The Great Venue Search

Today I thought it would be fun to share some of our planning process with you, and some of our wedding inspiration – what better place to start than with our venue search. You may have seen some of these pics and read some of this over on The Bride’s Guide earlier this week, but I added a few details here…

Almost as soon as Ryan and I were engaged, I was dreaming of a wedding at the beautiful Beltane Ranch in Glen Ellen, California. One of the very first real weddings I ever featured on Snippet & Ink was held there, and I’ve been enamored of it ever since. I could picture every part of our wedding there, and visiting, it really is as lovely in person as it is in photos. Unfortunately, our budget didn’t love it as much as I did, so we kept looking…

We considered several other Bay Area venues, including Chileno Valley Ranch (Ryan especially loved this place. It’s a working ranch, in the beautiful hills of Marin County, with an apple orchard, a creek and an old barn), the Olema Inn (we loved the idea of being able to have our immediate families all staying together at this quaint inn, and west Marin is one of our very favorite places), Tiburon’s charming and tiny China Cabin (this is probably one of the most special venues we looked at – the first-class social saloon from an old ship, set on the San Francisco bay – but ultimately the 55-person capacity ruled it out for us), and finally decided on the Lyford House, an historic Victorian landmark on the property of an Audubon sanctuary with an amazing view of San Francisco and the bay. We planned on a small summer wedding there, and hoped that the weather would cooperate (summers in San Francisco are notoriously foggy).

This was the plan, until I went to my family’s summer home in Montana for a few weeks. The longer I was there, the more I could imagine all of the details of our Montana wedding – Ryan even built a bridge across the creek where I’d walk from the house to the ceremony. Montana has a special place in my heart – it’s where my mom is from, and it’s where I spent summers growing up. Of course, we’d have to bring in a tent from two hours away, caterers would have to come from two hours away in the other direction, and our photographer and other vendors would have to fly in to the nearest small airport. Not to mention the  trip our guests would have to make!

When we returned home to Austin, I realized how overwhelmed I was by the huge production involved in a Montana wedding, and how overwhelmed I was by choosing a venue at all. When you look at beautiful weddings all day long, it’s tough to narrow down all of the amazing options you know are out there! So after talking about it, Ryan and I opted to put a moratorium on wedding planning. We didn’t talk about our wedding for a whole week! (That’s only meant to be partly sarcastic – let me tell you, when you’re a wedding blogger who’s engaged to be married, a week of not talking weddings is an eternity.)

There was one point (very briefly), where Ryan and I played with the idea of getting married in Austin. The Hotel Saint Cecilia would have made for a very stylish wedding location, and Austin would have been a fun place for our friends and family to visit. But by Christmas, we knew we’d be moving back to San Francisco at the end of the school year, so a wedding in Austin didn’t make much sense.

Which brings us to January 2010. Planning had been on hold since August, which gave Ryan and me (okay, mostly me; Ryan was pretty much sane from start to finish) a few months to think about what we wanted for our wedding, and to re-focus. It took me a few months, but by then I was less worried about finding the most perfect place, and more interested in just marrying the love of my life already.

Not to say that planning was smooth sailing from there on out, but it was easier. We looked at a couple more Bay Area venues (the Sausalito Woman’s Club and the Presidio Log Cabin), and finally decided on a December wedding in the sweetest, coziest church followed by a reception at one of our favorite San Francisco restaurants…

Ryan saw photos from a wedding at the Swedenborgian Church on Laurie Arons’ blog, and he loved the look of it, so he suggested I visit the church on my next trip home to San Francisco. As it happened, the church was just around the corner from where I attended high school! My mom and I stopped by, and as soon as I stepped inside, I knew it was The Place – charming, intimate, cozy. Originally, Ryan and I planned to have our reception in the parish house behind the church, but it didn’t quite work for a sit-down dinner for the number of people on our guest list. One of my best friends, my mom, and Laurie Arons each suggested the Presidio Social Club, and that was that! From there, everything else started to fall into place…


Laurie Arons Special Events is a sponsor of Snippet & Ink.


  • Cindy says:

    Thanks for featuring some great California locations. Sometimes I wish I lived in the midwest as there seem to be many great outdoor venues but I guess Cali does have a wide assortment :)

  • Christine says:

    Any of those places would have been lovely, but I think your wedding looked so special and gorgeous where you had it. I loved your tables… could we get a closer look sometime? :)

  • Thank you for this inspiration about not getting stuck on one idea, but letting things naturally evolve. Love it.

  • I am having so much fun reading all about your wedding planning adventures–I can truly relate! We hopped all over the place trying to decide where to have our wedding… It took months and months to find the venue. We almost had it in a different country!

  • Funny, we looked at almost those exact same venues in SF and Marin!!! I now live right around the corner from that church, and I swear we went right by your wedding in December. LOVE everything you did. So amazing.

    PS not a stalker, I just remember the valets and the cool get away car.

  • Wow, you looked at and considered so many places. Sounds like quite the process! so glad you ended up finding a place that felt right and worked for your budget. I know it can be hard. So many venue choices! Our venue choice was a relatively easy choice for me. We’ve long been in love with the North Georgia Mountains :)

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