It amuses me that my friends now come to me as a sort of sounding board for upcoming wedding planning. One of those friends includes Bryan Frank, a news photographer for my station and a fellow blogger. Turns out his oldest daughter is engaged and is turning to mom and dad for help finding a wedding venue that only an economist (the daughter) could love.
So he stopped by my desk the other day and picked my brain about which, in my experience, wedding venues in Southern California give you the most bang for the buck. Now, seeing as how I didn’t exactly get married in a traditional manner, I don’t exactly have a bride’s experience with shopping wedding venues. But I do have secondary experience with brides on a budget. My mom’s clientele was in general all budget minded, but they all liked things to look nice, too. So, I’m going to share with you an alphabetical list of the venues I’ve decorated at least four times or more, which indicates to me all these venues are budget-friendly.
Almansor Court in Alhambra is basically a restaurant with gorgeous scenery and a golf course. This venue is very popular with the San Gabriel Valley crowd. As you can see, you can have a really beautiful ceremony using the gazebo, overlooking the pond. It’s main ballroom overlooks this scene, but there are a bunch of other ballrooms of various sizes without a view.
Luckily, I’m a better decorator than photographer, so forgive me the graininess of this photo. It was a lot darker, trust me. The Castaway in Burbank sits atop the Verdugo Mountains, so it overlooks much of the Los Angeles basin. This is a great place to have an evening wedding. They have two large ballrooms overlooking Los Angeles and the Valley. My buddy Moonie, who had his raucous reception here, told me in 2005 that the Castaway offered him the best deal out of any other wedding venue he checked out. I’ve been decorating at the Castaway for more years than I can remember, and I can tell you that they are really improving the outdoor area — there is now a pergola along the courtyard and I believe a fountain, as well. Oh, and there is also a gazebo here, but I haven’t used it very often.
Because of its proximity to my mom’s church, The Courtyard in Baldwin Park was practically the official church party/wedding venue. This hotel has had several names over the years, by the way, so maybe you don’t remember it as the Courtyard — its basically the hotel you see to your right when you exit the westbound 10 Freeway at Puente Avenue. The nice thing about this hotel is that its quite economic — I’ve been told that the per-person price of a steak/beef dinner is as little as $24. But this was quite a few years ago, so this may have changed. Anyway, the staff is pretty friendly and very cooperative, which is always helpful for florists and crew.
I’ve been to the Hilton in Glendale (formerly the Red Lion Inn) several times for a variety of reasons. I’ve been here to cover stories and I’ve been here to decorate. I think I’ve even attended an event here. Anyway, the grounds are nice, its a pretty nice, central location and the facilities are pretty updated. The staff is cooperative and I don’t think I’ve done too many stacked weddings here — meaning, weddings scheduled back to back.
My family has a pretty long history with the Pacific Palms in Puente Hills. It used to be the Sheraton Industry Hills. History includes my sister’s 18th birthday party (her debut) and my swimming in a meet in the Olympic-sized pools down the hill. I’ve done many a wedding and birthday party here, both in the lower level’s big ballrooms with high ceilings and on the upper ballrooms with lower ceilings, but huge windows and beautiful views.
I have not been to the Friendly Hills Country Club more than once — at least, to my knowledge. But the place is gorgeous. The greens are a golf course, and the clubhouse’s ballrooms don’t fit that many people as some hotels do. But it is definitely gorgeous.