'Are you serious?"
Those were the first words that my bride-to-be said when she turned to find me on bended knee, fumbling with a small box and asking the biggest question of my life.
Thankfully, her next word was yes. I was serious, after all. And over the course of the following 10 months, I found out how serious weddings really are.
Not only are weddings serious business, they are big business as well. According to research company the Wedding Report, couples spent an average of $35,543 on Sonoma County weddings and $37,504 on Napa County weddings in 2015, compared to the national average of $26,536 last year. I was looking for a figure well below those numbers.
Those prices are so high because Sonoma and Napa counties are considered destination spots for weddings, with unparalleled views and decked-out wineries available for the right price. But that also means locals are expected to pay destination prices for their own backyard.
Never mind the daunting numbers, just thinking of the sheer number of decisions that need to be made in planning the nuptials tied my stomach in knots those first weeks of engagement. On one hand, weddings allow you to throw the party of your life the way you want; on the other hand, where do you start?
Without realizing it, we decided to embark on what what's being called a "slow wedding," defined as a simple wedding that is locally sourced, seasonally catered and more environmentally sustainable. Here's how we did it.
Wed Your Way
The first big decision is where to have the wedding. We decided to eschew the vineyard and chateau settings, as great as they are, for a venue with a personal touch.
In general, a slow wedding is best enjoyed in a backyard or other familiar, intimate and mellow venue. The personalized setting comes with a sense of comfort that you can't get when walking into an unfamiliar space. And while professional venues might offer a pre-set look, a home, grange hall or, in our case, parish hall is a blank canvas for your decorative imagination. Run wild with it.
Pro tip: Rope and string lights are instantly enchanting and can transform even the blandest hall into a wonderland. Don't skimp on the lights.
As tempting as it may be, one-stop shopping weddings websites are not the answer. Sites like the Knot and Weddingwire have endless lists of local vendors, but, like browsing Netflix titles for two hours, everything looks the same online.
In addition, Yelp reviews are useless, especially for weddings, where planted, fake or just plain crazy reviews and ratings are the norm. Besides, the volume of talented people in the North Bay means there's a good bet that whatever you need is only a personal recommendation away. The biggest lesson I learned in wedding planning is to meet people in person.
Our first locally sourced vendor was Santa Rosa stationery store Sincerely Yours, who specialize in wedding invites. Their attention to detail helped ease our worry, and their choices for invites resonated with what we were looking for.