I Do: Wine Country Wedding Guide: Sonoma

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by Courtney Cochran

sonomaCountryWedding.jpgLast month we brought you some of our top picks for wedding spots and services in Napa Valley. And given that our Wine County beat has as much to do with Sonoma as it does that region's fair neighbor, we thought it only appropriate to canvass them as well too, for sweet locales and insider tips every bride-to-be planning a wine country wedding ought to know.  Because when it comes to keeping nuptials-inclined couples informed, we absolutely do take our job seriously. 

Best Elopement Package
Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, Forestville
Sometimes a quickie wedding is just what the doctor ordered - and at critically acclaimed Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant, low-drama romance is always on the menu. In collaboration with Russian River's Iron Horse Vineyards, the luxe Inn offers an all-in package that includes a photographer, the services of a non-denominational minister, a meal with Master Sommelier-selected wine pairings, couples massages and three nights' lodging. In all, it's an easy alternative to the traditional wedding - with wine country flair.

macarthurWeddings.jpgBest Situated Wine Country Wedding Spot
MacArthur Place, Sonoma
Located just off the plaza in historic downtown Sonoma, elegantly appointed MacArthur Place is just a stone's throw from San Francisco (45 minutes) as well as nearby Napa (15 minutes).  And with 35 individually styled guest rooms on-site, your guests can stay right there with you or in any one of dozens of nearby hotels - most of which are walking distance to downtown's vibrant restaurants, tasting rooms and shops. PS: Don't miss the spot's dynamic sculpture garden and award-winning spa.
Best View Spot: Wine Country Wedding
Gloria Ferrer Caves & Vineyards, Sonoma
As you approach Gloria Ferrer by its signature long drive, you can't help but feel awed by the impressive Spanish-style hacienda that commands the Carneros skyline. Given its hilltop locale, the sparkling wine house delivers still more to inspire in its jaw-dropping views over vineyards and the adjacent hills.  Whether you choose to say "I do" while overlooking one of Wine Country's most impressive vistas or in the spot's romantic underground wine caves, you'll be sure to cherish the splendor of this unforgettable setting.

Most Intimate Wine Country Wedding Spot
Ca'Bianca, Santa Rosa
For smaller groups (up to 80 for ceremony and reception, 100 for reception only), Santa Rosa's 1876 Marshall House affords a quaint setting for an intimate nuptial affair.  Completely restored, the property - which today goes by the Italianate Ca'Bianca - boasts period touches aplenty including ceramic fireplaces, stained glass, carved molding and crystal chandeliers.  Enjoy passed hors d'oeuvres in the spot's gardens, patio and bar before adjourning inside for a sumptuous wedding meal against an enchanting Victorian backdrop.

beltaneWeddings.jpgBest "Backyard" Site: Wine Country Wedding
Beltane Ranch, Glen Ellen
If a home-away-from-home vibe suits your ceremony style, then consider kicking off your union at Beltane Ranch, a working cattle ranch surrounded by live oaks, vineyards, orchards and organic gardens. Tie the knot on the lawn behind the 19th-century New Orleans-style manor house while guests take in sweeping views of Sonoma Valley and vineyards beyond.  And while the band belts out tunes from the rustic bandstand later on, take a moment to savor your special moment made, is it were, in a backyard of your own.

Most Romantic Wine Country Wedding Spot
Madrona Manor, Healdsburg
Boasting a Michelin star for its celebrated restaurant and all the Victorian glamour you could hope for, Healdsburg's Madrona Manor marries period splendor (it was built in 1881) with best-in-class hospitality.  Perched on a hilltop and surrounded by eight acres of wooded and landscaped grounds, the sprawling estate offers several precious spots for celebrations in its wide lawns, intimate verandas and gracious gardens.  Once hitched, you can look forward to tasting in nearby Dry Creek Valley.

Most "Country" Wine Country Wedding Spot
Thunderbird Ranch, Healdsburg
Couples with a hankering for some old west in their wedding should look no further than Thunderbird Ranch, a 600-acre "dude" ranch (think horses, rail cars, bunk houses and a general store), summer camp and sometime wedding site.  Prep for your big moment in the spot's 1926 Northwestern Pacific Railroad Caboose, pose for photos next to refurbished Conestoga wagons and dine on top notch BBQ prepped in Thunderbird's on-site cookers. Yee-haw!

Most Dramatic Wine Country Wedding Spot
Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, Sonoma  
Taking cues from the family's Italian roots in Friuli, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards delivers mega-watt drama in its 18,000-square-foot Italianate winery and grounds. Whether you choose to say "I do" in the spot's Vineyard Vista (complete with marble fountain imported from the mother land), the Grand Piazza (lined with pillars and intricate stonework, natch), or the Cathedral-like Barrel Room (cue Romanesque statues, baroque art and exposed beams), you and yours will be primed for romance, Roman style.

Best Barn for a Wine Country Wedding
Cornerstone Gardens, Sonoma
Set amidst nine acres of garden installations by leading landscape architects, southern Sonoma's Cornerstone Gardens is a sophisticated choice for couples with an appreciation for elegantly executed design.  And while the mixed-use facility (the site also encompasses shops and a gourmet café) boasts several potential wedding sites, the barn snags our top vote: Thanks to double sliding doors, it offers panoramic views of the surrounding Gardens and hills - and makes an ideal spot for dancing the night away. 

Best Garden Setting: Wine Country Wedding
Garden Valley Ranch, Petaluma
Home to some 10,000 rosebushes, nine-acre Garden Valley Ranch captivates with its awesome collection of fragrant plants, pond gardens and large lawn that beckon horticulturally inclined couples.  Say your vows in the Victorian Belevedere, share your first dance on the brick dance floor, and pose for photos under the 200-foot flower border.  When it's all through, spend your honeymoon in the Ranch's newly restored on-site cottage, complete with fireplace, claw-foot tub and Queen-sized canopy bed.  I do.

See Sonoma Wedding Planning Resources below:
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Took me awhile to read all the comments, but I really love the article. It proved to be very helpful to me and I am sure to all the commenters here! It's always nice when you can not only be informed, but also engaged!

Destination weddings are on the rise and there are so many exotic locations to choose from. Specially I would like to mention about Napa Valley. Napa Valley provides a wealth of amazing settings for an intimate destination wedding or elopement. From vineyard and winery settings, to luscious gardens, redwood forests, historic chapels, oceanside settings, country clubs, luxurious resorts and more. I wish we had chosen for a wine country destination wedding.

This is what i did, research the location, including using online resources, renting books from the library, purchasing books, talking to the local tourist bureau, and talking to friends and family who have been there. Ask resorts for "package deal information", special honeymoon/destination wedding offers, and other informative literature.

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