Wedding To Remember

Planning for the happy day: Local pros offer tips on choosing wedding venues

Above Photo Courtesy of Hawthorne photography; Below courtesy of Milou + Olin; bottom courtesy of 1985Luke Photography
Mountain View’s Rengstorff House, above, adds Victorian-era glamour to local events and hosts outdoor-oriented weddings. Lee and Winny Opelinia, below, explored the extensive garden around the Los Altos History Museum’s J. Gilbert Smith House, bottom, for their wedding photos. The house, built in 1905, bottom, and grounds provide a historical backdrop for Los Altos weddings.


Whether your idea of the perfect wedding is dancing in an elegant ballroom, cozying up in a mountain lodge or stepping back into local history, the list of possible wedding venues is nearly endless.

Options range from your family’s church to grand hotels, mansions, historical homes, wineries, country clubs and parks.

At a recent open house at the historical Rengstorff House in Mountain View, several wedding planners were on hand to offer advice for all stages of the big event. When you’re just beginning the venue search, they agreed on a few priorities to consider first: budget, number of guests, style or theme of the wedding and location.

Things to consider

Lee WeddingErin Russo of Allora Event Designs said the No. 1 thing couples should focus on when choosing a wedding venue is “budget, first and foremost.” After that comes space requirements: “Does the venue allow the number of people they want to host?” Then there’s the question of availability in the desired time frame, as well as the venue’s restrictions and requirements: “Does the couple have to go with preferred vendors?”

Blushing Joy Events’ Jessica Jung thinks the first consideration is the style the couple is going for. Then they need to decide whether they prefer an indoor or outdoor wedding, and what the weather will be like. And, of course, they need to determine their budget. Questions for a potential venue include the capacity both indoors and outdoors, whether they supply tables and chairs, and their regulations – for instance, regarding alcohol, amplified music and evening hours.

Finding the right fit is the first consideration for wedding planner Blanca Samano of A Touch of Elegance.

“Does the venue fit the personality of the couples’ friends and family?” she suggested couples ask themselves.

Samano also stressed the importance of location, and whether guests will have to drive far. She said setup time – when vendors are allowed in – is an important question to ask about a venue. Other considerations are the venue’s capacity and how long the wedding party can use the facility.

Local venues

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Locally, the Rengstorff House at Shoreline Park in Mountain View is a popular option. Senior Recreation Coordinator Kristina Perino said weddings are held at the house from April through mid-October. Couples primarily use the space as an outdoor venue, though some packages include use of the downstairs of the house as well. Perino added that weather is not usually a problem – tents are an option, as are heat lamps – and dates are booked approximately a year in advance.

Rengstorff House attendant Lisa Copeland said she sees weddings range from very small to a maximum of 160. The house is also available for birthdays, anniversaries, small reunions and other events.

Engaged couple Jennifer Malone and David Gardner of San Bruno selected Rengstorff House for their May wedding.

“It’s the perfect balance of elegance and value,” Malone said.

They looked at several venues, but she said most had “ridiculous” prices – she mentioned seeing a site in Napa with a $25,000 price tag. The couple found the Mountain View location convenient and described finding an eight-hour package for $1,800 as “amazing.”

Local planners have done weddings at a number of other area venues, ranging from the Nestldown property surrounded by redwoods in Los Gatos to Nob Hill’s James C. Flood Mansion, from San Francisco hotels to Napa wineries.

Two other public properties close to home also host weddings. The Garden House at Shoup Park, 400 University Ave. in Los Altos, is available for weddings and other gatherings. It can accommodate up to 150 people and rents by the hour through the city of Los Altos. The space can accommodate smaller-scale weddings, offering hourly rates that start at $110 for Los Altos residents and include access to a kitchen as well as tables and chairs.

The Los Altos History Museum, 51 S. San Antonio Road, can be rented for weddings on Friday, Saturday or Sunday afternoons. The grounds include the historical J. Gilbert Smith House, a brick patio and a variety of gardens and oak trees. The rental fee, which starts at $7,575 and rises, includes a nine-hour rental period that can be extended by an hour.

For more information on Rengstorff House, visit

For more information on Shoup Park’s Garden House, visit garden-house-shoup-park.

For more information on the Los Altos History Museum, visit

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