Hi Everyone! Our venue journey was the very first thing we did as an official engaged couple. This part was really exciting and terrifying at the same time. We seriously got a reality check on how much we’d be spending on the wedding. The most expensive part was not the venue rental itself, but the food and staffing. We found out that no matter where we would be getting married that food and staff would be half of our budget. So once we swallowed that cold hard pill we put our big boy and girl pants on and delved into the wedding venue search.
FRANCISCAN GARDENS | San Juan Capistrano, CA
Our first stop on the venue hunt was a beautiful venue called Franciscan Gardens located in the heart of the historic San Juan Capistrano. This venue is literally across the street from the San Juan Capistrano Mission which serves as an awesome wedding shoot backdrop. The Franciscan Gardens is a little tricky to find at first because it’s camouflaged in the downtown area. Once we found our way to the entrance, we met up with a super nice coordinator named Haley and she showed us around the space.
Our initial thought was “Wow, what a nice courtyard!” and then immediately after “Will this place hold 300 people?”. Franciscan Gardens is an indoor and outdoor venue. As soon as we entered we saw the courtyard to the left and directly to the right are stairs that lead up to the indoor area. We started the tour in the upstairs indoor area. The indoor space holds a huge bridal suite, a really fun man cave for the boys, and an open space dining area. The next stop on the tour was a walk downstairs to the courtyard. The whole courtyard is a shared space where the ceremony and reception would be. For the number of guests Ricardo and I are having, we would not be able to fit all of our guests comfortably downstairs with a dance floor. Haley suggested that we could have the dance floor upstairs in the dining area and the dinner downstairs. This was a big deal breaker because we didn’t like the idea of having two separate areas for the reception since the focal point would be the dance floor. Unfortunately, even though it was really pretty, we decided that we had to pass on this venue because it was just too small.
ELINGS PARK – Singleton Pavilion | Santa Barbara, CA
The next area we wanted to check out was Santa Barbara. The weather in Santa Barbara is always pretty nice and also my aunt lives right across from the ocean. We thought it would be nice to have a day after brunch at their house if there was a venue we liked here. The first place on out list was a beautiful park called Elings Park. Elings Park has 3 event locations: Singleton Pavilion, Godric Grove, and The Bluffs. We were only interested in the Pavilion and the Grove because the Bluffs was just a field of dirt pretty much. Singleton Pavilion was really nice and I could see a lot of possibilities to do as much as we wanted here. The price to rent this space was around $2250. The downside of renting an unconventional venue is that you have to do everything yourself including lighting, food, rentals, etc. Although this event space was nice, we didn’t think that it was be big enough for our size.
ELINGS PARK – Godric Grove | Santa Barbara, CA
After seeing what the Singleton Pavilion had to offer, we walked on over to Godric Grove. Walking in, we already were excited. This event space was huge and had 4 event areas included. As soon as you walk in you see a large grass area where I imagined the cocktail hour and lawn games and a photo booth would go. Right around from the grass area was the wooden deck that would be used for the dinner portion. Then we made our way to the amphitheater where the ceremony would be held. I thought this is a great ceremony location because we didn’t need to rent any chairs and it’s stadium seating. The only downside was that there was no middle aisle for me to walk down. I was already sold until we realized that the dance floor would not fit where the guests would be dining. Again, like at Franciscan Gardens, this would ultimately be a deal breaker.
Fess Parker | Santa Barbara, CA
After our trip to Elings Park, we wanted to see as many venues as we could while we were in Santa Barbara. The next place on our tour was at the Fess Parker right across from the beach. The Fess Parker is a gorgeous hotel with a huge circular courtyard with a view of the beach where the reception would be held in. The Fess Parker would be great for a reception but not for a ceremony. They did have a rose garden that is used for ceremonies but it was just not what I was looking for. Also, this place is suuper pricey!
El Paseo | Santa Barbara, CA
After the Fess Parker, we went to a popular restaurant that many people have their wedding receptions at. It’s located in the downtown area of Santa Barbara, near State Street. I can see why many brides choose this place to hold their reception. It has a really pretty courtyard with a Spanish Villa vibe and their prices are really affordable. Although the pricing looked appetizing, it just looked like a restaurant and not at all what I really dreamed of. So we immediately crossed this place off our list.
Santa Barbara Zoo | Santa Barbara, CA
The last place on our venue hunt in SB was the Santa Barbara Zoo. We knew right away that the zoo definitely had a “wow” factor. Walking through the zoo we kept saying “aw this would be so cute if we had this here and that there”. We saw the area that the reception and ceremony would be held and I knew I really wanted it here. The zoo was just so charming and unique. I thought that this would be a wedding for everyone to remember and that’s what I wanted. My vision did get a little skewed because if we chose this venue, my original the theme of romanticism would become a fun and quirky theme. My heart was already set on having it at the zoo so I decided that it was okay if it wasn’t going to have a rustic romantic vibe. The cons to having it at the SB Zoo were that: 1) It’d be a far drive (2 hours away from Long Beach) 2) Our guests would have to spend the night or they’d leave the wedding early 3) It could get really expensive really fast. As much as I was in love with the zoo, we had to keep our options open.
South Coast Botanic Gardens | Palos Verdes, CA
I found the South Coast Botanic Gardens wedding venue researching places near our hometown in Long Beach. I came across this charming garden and had to contact them right away. This is the first venue that both Ricardo and my parents came to check out with us. As soon as we got out of our cars our moms were already getting excited. They loved all the nature and plants and our dads loved how big the parking lot was. When we toured the area I could see everyone’s faces lighting up. There was a wedding later that day so we got to see the setup of one of the reception areas. I could see the endless possibilities with this venue. We could do anything we wanted because basically we would be in charge of doing everything ourselves with the exception of furniture and lighting rentals. This was a major selling point because it could possibly cut down costs but it was also a con because we might be biting off more than we could chew. My major concern with this venue was the ceremony site. They offered 2 ceremony sites one of which was an intimate amphitheater that held 150 people comfortably. I wasn’t really in love with this space because it was a little too intimate for me. The other option was to rent the upper lawn just for the ceremony but would be more than double the price. So that was our biggest dilemma. We began to realize that the venue we thought would save us a lot of money was actually adding up a lot quicker than we imagined. Ricardo and our parents were still 100% convinced that the wedding would be here but in my heart I wasn’t convinced. We still had one more venue to look at and I had my hopes set on it.
Maravilla Gardens | Camarillo, CA
The last place on my list was Maravilla Gardens. I religiously searched for every real wedding that was held here. After seeing countless pictures, I knew that this place was going to give any place we looked at a run for it’s money. I could never fully commit to any of the previous venues because I needed to see this one in person first. I already knew I was going to love it but I wanted Ricardo and our parents to love it too. The design of this venue was done so smartly. Everything is just so perfectly planned out. As soon as you enter the gates of the property you drive right into the large parking lot with a barn to the right. There’s a path that takes you directly from the parking lot to the welcome area where guests would enjoy lemonade and sign the guests book. Directly around the wall from the welcome area is the beautiful ceremony area and stage. The ceremony area includes a canopy shade which is perfect for those summer afternoons. You exit the ceremony lawn and walk further down the path to the cocktail area and reception dining lawn. Once our tour was over I felt it in my heart of hearts that this is what I had dreamed about for so long. We signed the papers that day and we’re so excited to be getting married here next summer!!!