Where to Begin: Choosing a Venue

This is the BIGGEST decision to be made, since the bulk of the budget gets sucked out here. And when you think about it, the choices are endless. Choosing a venue comes down to what you want based on your priorities.

After the engagement buzzed calmed, I started checking out possible reception venues in the area. My initial thought was "this is the Bay Area, this should be easy." It was actually much tougher than I expected. There were a few things that I knew I wanted: able to accommodate our large party, an elegant space, and "affordable" for the Bay Area.

When we decided that we would be getting married in July, I also considered that I did not want an outdoor reception. The Bay Area can be hot in July, especially inland. I didn't want the older folks in the family to suffer heatstroke or something like that. This helped to narrow down the choices.

My co-worker immediately turned me to Here Comes the Guide, a great resource for initial venue hunting, tailored to all of California. It's broken down by geographical area and has links out to all the venues. It's great for browsing before you inquire via email or phone.

I may live in the San Francisco Bay Area, but I don't live in San Francisco. I live in the East Bay and wanted to keep the ceremony and reception in the East Bay or South Bay at the farthest. Again, this allowed more narrowing of choices.

We're getting married at my church, so a ceremony on-site was not necessary. We just needed a location to get the party started. With the location of the ceremony, we didn't want travel time to be more than half an hour to the reception site, for ease of guest travel.

With these options in mind, I started emailing. I emailed golf courses and hotels, mainly. I liked the idea that guests could attend the reception, then go upstairs to catch some ZZzz's. Then again, I also loved the idea of being at a golf course. My dad and my future father-in-law love golf. I thought it would be a great activity for the men to hang out pre-wedding day. A golf course also provided a lush background for photos and pretty scenery.

Since I have never planned a wedding or watched anyone plan one recently, I had no idea what the pricing would be like. I assumed that there would be a price to rent the space and a price per head if the catering was in house. There would possibly be a cake cutting fee depending on the venue as well as a minimum for the bar sales.

And so the search began...

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