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The Bride's Guide Blog

Editor Engaged: Our California Venue Hunt

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It's been less than a month since Scott, my fiance (still weird to say that!), and I got engaged, but we've been busy! The week after I said 'yes', we jetted off to California Wine Country to scout locations. Full disclosure: I'd started looking up venues way before he popped the question. From earlier "hypothetical" discussions, I knew we wanted to wed in Napa or Sonoma. Our love of wine, fresh farm-to-table food, and two trips out there in previous years, makes it the perfect place. On our budget, however, it will be challenging. Good thing I'm a crafter at heart!

After settling into the beautiful Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa (ladies, they do small intimate weddings in the courtyard and larger affairs on their stunning golf course) and a glorious mountain-top wine-tasting in the wine caves of B.Wise Vineyards, we checked out Longmeadow Ranch and Farmstead, Olympia's Valley, Rutherford Grove Winery, and a private property. Thankfully, Scott's mother, Jill, and sister, Kelsey, came along for the ride. Jill asked questions I never would have thought of, and Kelsey, a whiz with the camera, snapped every angle so I could focus my attention elsewhere.

See the gorgeousness of our trip and the venues we looks at below. Maybe you'll find one you love! We did, but more on that later...

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The glamorous Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa. Every night, they have a big fire in this courtyard so guests can roast s'mores!

1 The glamorous Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa. Every night, they have a big fire in this courtyard so guests can roast s'mores!

Its sweet heated pool. Unfortunately, we were too busy to take advantage of it, but as we passed by every morning at 8am, it looked like the most tranquil spot in the world.

2 Its sweet heated pool. Unfortunately, we were too busy to take advantage of it, but as we passed by every morning at 8am, it looked like the most tranquil spot in the world.

Who doesn't love a four-poster bed? Super intimate and romantic.

3 Who doesn't love a four-poster bed? Super intimate and romantic.

Yup, Scott watching the Stamford football game in our spacious, yet cozy digs.

4 Yup, Scott watching the Stamford football game in our spacious, yet cozy digs.

Every night we made a fire with this easy fire starter supplied by the hotel. It made the room smell amazing (Scott also felt like the best boy scout ever). When I opened my suitcase upon my return to NYC, I got a big delicious whiff!

5 Every night we made a fire with this easy fire starter supplied by the hotel. It made the room smell amazing (Scott also felt like the best boy scout ever). When I opened my suitcase upon my return to NYC, I got a big delicious whiff!

The courtyard was all set up for a ceremony.

6 The courtyard was all set up for a ceremony.

Next up: Wine-tasting at our friends' winery, B.Wise Vineyard. It's a glorious place tucked high up in the mountains. As you can see, they have the most beautiful views. Check them out for a private tasting!

7 Next up: Wine-tasting at our friends' winery, B.Wise Vineyard. It's a glorious place tucked high up in the mountains. As you can see, they have the most beautiful views. Check them out for a private tasting!

I just thought this was super cool. While Brion and Ronda Wise were waiting for their house to be completed, they created the most amazing wine cave, complete with kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, and more.

8 I just thought this was super cool. While Brion and Ronda Wise were waiting for their house to be completed, they created the most amazing wine cave, complete with kitchen, bathrooms, bedrooms, and more.

How incredible!

9 How incredible!

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More views of their amazing property.

11 More views of their amazing property.

The following day, we visited Olympia's Valley. It used to be a working ranch (horses and cattle are still on the property) and just recently changed to a rustic wedding venue.

12 The following day, we visited Olympia's Valley. It used to be a working ranch (horses and cattle are still on the property) and just recently changed to a rustic wedding venue.

The inside of the beautiful white Victorian is completely redone. What a pretty space for an indoor cocktail hour or rehearsal dinner!

13 The inside of the beautiful white Victorian is completely redone. What a pretty space for an indoor cocktail hour or rehearsal dinner!

There were neat buildings like this all over the property--great for photos and portraits.

14 There were neat buildings like this all over the property--great for photos and portraits.

Their amazing barn. Can't you just picture huge drapes of fabric hung up over the entrance?

15 Their amazing barn. Can't you just picture huge drapes of fabric hung up over the entrance?

The inside. Because the place is still new, the to-do list isn't completely checked off. Come the spring, this will have a concrete floor, bird-proofed ceiling, and a vintage bar. There's a great stage on the right for a band or sweetheart table, too.

16 The inside. Because the place is still new, the to-do list isn't completely checked off. Come the spring, this will have a concrete floor, bird-proofed ceiling, and a vintage bar. There's a great stage on the right for a band or sweetheart table, too.

Also on the property is a groom's suite. Here, the quaint outside.

17 Also on the property is a groom's suite. Here, the quaint outside.

The inside was just as charming.

18 The inside was just as charming.

Love the hanging copper pots!

19 Love the hanging copper pots!

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Their old greenhouse. The purple trim is so fresh and unexpected.

21 Their old greenhouse. The purple trim is so fresh and unexpected.

Longmeadow Ranch and Farmstead, a working restaurant with a farm right down the road, had three outdoor spaces up for grabs. This outdoor bar area would be perfect for a cocktail hour or even a rehearsal dinner.

22 Longmeadow Ranch and Farmstead, a working restaurant with a farm right down the road, had three outdoor spaces up for grabs. This outdoor bar area would be perfect for a cocktail hour or even a rehearsal dinner.

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Here, you can see the covered dance floor, area for tables, a sand pit for fires or pig roasts, and in front of that, the most amazing smoker!

25 Here, you can see the covered dance floor, area for tables, a sand pit for fires or pig roasts, and in front of that, the most amazing smoker!

Rutherford Grove Winery is absolutely stunning in its simplicity. Five minutes off the St.Helena highway, the views of the mountains just suck you right in.

26 Rutherford Grove Winery is absolutely stunning in its simplicity. Five minutes off the St.Helena highway, the views of the mountains just suck you right in.

Its pavilion with a pizza oven and bar would be a nice place for a next-day brunch or cocktail hour. See that chalkboard hanging from the rafters in the back? It'd be a perfect spot for detailing your signature drinks or pizza picks.

27 Its pavilion with a pizza oven and bar would be a nice place for a next-day brunch or cocktail hour. See that chalkboard hanging from the rafters in the back? It'd be a perfect spot for detailing your signature drinks or pizza picks.

This flat expanse used to a be grove of eucalyptus trees. Sadly, disease wiped them out, but I'm not complaining. A level lawn means stable tables and chairs, and easy walking for the grandparents.

28 This flat expanse used to a be grove of eucalyptus trees. Sadly, disease wiped them out, but I'm not complaining. A level lawn means stable tables and chairs, and easy walking for the grandparents.

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Vines and blue skies for miles.

30 Vines and blue skies for miles.

Comments (2)

  • Congrats Sarah! Can't wait to follow your wedding planning journey.

  • For those that want a smaller venue and want to explore the gold country, I would suggest having a wedding at the Monte Verde Inn. We went to our nephew's wedding there and it was fantastic. We've stayed the the Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa and have loved it.

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