Where we’ll say “I do” and dance our first dance

Shortly after we got engaged, Sean and I started planning. Sort of. We checked out the usual wedding planning sites. They suggested making tentative guest lists to narrow down venues. I made a family list. It was bigger than what those wedding sites label a big wedding. With my friends, Sean’s family and friends, the list grew quickly. We had a round number and started searching for venues that would accommodate our JaMexican wedding reception.

Since I know Southern California, I did the search. Yelp was a much more useful source than the Knot. I also added venues where I had attended weddings or saw listed on discussion threads about large Los Angeles venues (that were not hotels, ‘cause, um, we can’t afford hotels). I made the spreadsheet and passed on the task of contacting the venues to Sean.

Sean did a great job and soon we had more info. We cut out venues that didn’t meet our needs and started planning visits.

Sean, my dad and I visited the Pavilion at the Industry Hills Equestrian Center in May. Even though it was empty, it looked smaller than it had when I attended a cousin’s wedding there in 2006. The pros for the Pavilion:
+ Capacity up to 350
+ Allowed you to bring outside catering
+ Close to the church, my family’s home
+ Plenty of parking
+ Not part of a hotel, but around the corner from the Pacific Palms hotel

The cons:
– No BYO alcohol; you have to go with their bar service for all beverages and alcohol
– No day-of event staff aside from the bartenders and required security

When we got home and did the math, we found that the Pavilion wasn’t as much of a bargain as we hoped. With the venue cost and bar service, it was pricier than we expected. Plus, after reading several wedding blogs, Sean was worried about the lack of day-of event staff. He didn’t feel confident that a bartender would be able to handle something going wrong with the venue. We never called back the woman who showed us around.


The party set-up

For the next six weeks, we stopped actively searching for venues and didn’t schedule any more visits with the venues on the short-list. We began to consider a backyard wedding.

val's quince

It started off as a joke with my cousin Nancy while we were at her house. My tío Pancho and tía Martha have hosted several large parties in their spacious backyard including one wedding and all three of their daughters’ quinceañeras.

“How many people did you have here for Valerie’s quinceañera?” I asked. I think they said about 200, but I’m not sure.

val's quince

Unfortunately, it soon became evident that while my family has hosted many parties at our home, as has my tía Martha and tío Pancho, those backyards would be too small for a bicoastal wedding. Plus, an outdoor wedding in late summer might be uncomfortable. September is a hot month.

In June we finally got around to scheduling an appointment with the busy Fr. Ricky at St John Vianney after our Yosemite trip. At our meeting on July 1, we got the details on what we would need to do to have an interfaith wedding. Sean doesn’t need to to become Catholic (he was raised Lutheran). We also learned that the church will take 4 years to rebuild. The interim church will be a large semi-permanent tent with air conditioning and flooring. Prior to the fire, SJV booked fast for weddings. Right now it’s not a popular place since there’s some uncertainty – what will the tent look like? – and many couples want the traditional church atmosphere. Fr. Ricky checked the schedule for us; September and October 2012 were wide open.


Brea Community Center - Community Hall

A few days after meeting with Fr. Ricky, I told my mom that we didn’t think a backyard wedding would work. She nodded. She had visited a friend’s backyard who hosted large parties to check it out, but that place wouldn’t work because of the lack of parking. Mom suggested two additional venues where she had attended weddings and parties.

That night, I looked up the Brea Community Hall; the second venue didn’t have much online. I liked what I saw:
+ Capacity of up to 320 banquet style
+ Allows outside catering
+ Allows you to bring your own alcohol and other beverages
+ Reasonable cost (lower than the Pavilion)

Over the week, I was in contact with the helpful reservation specialist, Nicole. Saturdays in September and October 2012 were currently available. Sean and I scheduled a visit for Sunday afternoon after attending an orientation for engaged couples at SJV. Mom had some time to spare and came along.

Brea is a short drive from Hacienda Heights, which would mean our guests wouldn’t have to travel too far from the ceremony to the reception. As we drove in to the Brea Community Center parking lot, my mom seemed a little confused. Although she suggested the venue, she actually had never visited. The venue she suggested had a similar name. Oops.

At the BCC, a facilities worker was happy to give us a tour of the Community Hall, outdoor patio and kitchen. He explained how the room is typically configured for weddings and answered some other questions. The room has hard wood floors, large windows which allow a lot of natural light. It’s nothing fancy, but not too plain. I liked it. Mom and I checked out the woman’s bathroom to make sure it wasn’t too small.

“I like it. I think you shouldn’t even bother with the other place,” mom said as she washed her hands in the spacious bathroom. (The other place would be Venue 3, the hall mom suggested a few days before. She did some research on the venue. The costs were comparable, but Venue 3 was much larger, accommodating up to 500.)

I nodded. She had said the words before I had a chance. We walked out of the bathrooms and met Sean in the cool hallway.

“My mom thinks we should stop looking. I agree. What do you think?”

Sean didn’t even pause before replying, “Yeah.”

On Monday morning I called Fr. Ricky to book the church for the same date we had tentatively chosen in March after getting engaged. Then I emailed Nicole about moving forward with booking the Community Hall and answering a couple of questions. On Tuesday morning we spoke about some of the additional booking details. By the afternoon I’d paid the deposit and received the contract.

It’s official. Sean and I will be getting married on September 15, 2012[1].

[1]Yup. We’ll have to stop the dancing around 11 for un Grito de Dolores in celebration of Mexican Independence. Since this is Adrian’s birthday weekend, I already told him he can party extra hard and we’ll have the mariachi play Las Mañanitas for him.

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