about a year to plan and all the loveliest of venues get swooped up quickly so I wanted to make sure we were on it. I also, love planning events and want to get the hard part done so 2018 can be alllll about the fun!!
Since we did so much research and had a clear cut idea of things that were of utmost importance… and things that were not… it was easy to eliminate certain prospects from our venue list. Ultimately, we found one, Leal Vineyards, that encompassed everything we wanted and it seemed like a no brainer. (All photos in this post are from the property). Luckily when we went, it was just as fabulous as we thought it would be and we booked it right there!
I loved the team, the property was stunning and they include so many essentials in their hosting that my family and I are ensured to have a fun, relaxing day and will deal with minimal logistics! So far… smooth sailing on this wedding planning thing! However, I can credit that to being a girl who loves this sort of event, designing decor, and is fairly decisive in her taste… not to mention a family and fiance that trust my judgment too. (Hey it helps! Too many cooks in the kitchen can get messy!)
But if this wedding planning jazz intimidates you more and you are amidst planning and picking a venue… I have some guidelines for you that will definitely make the process a bit easier.
Decide on a Budget
Whether you are paying, your parents, his parents, figure out the money scenario as soon as possible so you can do your research on venues according to what falls within that budget. This is the first and most important thing. The more detailed you are, the better!
And don’t forget to include things that aren’t included in the venue in your budget like photographer, videographer, your dress, caterer, flowers, etc!
Decide on a Guest List First
It is the WORST part… and it will likely change as you go but it is important to get the solid, shoo-ins down on a list and approved by everyone so you don’t have to cut any important people by accidentally choosing a venue that can’t accommodate everyone that should be invited!
RESEARCH! RESEARCH! RESEARCH!
What do you want? What is the price? What city do you want to get married in? What are the reviews of the the site? What does their instagram feed or geo tags look like? (it helps!) Tap into your good friend Google and social media and don’t be lazy!
Decide What is Most Important
What was most important for me: 1. ability to hold the number of guests needed 2. good food 3. a back-up plan for weather and 4.. planning and some vendors that I like included so I don’t have to run around town coordinating them the day I’m supposed to be having fun and getting hitched!
I didn’t want to even look at a venue I may like that couldn’t have the capacity of the number of guests needed. I felt like that would be setting myself up for disappointment. Also, Jason and my favorite thing to do together is eat, cook, go to restaurants, and essentially pig out so if we didn’t have good food, that would be a huge WOMP for me. (And we are Italian? What Italians don’t prioritize the menu? haha). I also wanted to make sure that I preferably had some in-house coordination because that usually comes from skilled hands that will take care of the little uh-ohs and mishaps that inevitably come up while setting up for such a large event.
Visualize Your Day
I have always wanted to get married on/near a vineyard. It was easy to come by here with wine country hugging the Bay Area (Napa, as well as the South Bay too!) I think vineyards are romantic and reflective of my Italian heritage which is important to me. Also, their dreamy quality gives a perfect feel of nature as well as keeps up with the ‘romantic with rustic infusions’ that I am going for in my decor (how bloggy did I just get on you there with that description!?).
This was something I was sure of in a venue. It definitely helped eliminate certain venues but I was also still open to others (just in case things didn’t work out). I knew that perhaps a barn was not for me… as well as any place with animals nearby for nose purposes! (ha! – don’t get me wrong, I love animals but I prefer to not have my guests smell manurer on my wedding day!). So think about what you see when you are deciding what you want. Mansions, gardens, backyards, ranches, oceans, lakes…all gorgeous options too!
Also, take some time and think of the flow of your day and weekend from arrivals to departures to timing of the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception. You will likely spot holes in logistics and when you do, write them down. Really take your time on this and think. This is my biggest trick and weapon when it comes to being successful at event planning. I make a plan and lists of who will be where at what time and go from there. It can feel like a lot when starting out this tactic but I promise, you’ll feel better once you do it.
Weddings are expensive and it is not the time to be shy about asking your venue questions. Don’t worry if something may sound rude (like restrictions on the guest list) because honestly, your venue is on your team and it’s better to ask and get an answer ahead of time. Also, it’s always about how you ask so just keep it light and be honest and you will likely get what you want.
Think Like a Guest
I have been to too many weddings to count in the last couple years so I have a fairly good idea of the mindset of the people attending. Plan and ask questions as if you were just a guest. Think of where can I stay? How can I get there? What can I expect? Then, mock up a list and ask your venue what they suggest for all those answers.
Ultimately, you and your family are priority, guests can find their own way… I have always without complaint. It’s part of the program of attending but it is courteous to be thoughtful. Just don’t overwhelm yourself with planning too many logistics. There is a lot that goes into these events and sometimes just getting a shuttle and blocking off a hotel is good enough. Do your part and if you have the time and resources to do more, by all means, but just consider those logistics because if you have a lot of elderly people coming or kids, it sometimes easier to pick a venue that can accommodate such things.
Follow Your Gut
Listen to your instincts when it comes to your venue. Does it make you happy being there? Is it pretty or what you imagined? Do the people working there put you at ease? Pay attention to all those internal signals for a good sign. Your gut is always important when deciphering what it s a fit and what is not.
Keep in mind, this is one day in life and of course, it is such a very special one but also know nothing will be perfect. Weddings are like shows, things just go wrong inevitably and if there is anything theater has taught me growing up, is to take little mishaps in stride. So enjoy the process, let the perfectionism go, pick what feels right and hits all our must-haves, give a toast to celebrate, and just HAVE FUN!
I’m so looking forward to our own wedding day and am thrilled to have a venue that I know will surround me with not only beautiful views but wonderful people to help make the day special!