Catering Sales Director of Wente Vineyards
Heather Jones specializes in the hospitality industry, but she didn’t start out with events at the forefront of her résumé.
"I was working for a small, privately owned restaurant in Chico, waiting tables," Jones says. "My manager thought I had a knack for doing weddings and events, so I started helping out. It was a happy accident; it’s what I was meant to do."
Now, Jones has been helping couples arrange their big days at Wente Vineyards for 20 years. She prefers summer weddings, with outdoor ceremonies and receptions made all the more idyllic by Livermore’s Mediterranean climate. Among her go-to menu items are heirloom tomato salads ("Using the most local, seasonal ingredients speaks to who we are," she says) and chardonnay. "Wente Vineyards is the first family of chardonnay," Jones explains. "We have five different styles, so there’s a little something for everybody’s palate."
As one would expect, event planning has its challenges. "I may think I have an event completely done down to every single detail, but there are always last-minute surprises. You have to be able to take those with grace," Jones says. "Before guests get into panic mode, we say, ‘Nope, we’ve got this and can do this instead.’ You have to have great problem-solving skills and think outside the box. ... It’s all about having fun with the challenges that come up."
Even though coordinating a wedding can be a lot of effort, Jones says that it’s well worth it in the end.
"I’ll get that email with pictures or a phone call [from clients] saying, ‘It was everything I ever dreamed of, it was perfect,’" she says. "It’s so satisfying to know that my team and I were able to create memories that last forever."
What makes the East Bay such a great wedding destination? "It’s one of the only regions where you have major cities, countryside, wine tasting, beer tasting, and shopping at places like the San Francisco Premium Outlets," Jones says. "There’s truly something for every single guest that comes to your wedding to enjoy the entire weekend, not just the day." —C.M.
Katrina Rozelle Pastries and Desserts, Alamo
Runner-up: Alpine Pastry and Cakes, Concord
Florali, Walnut Creek
Runner-up: East Bay Flower Co., Danville
Eventfully Yours Event Designs, Concord
Runner-up: Pins and Petals, Danville
Josh Isaacs Photography, Lafayette
Runner-up: James Brian Fidelibus, Walnut Creek
Kinsley James Couture Bridal, Walnut Creek
Runner-up: Flares Bridal and Formal, Walnut Creek
Claremont Club and Spa, Berkeley
Runner-up: Wente Vineyards, Livermore
Picture-Perfect Memento: Live painting by Nate Toutjian, Oakland
Instead of a typical wedding day photo, consider a painting crafted in real time. Painter and Oakland resident Nate Toutjian arrives at your venue with nothing more than his milk carton of supplies, a canvas, and a small easel. Opt for a re-creation of your ceremony or a lively party scene that captures your reception. Guests can even watch Toutjian in action and see the souvenir of a lifetime evolve. ntoutjiandesign.com. —C.M.
Bespoke Gowns: Sasha Vermel Couture Bridal, Oakland
Say yes to the custom dress. Whether you want a bold red gown, a period look, or lace in just the right place, designer Sasha Vermel will bring your bridal vision to life. She starts with a consultation, helps you select the perfect fabrics, and ensures your dress fits like a glove. Grooms are in luck, too: Vermel can turn your funky menswear dreams into a reality. sashavermel.com. —C.M.
Show of Flower Power: Angel’s Petals, Martinez
Free-spirited brides, your perfect flower crown awaits. Martinez-based Angel’s Petals offers everything from simple, leaf-based structures to showstopping, cascading "veils." Owner Angel Blackshere gravitates toward mini carnations, spray roses, wax flowers, ranunculus, and baby’s breath in these soft, organic works of art. For a harmonious wedding party, Blackshere can make coordinating crowns for the flower girl and bridesmaids, along with boutonnieres for the guys. angelspetals.biz. —C.M.
Here Comes The Cake
32 Years longtime reader favorite Katrina Rozelle Pastries and Desserts has been creating amazing wedding cakes. The 2019 winner for Best Wedding Baker (which has locations in Alamo and Oakland) has earned national attention and the adoration of legions of happy couples with her delectable delights. katrinarozelle.com. —R.O.
The Vow Factor
Go beyond the ordinary with these unique spots to say "I do."
For Science Lovers
Chabot Space and Science Center, Oakland
For an otherworldly ceremony, try this venue in the Oakland hills, where the happy couple can exchange vows under a 70-foot dome of stars or take in more earthly vistas from the Observatory Complex. (Some celebrants have gone all-out with Star Wars– or Star Trek–themed weddings.) chabotspace.org.
Lawrence Hall of Science, Berkeley
You don’t have to be a lab geek to appreciate the museum’s sprawling plaza, high ceilings, luxurious lower lawn, and panoramic views of the Bay. Check out the interactive outdoor park, called Forces That Shape the Bay, to add some environmental context (and hands-on fun) to your special day. lawrencehallofscience.org.
For the Wild at Heart
Oakland Zoo, Oakland
A trip to the zoo is not just for kids, at least when it comes to the Snow Building at the Oakland Zoo. The glass-walled locale on a hill near the main entrance has an expansive terrace, as well as sweeping water and city views. oaklandzoo.org.
California Ranch Events, Livermore
Step back in time with a wedding weekend at this historic ranch. The bride gets ready in a vintage 1890s ranch house before saying her vows under a 600-year-old oak tree—and the newly hitched couple can look toward the future while relishing the past at a reception in the rustic barn (built in the 1860s). californiaranchevents.com.
For Movers and Shakers
Blackhawk Museum, Danville
Automobile aficionados—or people drawn to bright, shiny things—will love the sleek cars bordering the museum’s Automotive Dining Room. The reception space is elegant, and the gleaming chrome of the one-of-a-kind vehicles provides an added sparkle to the event. blackhawkmuseum.org.
16th Street Station, Oakland
For a vibe that is more boho than Bugatti, consider the former Southern Pacific Railway station in West Oakland. The history-rich Beaux Arts building has appeared in movies (Rent) and music videos (Mumford and Sons’s "Babel"), in addition to hosting special events in its main hall. 16thstreetstation.com. —R.O.