A more blessed union

It should be fun and easy to plan your wedding day, but we know that’s not always the case.

So if you’re swamped in the details or worried how to remain within your budget, consider the suggestions of these five couples who were married on the Central Coast.

We asked them for their top recommendations when planning a wedding, how they personalized the big day, ideas for staying within a budget and any other special advice.

We also asked about their biggest challenge or unexpected difficulty, and their biggest surprise, for better or for worse.

The responses varied — from lining up willing volunteers and holding invitation-making parties to beach house brunches and just taking a deep breath. We hope you enjoy reading their hard-earned wisdom as much as we did.


SEPT. 27, 2008

Ceremony and reception at Pismo Beach

When Jenna and Dan Hartzell began preparing for a perfect wedding day at the beach, their plans involved images of sand, ocean and sunshine. But when the sun just didn’t want to cooperate, they took it all in stride. As it turned out, the day seemed more magical because the fog provided the perfect setting for an intimate wedding in a cloud.

Jenna and Dan were on a strict budget, so they cut costs on less significant details and spent money on more memorable items like a good minister, photographer and wedding dress. They made their own invitations, held the wedding on the public beach in Pismo (free), and bought sunflowers at Farmers Market and arranged the bouquets themselves.

The guest list for the wedding was small, so Dan and Jenna were able to hold a big brunch at a beach house they rented for the week. Jenna did her own makeup, as well as the whole wedding party’s, and the girls listened to music, relaxed and enjoyed the day.

Other personal touches: the couple’s dads made a bamboo structure wrapped in blue fabric that functioned as an altar on the beach and the couple’s moms baked the cake (and cupcakes). Even the Hartzell’s golden retriever, Isabelle, participated.

Dan provides behavior intervention to children with autism at his job with California Psychcare and Jenna is the program director for ARTS Obispo. They live in Morro Bay. Their parting words of wisdom: have fun, don’t stress, and enjoy the day.


OCT. 9, 2009

Ceremony and reception at Spanish Oaks Ranch, Santa Margarita

The “Big Easy’’ holds special meaning for Kealoha and Brian Ghiglia so they celebrated their wedding day with a New Orleans flair. They named tables after streets in

New Orleans and created big signs in New Orleans fashion, including one that read “Laissez les bon temps rouler” (Let the good times roll).

A laid-back New Orleans attitude kept the couple from getting lost in the details and put everything in perspective. The Ghiglias recommend every newly engaged couple remember why they are doing the planning in the first place: It’s not to have a wedding, it’s to get married.

In keeping with the theme, they hired the band, Still Time. While that resulted in a ton of fun, they wound up inadvertently skipping some traditions like cake cutting, the money dance, and the bouquet and garter tosses. In order to avoid this from happening at your wedding, Kealoha and Brian recommend coordinating the day’s schedule more effectively — ask someone to coordinate it for you or give everyone in the wedding an itinerary to help keep the events organized.

The Ghiglias wanted their guests to enjoy the beautiful Central Coast so they were married on a Friday. Choosing a weekday cut costs and allowed their guests to spend the weekend exploring. They were on a budget, so they decided on what was most important to them and skimped on the things that were not, such as wedding favors and table decorations. They shopped around to find reasonable prices that fit their needs and by sticking with their attitude of keeping things in perspective, if it didn’t fit the budget, they moved on.

Brian is a sales consultant for Rec Solar and Kealoha is an environmental planner for Rincon Consultants Inc. They live in San Luis Obispo.


MAY 30, 2009

Ceremony and reception at Ragged Point Inn, Big Sur

Earthy and elegant was the theme of Leela and Justin Sherbon’s wedding day in beautiful Ragged Point. Surrounded by trees and the ocean, they tied the knot with 120 family and friends standing by.

But the guest list proved to be the most challenging part of the planning process. With 120 people the maximum the venue could accommodate and almost 200 people to invite, the Sherbons had to get creative. In the invitations for the single invitees and invitees with children, a note was slipped in to “come single to mix and mingle and leave the little ones at home.” Thinking outside the box worked out great and the perfect number of people attended.

The Sherbons were also on a fairly strict budget, so in order to stay on track, they recommend that couples prioritize. For them, a location that reflected their personalities and a good photographer were the most important (you can’t put a price on having memories that will last forever), so they used 70 percent of their budget on those items and were creative with everything else.

They also recommend using your resources; everyone has at least one friend or relative who has a job or hobby useful at a wedding. Leela’s sister was the make-up artist, Justin’s sister the hairdresser, Justin’s mom baked the cake, uncles played the acoustic guitar and bongos for the ceremony and a friend donated all the candy for the “candy bar.” Leela and Justin agree that people loved being involved and helping out.

Justin and Leela live in Pismo Beach. Justin is the owner of Sentinel Security Solutions and Leela is a wine consultant/broker.


MAY 23, 2009

Ceremony and reception at Silver Horse Winery, Paso Robles

Lainy and Jesse Porter do not live in San Luis Obispo County, so planning a wedding day from afar provided a unique set of challenges. For them, a wedding planner and careful selection of vendors proved critical. They kept the guest count low (about 76 guests total) so they could spend quality time with each one.

They rented a house during the week of the wedding and hosted a backyard-catered barbeque for the rehearsal dinner. The couple also arranged activities for guests who arrived early, such as a wine tasting tour, a day of golf and a spa day.

Jesse and Lainy’s wedding day featured a host of special touches. Among them: a signature sangria drink; fresh, hot New York-style brick-oven-baked pizza arranged by their caterer and cooked by the owner of Silver Horse Winery; and, as a send-off to their guests at the end of the night, freshly baked donut holes and cartons of chocolate milk. Because they served alcohol at the wedding, the Porters hired a shuttle to escort guests back to their hotel.

Cost was a challenge for the Porters and they recommend doing your research. Figure out what would make your wedding day special to you. Lainy and Jesse learned to compromise on a lot of things, but still have their dream wedding.

Lainy is a neonatal intensive care nurse and Jesse works for Specialized Bicycles. They live in San Jose.


SEPT. 27, 2008

Ceremony at the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses, Avila Beach

Reception at the Jack House and Gardens, San Luis Obispo

Samantha and Kevin Ford are both from large families, so finding a venue that would accommodate their large guest list without breaking the budget was a must.

They found the Jack House in San Luis Obispo to be a good fit, both in matching their personal style and in size. But they highly recommend shopping around first. Compare prices, not just at face value but also the quality for the price you pay.

The outpouring of willing volunteers, making the wedding planning easy and fun, surprised the Fords. They discovered that incorporating family and friends led to some wonderful personal touches. Relatives were invited along on their cake tasting and an uncle baked hundreds of cookies for guests to enjoy at the reception. An invitation-making party with close female relatives resulted in a day full of laughs, and an uncle officiating on the wedding day was another special touch.

Samantha and Kevin recommend being flexible and carefully researching vendors. When interviewing, make sure they are easy to work with, ask for reviews and referrals and understand that price and quality tend to correlate. The Fords refused to skimp on quality photography, noting that photos are the primary tangible evidence of the special day.

Today, Samantha and Kevin both work at Noble Saw, a San Luis Obispo business owned by Samantha’s parents. Kevin is also a reserve firefighter for the South Bay Fire Department.

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