Last weekend, D. and I went to Hakone Gardens, our ceremony and reception location, for their annual Matsuri festival. The gardens were far more lush than they were when we first visited Hakone in December.

Moon bridge where the ceremony will be held. This picture was taken from the covered seating area across the koi pond.

Covered seating area. This photo was taken from the turtle island side of the moon bridge.

Processional stairs.


Wisteria path.

Overlooking the moon bridge and turtle island from the mountain path.


Oh thank God!

We have less than 6 months to go, and I *think* we’ve found our new location. The Hakone Gardens are the “oldest surviving Japanese-style residential gardens in the Western Hemisphere.

If everything goes as planned, we will have our ceremony in the Hill and Pond Garden on the Moon Bridge and our reception on the back deck of their Cultural Exchange Center.
D. and I visited the location this past Saturday, and we were very excited about it.

Hakone Gardens - Front Gate
Front gate

Hakone Gardens - Hill and Pond Garden
Hill and Pond Garden (Moon Bridge)

Hakone Gardens - Turtle Island
Island connected by Moon Bridge. The island is in the shape of a tortoise.

Hakone Gardens - Moon Bridge
D. on the Moon Bridge standing where we will take our vows.

Hakone Gardens - Koi

Hakone Gardens - Waterfall
Waterfall in the Hill and and Pond Garden

Hakone Gardens - Rear
Rear of Cultural Exchange Center on the deck.

Hakone Gardens - Deck view
View from the deck.

So, what do you think?

Below are some pictures of the Ainsley House in Campbell, CA. We decided against the Ainsley House because it doesn’t have a rain plan, and they don’t provide tables and chairs. (Plus, the woman on duty at the Ainsley House gift shop/office was not very nice when we asked for the rental information packet.)

Ainsley House
Front of the Ainsley House.

Ainsley House - gate
Side gate entrance to the garden.

Ainsley House - Garden
Both the wedding ceremony and reception would be held here. Usually, the bride and groom stand under the four-post canopy.

Ainsley House - Tree
A tree and bench in the garden yard.

It’s nice, but we weren’t feeling it.

Where the heck are we holding the wedding?!?!

Everyone keeps asking us this question, and I still don’t have an answer. I know this is totally going to bite us in the ass in a few months too.

Ok, we’ve already paid our deposit at the location in Laurel, MD, and I’m willing to eat the deposit if we found someplace out here that we liked just as well. I’m afraid it’s going to be too difficult to plan a wedding on a budget from 3000 miles away.

The Ainsley House in Campbell is within walking distance from our apartment, but you cannot use the inside of the house, only the garden (which is very pretty). They also do not provide an option in case of rain, and they don’t provide tables and chairs.

We drove down to Santa Cruz to check out a winery and general locations there, and it was definitely not what we were looking for. The area was very run down. We even considered the Mystery Spot, but the wait to tour the spot was 2 hours long, so we scratched the Mystery Spot off of our list.

I’ve talked to an event coordinator at the Winchester Mystery House, and he said that Friday the 13th was not doable because they have a public tour that evening. I wonder if I meet with him in person whether they would be willing to work something out….

I had to repost the question during the live chat, but Tom answered my question regarding a good restaurant location for the surprise wedding.

Arlington, Va.: I know this is an odd request, but my fiance and I are planning on throwing an engagement party for our immediate family and close friends, no more than 25 people. However, we’re going to surprise everyone and actually have an officiant there to marry us after our orders are taken. (I’ll excuse myself for a business call and quickly change into my dress.) I’ve already contacted Restaurant Eve, but they unfortunately cannot accomodate my request. We would really like a restaurant that has more atmosphere and better food than a chain restaurant like Maggiano’s. Any suggestions?

Tom Sietsema: For such an important occasion, you want to pick a restaurant that has legs and will probably be around for future anniversaries. I’m thinking 1789, Vermilion (upstairs), Zola, the Oval Room, the Occidental, Tabard Inn?

Great idea, by the way. Congrats!”

Out of all of the above, the Vermilion fits us the best. I need to get more information about their private party seating and policies though.

I sent an email to the special events organizer at Restaurant Eve detailing our request for the engagement party / surprise wedding. D. and I have heard absolutely wonderful things about the food and the staff at Restaurant Eve. Unfortunately, they cannot accomodate our group. I knew it was a long shot, but I was hoping they would make a special exception since they’ve hosted special events at their restuarant before. However, the woman from Restaurant Eve I spoke with on the phone suggested a la Lucia in Alexandria. A la Lucia is a little more informal than I had in mind, but it’s received decent reviews from the Washingtonian Magazine. If the wedding was still being held in the summer, lighter, more refined food would be preferred. Since the surprise wedding will be in November, the heartier dishes of a la Lucia should be fine. As for space, a la Lucia has wine room which they use for private parties. It looks very promising. D. and I are going to have dinner there this weekend to try out their food and service. If a la Lucia doesn’t work out, I’m not sure where else to go. I sent a comment to Tom Sietsema, food critic for the Washington Post, asking for suggestions. He has a live web chat tomorrow at 11:00 am ET, so I’ll tune in and see if he answers my question. *crosses fingers*

I’ve been AFK for most of this week due to having my wisdom teeth extracted. It was surprisingly more painful than I expected, and I didn’t have the greatest reaction to the pain medication. (Vicodin caused me to throw up, even when taken on a full stomach and at half dosage. Darvocet made me moody and gave me a throbbing headache.) I had all four wisdom teeth extracted on Wednesday, the pain and swelling increased and peaked on Friday, and today, I woke up with far less pain and a more normal looking face. …which is a good thing because D., his mother, his son, and I are going to meet with the rental folks at Montpelier Mansion in Laurel, MD today.
I originally had my heart set on having the wedding at the Norris House Inn, but after my recent conversation with one of the innkeepers, I’ve been reconsidering my decision. She said you don’t want to “try to make a location work” because it’s too much trouble to manage on your wedding day. She said this in reference to holding both the wedding and the reception at the Norris House. I really wanted to have a casual, summery, reception feel. I wanted people to be outside (if the weather permitted) and having a good time. I didn’t want to have a stuffy reception or a standard dinner in a restaurant. Leesburg, unfortunately, doesn’t have a restaurant that really fits our needs. I am not expecting the wedding to be perfect. Quite the contrary, I expect something to go wrong; I’d prefer it to be something minor though. What I do want is for our wedding, ceremony and reception, to fit us. I don’t want to be pressured into someone else’s idea of how a wedding should be. (I’m willing to accept advice and heed warnings though.) I don’t want to be sitting at a table in a restaurant during our reception and feeling disappointed because it doesn’t feel like a wedding. If a vendor cannot sign on to our wedding “vision”, and at least be willing to try to make it happen, then maybe we shouldn’t go with that vendor. It’s all about being flexible and open minded, on both sides.
That being said: Montpelier Mansion has a beautiful front lawn with enough space for an outdoor wedding ceremony and reception. It also has enough space inside for both the ceremony and reception in case of rain. I plan on taking pictures today and posting a full report.

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