Are you looking to have your wedding ceremony and reception in beautiful Santa Barbara—without breaking the bank? We’ve got two fabulous finds: The first is Elings Park, a private, estate-like setting sequestered in the forested bluffs above the Pacific Ocean. This non-profit park’s 230 scenic acres includes several special event venues with a breathtaking blend of city, hillside and coastal views. Exchange vows in a stone amphitheater, serve cocktails on an oak-shaded patio, and then let the reception unfold on a vast garden lawn!
Another sweet spot is Unity of Santa Barbara. This welcoming, non-denominational church is right in town, across the street from Alice Keck Memorial Gardens (which provides gorgeous photo ops). Unity’s cozy campus includes a contemporary, skylit sanctuary; a fountain courtyard with a zen-like ambiance; and historic Unity House, whose white-columned veranda overlooks a lush garden meadow.
The great thing about weddings is, it’s all about personal style. Take wedding dresses, for example. A bridal gown is the ultimate way to express yourself on your wedding day, and each year brides flock to California bridal salons to seek out that one gown that makes them feel stylish and special.
But then there is the bride who wants her dress to be a more individual expression. We’ve heard of creative women sewing their own gowns out of the fabric from their mother’s or grandmother’s wedding gown, or brides letting friends or family members make their dresses for them. In my opinion, Kathryn Ashley’s endeavor beats them all. Not only did she design her own Victorian-inspired gown, she’s knitting it herself out of thin silk yarn. And in case she gets chilly at her late summer outdoor wedding, there is also a matching shrug in the works.
Why knit a wedding dress? As Kathryn says, “I needed a really big, daunting project!”. For those who do not knit, let me assure you this is no small undertaking. Kathryn’s wedding will be in September, and yes, it may take her that long to finish. If she loses track of time, though, don’t worry: smart woman that she is, Kathryn completed the most important pieces of the gown first, including the bodice (loosely-based on a corset pattern from Lace Style). At the moment her creation could pass for a mini-dress. You can follow the progress of Kathryn’s wedding dress at the Ewetopia Fiber Shop blog.
How far would you go to express yourself on your wedding day?
On a recent weekend getaway to the Napa and Sonoma Wine Country area, my husband Phil and I decided to explore a different side of this famous wedding region. To me, an ideal wedding locale allows guests plenty of options for exploration, and the towns of Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, and Petaluma certainly kept us happily occupied.
First stop: Santa Rosa. Of course you have to love a town with statues of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Linus in their town square (an homage to Santa Rosa’s beloved Charles Schultz). Phil’s not sure how it happens, but I’m inexplicably drawn to new wedding locations in my wanderings. Exploring the older part of the city, we stopped at Hotel La Rose, which welcomed us on this blustery rainy day with plush Victorian décor in the lobby, followed by the hotelier’s friendly advice on the locals’ favorite wineries. During our tour of the hotel, we discovered (of course!) that it has a top-notch restaurant, Josef’s, where you can also host a rehearsal dinner.
Next, we visited Sebastapol. Arriving wet and cold, we soothed our chilled-to-the-bone muscles in steamy and stimulating herbal tonics at the Mermaids Spa. As I soaked, I imagined how perfect this place would be for nervous mothers-of-the-bride or other members of the wedding party. Once we were physically restored, we couldn’t resist a pass by Florence Street’s amusing “urban folk art” sculptures constructed of recycled metals by local artist Patrick Amiot. As our trip came to an end, we took a peaceful walk along the Petaluma river near one of our favorite places, the Sheraton Petaluma, on our way home.
Altogether, our weekend visit proved to me that these towns have more than just a list of adorable mansions, hotels, restaurants and country clubs: they have that unique small-town California charm that would make a destination wedding here an event to remember.