How We Planned a Sweet San Francisco Church Wedding for 150 Guests

Translating our (somewhat nebulous) visions into something real

Angelina, Project Manager & Ben, Software Engineer

One sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe: Our wedding weekend was joyful, crazy fun and perfect for us.

Planned Budget: Somewhere around $20,000. We’ll admit we never sat down and planned out a budget. We did know how much our families were going to contribute, so we evaluated our expenses based on what we definitely wanted, what we were willing to be flexible on, and how much value the expense provided.
Actual Budget: $29,802.75
Number of Guests: Around 150

Where we allocated the most funds

The reception venue was $10,000 plus deposit. The fact that this also included wine and that they were open to the food truck and any vendors we wanted to work with really helped us make the decision. We’d looked at other venues for the reception and found when we mentioned to them (the other places) what we wanted it would almost always incur an additional cost.

Where we allocated the least funds

Flowers and decorations. A good friend of ours created all our flower arrangements at cost (around $400) from the San Francisco Flower Mart. Tank18 had an art exhibit up the month of our wedding so we just left it there. Our only other decorations were LED tea lights ordered from and chalk art created by an employee at Tank18.

What was totally worth it

Our rehearsal dinner at Mission Rock Resort. As the wedding date drew nearer we started to look into options for a Friday night dinner in San Francisco for forty-five-plus people including children and found that unless we wanted rent out an entire restaurant it was going to be difficult. Mission Rock came highly recommended from a contact on Twitter so we reached out. Luckily, they were available on a Friday and helped us plan a family style menu that was intimate, delicious, and added some more formality (and beautiful Bay views) to our weekend.

On a broader level getting involved with St. Francis Lutheran ranks at the top here, too. In looking for a place for our ceremony we became more involved, and eventually joined this small inclusive church in San Francisco’s Duboce Triangle neighborhood. Almost two years later we’re active in the congregation and we’re grateful that our time and money helps give back to so many people.

What was totally not worth it

Second guessing ourselves about the reception. When we first started planning the idea of having a taco truck at a wedding received mixed reactions so we frantically looked into other options, none of which compared to what we really wanted. If we’d not worried about others’ opinions as much we’d have been less stressed trying to plan.

A few things that helped us along the way

Asking our friends and colleagues for help, and being really specific about it.

When you tell someone “I’m planning a wedding,” they seem to fall into two camps: those who have all sorts of wedding advice and wedding ideas and oh my gosh they’re so excited for a wedding. . . and those who leave it at “Awesome!” It’s that second group of people, when asked specifically for something (“Can you draw us a picture for our Save the Date?” “Do you know any DJs?” etc.) that really paid off. For example, Ben’s office accountant is an amazing DJ; an old coworker and friend designed our save-the-date cards; another friend supplied us with stacks of Uber discount ride cards; and a friend from church created all our flower arrangements. We’d have been lost if we hadn’t asked, trusted, and of course paid (some didn’t take our money, but we felt it was right to offer) our friends fairly for sharing their talents with us.

My best practical advice for my planning self

Find vendors who share your vision. We gained so much by working with Alyssa Griffith (now of Rose Gold Events). She helped us understand the wedding planning process: figuring out the important things and the things that mattered to us; and reassured us that everything else would work itself out. Working with her also made us confident that we could find other vendors in the same spirit. When we were first surveying vendors, a lot of them just didn’t “get it” and were proposing things that seemed crazy extravagant or just silly; we said “no” a lot. But once we had a core of people and ideas that were “us,” things snowballed and everyone we ended up working with was totally awesome.

Favorite thing about the wedding

That our friends and family still talk about how much fun they had and how much fun we had, too.

Anything else

In planning the wedding, we tried to play to our strengths. As a Software Engineer, Ben was really good with process planning: he organized a Kanban board of tasks in Trello; kept a big Google Spreadsheet of vendors, contact info, payment dates and deadlines; and made sure all of the contracts (and additions, and modifications) were copied out of emails and put in a Dropbox folder. Angelina’s experience in project management and client services made her really good at talking with potential vendors; staying on top of the emails and phone calls; and the translating our (somewhat nebulous) visions into something we could actually sign a contract for.

We also thought it might be useful to readers to share some things we left out of our wedding:

  • A limousine service: We’d looked into several services but the amount of time and cost required to book them didn’t line up with our plans. Having our friends and family take car services, taxis or public transit between locations in downtown San Francisco allowed everyone to move on their own time.
  • Beer and a full bar: We’d looked into this as an afterthought, but as Tank18 is a winery the licensing, additional staff and cost wasn’t worth it for us. We decided when we looked at the budget and the time we had left that wine, soda and water was enough. We did hold an impromptu after party at a microbrewery in downtown San Francisco so friends who really wanted a beer could enjoy one.
  • A sit-down dinner: St. John Events helped us create a comfortable floor plan for 150 people using the furniture already at Tank18 and rentals so our friends and family could mingle freely and eat when they chose to. St. John also created an incredibly delicious buffet menu to complement the food truck fare, handled the wedding cake service and partied with us on the dance floor.


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