My dream wedding would have been in a forest, but since we wanted to host our Aug. 9, 2014, event within a few hoursâ€™ drive of our Venice, California, home, that wasnâ€™t an option. We visited nearly 20 venues around the Santa Barbara area, but none of them felt right. The last place we saw was Refugio Ranch in Santa Ynez, and we fell in love. Itâ€™s a vineyard surrounded by rolling hills and fi lled with tall golden grass and ancient oak trees. It was by far the most unmanicured property weâ€™d seen, which is exactly what we wanted. I have a huge family and we have lots of friends, so we had a large guest list â€” 220 people.
Most of our guests rented homes or stayed in hotels in the nearby towns of Los Olivos and Solvang. There are wineries all over, so friends and family did lots of wine tasting, as well as hiking and horseback riding. Our planner, Beth Helmstetter, did an amazing job putting together our wedding weekend. Friday night we held the rehearsal dinner at the Santa Ynez Museum, then Saturday was the big day.
The ceremony took place on a hill overlooking rows of grapevines. Then we moved to a grassy reception area where the only lighting was the full moon and market lights strung from the trees. Food was really important to us, and New West Catering didnâ€™t disappoint. We had a raw bar for cocktail hour and grilled sirloin and chicken for dinner. It turned out to be the best day of our lives.â€