Real Bride Blogger Jessica: The Backyard or The Beach?

After determining the guest count, the next thing for us to do was choose a VENUE. I’ve never been one of those girls who grew up knowing just  where I wanted to have my wedding. Plus, I’ve moved around a bit- so as much as I may have liked a certain spot in Texas or LA it just didn’t make sense for the wedding now.

We did have a few basic guidelines that helped us to narrow down the search:

– Ceremony site near the ocean (Nick is an avid surfer)

– Something casual and not too formal

– Nothing too pricey (rather have more food than space if you ask me!)

– Something with vendor options (definitely wanted flexibility to choose my own vendors)

This is really where having a planner helped me out. There are so many incredible venues out there; I never would have seen all the right ones for us without guidance. Kate and Ellen sent me a list of venues that matched the requirements we gave them, plus a couple extra venues they thought were worth looking at. My favorites were Condor’s Nest Ranch, Leo Carrillo Ranch Park,  The Thursday Club, Martin Johnson House, and my parents’ backyard.

{Condor’s Nest Ranch by Katie Neal}

To narrow down my choices, I started by making a list of pros and cons for each venue. Condor’s is a lovely scenic ranch, but ultimately is too far from the ocean for us. The Thursday Club in Point Loma is near the beach, but doesn’t let you have hard alochol. This may not be a deal breaker for some, but knowing our friends, we had to keep looking. Leo Carrillo Ranch is located fairly close to the ocean, full of charm, and is flexible with vendors. It was definitely a top contender

{Leo Carrillo by Tec Petaja}

Ultimately, it really came down to my parents’ house (ceremony at J Street look-out and reception in the backyard) and The Martin Johnson House. Both choices had the feel we wanted our wedding to exude. I really liked the idea of a causal backyard wedding and I figured it could save us some money that we could use elsewhere in our budget. Plus, I would be able to have the sparkler send-off that I always envisioned.

However, when we budgeted out the two options, they were more comparable than we thought. We really weren’t saving that much by holding the reception in the backyard, since we had to bring in more décor elements and all of the rentals. The final deciding factor: I really just disliked the idea of guests having to commute the distance from the ceremony site to the reception location. With Martin Johnson house it was all right there with a pretty ocean view bow on top!

{Lookout From Martin Johnson House}

After walking through the Martin Johnson a couple times with Kate and Ellen (this had been their number 1 all along) and looking through past weddings held there, we knew we had found the perfect venue for us. It was casual beachy, but still beautiful. Our ceremony will be held facing the Pacific Ocean. Black’s Beach (a favorite surf spot) is even visible from the ceremony site, a big plus for Nick. I love that the ceremony and reception can both be held in the same area.

The actual house has a homey feel and a huge deck overlooking the ocean that is perfect for dancing. There is ample room for lawn games, which I really want to incorporate into the cocktail hour. But what really sold us, is the amazing natural beauty found on the property, including huge trees, vibrant succulents, and the breath-taking views. The only bummer for me, is they don’t allow sparklers. So we’re brainstorming other options for my perfect send-off

{Ceremony at Martin Johnson House}

Finding a venue was a piece of cake compared to my next challenge…dress shoping! Boy was that a HUNT! Stay tuned to find out all the knitty gritty details on the dress!

From B & A: Jess covered a lot here so we don’t want to overload you with venue talk, but we would love to point out a few tips! Options… it’s always good to look at multiple locations even if you think you know exactly what you want. Jess didn’t seem too keen on the Martin Johnson House at first, since it was in La Jolla and they were originally thinking of a surf spot in Encinitas, however, we just knew it hit everything on their checklist.

Seeing a site in person makes all the difference. A site that looks gorgeous in one particular picture might not be so charming when you see the surrounding area in real life, and vice versa a lesser-known site could have lots of hidden potential!

Definitely do what Jess did and make a list of requirements from the start. Then weed places out through pros and cons. You should feel great about the venue you choose and really be able to envision YOUR wedding there!

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