Blog : Wedding venues

El Cortez – lovely historical venue for weddings in San Diego!

One of our favorite venues in San Diego is the gorgeous Don Room at El Cortez. We love coordinating weddings here.  Not only is the venue breathtaking, but the staff is amazing.  From the ladies managing the pre-wedding planning to the bellboy and day of contact, we have always had a spectacular experience at El Cortez. Sitting atop Cortez Hill in beautiful downtown San Diego, El Cortez is one of San Diego’s most historical landmarks, opening Thanksgiving day of 1927. Since opening its doors, the venue has been renovated to once again host some of San Diego’s finest events. Keeping its original Spanish architectural feel, El Cortez has maintained its character through renovations and is as charming as ever. The wood floor at the Don Room is stunning and the detail throughout the ballroom…breathtaking. The El Cortez Don Room has hosted some of history’s most notable guests and celebrities. Including Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Bing Crosby, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Frank Lloyd Wright, and many more. We love planning weddings at the Don Room and would love to share some of a recent wedding photos.

Photo Credit – Desire Rohlfs

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Balboa Park Spanish Inspired Prado Wedding

Paulina and Oscar’s wedding was so many things!  Fun, exciting, beautiful, stylish, big and extravagent!  The day was absolutely spectacular! The wedding ceremony was held at the Saint Francis Chapel with the reception at the Prado’s Grand Ballroom at Balboa Park in San Diego. The Saint Francis Chapel is designed with a Spanish Colonial feel, a perfect touch for their Spanish ceremony. Photographer, Tim Hardy, and videographer, Zeke Torres, captured every moment of this couple’s beautiful day. The bride looked just breathtaking. Following the ceremony, guests enjoyed cocktail hour at the Prado with fine drinks, delectable hor’dourves, a mariachi band, and a photo booth provided by A Mobile Photo Booth. The reception was truly beautiful! A table filled with indulging cupcakes from Sprinkles, tall floral centerpieces and purple uplighting surrounding the walls provided a very elegant and stylish feel. Family and friends were definitely an important element to make this wedding unforgettable. Guests received custom hand beaded rosaries and personalized slippers (imported from Mexico City) were provided for all the ladies to ensure comfy feet for an endless night of dancing! Paulina and Oscar had the best of both worlds by having a live band and a DJ provide the music for their special event. The couple shared their first dance together to “Baby I Love Your Way” performed by Kalifornia band,with DJ Christian Ruelas, to back them up. Friends and family soon gathered around to party the night away! We are truly delighted to have had this opportunity to be part of the couple’s wedding day. Thank you Paulina and Oscar for this wonderful experience!  We LOVED helping create the wedding of your dreams and we know that you had an amazing honeymoon in Europe!!

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Vendor Thank Yous: The Prado, Mobile Photo Booth, Tim Hardy Photography, Zeke Torres Videography, Mariachi Zapopan, and St. Francis Chapel.

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Special thanks to Tim Hardy Photography who provided all these amazing photos! Tim Hardy is a fabulous photographer in San Diego who is well known in the wedding and event industry.  Tim often shoots for Riviera magazine.  If you need a wedding photographer, we highly recommend Tim Hardy Photography.   His website is


Out of Africa Wedding

Christina Horton and Tony Ortiz met when they were only 6 years old!  Their family were close friends so they’d see one another during the summer and some holidays.  Years went by before Christina realized Tony was “the one” for her!  We were so excited when we were chosen as their wedding planners! The wedding of Christina and Tony was a beautiful Out of Africa styled evening.  The guests entered to a grand and gorgeous ballroom for the ceremony. It was decorated in fine seating, exotic trees and lush floral in a color palette of orange, burgundy, eggplant and yellow. The bride’s bouquet was lavished with feathers and animal print ribbon.  The bride was stunning and glowed in her beautiful dress from The Limited.  The ceremony besides teary yet joyful guests included a beautifully adorned broom which the mother of the groom created for the jumping of the broom ceremony.  Following the ceremony guests enjoyed a patio cocktail hour lavished with African inspired elements and appetizers.  Leopard print elements were incorporated within the pillows, the frames, the food trays, votives and more! The black lounge furniture from Tavola Chasie completed the style. Once the reception began, the guests walked into a transformed room with gorgeous centerpieces, amber lighting and 4 delicious food stations.  Authentic Flavors created a customized African influenced cuisine which included vegan and non vegan options.  The dessert table included vegan and non vegan cupcakes, vegan tarts, dark chocolate covered strawberries (hanging on manzanita trees)  and an assortment of popcorn!  Favors were African soaps.  Even the children’s table included safari toys and binoculars. Everything for Christina and Tony’s wedding was just breathtaking! Their one of a kind theme and style shined through in every part of the day.


Thank you vendors!

Photography: Desiree Rohles

Videography: Side by Side

Floral: Barliz Flowers

Catering: Authentic Flavors

Officiant: Craig Does Weddings


Venue: El Cortez

Beverage: Best Beverage

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Scripps Seaside Forum in La Jolla, CA

The gorgeous wedding of Silver and Colin was held at the breathtaking site of Scripps Seaside Forum in La Jolla, California.  The color palette was a tiffany blue and brown.  The bride’s taste was incredible and all the carefully thought out details complimented the entire day!

The bride glowed in her gown which was pressed by Margaret’s Cleaners.

Floral for the wedding was designed by Elizabeth of Barliz Flowers.

Cocktail hour music was provided by the talented flamenco guitarist, Anthony Garcia.  DJ  for the wedding reception was Erwin Millan who frequently DJs at this great venue!  The beautiful ceremony was officiated by Dr. Gail Smith with Weddings Heart to Heart.

All these incredible photos are all courtesy of Andy King Photography!

Thank you Silver and Colin for allowing At Your Side Planning (formerly, Ah! Le Party) to be part of such a special day in your lives.  We enjoyed assisting you and coordinating your big day!

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Coordinated by Diana Romero and Robin Villegas of Ah! Le Party

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Backyard or Outdoor Wedding Reception

Are you thinking of having an outdoor wedding reception? Planning a wedding is very exciting so we’d love to offer you some tips to assist if you are considering an outdoor reception.  There are very important factors to keep in mind while planning to ensure nothing is overlooked.   Having an outdoor reception can save on costs and can be just as great as going with a full service venue.  With the right amount of planning, it can be a success and a fun filled event!  Many spots serve as great outdoor reception venues including backyards, estates, private home rentals and park like settings.  I want to discuss a few key points to consider when planning an outdoor reception.  Those items include rentals, service, food and beverage, and music.  These are not all the items that one would need to consider when planning an outdoor reception, however they are those that are most important because of the factors involved.  For all items to take into consideration, hiring a wedding coordinator is highly recommended.

The first decision in wedding planning should always be the budget and the guest count.  The budget will determine what amount can be allocated towards food, alcohol, rentals, décor, vendors and so forth. A wedding coordinator can offer assistance on how to allocate for each area.  After deciding on a budget and guest count, meeting with several full service caterers who specialize in weddings as well as providing rentals would be priority.  If a full service caterer is not hired, then reviewing all areas and logistics for the rentals with your wedding coordinator’s assistance is crucial.  An experienced rental company will be able to make recommendations and provide a walk through at the home or venue to ensure there is sufficient space for the rentals as well as the activities.  After reserving the rentals, a layout should be created for the ceremony and the reception items as well as noting locations of power outlets. This is important for the DJ, the bar, lighting and any other activities requiring power such as a photo booth.  For events running into the evening, consider bringing in extra lighting.  If there is only one restroom and over 40 guests, consider renting a portable restroom or two.  There are nice portable restroom rental companies out there.  These restrooms can be dolled up by placing flowers and toiletry gifts inside.  An experienced wedding coordinator can offer excellent referrals on companies that offer quality, high end portable restrooms.

After creating your layout, the overall design scheme should be determined.  Color, decor and lighting brought in should also compliment the area and the time of day the wedding reception will be held.  Natural lighting is important to consider when deciding on the linen colors and additional lighting on the tables, such as pin lights and accenting as well as sufficient lighting to see after sunset.  Consider the table as a whole and not just the decor that will be placed on the table, but it’s own unique layout including linens and place settings.

As you plan the wedding, the vendors that should be booked first are vendors that only work one wedding per day (such as the photographer).  These key players for the wedding day should be booked as soon as you are able to.  These include the photographer, DJ, videographer and any other wedding vendors who will work the entire event.  The caterer or restaurant plays a big role during the wedding reception. The menu should be decided with your contact for catering.  For the cocktail hour, appetizers or hors doeuvres are great to provide for the guests along with beverages as they mingle after the ceremony concludes while the bridal party and the couple take photos.  The bar should have one bartender for every 40 guests plus a bar back.  An experienced, licensed bartender will provide everything needed for the bar and make recommendations on the amount of beverages for the amount of guests.  Many bartenders allow the client to bring in their own alcohol and will charge for hours only.  If an hourly bartender is hired, it is important to make a list with the bartender on the items that need to be purchased and provided for them.  Your wedding coordinator can assist with ensuring all items are covered.  Another item to consider as related to alcohol is the champagne pouring.  If there will be toasting to champagne, it is important to have the bartender or caterers include the pouring of the champagne into their cost.  Champagne is poured about 15-30 before actual toasts depending on how many guests will be served champagne.   Decide on the menu with your caterer when you have an idea of the meal or meals you would like to provide to the guests.  If it is a lunch time reception, the menu for the meal will be lighter than an evening reception.  If a caterer or restaurant prepares the food without providing servers, bussers or a cleanup crew, it is important to contract a staffing agency that can provide these and I would recommend 1 server for every 25 guests.  Some would recommend per 40 guests, however it is better to have enough servers and service than not enough.  The staffing agency should also designate one of the staff members as the banquet captain to lead the service to ensure the serving, the bussing, the trash and final clean up are smooth.    Dinner ware is something to consider going disposable on if you opt not going with a full service caterer (who can provide china) because if these items are rented or purchased, the cleanup of these items is a big task.  Also, in renting, if every item is not accounted for there are additional charges added onto the final bill.

If a full service caterer is contracted and they include the wedding cake in their pricing, the cake cutting is something normally included.  If the wedding cake is ordered separately and the caterer is not full service, then hiring servers through a staffing agency who specialize in cake cutting is extremely important.  It takes an experienced person to dissemble a cake, cut it and serve it.  Also remember to get cakes, forks, napkins and the cake items for the cake table.

The last items I would like to discuss are the music and clean up.  The DJ or band should let you know their specifications on space as well as power.  The DJ should be aware of the power in the area for set up and the layout of the event.  If there are activities in more than one area (for example cocktail hour in front of house and dinner in the back) then a DJ would probably want two sound systems to cover the event.  Renting a dance floor for dancing is important and if it is an evening event, have sufficient lighting for your guests.  Your wedding coordinator can work with the rental company on square footage and the layout.  A cleanup crew at the end as well as bussers through the end is important as well.  Your wedding coordinator can direct your crew as where the linens, trash, rentals, gifts, cake top and personal items go to avoid any confusion.  Rentals normally will be picked up the Monday following the event.

An outdoor wedding reception can save a lot of money and be such a success!  As long as all areas are covered, you can be sure to have it run smoothly and having very happy wedding guests!

For a free consultation, please call At Your Side Planning (formerly Ah! Le Party) at 619-322-7084 to discuss your special day!  Diana Romero, owner of At Your Side Planning has been planning events for over ten years in San Diego, California.  She founded At Your Side Planning (formerly Ah! Le Party) in 2004 and is highly experienced and professional.  At Your Side Planning (formerly Ah! Le Party) recently was awarded “Best Wedding Planner” on the San Diego 10 News A list.  At Your Side Planning (formerly Ah! Le Party) is a member of the Professional Women’s Organization as well as Small Business certified through the state of California.

All photos by Miguel Pola Photographers

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