“You know when you know.” That’s what it was like when we visited the location that ultimately became our choice of venue. We almost skipped out on it. There were already a few pretty good contenders on our list, the location was a bit further out, and we just assumed it would be outside of our budget. But we decided to call anyway. Luckily, they happened to have availability for an appointment that morning, so we figured why not and decided to pay a visit…and boy were we glad we did!
(Source: All photos by Orange Turtle Photography)
As soon as we arrived at Rancho del Cielo, we were greeted by the site coordinator and a couple, who all came out and hugged us like we were old friends. We immediately felt so welcomed. They showed us around the vicinity, which included beautiful grounds amongst the rolling green hills of Malibu, a breathtaking view of the ocean, and a charming little ranch house. It didn’t take long for us to realize that Jill and Sparky, the couple, were the proud owners of the place. In fact, it was their home that they resided in, which explained the attention they paid to every beautiful detail. Some visuals to give you a taste of the beauty of the place…and I say “taste” because even these gorgeous images don’t do it justice.
The view out from the front of the premises…
Standing in front of the house, looking out:
The charming upper room where we got ready…
The reception grounds, set against the Malibu mountains…
A view of back of the house, looking out toward the ceremony grounds…
And possibly the most gorgeous view of all, the incredible backdrop to the ceremony:
We instantly had one of those chills when you know. It had the perfect bit of Southern rustic charm, plus a great view of some of California’s best beaches and the ocean…the perfect throwback to my roots growing up in the South and my love of mountains, as well as Mr. D’s Southern California upbringing and love of beaches. It was unique and didn’t feel like a “wedding factory.” Plus, we loved the fact that it was in such a private location—it was elegant yet had the feel of an intimate, rustic backyard event, which was perfect for what we were looking for.
But what really sealed the deal for us were the hospitality, dedication, and genuine nature of Jill and Sparky. They wanted to hear all about our story—who we were, what we were looking for, why we were renewing our vows. What was intended to be a short 30-minute visit turned into a conversation amongst friends that lasted throughout the morning. Over tea, coffee, and homemade biscotti, we shared what we had been through and how far we had come. As a married couple who had been through the ups and downs themselves, they knew what it was like, and also shared some of their experiences and life lessons with us. We could tell they were genuinely touched and were so excited for us that we had made this decision to renew our vows. When we called and returned a few weeks later to seal the deal, we could see the joy in their faces. It especially touched our hearts that Sparky even shed a tear in expressing how glad he was that we had chosen them. What a contrast with our experience at some of the other sites we visited!
Since this is somewhat turning into a review of our venue, I’ll just include a few practical details as well. We loved the flexibility that came with it! You could either rent the space out and bring everything in yourself, or you could use one of their packages with some of their already-negotiated vendors to keep things simple. In the package option, the site coordinator would help with booking rentals (including the shuttle), and Jill herself would personally help out with some of the details, such as decor and appetizers. We ultimately decided on going with a mix—we primarily used the package but were able to customize a lot of details and work with some of our preferred vendors to make it personal. I do have to highlight an example of some of Jill’s work that she customized for us, which totally impressed us and blew us away:
They also have a site coordinator, Avesta, who is available to help with planning questions along the way and who manages the event the day of. She has an incredible amount of experience with the site and a good sense of how much time we would need for various activities. We still had to handle the bulk of the planning ourselves, but she served as a great guide and resource along the way in providing suggestions & referrals, and putting our day-of schedule together. She also played a key role in keeping things moving and on track the day of.
When the day came, our guests couldn’t stop raving about the place. But what really made the day special was the attention of the site coordinator and Jill and Sparky themselves. They were so flexible and adaptive to the various unexpected things that came up (such as adjusting the schedule to accommodate delays, personally jumping in to help out guests who were late or lost, or filling in when we had forgotten to plan for something). They were so attentive to every detail that it made our experience feel like the day went without a single hitch! Thank goodness we decided to check out the place—it was perfect, and we couldn’t imagine having our vow renewal anywhere else.
Next up—I’m excited to share the details of how we worked our theme in to make the day come to life!