Skylar is a Texas-based wedding planner & designer sharing her sanity-saving processes & templates.


Carmel Wedding Planning Day

Planning your Carmel, California wedding from a distance could make you feel disconnected from the process or like you are “missing out” on all the fun parts of planning, but it doesn’t have to.

On-Location planning days are a great way to streamline your planning process and ensure you get the fun experience of wedding planning. I like to build at least two of these on-location planning days into my couple’s planning process. For my Carmel wedding couple, we recently headed to NorCal for an on-location planning day. Here’s a behind the scenes look into what went into making the most of our visit together.

Some fun flora and fauna spotted in Big Sur

8:00a – Breakfast on Your Own

We like slow mornings around here. I encourage my couples to sleep in a bit later than they may be able to on their regular work days and enjoy a leisurely breakfast before we hop into a full day of wedding planning.

This is also a great opportunity to test some restaurants to add to your wedding website or hotel welcome cards as a recommendation for your guests.

Some of the Carmel-by-the-Sea breakfast recommendations I made for my couple included:


Village Corner

From Scratch

Psst… if you’re looking for grab-and-go style French pastries and/or sandwiches, add Lafayette Bakery to your list.

9:30a – Venue Site Visit

I always like to kick off planning day with a site visit and this Carmel Valley wedding was no exception. It was made even more productive because the florists, Allison & Risha of Crimson Florals & Horticulture, we able to join us.

We walked the property discussing where each of the weekend’s events would take place (The couple will have the property exclusive to them and their guests Thursday – Sunday). During this walk, we decided to change the cocktail hour space to maximize the property. Guests will now spend more time near the creek with gorgeous views and we won’t have to move the live musicians who will be playing throughout both ceremony and cocktail hour.

While our team isn’t in charge of the additional events for the wedding weekend, we still discussed general flow with the couple to ensure all the moving parts flow well together.

Meeting all together cuts down on back and forth about what we can do, what we want to do, how we’ll do it, etc. etc. When all the “power players” meet together it makes for quick discussions and decision making which I love – this is where I petition to make efficiency the sixth love language.

These planning days are fun because it’s usually the first time the couple has been back to their venue since signing on the dotted line. It’s easy to start second guessing your choices when you’re planning from a distance. These help ease nerves and remind couples why they love their destination wedding location.

Ceremony Site at Gardner Ranch

11:30a – Lunch & Debrief

The weather was showing off for our Carmel wedding planning day! We took our first “break” at lunch at Schooners Monterey on their patio. Perhaps one of the highlights of the day simply because we got to see an otter playing in the water!

Let me go ahead and recommend the Thai Mussels. I could have bathed in the broth. Also, shout out to our server who was so knowledgable, honest, but professional. Everyone cleaned their plates, so I’m saving that spot for future visits.

An important part about planning days is to build space. This helps you (a) readjust when scheduling goes array and (b) allows ideas to bubble up naturally rather than barging couples – and yourself – with tasks and questions. I find that space makes our time together more fulfilling and productive.

Lunch at Schooners Monterey

1:00p – Miscellaneous Tasks Meeting

Case-in-point… our rental contact was under the weather and the rental team needed to move our time so their remaining staff could assist us if needed. So we decided to walk around Monterey and stopped into a Turkish coffee and sweets shop for dessert and to go over our miscellaneous planning tasks.

Just before our Carmel wedding planning trip, the couple’s invitations from Isidore & Augustine arrived. As always, Nicolette’s work stunned. Naturally, we’re planning on using her for the couple’s day-of paper goods as well — psst… using the same designer, fonts, and overall style of paper for your signage day-of will create a more cohesive overall weekend design.

We determined our day-of paper needs during this meeting which included:

  • Welcome Cards for Amenity Boxes
  • Unplugged Sign for Ceremony
  • Bar Signs
  • Seating Chart (sooooo excited to y’all to see this one, it’s going too be wowzah)
  • Menus & Place Cards
  • Table Numbers

Other topics we covered included officiant, transportation, amenity boxes, and wedding party gifts.

2:30p – Rentals & Catering Meeting

Those who know me know that I’m like a kid in a candy shop at a rentals showroom.

We’d already picked our rentals with Chic Event Rentals out online, but we wanted to see them in person. While playing, we decided to create 3 glassware vignettes that will repeat across the table to amplify the bride’s eclectic vision. Since we changed the cocktail hour space we also added a bar, changed out the bar high/highboy cocktail tables, and selected a group of bright linens for the low seating tables to transform that open lawn space.

One of the place settings we tried out at Chic Event Rentals

I was so glad that Jordan and Bruce of A Party for Your Palate could join us for this meeting. Making sure that the tabletop design and actual dinnerware you’re selecting will work with the caterers needs is key to a smooth dinner service. As the couple has dreamed of a family style service since the beginning, it’s extra important to have the catering team in on the rentals discussions as there are more items needed.

If you’ve always envisioned a family style service as well, be sure you

  • choose a wide enough table (we’re using doublewide 6′ tables making them 6’x60″)
  • select centerpieces that can accommodate the platters (we’ve got a mixture of bud vases, candles, and floral frogs that are easy to move around if needed)
  • and ensure with your caterer that the platters used compliment your overall aesthetic

We also got the opportunity to cover the weekends menus and even brainstorm a super cool late night snack idea.

6:00p – Farewell Dinner

After a full day of planning their Carmel wedding, I love to invite couples out for a dinner where we can kick back, enjoy some local wine, and great food.

We met to wrap-up our on-location planning day at The Pocket in Carmel-by-the-Sea. It’s always nerve wracking to select a restaurant for foodies – doubly hard when they’re familiar with the area and I’m looking to wow them with a new hot find.

Lavender growing in the gardens in front of The Pocket in Carmel-by-the-Sea

Thankfully The Pocket d-e-l-i-v-e-r-e-d. My couple always tries the octopus and, thankfully, their octopus appetizer was the start to an overall incredible meal. Once again, we were all members of the clean plate club.

Matt was able to tag along for this trip which I love, not just because I get my favorite travel buddy, but because he’s a great way to connect with who I am outside of the work I do for my couples. The final dinner is about connecting outside of the tasks of the day. We enjoy talking about our hometowns, our “how we met” stories, and just more about who we all are outside of weddings. It’s often one of my favorite parts of the trips!

P.S. Want to see more BTS of on-location planning days? Check out my Colorado Springs planning day here.

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Photography by Smith House Weddings