Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Jul 28, 2010 09:17 PM

Bay Area wedding on a grad student's budget

My fiance and I recently relocated to the Bay Area from New York City. We are new to the area (7 days young!) and looking for wedding/reception venues in wine country, East Bay or SF. The challenge is, we're foodies on a grad student's budget. For most of our guests, this will be considered a destination wedding as most will travel from the midwest and east coast. Food, beverages and venue are key!

I'd like flexibility on catering, if possible, and to rely on the venue itself to create ambience so less money is needed on flowers, etc.

We're pretty non-traditional and open a variety of venues although a winery or urban venue would be our top choice.

Aesthetic is anywhere from modern elegance to rustic mediterranean.

Recommendations welcome!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. We did a low budget wedding renting out the house in Stern Grove, decorating ourselves and spending all our money on a decent caterer.

    1. Stern Grove was the first thing that came to my mind too! What's your budget?

      I got married at Byington in the Santa Cruz Mtns. Wineries are expensive (base price to rent venue, you have to buy their wine, plus everything extra like a dance floor, wine pourers,etc). Oh, and most will want you to use one of their "approved" caterers. I think the caterer alone for my wedding 8 years ago with 120 guests was about $10k.

      Good luck with your search!

      1. If you want specific recs, you'll need to provide specifics about your wedding. Number of guests and overall budget are key.

        1. Oakland Hills has some pretty sites. I've been to weddings at Joaquin Miller park and they were nice.

          1 Reply
          1. re: myst

            They do, and they're very reasonable. Most of them allow you to choose your caterer, instead of having an approved list.


            My sister got married at Sequoia Lodge:

            The Oakland Zoo has a lovely facility as well:

          2. You have a grad student's budget but a millionaire's taste, not a good combination. Please tell us when your wedding is going to be, how many guests, and what's your per guest budget.

            One cheap way to go would be to rent a public venue (e.g. public park, community halls, etc.) and self cater.

            7 Replies
            1. re: PeterL

              You're absolutely right. It might be the demise of me. Looking to have around 200 people. Budget approx $50k.

                1. re: oaktowngirl

                  Agreed. That is not the figure I was expecting either. $50k would have paid off more than half of my grad school loans.

                  1. re: artemis

                    Mutter, mutter, yeah I thought we were talking about $5K or less.

                2. re: renujain

                  First off, welcome to the Bay Area.
                  Wow! For $50K you can have a REALLY nice event at one of the many wineries in the area. Well, it depends on how much your relatives drink ; )
                  Heck, my wedding 9 years ago, dress, kilt, rings and honeymoon included was under $5K for about 125 people. We had the ceremony and an appetizer reception at our local UU church with my Mom doing the food as our gift and stayed at our friend's ranch in New Mexico.

                  Fall weddings out here are beautiful and if you choose a winery, many of the vines may have turned color by then. Popular venues book up a year or more in advance, so hopefully we're talking next year or so.
                  More questions:
                  Did you need a hotel close to your site for all of your out-of-town guests?
                  How much would you like to budget per person for food?
                  How much would you like to budget per person for drinks?
                  How much did you want to pay to rent the site?
                  Any preferred styles of food and wine?
                  How far from SF would you be willing to travel for the right venue?

                  And if decide it's just too much of a hassle and your parents wouldn't absolutely kill you, I agree with Wolfe. Plenty of amazing foodie destinations around the world where for a few K can go a looong way and you can still come home and find a nice place to buy. Ya know, you could bring the parents along at least for the ceremony so they feel included and then head off to delicious places on your own. Could be fun... : )

                  1. re: renujain

                    Wow grad school has certainly changed a lot. With that budget forget about renting public spaces. Check out the Claremont.

                    1. re: renujain

                      See, this is why we ask people to be specific.

                      You must have meant "same budget as it would cost to go to grad school", not "budget for someone squeaking through grad school".