Our Wedding in Sonoma // Part 1: The Venue

Now that Dan and I have been married almost a year, I figured better late than never to share all of the planning and photos from our big day in wine country!

Hah well the truth was I knew shortly after the wedding that The Knot was going to run a feature on our wedding in their May 1 issue (which was CRAZY exciting), so I couldn’t have posted anything before then had I wanted to. And believe me I wanted to.

Also these posts took way too long thinking back to all of this and finding all of my photos.

So much to share!

Finding the Venue

Where to begin… I guess I should start by saying Dan and I did not have a wedding planner. I would have LOVED one but it wasn’t even kind of in our budget. So I did pretty much all of the planning on my own in six months. I fortunately already knew a number of the vendors I wanted to have because I’ve worked with them before! That helped A LOT. I also really couldn’t accept help from anyone even though family and friends offered to help because… I’m a little type A and knew everything I wanted and thought I had everything under control and I did until it all went awry the last week before the wedding. Anywho…!

But basically I learned that wedding planners are magical fairies and if you are lucky enough to have one (or a mom who takes over, you are blessed). Also Dan did help when I needed it but overall didn’t have a ton of opinions on flowers and invitations. Hah naturally…

But when it came to finding the venue, I definitely needed his help because this was the longest and most arduous process. So much so that we almost scrapped it all and eloped.

First we emailed dozens of wineries but just about all of those in the Sonoma area were coming in at a minimum $10,000 venue fee. (What!) That was way above our budget. We started looking at forest preserves, state parks, and farms nearby hoping those would be cheaper. This proved to be equally difficult because of the cost of bringing everything in (including bathroom rentals). Argh… So eventually we turned to VRBO’s and AirBNB’s because we knew the wedding was going to be very small. Well, 99% of those rentals do not allow parties or also have huge event rates.

The venue Dan found for us on AirBNB was no exception. But they had a “dinner party” rate for 50 people or less, and a wedding rate which was 3x that cost. After a pleading email to the owner explaining our situation, our small attendance list, the fact that there wouldn’t even be a DJ yet along a band or stage, and our budget, we were able to secure the dinner party rate. Victory!

I mean holy cow talk about a dream venue…

This place seemed too good to be true! The best part was we were going to rent the house for three days so we could stay there with our bridal party! Hello dream vacation weekend!

Venue was secured in April which meant full steam ahead to plan an October wedding.


Our Visit to the House/ Venue

In August, Dan and I took a trip out to San Francisco and visited the house for the first time to scope things out and get a feel for the run of show. It was just as spectacular as the photos. It almost felt like we were in Tuscany and the rose bushes filled the air with the most delightful scent.

Of course the weekend we made it out to see the venue in person, the back yard where everything was going to be taking place was under major construction. So you REALLY needed to have vision…

And the spot we thought we would be getting married…

We took measurements that I took home with me and I got to work planning the layout for rentals…


The Best Laid Plans

Behold: the hand drawn sketches I drew up to send our rental company in what felt like dozens and dozens of emails. Trying to figure out how many string lights were needed, how large a dance floor we needed, how big of speakers were enough for people to hear, and whether we needed to move the speaker from one side of the yard where the ceremony was to the other side where the dancing was, and ermergerd everything else you’d NEVER think of. Let me tell you, those damn string lights you can get at Target for $18/strand?! A LOT MORE when it comes to renting them and having them set up.

I remember the “twinkle light budget” might have been the biggest fight we had in planning the wedding because Danny did not want to spent the ridiculous amount they were charging us and he was convinced he could figure out how to hang them himself. Even though it was a yard and literally nothing to affix them to… eventually we just pared back from the original 10 strands or whatever it was to 3 or 4. It helped a lot. Then we needed heaters because it was going to be cold at night… Argh I tell you. Again I say wedding planners are magical unicorn people and what they do is not easy.

Thank god for photoshop. Hah

Eventually we had the PERFECT plan! And mostly within budget! Another victory! Everything was going to be perfect and it was going to be the most magical outdoor dinner under the stars there ever was! Intimate and casual and beautiful all at once. And everything was going to be in ONE location making it so easy for everyone.


What Actually Ended Up Happening

Oh boy what a doozy. The biggest storm California had had in years was heading down from Alaska and the forecast two weeks before the wedding never changed. It was going to rain. All weekend. Yes, there were tears. So many hours of work and obviously money and there wasn’t much I could do about it.

photo by Jenna Kutcher

Our day-of-coordinator (which we decided we NEEDED one month before the wedding and came recommended by our caterer), my mother-in-law who was already in San Francisco, and I spent the entire Monday the week of the wedding making calls trying to secure a tent that was large enough to hold the rentals we had already ordered. Dan and I were traveling for our wedding on Wednesday. At one point we thought the entire wedding was maybe going to be moved into the wine cave. Which looking back, it literally would not have worked due to a slanted floor. So thank god we were able to get one.

A tent was also super not in our budget so there was a fun added expense no one planned for. And the homeowners did not want any stakes in their beautiful new sod, so we had to do the “barrel anchor” option which looked a little too much like trash cans for my taste. Not ideal. 🙁

But it was what it was. The house was still beautiful and the best part?! The rain held off almost the entire weekend. We even got use the pool in the sun on Thursday!


As for the wedding day! Well, the gals and I got ready in the master suite that Dan and I were staying in all weekend, as planned. Victory.

photo by Jenna Kutcher Photography


Just as I finished getting ready and went to meet Dan for our first look, it started drizzling. But Jenna Kutcher is a rock star photographer and was able to get everything shot super quickly so Dan and I were able to get photos walking through a vineyard. Victory!

photo by Jenna Kutcher Photography


Photos on the ground were beautiful, of course, and the misty gray skies looked quite lovely. Doesn’t this SERIOUSLY look like the South of France?!
photos by Jenna Kutcher Photography


One hour before the wedding, it was officially decided the ceremony NEEDED to be moved into the 2000 square foot wine cave that the homeowners have on the property. Yes. You’re reading that right. Totally normal. Hah

We had bought tons of umbrellas on Amazon and the plan was “ceremony outside rain or shine.” But our coordinator said “my husband’s at our house 8 miles north of here and he said a wall of rain is headed our way and will be here right as the ceremony begins.”

So Danny conceded to set up inside, and she and her assistant lit 100 candles (also an Amazon order I had placed!) It was glowing and romantic and lovely. I was the last person to be told. Haha at the point I didn’t care…

Dan and I got married in a wine cave surrounded by candelight and 50 of our closest friends and family. Double victory. 🙂

photo by Jenna Kutcher Photography


And after the ceremony, the storm passed and we had the most beautiful sunset ever. This is the spot we originally planned on having the ceremony. I’m just glad we were able to get photos here with this insane back drop!  AND we had a double rainbow over the house. Victory!

photos by Jenna Kutcher Photography


And dancing and dinner got moved under the tent. There were still a lot of twinkle lights. 🙂 And the whole tent was FILLED with the scent of rosemary which had been placed on each plate. Victory!

photos by Jenna Kutcher Photography

Sure, the bottom of my dress was completely destroyed by the end of the night from walking on wet, muddy grass. And I’m fairly certain everyone’s feet were cold because the storm soaked the yard. But fortunately we had a lot of wine to remedy that. And it was a good good night.

(And yes I wore my glasses during the reception so I could see everything better. I don’t wear contacts.)


Lastly, I’ve had a few people ask for the link to this rental (which was taken down for a while but is now back up and isn’t TOO hard to find). Now the wife of the couple who I originally spoke with and gave us the lower rate was so so wonderful, and I’ve debated whether to share this… but the cherry on top was that her husband had multiple security Nest cameras on all weekend inside the house while we were staying there to make sure we didn’t have more people staying at the house than was necessary… apparently this happened a few weeks earlier and the renters caused a bit of trouble to the property. This was extremely uncomfortable and caused a lot of stress to what should have just been a dream vaca… obviously we were not going to cause any trouble or anything like that, but he threatened to keep our security deposit if there were more people than were on the original document, which there weren’t, except when our parents and siblings came over for the rehearsal Friday night – which was allowed. So that added unnecessary stress to the situation… oy vey. So if a security deposit and cameras are not an issue for you, I’d say go for it! The house is AMAZING.


All of that being said, if I could do it again, I wouldn’t change a single thing. Anything that “went wrong” was completely out of our control and budget, and there was no way to change it. However the people, the setting, the food, the music, the wine, my husband – everything was just as magical as I had hoped. Even with the rain. Because without that storm, we wouldn’t have had this sunset…

That photo was taken on my friend’s iPhone and not edited. I mean… come on! 🙂


More posts to come on decor and flowers, fashion, the invitations, and just a super long post with too many photos by Jenna Kutcher!