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Wedding Wednesday: Choosing A Venue

I think if I had to chose one thing from our wedding as my favorite (besides marrying Andrew in the presence of our family and friends, obviously) it would be our wedding venue. I am in LOVE with it. But, it did take a little convincing for me. Andrew knew right away, the venue had so many awesome perks, but there was another venue I really loved as well. I am SO glad I saw the light and we decided on Gold Hill Gardens. It was the best decision we ever could have made.

Since Andrew and I decided pretty quickly we wanted to get married in the fall, we knew we needed to start searching for a venue right away. We didn't have a specific date in mind, which was helpful for us with a shorter engagement. We also knew we would most likely get married in the foothills near where I grew up. I looked at a few venues in the Bay Area, but they are all quite expensive. We also knew that getting married near Auburn, where my family is connected within the community, we would have opportunities to work with vendors we knew and trusted. So once we had officially decided on the general location for our wedding, we could start scouting venues.

After talking about things and looking at Pinterest, it was clear we both wanted an outdoor wedding with only one location. Meaning, we didn't want our guests to drive somewhere different for the reception after the ceremony.

I had always dreamt about getting married at a place called the Empire Mine where I had gone many times growing up. Andrew and I had even gone for a hike on the grounds once, so I knew he liked it too. But when I contacted them I found out they were totally booked for 2015, and 2016 would be based on a lottery. Since it wasn't even a sure thing we'd get that venue the following year, we decided not to wait and continued our search. (You can see photos of the venue here / here/ here).

The first venue we toured was called the Monte Verde Inn in Foresthill. It was great because Andrew's Mom was visiting, so we could have both our Mom's with us on our first venue tour. It was a really cute place that had a lot of the charm and aesthetic we were looking for, but it was just too small for our guest list. (You can see photos of the venue here / here).

Next, we stopped to look at Newcastle Wedding Gardens. The grounds here were beautiful, but I just didn't get a good feeling about working with the owner. She had very specific taste that didn't align with mine. Plus, it was an all-inclusive type venue so I had a feeling, everything she had to include wouldn't be what I wanted. And it had more of a cowboy/country feel which doesn't fit our personality. As it turns out, a friend of mine ended up getting married there last fall, and it was beautiful, but she did say the owner was hard to work with at times. So I was really happy I went with my instinct on that. (You can see photos of the venue here / here).

We briefly looked at a winery outside of Auburn called Dono dal Cielo, but quickly realized it wasn't the place for us. They weren't set up for weddings so we would have to bring everything ourselves and the rental costs would have been quite high. But when we were there, the woman who showed us around mentioned a place right around the corner that she said we had to see. In fact, she was getting married there the following weekend! Luckily, we already had an appointment there for the very next day.

After the excellent review the day before, I was really looking forward to our tour of Gold Hill Gardens in Newcastle. It was a beautiful setting and close to Auburn, making it easier for our guests. As soon as we arrived I knew it was a big contender for our venue. The grounds were beautiful and it was obvious the owners are passionate about their property. There is a beautiful house they run as a Bed & Breakfast that would be available for the night of the wedding. There were two beautiful ceremony locations as well as a gorgeous pad for the reception and a bar and pool area for cocktail hour. It felt like a secret garden, we loved the property. Andrew especially loved the games, pool area, ceremony site and idea of hosting our rehearsal dinner there. I knew from our tour, that was absolutely Andrew's first choice.

Our next venue tour that day would be very different. I had gone back and forth about wanting a barn wedding, with rustic and vintage touches (looking back this is so weird to me, I just can't imagine anything besides our wedding venue). And as it turned out, my cousin and brother in law keep their cattle on the property of a place with a gorgeous barn that does weddings from time to time. When I saw the first picture of the barn, I became obsessed. And when we were finally able to go out and tour the property, it was even better in person. But there were a few red flags and the price was a little more than what we wanted to spend. (You can see photos of the venue here / here / here).

We had easily narrowed it down to Gold Hill Gardens and the Barn venue, but after talking with Andrew and my parents, it was clear what our venue would be. As much as I loved that barn, there were too many factors that would add cost and stress with that venue. Looking back, I am so thankful I could recognize that. Because at the time, I was definitely a bit blinded by the amazing barn. Which is funny, because it doesn't seem like "me" at all in hindsight. After we had made our decision, we quickly put down our deposit for Gold Hill Gardens on September 12, 2015.

There are too many things I loved about our venue to count. But for me, one reason I knew it was the perfect place was that we could rent the Bed & Breakfast night before the wedding for a reasonable price, so that after the rehearsal I could stay there with my bridesmaids. They would make us breakfast and we could spend the morning getting ready together. Another huge perk was the ability to host our rehearsal dinner onsite. We were able to throw a pool party & BBQ for our rehearsal with our close friends and family. It was just perfect.

These are the photos I took on our walk through (it was set up for another wedding), as you can see it's an amazing place! We received countless compliments on the venue, and I am so glad we got married in such a special place.


  1. I loved your wedding venue! It was such a great find. The ceremony space and cocktail area were incredible and I loved the ambiance of the reception space with the cafe lighting!

  2. The venue is absolutely gorgeous!!! The venue we chose was not my first pick and I was hesitant about it at first but looking back I couldn't have imagined anything else for our day!

  3. Love this!! This is actually very helpful for when we start looking! I really really love Monte Verde but was also wondering if it would be too small for 150ish people. Great pictures and details about the venues! I would also want to look around in Tahoe too but I'm sure it is going to be ridiculously expensive.

  4. What a GORGEOUS venue girl!!! The owners definitely care for the property and as pretty as the other venues are this ones sounds like it was the best fit for what you guys were looking for. Awesome that there is a B&B onsite that you could stay in!

  5. All those venues are so beautiful! Finding a venue in Sonoma County was ridiculously difficult. Most venues (i.e. wineries) start at $10,000 for 6 hours and all use their preferred vendors and make you use their wine. We were not down for that price tag and ended up finding a private residence that fit the bill. Our venue reminds me of yours. Very similar with the grass, pool, bar, etc. It looks like you found the perfect venue! :)

  6. So so beautiful! We had an outdoor ceremony which was one of our desires for our fall wedding (September 26th) and our venue had everything at one place which we loved too. Absolutely great what you chose!

  7. Choosing a venue was one of my favorite parts about wedding planning (besides cake tasting of course). Loved hearing about your journey!

    xo Jen
    Skirt The Rules

  8. Last year, I felt we got really lucky when we found out these wedding venues were available on the date we wanted - and now I know just how lucky we were! I can't recommend this place enough! I have nothing but positive things to say about this place.

  9. One arrangement they built for me contained mint. Everything is considered, even the smell of the overall bouquet. BloomThat Mothers Day Flowers were really spectacular. Go on, surprise someone special in your life :)


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