Morgan’s California Venue Hunt!

On the Wedding Venue Hunt!

Now that you know all about my fabulous coordinator and some stunning bridal earrings I won, I can let you in on my first venue hunt weekend! It came about after a flurry of e-mails, calls, and excited exchanges with my parents. They were excited to go looking, even though the fiance and I were still enjoying our newly-engaged state of bliss. It was a point of contention where exactly we should have the wedding, and everyone had different ideas. I personally could care less where the wedding was, as long as it was someplace that fit that aesthetic I had in my head (I’ll share some of my inspiration boards next week!) and it had a sense of “place.”

To get what I mean by a “sense of place”, you’ll have to know that my ideal wedding location would be Hearst Castle. I grew up idolizing Julia Morgan as an architect, and she designed the palatial Central Coast home for William R. Hearst back in the early 1900s. I ended up working there as a photographer after college, and grew to love everything it embodied: the entrepreneurial spirit of Hearst, the respect and appreciation of world travel and antiques (the house is full of entire ceilings and fireplace mantels imported from all over Europe dating back hundreds of years), and the beauty of the California Coast.

While I know I’m not going to find anything like Hearst, I wanted to have my wedding somewhere special, with a history attached.

With that in mind, I set out for the East Bay, where my fiance and I met up with my parents, and we dove headfirst into our first few venues.

Venue Weekend 1 – The East Bay and Monterey/Carmel Venues

Ruby Hills Golf Club – Pleasanton

Our first stop was close to home – out in the relatively new wine country of Ruby Hills. Large, Mediterranean-style houses, rolling hills punctuated with wineries… it really is a peaceful, beautiful, tucked-away bit of the East Bay. This Golf Club is no secret, however, they book over a year in advance and their weekends fill up fast. We thought we were way ahead of the game, but they only had one Saturday left in March and April of 2014! Obviously this is a very popular spot with locals and out-of-towners alike. For those of you who want Napa without the tourists, it might be paradise.

reception area of ruby hills golf club

When you walk in the front doors and past the lobby, these large windows and beautiful staircase provide a grand entrance to the reception area. Cocktails are usually done outside or in a lovely space to the right of this room, that has a dark-wood “smoking lounge” feel. Ceremony setup for Ruby Hills Golf ClubOutside the double doors, there is a beautiful set of columns in a semi-circle that blooms at different times of the year (though supposedly when it does, it drips gorgeous purple clusters of flowers) and this area can hold a lot of guests. Our guest count has gone down since our initial list was made, but even at our highest, we could fit all of our friends and family.

The fiance adored this place – I was on the fence. It was our first venue, so it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. My Dad and I even danced a little in the middle of the reception room – it’s all so exciting to be thinking about! I wasn’t sure whether “wine country wedding” was really my thing. I had modern colors dancing in my head, and Fiance was worried about the trek for his Southern California family. But it did get us thinking about the flow of the wedding and envisioning our ceremony space, which is what really matters.

Bridges Golf Club – San Ramon

Our second stop was Bridges, a beautiful golf club up in San Ramon, another one close to my parents’ house. As you can tell, I grew up in suburbia; the land of golf clubs! Bridges has an impressive entrance, ample parking, and probably the best “flow” out of all the venues we saw. Be wary though; they only have a bride’s dressing room (no groom), and it’s the size of a closet. Landscape view of Bridges Golf Club

ceremony setup at Bridges Golf Club San Ramon

Ceremony Setup Indoors

They have two difference options for ceremony spaces, one indoor and one outdoor (great for a backup plan if it rains!) And I can imagine a million different ways to dress up that fireplace mantel! From the outdoor ceremony guests retreat to shady verandas for cocktails, where lights twinkle in the trees. A few steps more and you’re at the Pavillion, a giant beamed ballroom space with beautiful wrought iron chandeliers.

Wedding Venues in Northern California ballroom

The pictures don’t do it justice, but there is so much light that comes in through those big windows! There are also a few spaces outside for lounging out of the heat and noise of the ballroom – two outdoor fireplaces with seating and a long balcony as a matter of fact.

I think this one was my parents’ favorite, and it definitely was a beautiful space. I still can’t imagine myself getting married on a golf course; it seems so sterile! I know people do it all the time, and Bridges definitely took the cake for beautiful spaces, but we continued looking to see what the world of venues was like beyond golf clubs.

Rosewood Sand Hill – Palo Alto

When I went on the Blu Bungalow tour back in March, Rosewood was one of our stops. I fell in love with the modern interiors and landscaping, the spa-like vibe that washes over you as soon as you arrive, and of course the Michelin-star rated Madera restaurant that does all the catering.

Garden View of Rosewood Hotel

A view of the main hotel from an inside courtyard. If you turned around, a fabulous view of the pool and spa are set against the Palo Alto hills. The balcony above is a fabulous place to sit and enjoy a cocktail! Interior Hallway of Rosewood Sand Hill HotelOne of the hallways leading off from the reception desks – the use of interesting materials is what drew me here in the first place; new and different are things I can’t get enough of after looking at weddings all day! Rosewood Hotel Ballroom Setup

The only concern we all had was where the wedding would actually take place! If we had an intimate ceremony of less than 60 people, we could use their beautiful modern zen garden for a ceremony, but anything larger and a sunny astroturf square in front of the ballroom was our only option. The ballroom is definitely large, but doesn’t have any of the unique features the hotel boasts. It’s better suited for corporate events.

Although I wish this place would have worked, we did have incredible cocktails (including one with habanero-infused vodka!) so we’ll be visiting!

C’est la vie…. off to the next venue!

Quail Lodge – Carmel

We wanted to explore our options on the coast closest to my parents – the Monterey/Carmel Penninsula. We hit up Quail Lodge (another golf course) But they were in the middle of a lot of renovations and couldn’t really explain what the venue was going to look like after they were done buying new furniture, lighting, and linens for the space. What we saw would be a good fit for a modern style rustic wedding, but I needed a little more “chic” thrown in for it to tempt me!

I can’t wait to see what they’re doing to the venue in the future – but here are a few current pics!

Ceremony Setup of Quail Lodge

photo credit: John Kaemmerling

Ballroom of Quail Lodge

The Monterey Plaza Hotel – Monterey

The Plaza is simply breathtaking. The views are spectacular, you are right on the water, and smack dab in the middle of all the fun of Monterey. They have multiple ballrooms, each with varying views and pricing, and a full coordinator who will help with everything from vendors to timelines. The hotel is old-school upscale, and you feel special just walking inside!

Ceremony setup for Plaza Hotel

The ceremony spot is on either of these two points looking out at the water. Since it’s a popular place for tourists to roam around, they block it off for your wedding. The second-biggest ballroom is on the left, and boasts the most gorgeous view.

Ballroom in Plaza Hotel Monterey

The ballrooms are pretty, and they offer a lot of options when it comes to linens and table settings. The steep valet parking pricing and crowded tourism district turned my parents off of this place, but I’ll be back to vacation here; it’s one of the most beautiful hotels I’ve ever been in.

InterContinental Clement Hotel  – Monterey

This hotel was a last, hurried stop before heading home from our venue journey. We couldn’t see much because they don’t have wedding staff available on weekends (at least in the off season) but we looked around a bit. The hotel itself is fantastic. Really modern, fabulous art, and fun lighting. But the ballrooms are a little more corporate than grand, and the view is a little stunted (since it’s between two buildings!) but still a beautiful location choice.

Ceremony setup for Clement Hotel

ballroom of the Clement Hotel So, weary from our travels, we headed home and discussed the weekend over Louisiana-style lobster and crab, and tried to process all the new information!

The next venue hunt was all the way down in Central California, where we drank a lot of wine and had fun at the beach! Next Monday lovelies!

xo- Morgan


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