Recently, we traveled to Sonoma County, California thanks to Venone PR and got a chance to experience what a destination wedding weekend in California wine country would be like. Let us tell you-- it. Was. Epic.
Off The Beaten Path Signature Experiences is a concierge wine country event planning and logistics group that makes planning a Sonoma County wedding easier than that glass of rose goes down. They can assist you in every step of the planning process for your Sonoma County destination wedding, from providing access to intimate, posh venues that can only be booked through them (SO. COOL!) to creating unique and memorable catering menu options to assisting in selecting your linens. We saw first hand how much magic they can create.
They wined and dined us to show us everything that the area has to offer couples getting married-- but before you stop us and say 'but Apple Brides, I can't afford a fancy California wine country wedding' Yes! You can! It can all be done on a realistic budget. You don't have to be a millionaire to get married in wine country. Seriously!
We're sharing our epic destination wedding trip with Off The Beaten Path, along with tips and insight for making your own destination wedding (or any wedding, for that matter) a breeze.
1. Have a Good Welcome Party
When you have a destination wedding, it inevitably involves a lot of travel. While Sonoma County is easy to get to (You can fly into SFO and drive over, or fly directly into the world's smallest and most charming airport- Santa Rosa) it still requires a lot of guests, so a welcome party is a nice way to start unwinding, mingle and let guests get to know each other and of course, enjoy a few drinks.
Our welcome party was a casual cocktail reception at Three J Farms complete with a variety of signature cocktails from Alley 6 and wine and passed appetizers. Add in a seriously insane view of the sunset and a dessert bar and you're golden. Whether you want elaborate or simply chic, your welcome party sets the tone for the rest of the weekend and ours said good things are to come.
While we're on the topic of guest experience, let's talk transportation. While it's not necessary to provide transportation for your guests for the entire weekend (unless that's in your budget! In which case, bravo) wedding day transportation is a nice gesture, and makes things super easy. We loved getting to ride with Beau Wine Tours, and not just because they have WiFi and outlets at every seat!
2. Host Unique Experiences
The number one rule of any wedding weekend. Why did you decide to get married here? Because you love the area, right? So let guests get a taste of that. We got to be a part of SO many amazing activities during our time in Sonoma County, all that we wouldn't have had the opportunity to do elsewhere. From experiencing a cedar enzyme foot bath at Osmosis Day Spa, which is the only place in North America you can get that treatment, to viewing vintage wedding dresses at the Petaluma Museum (including some from the late 1800's!) to touring Beffa Springs Ranch and learning about what sustainable farm to table practices really mean, we genuinely got a feeling for the area as a whole and how diverse and special it is. Guest experiences like that really make a weekend memorable, and make it about more than just your wedding-- it makes the weekend about letting your friends and family experience something that you both love and is special to you.
Other must-see items in Sonoma County? Amy's Wicked Slush, which provides the most Instagrammable, yummy treats you'll ever see. Moshin Vineyards has wine tasting and tours of the first gravity fed wine processing facility. Cowgirl Creamery does Cheese 101 classes and tastings and let us just say-- you'll be clamoring to buy it all! Heidirun Meadery produces the only locally sourced sparkling meads in the area (sounds weird, taste like Champagne on crack-- in the best way!)
Whether adventurous tours or luxe wine tastings seem like something you'd love more, consider hosting, or at least suggesting, a variety of special activities so guests can get an idea of the local flavor of Sonoma County-- or wherever you're hosting.
3. Think About What You Guys Love and Be True To That
We always say, what makes a wedding special and memorable isn't the centerpieces or the grand entrance. It's what you and your fiancé include that make it truly you. Weddings that are a genuine reflection of the couple are always events that people will talk about for years to come. After all, what better compliment is there than, "That wedding was just so Sarah & Rich!"
Off The Beaten Path can help create that experience. Whether it's a dinner in Petroni Vineyard's elaborate wine cave (One of the biggest highlights of our trip!) that's literally on the side of a mountain or a lit-entirely-by-fairy-lights garden party dinner at an ULTRA private estate (seriously you guys, the access Distinct Locations & K Group has is unreal!) find something that speaks to you both and it's sure to be a winner. While we were lucky enough to experience all of the above (Already planning a trip back...) you don't have to do it all. Just do it right.
4. Think Outside the Rehearsal Dinner Box
We've talked about a lot of different events that we attending during the course of our trip, all super diverse and unique. The lesson? Don't let yourself be bogged down by thinking inside the box! Every dinner and day is an opportunity to create something magical for your guests to experience. Your rehearsal dinner doesn't have to be at a restaurant nearby your venue, or even at your venue. Host a picnic at K Squared Cellars, an industrial chic winery with great wines. Do a farm tour and pick blackberries off the branch at Front Porch Farms. Find something that's different from your wedding day and embrace it for your rehearsal dinner! It'll give guests a chance to enjoy something different and impress people with your varied itinerary.
5. Close It Out in Style and Send 'Em Packing
Welcome gifts and favors are never expected when it comes to a wedding, but they're always a nice gesture. We were so lucky to be gifted many different things on this trip and it was so special! If it's in your budget, consider gifting your guests a token from the trip. Whether it's a bottle of wine from one of your favorite vineyards or a cute tote bag, the options are endless. Our favorite surprise was a wine transporting suitcase from VinGardeValise. While pricey for a wedding welcome gift, they not only transported the bottles of wine we gathered home from our Sonoma County trip, but then do double duty as a regular suitcase when you remove the foam inserts. Pretty genius, and considering our old luggage has seen better days, we we're surprised and stoked to say the least. There's a momento for every budget out there.
Beyond gifting your guests, consider hosting a post-wedding brunch or lunch the day after you say 'I do'. It's kind of awkward to have the drunken chicken dance be your last memory with all of your wedding guests, so post-wedding events are becoming more popular. It doesn't have to be elaborate, just something to see everyone off and remind them how much you appreciated them celebrating with you. That French style country picnic would be perfect-- relaxed and easy to chat and mingle. Off The Beaten Path has tons of venue options that can fit the bill.