Wedding Planner vs. Venue Coordinator: 7 Big Differences

Fewer sentences makes this wedding-planner-turned-wedding-blogger cringe more than:  

  • “We’re having a cash bar.” 
  • “Do we have to feed our wedding vendors?”
  • “I don’t need a wedding planner.  My venue has one.” 

(Insert all of the sad crying face emojis here.) 

Listen, I don’t believe in telling brides and grooms that they NEED to do anything.  I say it’s your wedding; you can do whatever the hell you want!  There are no rules, especially none that states you have to have a wedding planner.  BUT before you totally commit to not hiring one because you think your venue coordinator is basically the same thing as a wedding planner, read this. 

Wedding Planner vs. Venue Coordinator: 7 Big Differences from Burgh Brides

1.) Sales vs. Logistical Planning

A Wedding Planner is…

  • A logistics and creative wizard.  They are hired by YOU to work their magic.  Planners specialize in coordination, execution, and design and can help you with everything from budget tracking and contract negotiation, to finding that perfect shade of blush pink.  They’re in it for you and you alone. 

A Venue Coordinator is…

  • In sales, most likely.  While they may have experience in coordinating and executing events, their job falls within the sales industry.  They have quotas and sales goals to meet and their ultimate responsibility is to serve the venue.  While they might have your best interests at heart, they weren’t HIRED by you and therefore don’t work for YOU. 

2.) Wedding Budget

A Wedding Planner will…

  • Save you money in the long run.  Planners do all that they can to help you stick to your wedding budget and possibly even save you money.  Many planners work with vendors to offer discounts or upgrades to their clients, but more importantly, wedding planners know all the tricks of the trade that will leave your money in your pocket after the wedding day is over. 

A Venue Coordinator will…

  • Be motivated by sales incentives and bonuses.  That might mean they’ll try to push you over your anticipating budget.  They are in sales, after all.  It’s their job, so you can’t really blame them.  Just be aware. 

3.) Vendor Recommendations

A Wedding Planner will…

  • Suggest the best vendors for you based on your wedding style and budget.  They will likely already have worked with those vendors in the past, which means they’ll have a great rapport…which could mean an easy experience for you too!  Additionally, many planners will attend meetings with those vendors with you to ensure that it’s a perfect fit and everyone has all the information they need. 

A Venue Coordinator might…

  • Only suggest those vendors that are on the venue’s preferred list.  The venue may be getting a kick back from these vendors, or that list may be very outdated.  Even if the venue doesn’t have a preferred (or worse, exclusive) list, the venue coordinator might only suggest those vendors who have worked at that venue, which is a disservice to you and all of that other talent out there.   

4.) Ideas & Inspiration

A Wedding Planner will…

  • Make creative design suggestions for every aspect of your wedding, like how to display your escort cards in an eye-catching way to which hair accessory will go best with your wedding dress style.  Wedding planners loooooove details and they will offer their design expertise so that every last one of them at your wedding is styled to perfection. 

A Venue Coordinator might…

  • Offer up some design ideas.  Or they might not.  It all depends on how involved they want to be in your creative process.  But if they do, those suggestions will likely revolve solely around the venue, not the entire wedding as a whole. 

5.) Vendor Management

A Wedding Planner will…

  • Work with ALL of your vendors throughout the planning process.  They’ll negotiate contracts on your behalf, they’ll make sure your wishes are being carried out, and they’ll make sure everyone knows what time to arrive and what to do when they get there. 

A Venue Coordinator will…

  • Likely only work with those vendors that impact the venue…the linen company, florist, DJ, caterer, etc.  But what about everyone else, like your makeup artist, hair stylist, or the limo?  The jobs of these vendors are usually done before getting to the venue, so the coordinator there likely won’t ever contact them. 

6.) The Ceremony & Rehearsal

A Wedding Planner will…

  • Conduct the ceremony and rehearsal no matter its location.  Church, synagogue, local park, your own backyard, the random street block that you’ve shut down just so you can say I Do…it doesn’t matter.  Your wedding planner will be there to make sure your walk down the aisle is totally flawless. 

A Venue Coordinator will…

  • Conduct the rehearsal only if your ceremony is also taking place at your reception venue.  They won’t travel to another location to make sure the best man has the rings or that there is a lighter next to the unity candle.   

7.) On Your Wedding Day

A Wedding Planner will…

  • Likely be the first to arrive in the morning and the last to leave at the end of the night.  The person you spent months working with to make sure your wedding day is exactly what you’ve imagined will physically be there to carry out on those wishes and make your dreams come true! 

A Venue Coordinator will…

  • Probably leave after dinner is served.  That isn’t to say you’ll be totally on your own!  It’s just that after the meal, usually a banquet captain is put in charge to make sure the rest of the night goes smoothly, in terms of catering anyways.  Your DJ and photographer will likely have to jump in to make sure other events like the cake cutting, garter toss, and sparkler exit are executed according to plan.  BUT that also means your DJ and photographer are then paying less attention to what THEY were hired to do. 

Hey, I’m not knocking venue coordinators!  I know many of them and they are all very hard working and dedicated, and the impact they can have on your wedding day even varies from venue to venue.  But I like being honest with you; it’s one reason people love Burgh Brides so much.  And if I’m being totally honest, there are some big differences between a wedding planner and a venue coordinator.  Maybe you need a planner, maybe you don’t.  But at least now you can hopefully make a better informed decision! 

What do you think?  Did your venue have a coordinator?  What did he or she do?  Did you hire a wedding planner?  Why or why not?  Comment below! 

Planning Your Sonoma Wine Country Honeymoon with The Wine Road

So all of my posts have convinced you to take a Sonoma wine country honeymoon, huh?  Good for you!  You will NOT regret it!  There is no other place that combines romance, relaxation, and adventure quite like Sonoma, CA.  But where to begin with all of that planning?  Half of the battle of a planning a honeymoon is actually planning a honeymoon.  The researching and Googling and looking at photos hoping they’re actually accurate and you don’t end up in a total dump of a hotel…ugh, it’s exhausting.  To ease all of that honeymoon planning stress, check out The Wine Road.  Here’s just how they can help you plan the post-wedding trip of your dreams!

Planning Your Sonoma Wine Country Honeymoon with The Wine Road featured on Burgh Brides

The Wine Road is a unique organization comprised of the best wineries, bed and breakfasts, boutique hotels, and other accommodations in Sonoma county.

Their mission is not only to enhance the area through tourism, but also to make sure guests don’t miss one single bit of wonder the valley has to offer.  Their website offers a comprehensive list of must sees, dos, drinks, and eats, making trip planning a breeze.

But to make it even easier, try the Wine Road's concierge service.

For absolutely no fee whatsoever, a real live person will discover your accommodation, activity, and budget preferences and will create custom recommendations tailored just for you.  A complete itinerary of wine tours, tastings, recreations, restaurants, even transportation and lodging, and all you have to do is answer a few questions.  It’s like having your own personal Sonoma county travel agent and there’s seriously no cost.  Did I mention it’s totally free?

Planning Your Sonoma Wine Country Honeymoon with The Wine Road featured on Burgh Brides

Stayed in the adorable Camellia Inn, thanks to The Wine Road!

Planning Your Sonoma Wine Country Honeymoon with The Wine Road featured on Burgh Brides

Hot air ballooning on your honeymoon bucket list? The Wine Road can make some great recs, like Up & Away Ballooning!

If you like the idea of planning your trip or if you prefer to explore Sonoma on your own, get the Wine Road tasting pass.

Planning Your Sonoma Wine Country Honeymoon with The Wine Road featured on Burgh Brides

Tasting “darn fine barn wine” at J. Rickards Winery

Thirty bucks gets you free wine flights at over 60 wineries, allowing you to sample as you go or check them all out.  But if you’re like me and don’t really know the difference between a pinot noir and a cabernet, the Wine Road can help with that too.  Their website features a whole section full of wine tasting tips and even a glossary of wine terms.  You’ll be sippin’ like a pro in no time.

Planning Your Sonoma Wine Country Honeymoon with The Wine Road featured on Burgh Brides

Zialena means Aunt Lena in Italian. The logo even features the family ravioli stamp!

After you’ve arrive in Sonoma, the Wine Road can help you on the ground too.

Their comprehensive maps of Sonoma wineries (yes, a printed, hard copy, physical map that folds up…remember those?) comes in super hand when you’re in the valley and can’t pull up Google maps on your phone (no service!).  This baby will get you from point A to point B, although I’d highly recommend just hiring a driver for the day.  The Wine Road can help with that too!

Planning Your Sonoma Wine Country Honeymoon with The Wine Road featured on Burgh Brides

From social media to their podcast to their blog and even an app, it’s easy to stay connected with the Wine Road.

I highly suggest giving them a follow to see if they’re a good fit for your honeymoon plans.  And if so, then holler at them for the trip of a lifetime!

While this post was sponsored by The Wine Road, all opinions, insight, and recommendations are my own.

Thinking of honeymooning in northern CA?  Don't miss my Ultimate Sonoma Wine Country Honeymoon Bucket List and my Guide to Sonoma County Wineries!

Want to read what others are saying?  Check out these posts from my friends at Apple Brides and United with Love!

Valentine’s Day Gift Ideas You’re Bound to LOVE

Calling all sweethearts!  These Valentine's Day gift ideas will help you celebrate February 14th in style.  Ranging from inexpensive and heartfelt trinkets to always romantic jewelry to sentimental home decor, these Etsy finds are sure to put you in the mood for love.  While you don't technically need a mid-winter, likely-invented-by-retail-companies-holiday to express your feelings, being a little extra romantic and thoughtful on V-Day never hurt anyone.  So go ahead and get your shopping on!

Valentine's Day Gift Ideas from Burgh Brides

  1. Home is Wherever I'm with You Print $10
  2. XOXO Tic Tac Toe Necklace $54
  3. 52 Reasons Why I Love You Custom Deck of Cards $65
  4. 14k Gold Stacking Rings $185
  5. All You Need is Love Print $4.99
  6. Love Journal Notebook $28
  7. Sassy Periodic Table of Elements Valentine's Day Card $5
  8. Valentine's Day Pencil Pack $10
  9. Red Heart French Knot Embroidery Art $30.15
  10. Boho Red Heart Ornament $15
  11. You're My Favorite Person Mug $13.99
  12. Husband To Be Card $5.72
  13. Personalized Song Lyric Pillow $28
  14. Couples Infinity Pillow $29.50
  15. Date Night Ideas $17.75

Ice Blue & Silver Wedding Inspiration Perfect for a Winter Day!

For a frosty and fabulous color palette, consider an ice blue & silver wedding.  When done right, this combo can be amazingly beautiful.  Go for a muted, almost gray shade of blue and avoid anything that reminds you of something you'd see on Frozen.  When mixed with metallic silver, it's a stunning backdrop for a winter wedding.  To make it work in a way that wows, I say skip the white wedding dress.  Gasp!  I know, I know.  But trust me on this one…you will turn heads in the BEST way possible.  Go for a bridal look that embraces the trendy ice blue dress and you'll be a modern day Cinderella.  Dress your maids in a silver sequins and your gents in modern navy tuxedos.  I say keep your flowers monochromatic white but add bits of blue thistle, silver brunia, and even dusty miller to bring subtle color to the arrangements.  Silver rimmed charger plates, mercury glass, an embellished cake, and other crystal details and you've got a healthy dose of glam.  Ice blue and silver is a modern take on the classic princess wedding palette.  It's a new favorite of mine for sure!

For even more ice blue & silver wedding ideas, visit my Pinterest board!  And then tell me what you think of this palette!  What do you like about it?  Are you using any of these colors in your wedding day?  How so?  Comment below!

Revisit some of my other favorite color schemes!

Glassworks Pittsburgh: 6 Reasons to Create a Wedding Registry at this Local Boutique!

If you frequent Shadyside or Squirrel Hill, you’re familiar with the beautiful boutique that is Glassworks Pittsburgh.  A purveyor of chic and modern table top finds, Glassworks offers a plethora of gift ideas and treat-yo-self splurges.  From fine china, tableware accessories, and stemware to every day dinnerware and serving pieces, there’s something for every occasion and style, making it an excellent option for wedding registries!  If you’re looking for some unique pieces to start your new life together, here are 6 reasons why Glassworks is THE place to shop!

Shopping small and local is cool.

Glassworks Pittsburgh: 6 Reasons to Create a Wedding Registry at this Local Boutique from Burgh Brides!

Forget Target, Macy’s, and Bed, Bath, & Beyond.  Hit up your neighborhood mom and pop shop instead.  When you shop small, you support an entrepreneur and their dream and help to keep a neighborhood vibrant.  Your support means more to them than you probably realize.  It’s the reason you’ll be treated like a friend instead of “customer.”

You’ll see some familiar names.

Glassworks Pittsburgh: 6 Reasons to Create a Wedding Registry at this Local Boutique from Burgh Brides!

Oneida, Missoni, Reidel, MacKenzie Childs, Michael Aram, Vietri, Baccarat, Nambe, Mariposa, William Yeoward.  These are just a few of the recognizable brands you’ll find at Glassworks.  In fact, they carry many of the same lines that you’ll find in your favorite national department store.  While the store itself may be boutique and your shopping experience customized, you won’t have any trouble finding the household names you know and love.

You’ll find lots of unique items.

Glassworks Pittsburgh: 6 Reasons to Create a Wedding Registry at this Local Boutique from Burgh Brides!

A wedding and a marriage are worth celebrating with something extra special.  I love when couples splurge for that one item that will remind them of their big day, and guests love giving memorable gifts too.  Whether it’s an engraved sterling silver frame, a gold-rimmed ruffle crystal cake stand, or a keepsake platter customized with your names and wedding date, there are lots of unique pieces that make for an unforgettable gift.

It’s where classic style meets the modern couple.

Glassworks Pittsburgh: 6 Reasons to Create a Wedding Registry at this Local Boutique from Burgh Brides!

Let’s face it.  Lifestyles are becoming more casual and fluid.  Not too many people still register for silver flatware and bone china.  But if that is your thing, Glassworks has it!  Fancy place settings and crystal champagne flutes are just some of the higher end items they carry.  On the other hand, if you’re more of the everyday couple, Glassworks has plenty for you too.  This shop is on the forefront of trends and modern day living, while also still offering the timeless pieces that will never go out of style

It’s convenient for you and your gift-givers.

With two locations – Walnut Street in Shadyside and Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill – it’s easy to get to a Glassworks no matter what side of town you live on.  Creating your registry in person can easily be done on a weeknight or Saturday afternoon, while your local family and friends can pop by and pick up their gift of choice at any time.  Prefer to do everything online?  No problem.  The Glassworks website is fully stocked with their in-store selection and you can create a registry with a few clicks of the mouse.  They handle gift wrapping, packaging, and shipping like a boss too, making shopping simple for out-of-towners!

You’ll be treated to a personalized registry and shopping experience.

When you shop at Glassworks boutique, you’ll get just that – a boutique experience.  Highly focused and intimate, the Glassworks registry creation process is all about getting to know your style and needs.  The knowledgeable and helpful staff will walk you through the steps, making sure that every room in your new home is covered and that the selections match your lifestyle.  When purchasing their gifts, your friends and family are extended the same pampering.  You simply don’t receive treatment like this is a big box store.

Swing by Shadyside Glassworks location to start your registry or visit their website to check out their selection.  I guarantee you’ll find all sorts of goodies that will be great as you start this new chapter of your life!

10 Wedding Planning Mistakes Not to Make!

If you have never planned a wedding before (and really…who, besides a wedding planner, has?), you may not know where to start, what to expect, what to do, or more importantly, what not to do.  For those that don’t know any better, the walk down the aisle is littered with missteps.  To save you from experiencing wedding regret, I put together a list of 10 wedding planning mistakes brides and grooms commonly make.  Consider yourself warned (and adjust accordingly if there is still time!).   

10 Wedding Planning Mistakes to Avoid from Burgh Brides

1.) Assuming DIY is cheaper

It isn’t always!  By the time you buy the materials and tools needed, a project may end up costing you just as much, or perhaps even more, than a professional would have.  Also, ask yourself what your time is worth.  If you spend 30 hours DIYing something in order to save $50, is it really time well spent?  Me thinks not.   

2.) Or DIYing too much

Hey, I love a good DIY wedding as much as anyone.  But like all good things, DIY is best in moderation.  Doing it yourself can be stressful, expensive (see above), and it doesn’t always turn out as planned.  Pick and choose your DIY projects carefully so as to not totally stress yourself out.  Then, leave the rest to the pros. 

3.) Not hiring a day-of coordinator

I know some people will disagree with me.  That’s fine.  But I will politely argue that a day-of wedding coordinator is worth every.single.penny.  You don’t want to spend the morning of your big day putting the proverbial icing on your wedding cake (that’s a metaphor, people).  You want to be relaxing with your ladies, getting pampered, and soaking in every moment…not decorating tables, worrying about whether the DJ has shown up yet, or Googling “How to pin on a boutonniere”.  Hiring a coordinator actually lets you be a bride!  A full coordinator can even help you with the design process, mapping out the day’s timeline, and perhaps even save money!   

4.) Not allotting enough time for getting ready, receiving line, family photos, etc.

These things take waaaaaay longer than you think.  Putting on your dress, shoes, jewelry, garter, and other pieces can easily take 30 minutes – even longer if you have a corset or button back.  A receiving line for 150 people is another 30 – 45 minutes (literally everyone will want to hug you!)  And family photos really can’t be accomplished in 5 minutes unless your photographer is a wizard.  Running over on one aspect pushes the entire day back or will force you to shorten others.  Ask your vendors how much time to allot for the big moments and then keep a watch handy (sounds like a good job for the best man)!   

5.) Allowing your day to become someone else’s day (i.e. not setting boundaries).

A wedding day never belongs to just the engaged couple.  It's also a special day for the parents, grandparents, siblings, etc.  It's really fantastic when those other folks want to be heavily involved in the planning process, but you have to know where to draw the line.  Don't allow yourself to be pressured into making decisions that don't reflect you and your fiance.  At times, you might need to stand your ground and be firm, but it's better than feeling like your wedding is no longer under your control.

6.) Not being flexible with dates, vendor selection, etc.

If you have your heart set on a certain date, venue, or photographer, act fast.  Otherwise, you could be disappointed when your favorites are already booked.  With that being said, try to also be flexible.  Is there another date you could choose?  There are so many talented vendors in this area that you’re bound to find another that you love just as much.  Be flexible and go with the flow.  Which brings me to my next point… 

7.) Expecting perfection

I hate to break it to you but it’s not going to happen.  Something will go wrong.  Maybe it will be something small or maybe it will be kind of a big deal.  But it’s how you react to it that matters.  In the end, you’ll still be married to the love of your life!  NOTHING will change that…not even mismatched napkins, no-show guests, or a little rain.  Take this minute to accept the fact that there will be some hiccups.  Now move on!   

8.) Not creating cohesion

Your wedding should have common threads woven through all aspects of it.  This is usually what people mean when they refer to your wedding theme or style.  Haphazardly pieced-together elements can leave your guests wondering what look you were going for.  Settle on a style that best matches your personality and your venue and stick with it.  Don’t overload your guests (and your photos) with too many different looks no matter what becomes popular on Pinterest! 

9.) Not doing your research

Do your homework, people.  Those of you who have never planned a wedding will likely be floored at what some things cost.  I’m not saying things are overpriced but that’s just the reality of the industry.  Knowing the average cost of a caterer, florist, DJ, photographer, etc. will help you determine an appropriate budget and save you from experiencing sticker shock later.   

10.) Not being nice

In my opinion, the number one, worst mistake you can make is not being a kind, gracious, glowing bride.  No one wants to deal with a crazy person.  Don’t be that girl!  Revisit my tips on how to be the best bride you can be!   

Any former Burgh Brides out there willing to admit some of the mistakes they made?  What lessons did you learn while planning your wedding?  Anything you wish you would have known ahead of time or done differently?  Comment below! 

10 Things You’ll Learn When You Get Engaged

Believe it or not, there are a few things you'll learn when you get engaged.  Whether you’ve been engaged for a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years, I’m sure that preparing for marriage and planning a wedding have taught you a few lessons.  Who knew an engagement ring came along with such a learning curve?  Prepared to be schooled because here are 10 things you’ll learn when you say YES!

Whether or not it was the proposal you thought it was going to be, it was perfect in its own way.

Maybe you dreamed of a big, public proposal with all of the bells and whistles but instead got a quiet, heartfelt moment at home.  Maybe something crazy happened, the ring was dropped, and you had to look for it on your hands and knees.  However your proposal went down, I’m willing to bet good money that it was still pretty awesome.

The questions start the minute you get engaged.  And they don’t ever stop.

When’s the big day?  What are your colors?  What kind of dress are you going to wear?  WHEN ARE YOU HAVING KIDS?  Omg the interrogations.  Meanwhile you’ve been engaged for a hot minute and literally haven’t thought of any of this yet.  People mean well but it can be sooooo annoying.  Just smile, bite your tongue, try to be polite, and then scream internally.

People can be rude.

Hellooooo the question about having kids!  Remember that opinions are like belly buttons; everyone has one.  And unfortunately, some people feel it’s ok to voice theirs when it comes to your engagement.  You’ll hear all kinds of thoughts on the proposal, your ring size, hell probably even your fiancé.  They’ll ask if they’ll be invited to the wedding, if they can bring a date, and if they have to bring a gift.  Again, just smile and nod and be a gracious bride.  Then hit the gym to work out some of that pent up anger.

But mostly everyone will be really happy for you!

I mean who doesn’t love a wedding?  An engagement just makes people feel good because it gives me them hope and, if they’re already married, reminds them of their own special time.  So know that for every person who does have a snarky comment about your proposal (see above), there are dozens of others who are genuinely excited for you!

You’ll catch yourself staring at your engagement ring.  Like all the time.

It’s one of those things that you’ll start doing subconsciously and before you know it, it’s been five minutes and you can’t take your eyes off your finger.  I’ve been married for over four years and I still catch myself doing this.  The novelty never wears off 😉

You don’t HAVE to start planning your wedding right away.

As a matter of fact, I would advise that you NOT.  Being engaged is SUCH a special time; there’s literally no other period in your life like it.  I say ENJOY IT.  Take your time, revel in the new relationship status, and just relax.  Once the wedding day is here, the engagement period is over.  So I say milk it for all it’s worth!

Planning a wedding can be really hard.

It’s seriously no easy task.  There are dozens of vendors to hire, thousands of dollars to spend, and a million decisions to make.  No wonder so many couples find it overwhelming.  While all of the pretty details might seem fun to coordinate, know that you have a really big task ahead of you.  It doesn’t have to be super stressful, but it will be a lot of work!

And making a guest list can be even harder.

Friends and family members add up quickly!  While you might want every single person in your life present on your big day, your budget likely won’t allow it.  Don’t forget that your fiancé will have his or her own guest list as well!  Plus, the parents will likely have input.  Ahhhhh where do you cut it off?  I can’t answer that for you.  Just know that it will take quite a bit of time…and quite a bit of wine…to nail down!

It’s your day!  But it’s also not.

The wedding doesn’t just belong to the couple.  It’s also a special day for parents, grandparents, siblings, and really close family members.  So while you and your fiancé might be the center of attention, there will be others that you’ll need to take into consideration when making wedding decisions.  I am a firm believer that your wedding should be reflective of YOU, but you’ll need to strike a fine balance between that and keeping the peace among family members.

Setting expectations early on can really help you in the long run.

With the above being said, I do think there are some things you can do to make sure the wedding stays under your control.  Managing expectations from the very beginning can pay dividends.  If you’re always dreamed of an intimate beach wedding, tell your family members up front about the plan to keep things small.  Hate the thought of having a bridal party?  The sooner you let everyone know it’ll just be you and your fiancé, the better.  Stick to your guns on the things that are most important to you.  Not everyone will agree but hopefully they’ll respect your wishes.

If you just got engaged, have you experienced any of these things yet?  What were some things you learned after you said Yes?  How did you deal with them?  Comment below!

Favorite Wedding Moments: Best of 2017

Funny dance-offs, flower girls being totally adorbs, heartfelt first looks, and hilarious out takes, there were some really great wedding moments featured on Burgh Brides this past year!  Before we close out 2017, let's take a look back at some of my favorites!

Don’t miss my other Best of 2017 picks!

Wedding Ideas & Details: Best of 2017

Looking for lots and lots of wedding ideas?  I've rounded up the best ones from the past year and put them into one handy dandy post for ya!  From bridal accessories to favors to table decor and even ceremony locations, the 2017 brides definitely thought outside the box when it came to all of the details.  If you're in the midst of planning your big day, get your Pin It button ready – you're bound to be inspired by these former brides in this latest installment of the Best of 2017!

What do you think about these wedding details?  Which one was your favorite?  Any that you're incorporating into your big day?

Don’t miss my other Best of 2017 picks!

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner’s Guide

With over 400 Sonoma County wineries, planning your wine country experience can easily become overwhelming.  How do you make sense of all of the vineyards and what make each unique?  Where do you begin to plan an itinerary that matches your style, desired pace, budget, and wine preferences?  The Wine Road makes this process nice and easy, of course.  But you can also take the word of someone who’s been there – i.e. me!  Here is a recap of my most favorite wine experiences from my September trip to Healdsburg, California!

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

Most Immersive Experience: Blue Rock Vineyard

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

First settled by Italian immigrants, Blue Rock Vineyard retains much of that old-world charm that has been engrained in its history since 1880.  The original stone cottage that features California redwood ceiling beams and stone masonry still stands on the property and now serves as an overnight guest villa that oozes romance.  Between lush vineyards, wild boars that inhabit the property, flourishing pomegranate trees, an organic vegetable garden, and other natural growth and inhabitants, Blue Rock has created its own ecosystem, further reminiscent of the way things used to be.  Meanwhile, their commitment to sustainable winemaking paves the way for a promising future.  It’s the best mix of old and new.  Believing in “accessible luxury”, the hosts at Blue Rock will ensure that you leave knowing what Blue Rock feels like, not just tastes like.

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

The original stone cottage that is now a honeymooner's oasis! You can actually stay there!!!

Most Likely to Make Wine Education Fun: J.Rickards Winery

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

The man.  The myth.  The moustache.  Jim Rickards not only boasts a signature ‘stache that has become a tangent of the J. Rickards Winery brand, but he also will greet you, shake your hand, tell you his story, and make you feel like an old friend.  As he dives into the nitty gritty of the wine making process, you’ll find yourself becoming enraptured, regardless of whether you’re actually following all of the talk of fermentation, filtering, and the like.  His passion for wine making becomes evident early on and it’s what makes this experience so special.  No stuffiness here; the man harvests his vineyards using a Lamborghini tractor from the 1960s that has been rebuilt three times.  This down-to-earth quality seeps into the finished product too; their wines are nuanced, hand-crafted creations that taste familial.  And if you’re lucky, you’ll leave J. Rickards with a new friend or two.

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

Wedding bloggers and a wine maker! That's us with Jim Rickards himself…and his Lamborghini tractor!

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

Vineyard dog living his best life on the right

Most Likely to Make You Feel Like Family: Zialena Winery

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

Translated to “Aunt Lena” in Italian, Zialena Winery is a modern-meets-industrial operation run by a fourth-generation winemaking brother and sister team.  During the tasting set at a large table that gives off dining room vibes, you’ll feel like you’re right at home.  Lisa, the sister half of Zialena, will ensure your experience is just like Aunt Lena would have wanted, while Mark, the brother and winemaker side of the team, will make sure you’re sipping on some of the best cabernet and zinfandel Sonoma County has to offer.  This winery is so rooted in family tradition that even their logo bears the mark of Aunt Lena’s ravioli stamp.  Salud to la famiglia!

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

Most Picturesque Setting: Trattore Farms

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

I’ve traveled a lot and have encountered beauty in each place.  But nothing compares to the views at Trattore Farms.  Set high upon a hill, this 40 acre farm overlooks other vineyards and the rolling foothills of the Dry Creek Valley.  With nearly 200 year old mission olive trees, a variety of grapes, and even a spot called Proposal Hill, the scenery is enough to take your breath away.  It induces vibes of relaxation, contentment, and humility as you take in all the best that nature has to offer via a tractor tour.  Once you recover from all of that beauty, head to the terrace to experience their wine and olive oil tastings, both of which are made on the property.  Between your eyes and your taste buds, your senses are going to go into stimuli overload but only in the best way possible.

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

I mean…have you ever seen anything so beautiful?

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

Wine and olive oil tasting!

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

So many engagements have taken place on this very spot that they've named it Proposal Hill! There is even naturally growing mistletoe hanging from this tree!

Most Hospitable: Dry Creek Vineyard

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

As soon as you set foot on the property, Dry Creek Vineyard makes you feel like you are their most special guest.  An ivy covered storefront, sprawling lawns sprinkled with umbrella-covered picnic tables, and a secret flower garden greet you and let you know you’re arrived to a little piece of heaven.  This family-run business was the first winery to open after the repeal of Prohibition, and they were the first to coin the term “Old Vine” to describe their pre-Prohibition zinfandel vineyards.  Not only do they tell the story of their rich history in an interesting and engaging way, but they invite you to be their guests for as long as you like.  Pack your own picnic, pick up a bottle in their tasting room, and create your own memories on their lawn.  Or opt for their flight and lunch option, which includes a wine concierge to explain it all.  Either way, you’ll be treated like gold at Dry Creek!

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

Picnic lunch on the lawn of Dry Creek Vineyard!

Most Likely to Make You Feel Extra Fancy: Gary Farrell Winery

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

If you’re looking for that tasting experience that will top all tasting experiences, head to Gary Farrell Winery.  After a tour of the barrel room and grounds, you’ll be whisked off to their newly renovated Inspiration Room where an estate sommelier will walk you through a six-course flight paired with cheese, dried fruits, and nuts.  The wine and atmosphere strike a fine balance between luxury and approachability, making you feel special and sophisticated without being pretentious.  To cap off the sips, treat yourself to Gary Farrell’s own wine gummies, sugar coated candy treats made with their own vino.  The perfect ending to the perfect experience!

Sonoma County Wineries: A Beginner's Guide from Burgh Brides

A special thanks to our hosts Mysty (left) and Beth (right) of The Wine Road!  In the middle is me, Tabitha of United with Love, and Jessica of Apple Brides!

Now that you have the ultimate Sonoma wine country honeymoon bucket list AND you know all about the excellent vineyards in the area, go forth and plan the trip of a lifetime!  I just ask one thing of you…take me with you!  Comment below and let me know if you've been to any of the above wineries!  Or what's the best winery or tasting you've ever been to?  Let's hear it!

While this post was sponsored by The Wine Road, all opinions, insight, and recommendations are my own.

Thinking of honeymooning in northern CA?  Don't miss my Ultimate Sonoma Wine Country Honeymoon Bucket List!

Want to read what others are saying?  Check out these posts from my friends at Apple Brides and United with Love!