When thinking about where to wed, we considered that at least 1/2 our guests would be coming in from out of town. We thought it might be fun (and more affordable) to get married outside the LA area in a place fun for visitors to enjoy. Thus we turned our attention southward, to San Diego. Only a 2 hour drive from LA, we thought family and friends would be able to enjoy the zoo, legoland, beaches, and the proximity to Mexico for a long weekend. Plus it would feel vacation-y to us, being away from home for our special day.
I discovered the Bernardo Winery on Here Comes The Guide (a must-visit for all you CA brides-to-be). We heart wine and thought a vineyard wedding sounded utterly dreamy. I had visions of rustic mason jar tealights, wine barrel cocktail tables, braided wheat details and horseshoe favors. Its even nestled into a tiny, rustic walking village of artisan shops, reminiscent of a cute disney-ish wine world. Random Trivia: it almost was consumed by the wildfires of ’07 in Rancho Bernardo.
The event space is pretty dreamy – a large, open, wood pavilion with all kinds of rustic and adorable elements such as horseshoes, old wagons, and rusty cheese graters (trust me, cuter than they sound!) One one end is a built-in bar, and the other has a large built-in buffet table. Everything is wrapped in twinkle lights. Beyond that is a little park, dappled with olive trees and capped off by a sweet pavillion for ceremonies.
There’s a small dance floor near the trees, and more twinkle lights everywhere. You can have the tables set up in the Pavillion or on the lawn. Behind everything are the vineyards. Its a tiny, boutique vineyard, but very charming and warm and quaint.
Awww, don’t we look charming and quaint?
The prices were really great for the rental, and included tables and chairs (basic, not fancy) and setup… but I think they raised prices this year a bit. Annie, the event consultant, was really sweet and helpful. There’s a restaurant on-site which you can use for catering (although we found the owner to be pretty flakey and the prices not very competitive). There’s also a bakery on-site for cakes – which I recommend because they have delicious cakes and lovely designs, a salon and a florist too! It could make for easy planning and execution, if you’re not very picky (which I’m starting to think I may be!)
The drawbacks were mostly logistical:
1. Party must conclude by 9:00 pm – pretty lame, unless you’re planning more of a hoe-down than a throw-down. Clearly, we’re in the latter camp.
2. Rancho Bernardo is a good 25 minutes north of the city proper. The town is pretty snoozy and boring. Not exactly the fun vacation we had hoped for folks. We didn’t want people having to drive after the party, and a shuttle that far would be a HUGE expense. There’s no great bars to retire the after-party to, either.
3. You must use their wine/beer packages, which in my opinion, were overpriced ($13-15 pp for just beer and wine and sodas).
4. Its cute, but not exciting, and we were looking for something with more energy.
5. Maximum rental time is 5 hours, and the bar can only be open for 4 1/2 hours total. That doesn’t feel like enough for the ceremony, cocktails, dinner and dancing. Especially with such an early “bedtime”!
6. My main man really wanted to have the ceremony in a spot that not everyone had been married in before (somewhere more sacred), but we couldn’t find a good alternate to the arch in the park. He also really wanted views, but in the suburbs of Rancho Bernardo, there aren’t many.
We considered it very seriously though – since it was such a charming spot and we were losing hope for finding anything as affordable that would be a better fit. We even put a deposit on a date, and met with local caterers (Festivities and Ranch Events – email me for info if you like). But after doing some food tastings, exploring the neighborhood, and being realistic, we just weren’t feeling that jazzed about it. It didn’t seem to say “us”. And we really really didn’t think it was time to settle yet… and I’m so glad we didn’t.
We did hold onto the date, just in case, until we found our “meant to be” – several months later. The good news is, all but $100 of the deposit was refundable, so it wasn’t much of a loss at all.
If you’re looking for a cute, quaint, rustic wedding spot, this is a great choice. If you’re looking for a party, keep looking. But its worth a visit if you’re in the ‘hood. We really enjoyed being there for lunch and wine and jazz. But it wasn’t the right place for our “I Do’s”.
Don’t change that dial… more location fun to come!