Wizardry and Whimsy: Here’s a California Wedding That Has Both

More cauldron cakes, please


Brooke & Domenic

sum-up of the wedding vibe: A romantic celebration with vintage charm, Irish jigs, and wizardy treats.

Planned budget: $30,000

Actual budget: $35,000

Number of guests: 110


Where we allocated the most funds:

VENUE: While venue hunting, we knew that we wanted something unique and romantic. It was also important for us to have flexible space indoors so we wouldn’t have to stress about weather, and something reasonably accessible since many of our guests were coming from out of town. Berkeley City Club was the second venue we visited and it fit the bill! Berkeley City Club used to be a women’s club in the 1930s and was built by Julia Morgan, California’s first female architect. It is nicknamed “Little Castle,” and it’s definitely fitting. The venue has arches, columns, big fireplaces, and courtyards with Moorish and Gothic details—the style is called Late Gothic Revival. The club is now a hotel and event space, but is also a registered historical landmark. Our venue and the staff were amazing. It included food, full bar, tables, chairs, uplighting, table clothes, waitstaff, etc. We were also able to have our ceremony in the drawing room with a large fireplace as our backdrop, our cocktail hour in the members’ lounge (essentially a library) and terrace, and our reception in the ballroom, while having access to all the other spaces we rented out for the night. We spent more to have the better dishes and premium alcohol at our bar as well.

FLOWERS: When we first started planning, we really didn’t know how much we should/would be spending on flowers, so we shopped around and got some different estimates. After we met Svenja, we decided we’d be going with the higher end of our estimates. She is a true artist. We knew we wanted our flowers to be lush, romantic, and nontraditional, but did not have any super specific requirements. We met with Svenja, and not only was she able to identify our style just from our conversations and Pinterest board, she helped us incorporate vintage books and candelabras with the flowers to make our vision come to life.

PHOTOGRAPHY + VIDEOGRAPHY: We decided early on that we wanted to make sure we found a wonderful photographer to capture our wedding. We were putting a lot of love, sweat, time, and money into this one day and we wanted to be able to look back on every detail. One of the things we heard the most from married couples was that they regretted not getting a videographer. When we saw Kelly’s work at Wild Whim, we knew we had to have her and her team capture our big day.


Where we allocated the least funds:

DÉCOR: Besides the flowers, the décor was pretty much collected or made by us. Initially, we had looked into renting vintage books, but spending that amount of money didn’t make sense! Instead, we collected vintage books from local used bookstores over the year of our engagement. It was such a fun process, and now we have a shelf full of books that mean something to us! I am also a designer, so I made a ton of the paper goods and décor, and saved money with my crafting skills. We made the programs, menus, seating tags, escort cards, any signage at the wedding, table numbers, and all the décor for the Harry Potter/Honeyduke’s candy bar we had for favors. I saved a lot of money on the invites by assembling them myself (they had multiple pieces and multiple folds). Luckily, the designer gave me that option! It was a lot of time spent, but also a lot of money saved.

transportation: At first, we were concerned about getting people back and forth to our rehearsal dinner, salon appointments, etc., but in the long run decided to just let everyone figure it out! This meant that we had to spend $0 on transportation, and that was a huge relief. I am so glad we didn’t end up doing it. Everyone was just fine getting around!

wedding dress: My parents also helped a lot and even bought my dress, bridal belt, and veil. I had never seen a dress quite like it before. It was embroidered chiffon, which made it look like lace but way more flowy. And it had pockets! My veil was a simple circle drop veil and was actually a lot less to have custom made than buying it anywhere else.


What was totally worth it:

Splurging on the flowers, photographer, and the bar. We ended up working with vendors that were communicative, helpful, caring, and all around wonderful. They helped us every step of the way and helped us nail down our vision (and capturing it). Also, paying for food and drinks that people would actually enjoy was so important. Our bartenders were amazing and everyone loved the cocktails. We really just wanted to have an amazing party for our friends and family, especially since so many people spent a lot of money to be with us.

It was also totally worth it to incorporate things we loved into our day instead of always sticking to tradition. I am a total bookworm and was so happy to work this into our day without making our wedding too theme-y. We bought amazing Harry Potter-inspired invitations that people loved, named our tables after book-inspired locations, and even had Cauldron Cakes made for our Honeyduke’s inspired candy table. We got a pumpkin walnut raisin cake with cinnamon frosting and caramel even though it wasn’t a fall wedding. We incorporated some Irish traditions into our day as well because of my heritage. Dom had proposed to me with a Claddagh ring, so it was only appropriate to carry it through! We had an Irish fiddler/guitar duo for our ceremony and cocktail hour, and we performed traditional Celtic vows with a handfasting ceremony. We actually worked with our officiant to write our ceremony and were able to work in our own personal touches. It was an amazing experience.

Last thing I would say was also worth it was skipping out on RSVP cards. This saved us money and time. We had people RSVP through our website and it helped us keep track of everyone’s contact info!


A few things that helped us along the way:

Getting organized early. We used Google Drive to keep all our information together and up to date! We kept our budget in a sheet, and all our vendor lists, addresses, etc. on there. Our RSVPs from our website were even automatically saved to Google Drive.

Getting advice! Checking out wedding blogs like APW and talking to other married couples or couples that were in the process of planning a wedding was huge. We learned from others and were able to make educated decisions about what we wanted. How did people do this before the Internet?

Getting a coordinator. We hired the most amazing day-of coordinator. Our venue actually required it, but I couldn’t imagine it any other way. She worked with me the month before the wedding and took in all the information I had collected over the past year. It was such a relief to pass off everything that was in my head and Google Drive to someone who had control over the day. She and her husband made our vision come to life! They also helped us be ahead of schedule the whole day and made sure everyone was where they needed to be at all times.
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My best practical advice for my planning self:

Trust your gut! We decided early on that we wanted to enjoy the process and not overthink everything. Once we found something we loved, we just went with it! It turned out better than we could have imagined. Take help when people offer it and make sure you aren’t the only one with important information. Most of all, do what’s right for you as a couple. Don’t worry about whether others approve of your choices. This is your day.


Favorite thing about the wedding:

Seeing our friends and family all in one room was incredible. It was so humbling and overwhelmingly emotional. It meant so much for us to be able to throw this celebration for ourselves, our friends, and our family. It was also incredible to see the culmination of all our hard work over the year come together into something so beautiful.


Anything else TO SHARE:

I had no idea Domenic was going to propose the day he popped the question. He tricked me into taking a random Friday off. My job has a very generous vacation policy, so when he told me he was going to take the day off after a business trip that week, I thought nothing of it and requested it off with him. It was a totally normal day and February 20 didn’t have any obvious meaning to me. We had breakfast with a friend, ran our normal errands, then hiked one of the hundreds of parks here in SF that we hadn’t yet visited. Now, I know most might say this should have been a tip-off: random day off and a hike in a park with a gorgeous view of the entire city of San Francisco? Well, it wasn’t to me.

We both worked for the same company at the time and were traveling out to California for the same three-week training. He was coming from Columbus and I, Chicago, but found ourselves moving out to San Francisco together a few short months later. I think I can safely speak for the both of us that we both knew that someday we’d be getting married.

Barely a month after living in San Francisco, Dom was hit by a car and ended up with a broken femur. As if it’s not hard enough moving to a new city where you barely know anyone and with someone you basically just met, we went through trials some couples don’t see until much later in their relationship. Unsurprisingly, this is one of the things that I attribute to our strong bond and relationship. We struggled. I took care of him. He learned to walk again and again. We got by on whatever money we had, and three surgeries and three years later, we made it out on top. Dom had totally recovered and we recouped most of what we had lost during that time.

Fast-forward to his proposal on Friday, February 20, 2015: there was no doubt I’d say yes. To put the icing on the cake, February 20 fell on a Saturday in 2016 and was an easy choice for the biggest day of our lives.


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