When wedding planning starts it is hard to figure out what needs to be done first. Finding the right venue definitely sets the tone and provides a base for wedding planning. Not only do you want a place that is the perfect setting for your big day, but there are so many other things to keep in mind. Is the venue in our budget? Do they allow alcohol and if so what kind? Is there a place for the bride to get ready or wait? How late can you celebrate? Are they restricted to their own vendors? Yes, it’s a lot and one of the decisions I struggled with the most, but honestly take your time because you will end up find something you love!
When I first started looking at venues I had no clue what went into each one. All venues are different and there are many questions to ask, but before you make the trek out to the venue here are 5 very important topics to ask…
- Price: This one will definitely be your biggest challenge. Most venues have a large fee to just use the grounds itself, and there are even some that have separate fees per area. When Luis and I looked in southern California, we started with hotels. We both wanted a place where family and friends could party but not have to worry about them driving or going far. Although, hotels are definitely a pretty penny and most of them have price minimums you have to meet.
- Duration/Time: Mostly all venues have a time duration you have to stick within. One beautiful venue we saw let us know the music had to be off by 10pm and people had to leave by 10:30pm. We wanted to stay out and celebrate as long as we could so we knew that venue wasn’t an option for us. Think about how long you would like the duration of your wedding to be and maybe that involves ending it at the venue early, but continuing the celebration elsewhere.
- Preferred Vendors: Some venues have their own vendors they want you to go with (lighting, flowers, music, food, etc.). This could either end up costing you or saving you money depending on their vendor list. I myself like to get the best deal where ever I can so if you do too then this may be a deal breaker for you. Also, if you had a special vendor you wanted to incorporate in your wedding (i.e. in-n-out food truck) then nix that idea.
- Alcohol: Surprisingly, it is a hit or a miss when it comes to venues being allowed to serve hard alcohol. I had the idea of wanting hard alcohol because since our wedding was spanish themed aka margaritas, mojitos and anything with tequila basically. In the end, we decided on a winery venue that only had a license for beer, wine and champagne. It worked out wonderfully though because most people didn’t over drink and the prices were easier to work with. Plus, we were able to have signature drinks from the beer and wine with Micheladas for Luis and Sangria as mine!
- Time of Year: Wedding season is generally most busy from June-August, so most venues are booked a year out. Crazy, yes but summer events tend to happen other than just weddings and days get booked quick. It also is most expensive that time of the year. I looked at some venues that were greatly discounted in the winter, so if time of year is flexible and you would like to stick to a budget then having a winter wedding might be a wonderful option.
Venues we looked at in Southern California
This venue was absolutely gorgeous! It was honestly between this venue and the one we chose (Sunstone Winery). I was wowed from how beautiful it was outside to how even more beautiful and intricate it was inside. There were lots of options as fare as space goes and every option was beautiful. They do have their own catering that you have to use, but the food looked great. They do provide linen, tables, chairs and plates which were all very nice (I loved the plates). The decision factor for Luis and I was the location. We met and got engaged in Santa Barbara so we wanted to get married there as well. Also, the rooms are pricey (around $500 a night) and we didn’t want our family and friends to have to dish the money since the hotel is a bit secluded from any other places.
This was a beautiful venue with different price ranges depending on which location of the property you wanted to have your wedding. It’s a huge property with 4 different areas to get married and each area has different attributes and sizes. I of course loved the biggest sized area, but didn’t make sense for us since we had a smaller wedding of under 100 people.
We were trying to gear away from hotels. Then we found this boutique hotel right off of state street in Santa Barbara that was super cute. I loved the rooms, location and best of all the roof top space. The roof top is where they mostly do their weddings and the view is just gorgeous. I had an idea of getting pictures on state street with our bridal party and a mariachi band. Guests could also stay at the hotel itself or have other hotel options nearby. Plus if you wanted the celebration to continue past after hours state street has some fun places to go out! I would definitely recommend checking out this venue if you’re looking for a good time in Santa Barbara. I will say two things to watch out for is the food and beverage minimum they require and the rooftop does get windy certain times of the year.
What attracted me most about this beautiful venue was their outdoor patio area for the reception. It is lined with string lights, vines growing on the wall and a cool big rustic door, very italian/spanish vibe. The ceremony overlooked the mountains in the area and it was beautiful. There is a short walk to the ceremony area since it was out in the vineyard. My grandma and great uncle were our flower girl and ring bearer and they would not have made the walk over, so we nixed it. A pretty venue that is worth the look though!
This venue was so cute and unique with many different attributes to the grounds. One attribute I loved was the two bungalow rooms. They could be used for each of the bridal parties to get ready in with a pool in-between. You can literally relax, get ready and hang out by the pool all day long on your wedding day. There are pre-strung string lights on an open grass area and lots of space (plus a tree swing). The only draw back for me was the way you face when you’re saying your vows. Pictures could possibly capture the bungalows (which isn’t bad) but not how I envisioned. Plus didn’t give me the wow factor I was looking for as far as the ceremony part goes.
If you’re looking for an outdoor/indoor venue with breathtaking views, this place is drop dead gorgeous! The beautiful backgrounds (where ever you are on the property) made for beautiful pictures. The cuvee cave with candlelit chandeliers for dinner, a dressing room on site and a lot of different spaces to work with both indoors and outdoors. We honestly can’t recommend this place more! Even if you aren’t looking for a wedding venue go wine tasting here you will have a blast. Located just 5 min from the small town of Solvang and about 25 min. from Santa Barbara, it’s definitely a place to visit if you can.
All photos taken by Mirelle Carmichael