So in the last couple of weeks we've made some significant progress in our planning.
We found a venue!
We're sorta having a two-day wedding. On Friday we're getting hitched at City Hall in a private family-only ceremony followed by dinner at our favorite pizza spot. That was a no-brainer and will be relatively straightforward to execute. On Saturday, we're hosting a bike ride and then an afternoon party with friends (cyclists and non) and family. This was where we got stuck. Obviously we weren't going the formal route. We'll have sweaty folks in spandex for goodness sakes! We also wanted the cost to be reasonable. Not such an easy task. Finding a venue to accommodate our casual gathering was tricky.
Parks/Gardens: We need an indoor and outdoor space since (despite weather everywhere else) weather in San Francisco in July can be cold and miserable. So that scratched our plans for a nice BBQ/picnic in Golden Gate Park.
Local Diner: Restaurants have awkward hours and to buy out a place on a Saturday afternoon/evening would break the bank. Believe me, I looked around!
Rental halls, Rooms, Clubs: I suppose there is such a demand in the city for a wedding venue that the base cost of a rental (not including catering, labor, preferred lists, decor, etc.) can be well over $2500 and that's considered a deal. We did consider it for a moment. However, once I realized venues were coupled with preferred caterers, bartenders, etc., I realized the types of reception hosted at these venues aren't aligned with our casual laid-back version. No regatta 3-course menus or lighting design for us.
Vacation/House Rental: After a minor breakdown, my sister created a comprehensive list of possible rentals in San Francisco big enough for the gathering from VRBO.com. She typed up a document and then my mom, sister and I divided and -- ultimately -- conquered! we contacted about 15 rental owners. Some rentals weren't available, others couldn't accommodate up to 100 guests for an event and others were OK with it -- as long as we forked over $20 per person - which would mean paying close to what a hall or club rental would cost (see above).
Anyway, we finally found a lovely property in nearby Noe Valley. There is one flat fee for the event, plus a nightly fee for 3 nights and the house can accommodate up to 100 people. Score! Travis and I took a look at the place and it feels right -- casual, comfortable and budget-reasonable. The plan is my immediate family will stay the weekend of the wedding and we'll also host our party on Saturday afternoon.
Pros: Quiet neighborhood, accessible to many cute restaurants, grocery and retail stores, near public transportation, beautiful home, great view of neighborhood, modern/fresh decor, flowing, open main floor, cute deck and tiered lawn built into hillside backyard, space for bicycles, friendly owner who will let us use his additional tables and chairs free of charge.
Cons: 58 steps to enter house. Yep. It's built into a hill so we'll have to charge right on up the steps to get inside. We'll have to take extra care with Travis' grandparents. Catering/additional decor may also be tricky with multiple trips up and down from the street to house.
We also managed to line up the property rental with an open date for our hour-long ceremony at City Hall. We signed both contracts which means -- we have a date! Travis and I are getting hitched July 22, 2011.
So we have some major checkboxes checked. I'm still trying to figure out what to do next! I think this weekend we're tackling the final guest lists for the ceremony, bike ride and post-ride gathering. I also hope to create a skeleton timeline so I can make sure we're not letting anything slip through the cracks.