I won't bore you with the ones we're not going with. There were only two that really stood apart, and they were sisters.
Daniel wasn't able to come with me unfortunately (can you say expensive plane ticket?), but based on the many, many pictures that I collected and my experience, the one both of us like best is Tivoli Too.
It's in Laguna Beach though oddly not actually by the ocean, but it is still beautiful.
Our Awesome Ceremony Backdrop
All Personal Photos
:) : It's beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. More beautiful than I would have dared imagine for what we're paying. Tivoli Too has the feel of a magical fairy-like garden while still maintaining an air of elegance. The setting is meant to be Italian in style which works well for me (though there could be fewer angels for this atheist bride and her Jewish groom. Oh well). It's outside which we both really wanted, but it still feels enclosed which is also nice, and it is covered in twinkling lights which eliminates the problems with lighting that I had envisioned. It is nothing like what I was looking for, and yet it is still perfect for us. Even in pricing. This place definitely fits our budget, and for all of the things that are included, it's downright cheap. Plus, we really wouldn't need decorations, and that would cut costs as well. And the summer is actually their off-season (weird I know, explained below), so we would be able to have the wedding on a Saturday night which I had pretty much given up on but would definitely be nice. Overall, this is a great find. Definitely worth checking out if you're planning to get married in Southern California (but you can't have the last weekend in July 2011 because it's mine).
:( : There are a few little things that bother me. This place is a little small, and while it would be fine for the ceremony and dinner, the small space for the dance floor is a bit of a problem. I'd have to see if I could expand the area by pushing tables back a bit. Also, the reason it's cheaper during the summer is that the Art-A-Fair, the venue's main exhibition for the year, occurs during July and August, and the people attending it would be able to watch our wedding. That doesn't really bother me, but it could be irksome. The main problem with Tivoli Too, the reason I am not rushing to book it now, is that the management seems a bit difficult to work with. The person I talked to was very nice and seemed willing to listen to our wishes, but their regulations contain quite a few caveats. The big one for me is that you have to use a DJ (no ipods or prerecorded music allowed) that you pick off of their vendor list. I REALLY don't want a DJ. I'm picky and have been to way too many events with crappy DJs, and with iTunes at my disposable, spending money on a DJ seems stupid. Plus, I really want my brother to play a set at my wedding. He's quite the talented musician (check him out!: http://www.myspace.com/codythomasofficial), and it would mean a lot to my whole family to have him play at least a song. So I'm going to have to look into their vendors and see if they'll let Cody play and go from there. There are other things, like you can't bring your own flowers or decorations, but mostly it's just the feeling that they're going to be inflexible and difficult. It worries me. We'll just have to talk to them about our concerns to see how much of a problem that will be.
But regardless of the issues, we could definitely make this place work for us and be happy with the result, and that's a relief to me. It's just so good to know that there is an amazing venue out there that we can afford! We probably won't book until we move back to California because there are some other places we want to check out still, and I don't want to book a venue that Daniel has never seen in person, but Tivoli Too is definitely number one on the list right now.
What are the most useful questions you asked about your venue? What criteria did you choose to pick it?