I’ll admit I’m a gardening junkie. My favorite part of any outdoor spring wedding is having the chance to explore a new wedding location with amazing gardens or flowers. If you love gardens as much as I do, you might want to think about celebrating this Earth Day in the Tri-Valley wine country (the other Napa).
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!
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.
Anyone who’s seen the film Sideways knows Central California is a wine lovers dream – but in the last 18 months or so it’s also become one of the top California Wine Country destinations for weddings. The amazing combination of oceanfront and beach locations just 30 short (and beautiful) minutes drive from gorgeous vineyard wedding locationsmakes the Central Coast irresistible. You can do your rehearsal dinner by the water and your reception amongst the vines, or vice versa. The best part? Because this region has flown under the wedding radar for so long, the prices for events are pretty reasonable compared with some of the other wine regions.
We’ve found that the best way to reward ourselves for reaching the sea is with a stay at the Inn on Schoolhouse Creek. The inn is tucked against gardens and deep woods, with a private path to an ocean cove… But the main appeal is that you will never, ever feel the stamp of the cookie-cutter here. Every accommodation is different – we especially loved the little stand-alone cabin with an observation deck (the better to listen to courting critters and watch a slowed-down world go by). During our last stay, my wife and I found that the private hot tub has its own benefits: The warm water freed up our joints, which led to some moves we hadn’t practiced for awhile. It was nice to pretend to be a 20-year-old again! Probably everybody who comes here feels like a 20-year-old for the night.
Everyone likes to talk about how stressful wedding planning is, but there’s plenty to enjoy. For example, looking for a wedding location gives you the excuse to try out different locales with a pre-wedding date—just the two of you. I was reminded of this last week as my husband and I shared some cozy bench time outside the Ferry Building. (Cheap date: we were craving the fig paste, arugula & CowGirl Creamery cheese sandwiches from Acme Bread, plus steaming cups from Peet’s.)
In case no one knew this, we at Here Comes The Guide love ourselves some fine food. We probably tasted everything about…I’ll say 3 times so we don’t sound as ravenous as we really were. We also had the pleasure of telling Paula how beautiful and delicious everything was in person! I must say she looked just as stunning as ever.
Choosing from the delectable Carneros’ spa menu was a challenge: Do I want to sample the yummy-sounding Sweet Ripened Apricot and Chardonnay Body Scrub and Massage, one of the Signature Treatments inspired by the “secrets of the grape,” or channel an exotic Oriental geisha, with the Red Flower Japan Body Ritual Massage? In the end, the practical side of me won out, and I chose the Micro-Crystal Firming Facial Repair Treatment which promised to transform my skin.