Destination Wedding: Napa & Sonoma


My friend Natalie, an SF-based floral designer, always has the best travel suggestions. She routinely goes to some of the most beautiful places in the world to work with people on (the most incredible) weddings and then extends her stay to play tourist!

So this series is not just for those who are planning a destination wedding (though these are some great tips if you are), but also for anyone invited to one or planning a trip to the region—because Natalie has agreed to share some of her picks for best places to stay, eat, and play at these romantic (wedding-worthy) spots.

As always, and selfishly, I hope that if you’ve been, you’ll add your suggestions to the list in the comments. 

California Wine Country: Napa & Sonoma
by Natalie Bowen Brookshire of Natalie Bowen Designs 

Living in San Francisco I find myself doing weddings in Napa and Sonoma all the time!


I am more likely to do a wedding up north than I am in San Francisco. So many people like to get married out doors and in predictably nice weather and we just don’t have that in San Francisco. Wine country is also one of the top destination wedding locations for people across the country. I once did a wedding for a client living in Hong Kong whose family lived on the East Coast—Napa seemed like the perfect place to meet!

I have to admit that I, too, am one of the many people who head to this area to get married: I got married in wine country at my Grandmother’s property in the middle of June. And it was hot! The heat can be very hard on the flowers. So here are some tips for planning to celebrate in the heat of this part of California—or anywhere with a similar climate.

Skip the tall arrangements
As much as the sun damages flowers, the wind is just as destructive. In wine country, it is very common to have a wind come up around 4pm and end when the sun sets. One gust of wind can take things down (trust me, I’ve seen it happen more than once) and keeping arrangements low to really helps to prevent this from happening. [Photo: Delbar Moradi]

SylvieGil-0061Barn, Bride, Durham, Groom, Leahy, Outdoors, Photography, ranch, Reception, Shannon, Wedding

Set up tables out of the sun
The absolute worst thing for flowers is direct sun. My number one suggestion is keep the flowers out of the sun for as long as possible. Most locations in wine country offer a reception area that is not indoors and if you don’t have a tent it can be hard to avoid the overhead sun in the middle of the summer. We only place the flowers on the table at the last minute so that they will stay fresh as long as possible. It’s not ideal, it’s just the best way to do it! The best option is to have your reception under cover—like inside the barn at Durham Ranch. This way vendors aren’t scrambling at the last minute to set your table. [Photo: Sylvie Gil]


Provide Shade
Having a little shade never hurts. If the location does not provide it naturally, then consider offering umbrellas or hand-held parasols. Even if it is not shading your flowers, your guests will be happy. (And if they are wearing flowers, those will last longer, too.) [Photo: Flory Photo]


Chose long-lasting blooms
This suggestion is actually a struggle for me: I hate to have my designs influenced too much by what I can and cannot use. It is true that tropical flowers last the longest but I just cannot resist a beautiful dahlia or garden rose in summer. Therefore, I always risk it and use flowers that may wilt. I work around this by incorporating longer lasting tougher blooms so that even if one stem dies, it doesn’t make the entire arrangement look sad. For a wedding such as the one in the above shot, we used lots of dried elements—which survived the heat of the day beautifully. [Photo: Studio Castellero]

Which leads me to…


Look beyond flowers
Consider having greenery or dried-flower-heavy designs as a wonderful way to make sure your centerpieces last. Even on the hottest days, an olive or eucalyptus branch will not wilt. Incorporating a few flowers in can give the full and abundant feeling without risking an arrangement that will die before your guests sit down. This look is not for everyone, but it is a guaranteed way to make sure your centerpieces survive. [Photo: Jen Huang]

Here is my list for the best places to visit in Wine Country…

If you want a low-key, authentic wine tasting experience with a pic-nic (and you like kitty cats) go here.

If you want to grab lunch for your pic-nic and enjoy charm over restaurant settings shop here.

If you want a soak in the pool after a long day you must go here.

If you want to wine-taste with the hipsters go here.

If you want a fab hotel that is private stay here.

If you are up for a little more of a drive go to Anderson Valley and stay here and eat here.

Thank you, Natalie! Check out more suggestions for Napa and Sonoma—including this weekend getaway to Calistoga, this daytrip to Scribe, and this 48-hour travelogue.

[Top photo of Natalie and her husband Seth at their own beautiful wedding by Flory Photo & Nirav Patal]

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