A Golden and Glamorous Restaurant Dinner Party Wedding

A delicious, celebratory San Francisco feast

Jeanne, Marketing Executive & Dan, Product Manager

One sentence sum-up of the wedding vibe: The ultimate dinner party with everyone we love.

Planned Budget: $30K-ish

Actual Budget: $35K-ish

Number of Guests: 70 for the wedding and reception, plus 175 at the day-before party

Where we allocated the most funds

The majority of our budget went to the restaurant in our San Francisco neighborhood where we held both the ceremony and reception. Food and wine are incredibly important to us, and we knew from the outset that we wanted our wedding to feel like a celebratory feast.

The buyout cost for the restaurant covered not only our venue fees, but also an amazing six-course menu, wine pairings and sherry-based cocktails, tent and lighting rentals, basic flowers for the tables, and the absolutely invaluable planning and coordinating help of the restaurant’s GM, Kerry.

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Where we allocated the least funds

Flowers. We didn’t have a bridal party and the restaurant didn’t need extra decoration beyond the bud vases on the tables, so all we needed was a bouquet for me and boutonnières for Dan and our families. I considered just picking up a couple bunches of sweet peas at the farmer’s market for five dollars and calling it good.

As it happens, though, I have a very talented friend Kristie who loves floral design, and she volunteered to help. I took a walk around our neighborhood on the morning of the wedding to collect some flowers and leaves that I liked, and she came to our loft on the morning of the wedding to create the most beautiful bouquet and boutonnières. It was really wonderful to have that time with her before the ceremony.

Also, my dress. I used to have a business making red carpet dresses for celebrities, so I made it using fabric I already had in my studio.

What was totally worth it

Opting for a restaurant wedding at a place we know and love was absolutely the smartest thing we did. We knew food and wine were the most important part of the experience we wanted to create for our guests, so prioritizing that from day one really simplified our decision process.

The turnkey nature of having the entire event in one place, staffed by a crew who already know each other and the venue, also turned out to be quite valuable. In the middle of our engagement, the company I worked for was acquired and I took a new, much more demanding job at a small startup. (Dan already had a demanding job at another startup.) Overnight, we had ZERO time to devote to wedding planning. But we trusted the restaurant team one hundred percent and they carried the day. We really just showed up and they made us feel like we were guests at the best party ever.

Hiring Melissa of Marble Rye Photography was also a clutch move. She brought a really calming, relaxed energy to our wedding weekend, and she has an incredible talent for catching the small moments and details you want to remember.

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What was totally not worth it

As gorgeous as our foil-stamped invitations were (designed by our friend Heather!), the time and energy and resources that went into getting them printed, assembled, and mailed was pretty outsize.

Given a do-over, I might opt for really beautifully designed e-invites like the save-the-dates Heather put together for us. We handled all of our wedding correspondence online except the ceremony invites, and I’d happily save the printer selection angst and paper acquisition drama and proof checking, not to mention all the time I spent gluing layers of pretty paper together and the crazy unit cost for printing such a small volume of invites.

A few things that helped us along the way

In some ways, having my job situation change so dramatically in the middle of our engagement actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Although our aggregate free time dropped pretty much to zero, it also forced us to focus ruthlessly on the things that mattered most to us. We had to let go and trust that however the details played out, the big things would be right at the end of the day. We would have committed our lives to each other, the people we love would be there to witness and celebrate it, and everyone would have a damn good time.

We also set aside a long weekend about a month before the wedding to go away and figure out our ceremony. Since we wrote our own, we needed time away from our regular lives to reflect on what was most important to us and build a ceremony that felt right.

My best practical advice for my planning self

Book your venue as early as possible. The faster you narrow down your planning options, the more sane you will remain.

If something doesn’t feel important to you, let it go. Be ruthless. It’s tough to shrug off what you think people expect of you—but in retrospect it’s your own memories of the process and the day that count.

And conversely—if something is important to you, concentrate your resources there. We spent a much higher percentage of our budget on food and wine than some couples do. But that’s who we are, and it’s how we wanted to celebrate with the people we love. We don’t regret it for a second.

Favorite thing about the wedding

We asked our parents to all speak during the ceremony, but we told them we didn’t want to know what they’d say beforehand. Each of them made us laugh and cry. It was so touching to hear them each offer us their wisdom and love.



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