This multi wedding venue review is for couples who are looking for a beautiful wedding space that is also a great bang for your buck in the Bay Area. We all know of the established venues around the pond in Northern California, such as The Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay, Bently Reserve San Francisco and Wente in Livermore, all are great locations I have photographed weddings at and all are probably more than what you would want to spend on a wedding. With so many venue choices in the Bay Area it's not difficult to have a one of a kind ceremony at a great value. I photographed thirty two weddings last year, below are six top choices all varying in style spanning the entire region, five of which have a total wedding cost of under 40K.
1. Saratoga Springs is located off Highway 9 in the southern edge of the peninsula bordering the South Bay. Pros: Venue has two wedding sites which are far apart from one another, one has access to a small creek with an amazing backdrop of the forest which I highly recommend for formal portraits, the other site has an incredibly large stone bridge which you can see below. Cons: It is advised to book a nearby hotel room to get ready in because there is no dedicated bridal suite, with that said there is a lounge area where you and your bridesmaids can gather while your guests are arriving.
2. Los Altos History Museum is located just north of Saratoga Springs in the city of Los Altos. Pros: Has private enclosed garden grounds, here you will feel like you are in a hidden forest with a rustic upscale farm house feel. Cons: There is a large area downstairs where you can get dressed, if you desire a scenic bridal suite it is advised to reserve a nearby hotel. Also, this location is mainly an outdoor venue, if booking during the rainy season consider renting a large tent as backup.
3. The Oceano Hotel & Spa is located south of San Francisco on highway 1 in Half Moon Bay and has a completely different feel from the first two venues described. Pros: The hotel and indoor reception room boasts of high ceilings in this beach house space. Connected to the reception space is a great cocktail hour area highlighted by an outdoor fireplace. The beach is just minutes away if you want a change of scene during your formal bride and groom portraits. Cons: None.
4. Firehouse 8 is in the Russian Hill district of San Francisco and is a great option when hosting a wedding in the city. Pros: This historic venue and former firefighters station left preserved during it's 30 year vacancy begins on the third floor penthouse suite, it has a connected rooftop patio where brides can relax and view the city. A glass ceiling spanning the second floor is where most couples choose to hold their ceremony. Last but not least is the iconic fireman's pole which lands right in front of the first floor bar and makes for a great conversation piece. Cons: it's a three story venue with your guests usually occupying the first and second floors, make sure the majority of your party can climb stairs, there is an elevator for those who need it. Also, plan your formal portraits wisely with your photographer, getting away to an area with a different look after the ceremony may be time consuming. See what Caitlin & Max opted for below...
Caitlin & Max planned to have a first look prior to their Firehouse 8 wedding and along with it came a change of scene. Caitlin (center with flowers in hair) and her bridesmaids pose in the penthouse suite at the Financial District Hilton, which overlooks Coit Tower. A perk of staying at the Hilton is you have the option to close off the walking bridge that connects to Chinatown for a private first look, on a busy Saturday afternoon in San Francisco it feels like you are the only people in the city for a moment; imagine that!
5. Nella Terra Cellars in the hills of Sunol located in the East Bay has been an affordable option for medium to large weddings for sometime now. Pros: This secluded private venue will keep you surrounded by manicured gardens and a ceremony site that is backed up by a beautiful water feature. This fairytale venue which boasts of rolling hills and a mature vineyard can hold up to 300 guests and is continually making feature improvements every year, so get in early before rates hit their peak. Cons: None.
6. TPC Stonebrae Country Club in the Hayward Hills located just north of Sunol is probably the hottest up and coming wedding venue right now. Pros: Has top of the world views of the whole Bay Area. Main reception area can host medium size weddings. Large weddings can be accommodated by combining the cocktail hour space or the outside area next to the reception room, it is separated by a retractable glass wall. The sliding glass wall separating the reception and outdoor ceremony area is the hallmark feature of the building, especially when opened and dancing freely mixes the outdoors with the guests inside. Cons: There is an option to get ready in either a large or small room on site but it isn't a dedicated bridal suite, like some of the other venues you may want to book a nearby hotel if desired.
I hope you enjoyed my take on six affordable Bay Area wedding venues. Please feel free to post questions below regarding how to plan for your wedding and I will get back to you asap.