... all the tiny details I love oh so very much ...
Saturday, November 13, 2010
Affordable Venues in SF, and How They Exist In My Dreams
I don't know where this thought came from, but I'm acutely aware than when we first started looking at wedding venues in San Francisco I honestly believed that for $10,000 we could get a conveniently-located city lights view and/or waterfront venue for no more than 100 people that would include site rental fees, equipment/furniture rentals, open bar, food, lighting, audio, dance floor, music, wedding day coordinator, decorations, and a photobooth (and those are just the requirements I can remember right now).
Let me just say for the record, I was W-R-O-N-G wrong.
You can absolutely have some of those elements for that cost, but you can't have all of them. And trying to decide what to leave off the list felt to me like trying to decide which of my two front teeth I'd rather live without. Neither!
So instead of finding things to strike from our "want" list, we began by simply trying to minimize the costs of those things we saw as necessities for our ceremony and reception: site rental fees, food, and alcohol. After seeing a few places and ruling out those that were too expensive, we were left with 4 options.
I think I found this place on Yelp, where it gets good reviews for ambiance and cost. Mark was super nice when he showed us around. The overall style of the place was such a good fit for us. It had that open and airy loft feel and big windows with cool views. The long table is made from 300-year old antique village gate doors from China, and in person it is simply spectacular! As you can see from the pictures, the cafe lighting in the table room is really lovely. The cost is reasonable for all-day space rental, although we would have to use their preferred caterer and we didn't get a chance to learn the cost of that. There were a few significant downsides for us. One was the size of the place. We would definitely be limited to no more than 75 guests in order to fit them all. Plus it's so small that in order to do both a ceremony and reception here, we'd have to leave after the ceremony for a few hours in order for them to turn it over. And that leads to a second downside, which is that it's located in a fairly gritty part of town. With the public transportation options around there, our guests would definitely have to walk through several blocks of a less-than-splendorific locale in order to reach the place - and then do it not once, but twice if we had to come back for the reception. A third thing we noticed while visiting the space was the undeniable potential for hot-and-stuffiness. Admittedly we were there on a freakishly hot SF day, but the tiny back room office was almost unbearable to be in. I worried that 75 people in the space would do to the temperature.
This place just looks cool, right? And they're ridiculously affordable, in SF terms. I didn't bring my camera here either, so I apologize. ( Wasn't a blogger yet. I'm better now, I swear.) The building is located right next to a MUNI train line so it would be super easy for our guests to get here, and the neighborhood is not that bad. The large space shown in the first two pictures was fantastic - cool and funky windows with an interesting view, lots of white space just crying our for a little decorative magic. The light grid shown in the third picture connected to one side of the larger space and we were told we could use it for a photobooth if we wanted. I also thought it might make a unique - if not cramped - ceremony room. All in all there was tons of space and they seemed really open to letting us do whatever we wanted with it. There were a few scratch-your-head-in-wonder type moments, though. First of all these studios are located inside a massive, massive building that houses what must be hundreds of other businesses. Getting to their front door was an epic adventure, and I wondered how in the world we'd come up with enough signage to direct our guests so that they wouldn't find themselves lost in an industrial warehouse. On that note, the warehouse vibe is crazy cool but also kind of intimidating when you're trying to figure out how to disguise the random kitchenette or hanging cabinets, how to conceal the shower in the bathroom, or how to dampen the echo off all the concrete.
Next in line, the Fort Mason Center Firehouse.
As you can see, this place is pretty tiny as well. But it was adorable! And so affordable! Right on the water, secluded from the other buildings of the Fort Mason Center, and a lot of nearby parking. It had several separate rooms so that we could create a lounge area or a photobooth area if we wanted to. They allow you to use any caterer you want, including caterers who will let you buy your own alcohol for them to serve. Major cost saver! Loved loved loved the high ceilings. It's such a blank slate that it would need a fair amount of DIY decoration to make it what we wanted, plus there are some weird *ahem* architectural features, such as the water fountains attached the wall (as seen in the 4th picture). The size of the space means we would again have had to leave the space after the ceremony to turn it over for the reception, but at least this venue is in a great part of town for some sightseeing.
I wish I had taken my camera to this space because we really, really liked it. Everyone we interacted with at the Fort Mason Center was so super nice and we had no worries that they would be helpful to us all throughout our planning process. The rules for catering were the same as the Firehouse, making this another good deal. At this space there were again several rooms available to us, all with windows looking out over the marina full of sailboats. The room in the 3rd picture would be a wonderfully intimate-but-not-overcrowded ceremony space, after which we could adjourn to the room in the 2nd and 4th pictures for the reception. There was plenty of space to have all the tables plus a bar, photobooth, and dance floor. Another small room was perfect for the caterers to set up in, and there were restrooms in this suite of rooms so that everything could be self-contained. There are electric blinds and screens on all the windows so we could let in as much or as little light as we needed. The price for all-day rental was higher than the Firehouse, but we wouldn't have to leave and come back, which would save us money on transportation for our guests. Everything was a total blank slate, and they seemed really willing to work with us to allow us to create whatever vision we had in mind.
While we were here, we were looking at each other like "this is it!" Even after we left we hung around outside the building, peering in through the windows talking about where we would place everything and how great a location it is. We were *this close* to calling this sealing the deal...
Up next, finally: Our Venue
Did you come close to picking a venue, only to change your mind?