Choosing a cheap-ass wedding venue for under $1,000 in Northern California

January 6, 2014
We looked at an insurmountable amount of possibilities for a wedding site in Northern California. We knew it had to be in Norcal. It had to be in a historic building with character. And preferably in between his bay area and my Sacramento valley rooted families. We settled on six possibilities before we knew the costs. Here is your guide to choosing a cheap-ass wedding venue for under $1,000 in Northern California.

And from the start I was on board with our first and cheapest option: San Francisco City Hall wedding. What’s not to like about SF City Hall? Other than the non-intimate feeling of bureaucratic state workers and tourists photobombing you and your newly appointed while you take staged photos. It’s both an externally and internally beautiful Beaux-Arts building built in 1915 and filled with marble and a grand staircase.

Alas, the City Hall wedding only allows six people in attendance, which includes your photographer. Next.


Second. In autumn of 2012, we hustled up highway 50 onto State Route 49 that snakes along through the foothills into Gold Rush era towns long forgotten after they were raped of their riches by those desperate to strike it millionaire. I’ve long considered this my backyard, and so I knew of a tiny church nearby a favorite summer swimming spot of mine in the town of
Coloma. St. John’s Church, built in 1858, was incredibly affordable at $500 and couldn’t possibly give you anymore character. But, it’s just a ceremony site and finding an affordable site for an autumn reception was challenging as all hell. If it was summer, an outdoor reception could have been had at a nearby state park location. There is an Inn incredibly close to the church, which is available for receptions. But, when we looked at their cheapest package that provided a one-hour stance on their grass patch for up to eight guests, cake and a champagne toast for $1,000…we gave them the bird.

Plus, we knew it wasn’t meant to be before we even got off highway 50, where my eyes were met by an enormous stag’s chest, hypnotized by the instincts of rutting season, who was on the side of our VW on the highway. I won’t say anything more about that.

Third. The Crocker Art Gallery. That costs $5,000. Need say no more.

FourthThe Old Homestead. A cute and affordable home in the town of Crockett, near the C&H Sugar factory. For $750 you have the entire house to yourself from 8am to 10pm and you can have everyone prepare here and have both the reception and the ceremony, outdoors or indoors. Here are some photos of a wedding that utilized this location and its surroundings.

Fifth. Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate. The most beautiful and elegant of all and in our town of residence, Oakland. The mansion was built in 1899 in a Neoclassical Revival style. Their pricing is kind of…quirky. They charge different prices for residents and non-residents, weekends and weekdays. Their wedding charges are triple that of a regular event for the same space, of course. It had became too much to decipher. However, their non-refundable “save the date” deposit is $1,200. Thee end.

Update 1/31/18: Apparently, the Mare Island Foundation has hit a snafu. Their website is temporarily down and there’s no information on renting the Captain’s Mansion or its neighbor, the Admiral’s Mansion.

Sixth. The Captain’s Mansion at Mare Island in the town of Vallejo. This was the first. One. Only site my lad ever looked at when I moaned about his non-participation in the site search. Rat bastard. And it was the one we settled on. captains-mansion-quarters-b

$1,050 got us eight-hours of access to the entire 1901 built mansion (and its backyard) for our ceremony AND reception. It solved the problem of shuffling people to and from site to site, bridal and groom dressing rooms, catering kitchen scenario. It solved our plan b. in case of treacherous weather impaling on our outdoor ceremony, we could just move it indoors with no big scene. It was beautiful, it was classy, it had the character, it was…affordable. It was a no-brainer. More information on what the Captain and Admiral’s Mansion provides. ____________________________________________________________________

Coloma – St. John Information and Pricing

Mendocino – Mendocino Coast Botanical Cliff House in Fort Bragg offers a ceremony and reception space for 25 guests for $500. The Orchard Gardens provides ceremony and reception for 100 guests for $1,450.

Oakland – Dunsmuir-Hellman Historic Estate Information and Pricing

Sacramento – McKinley Park Rose Garden is available for outdoor ceremonies with 3-hour blocks of time for $150 per hour during the months of April-September. The Clunie Center is just steps away and offers its Grand Room for $480 for 4 hours + $50 for the catering kitchen + $350 damage deposit for events with alcohol.

October 26, 2016 Update: The McKinley Park Rose Garden requires a $300 refundable damage deposit. The Clunie Center’s Grand Room is now $600 for four hours (has a four hour minimum). $100 for the catering kitchen, with an additional $100 refundable damage fee for said catering kitchen. And the damage deposit for events with alcohol remains $350.

trocadero-clubhouse-wedding venue for under $1,000

San Francisco – The Forest Hill Clubhouse is a venue located in the Forest Hill neighborhood of San Francisco and is available to rent Mon-Thur for an 8-hour block of time for only $1,000 for 85 guests.

October 26, 2016 Update: The Forest Hill Clubhouse’s weekday rates are now $750 with a refundable $500 damage deposit. The weekend rate is $1,250 with a refundable $500 damage deposit.

October 28, 2016 Update: Just got a message from a reader (I have readers!) that informed me that the above rate for Forest Hill Clubhouse is for “members. The rate for non-members is $2500.00 and also said they keep a limit on how many non-members they do a year.” Yeah, no.

The Trocadero Clubhouse at Stern Grove in Golden Gate Park starts at $110 for a six-hour block of time on Mon-Thur from 5pm-11pm with a refundable $750 security/damage deposit.

October 26, 2016 Update: The Trocadero Clubhouse now charges $139 an hour with a minimum six-hour block of time,  $20 an hour staff salary (for a minimum of six hours ), a $50 reservation fee and the refundable security/damage deposit remains $750.    


  • Reply Choosing a cheap-ass wedding venue for under $1,000 in Northern California… | Eat Gorda Eat August 25, 2014 at 3:44 am

    […] because no one really reads this blog) my wedding article on choosing a cheap-ass wedding venue  in Northern California for under $1,000. I found another stunning location, and although it pushes the boundaries about $500, I […]

    • Reply Peggy September 15, 2017 at 10:45 pm

      Thanks for the wedding venue tips, they are really helpful. Having the recent updates is fantastic. People DO read it and I’m commenting to let you know. Hugs. Have a great day!

      • facebook-profile-picture
        Reply Eat Gorda Eat September 24, 2017 at 10:34 pm

        You’re welcome! and you do the same.

    • Reply Amber February 25, 2018 at 2:12 am

      thank you this was very helpful! I really appreciate it!!

    • Reply Jessi April 20, 2018 at 2:52 am

      So happy I found this! I feel like you understand me girl, our wedding is Oct. 31st and want to find something in between Sac and the Bay Area and every time we find a f****** venue it doesn’t work for a potential in door ceremony and it is way out of our price range. Thank you so much for writing this I have been a little stress ball and this helped a lot 🙂

  • Reply DeAnna July 20, 2016 at 8:37 pm

    Thank you so much for this! I had all but given up and was resigning myself to a backyard wedding.

    • facebook-profile-picture
      Reply Eat Gorda Eat July 20, 2016 at 11:41 pm

      Awesome! Thank YOU…I never get comments on this blog. Haha.

  • Reply Mehgan Hansen September 4, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    Wow thanks a lot for the ideas

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      Reply Eat Gorda Eat September 5, 2016 at 1:02 am

      You’re welcome! Happy to help.

  • Reply Baywood October 20, 2016 at 12:46 am

    Great article! Is this still accurate?

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      Reply Eat Gorda Eat October 26, 2016 at 9:03 am

      I’d like to think it’s still accurate. I’d love to email you about including your space on this list.

  • Reply Kasmira Wright October 24, 2016 at 9:01 pm

    YES! Thank you SOOOO MUCH for this!
    Everyone is telling me that it can’t be done inexpensively & you proved them wrong!
    P.S. I actually attended a wedding at The Captain’s Mansion and it was a Pirate theme and it was awesome!

    • facebook-profile-picture
      Reply Eat Gorda Eat October 26, 2016 at 9:00 am


      That’s awesome! I’m glad people are still taking advantage of the Captain’s Mansion and that you found my suggestions relevant. You can totally have the wedding you want for less than $10,000. Just stick to it! And congratulations.

      PS – I see you worked at Live Nation! I work very closely with them in my day job.

  • Reply Christine January 8, 2017 at 9:54 am

    Thank you so much for this information! It’s so hard trying to plan an affordable wedding and this has helped so much!!!

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      Reply Eat Gorda Eat January 22, 2017 at 5:09 am

      You’re welcome!

  • Reply Heather February 14, 2017 at 4:12 am

    This is a great list! Thank you for taking the time to put it all together. 🙂

  • Reply Jasmine October 24, 2017 at 6:41 pm

    Thank you so much !!
    This is super helpful.
    I plan on looking at all of these sites. However the last one seems to be out of date. 🙁

  • Reply Jazz February 1, 2018 at 11:06 pm

    The mare island location is now a business called Vino Godfather. I just went for a tour to see about having my wedding there.

    • Reply Jessica Curzon-Roza February 26, 2018 at 3:48 am

      Currently trying to plan an ‘affordable’ wedding in the bay and I have LOVED referring to your blog! Also called Mare Island and found it wasn’t open any longer :/ Will look up Vino Godfather! Thanks again!

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