Planning a Wine Country Wedding: Looking for a Venue

(This is Part 2 in a series.  Did you miss Part 1? View the post here!)

At this stage in planning, it seems like the biggest and most daunting hurdle is the venue. The venue will determine many factors about the wedding day: the date, whether it’s inside or outside, how many guests can be accommodated, what décor you’ll need or want, what rentals you will need, and so many other important details that will shape your event.


Beltane Ranch, Sonoma. Photo by Kate Harrison –

Cost, of course, is a huge factor. Before we began looking for venues, I had no idea of what the site fees would be or what they would include, making it hard to start off with a solid budget. With such a variety of places all over the Sonoma and Napa areas, I found that site fees can range from around $3,000 at minimum to well over $20,000, and what those fees include vary from just the event space to almost everything.

To narrow it down, I’ve found it helpful to have an idea of the style of venue you’d like (farm, ranch, winery, etc.) and then to compare costs and what that cost includes between similar sites. That will you give an idea of what the average cost would be for what you want, plus it gives you insight on what places are offering better deals. If there are two similar sites with similar fees, but one is offering all the tables and chairs you’d need while the other doesn’t offer anything but the event space, you know which one is offering more for your money.

Some other factors to consider when it comes to the venue and cost:

  • Lodging: If you’re looking at a resort or B&B, do they require you to purchase rooms?
  • Vendors: Does the venue require you to choose vendors off of their preferred list, or can you bring in your own?
  • Wine: If you’re looking at a winery, do they require you to purchase cases of their wine? Do they have corkage fees?
  • Day of Coordinator: Does the site require you to hire an outside coordinator or is one provided?
  • Rentals: What items (tables, chairs, glassware, etc.) do they provide that would otherwise need to be rented? What do they look like? (What everything looks like is important; if what they have doesn’t fit with your style or is outdated, you will probably end up renting those items after all.)

Private Winery, St. Helena. Photo by Sylvie Gil –

When you’re ready to start planning your site visits, be sure to have your questions ready, take pictures, and write down notes of what you liked and disliked about the venue. If you have a lot of places to see, it’s easy to forget the details. If you like a site, ask for a sample contract and look in to blocking out a few dates while you’re there; most places should allow you to place a hold on dates for a certain period of time at no charge, and you’ll definitely want to read the fine print in the contract before you agree to anything. There’s a lot to consider, but don’t forget to have fun!

If you’re still not sure where to start, check out venue recommendations from the girl & the fig CATERS! You may also want to check out blogs that feature real weddings for venue inspiration, such as Style Me Pretty and The Knot, and sites like these also usually have a venue search feature that will help to jump start your search.

Happy Planning!

Next post: Setting a Timeline

Planning a Wine Country Wedding: Where to Start


Photo by Jessamyn Harris

The first emotion I felt after becoming engaged last month, besides the happiness and excitement, was overwhelmed. Not only was I about to make a major life change, but there was a wedding to plan! Where and when would we have the wedding? How could we cut costs without sacrificing too much? How big is our guest list? What kind of reception do we want? What style of dress do I like? Flowers? Photographer? Colors? Agh! There is so much to think about!

If you are at this stage of emotion, take a breath and just enjoy the happiness of being engaged for a while. There is no rush, and there will be plenty of time to plan out exactly what you want and need for the big day. Tell your news to family and friends, and take a moment to celebrate the start of the journey with your favorite people.

Once I was ready to focus on planning, I found that the most helpful place to start was a guest list. It doesn’t have to be final, but mapping out a list at this stage will give you an estimate on how many guests you’ll have. Once you have this number, you’ll have an easier time eliminating venue options that won’t be able to accommodate your guest count, and you’ll be able to give a more accurate number to caterers for proposals. Don’t forget to include the number of children, too.

Another good thing to do at this time is to look around for ideas that fit your style and create a Pinterest board (or two or three) to save your inspiration. There are a ton of great wedding sites that provide help with all aspects of planning: venues, vendors, dresses, planning timelines, personalized wedding websites, and so on. Here are some that we recommend to check out:


Photo by Kate Harrison

the girl & the fig’s Pinterest Boards:

Wedding Planning Sites:


A huge journey still lies ahead, and I hope that you’ll join me for it! I’ll be sharing our planning story and things I learn along the way: tips and ideas that make planning your own Wine Country wedding a little easier.

Happy Planning!

Next post: Looking for Venues