We spent last weekend in the Bay Area on various projects. Friday evening we had a late dinner at Chevys with Pat, Veronica, Brian and a couple of friends and a coworkers of Veronica’s. We had fun chatting with one friend who is almost finished with his academy training with the Oakland Police Deptartment. It was fun to hear stories.
We’ve made a few decisions about the wedding. The date will be October 6, 2007. The reception will be at Tin’s Tea House Lounge in Walnut Creek. We haven’t chosen a ceremony site yet. I’m going to set up a website with info that I will update whenever we finalize something including travel info and any hotel and car rental discounts we can arrange. Stay tuned for that info.
On Saturday morning while Bill went to work on his beemer, Dad and I traipsed around the East Bay looking at possible wedding ceremony sites. After some web research I had a decent list of possibilities. Since the reception will be in Walnut Creek, we want to keep the ceremony site within a comfortable proximity to the restaurant. I posted some pictures, and if anyone has comments or suggestions please feel free. We visited a Japanese Garden in Hayward. I didn’t even know Hayward had a Japanese garden! It’s beautiful, but not appropriate for a wedding ceremony. It doesn’t have any open areas that can handle a crowd, it’s all walkways and paths. Next we drove up to Walnut Creek and visited three parks owned by the city. First was the Gardens at Heather Farm:
It looks like crap now, but imagine all of those bare shrubs and branches full and covered in roses. They have a small gazebo that is covered in climbing roses and a lawn in front. It was pretty, quiet and there is plenty of parking.
One drawback is the awkwardness of the layout. There’s no walkway at the back of where the guests would be sitting if they faced the gazebo. So, as a bride, I’d have to enter from the side. I’m not big on grand entrances, but it seems really awkward. The alternative is to turn everyone around and have them face the lake like this:
I could easily build a small arbor out of bamboo and flowers. It’s something to think about.
Here are two shots of the garden in the Spring. See what I mean about the flowers?
Next we visited the Shadelands Ranch Museum. It’s closer to the restaurant and was really easy to find being on a major street. It’s operated by the Walnut Creek Historical Society and the City of Walnut Creek.
It’s a large Colonial revival house built in 1903 and a beautifully manicured backyard with a large gazebo.
Again, imagine the trees with leaves on them.
This park was beautiful and much simpler and smaller than Heather Farm.
Here is the gazebo that has roses on either side of the opening. And the large tree on the left (you can see its shadow) will provide some shade in the summer. Both Dad and I really liked this site. It has public restrooms off to the side and they provide chairs and a place for the bride to get ready.
View from inside the gazebo. The only drawback is the proximity to the street. It’s pretty close. Close enough that I could very easily hear the cars from inside the gazebo. At first it was pretty irritating… but after some observation, I noticed that the noise will probably lessen in the Spring and Summer when the trees actually have some leaves on them. Thankfully, there are a lot of trees separating the street from the gazebo.
Next we visited Civic Park in downtown Walnut Creek. This one is the closest to the restaurant. It’s a beautiful gazebo owned and run by the city. But it’s definately been scratched from my list because it’s 100 yards from a major intersection. It’s only quiet when the lights are red! I’m not even going to post pictures.
Since we were in the area, we went to Tin’s Tea House Lounge for lunch so Dad could see where the reception will be. On the plus side, we had some delicious dim sum and had a chance ot talk to Alice a little bit. I also ran into Bill’s cousin who was visiting from China and her mom. (Laikwan’s older sister) I see her a lot at family functions. The back wall of the large dining room was set up for a wedding banquet later than evening with a floor-to-ceiling red curtain decorated with a large dragon and phoenix and a large Chinese character probably representative of the family getting married. After seeing this really large curtain, I’m not sure if I want one for our wedding. To me, it made the room feel smaller.
After lunch we headed back over the hills to Newark. We talked a bit about some other places on my list and decided to stop at one that is located in Sunol right off of Niles Canyon Rd. It worked out well since we were taking that road home anyway.
Elliston Vineyard is surprisingly easy to get to and is only a few minutes off of highway 680. (the main highway to Walnut Creek). The site is beautiful with a victorian mansion and garden with a view of the vineyard and the gorgeous hills. They have wine tasting in the ground floor of the mansion.
The ceremony takes place on the lawn right next to the house where they have a small gazebo that overlooks part of the vineyard.
This shot is of the vineyard to the left of the gazebo.
This is a picture from their website of a wedding on the lawn:
That tree looks much better with leaves on it.
This site also provides chairs and a room in the mansion for the bride to get ready. This is, by far, my favorite place that we visited. It has everything I want in a wedding site: shade for the guests, a place to get ready, easy access and beautiful opportunities for photographs. The latter being te most important to me.
Of course, there’s a catch. I would have booked the site on the spot if it wasn’t for a little policy they have. They don’t book the site for a ceremony more than six months before the date. So, if I want it for October 6th, I can’t make the reservation until April 6th. It’s very likely that date will be booked by then. The woman I talked to said they had a wedding every Saturday last October, but as of this weekend, my date is open. I understand the reasons behind this rule… they want to have as much time as possible to book the site for a ceremony and reception. It still sucks though.
As of today, the number one choice is the Shadelands Ranch Museum. I called today and October 6th is available. The woman who coordinates weddings there will call me back tomorrow so I can learn details. I will probably still call Elliston Vineyard on April 6th to see if my date is available. You never know.
It’s been surprisingly difficult to find a picturesque location for a ceremony only. Most places want you to book the reception with them too. We don’t have to have the ceremony outside. I was looking at city parks because I knew they would be affordable. We don’t want a church because we both don’t feel comfortable getting married in a church we don’t belong to. Most sites that are indoors require a catering minimum or are outrageous in price. I can’t justify spending $1000 an hour just for a pretty place. Yikes!
I will continue searching. Mom has emailed a few Girl Scout leaders in the Walnut Creek area asking for recommendations. I’d even be happy with someone’s gorgeous backyard… especially if it has a view of the Bay Area. Know anyone with this?