No Planner? No Problem. Barnali and Bikash, The Galleria at the SF Design Center

Barnali and Bikash
Bikash and I got married in India and had a reception at The Galleria at San Francisco Design Center in March. We planned the reception on our own – without a wedding planner. Since we started planning a year ahead of time, we were able to spend time on research and focus on one vendor type at a time.

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The Galleria is a good venue for South Asian weddings and events. You basically rent the space (inclusive of tables and chairs) and arrange everything else on your own.

The Galleria is beautiful and flexible:

  • We could bring our choice of caterer
  • Holds up to 700 guests – useful for South Asians hosting large events
  • Very desi friendly bar  – offers packages for drinkers and non-drinkers
  • No per person charges incurred outside of bar service
  • Built-in uplighting – you can choose the colors you want on all the floorsSF Reception 055
  • SF Reception 120 SF Reception 119 SF Reception 105 SF Reception 074

Share your venue selection process
We wanted a venue that:

  • Could accommodate at least 400
  • Allowed outside Indian catering
  • Wasn’t a hotel (just to be a little different!)
  • Had a wow factor, so we wouldn’t need a lot of additional decor

We sent quote requests to about 20 venues and visited 8 in person.

SF Reception 105
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Share your vendor selection process

  • We followed a similar process for all of our vendors. We contacted at least 4 vendors per category (photographer, florist, caterer, etc.).
  • We tried to gather as much info as possible, including pricing, by email before setting up appointments .
  • We only reached out to vendors with 5 star Yelp reviews or those our friends recommended.
  • We only met with vendors in person to gauge “fit” after we confirmed their pricing was within our budget.SF Reception 237 SF Reception 297

Beverage Services Company
We had to use the Galleria’s beverage services company – Perry’s – because of an exclusive arrangement Perry’s has with the venue. We appreciated Perry’s experience with South Asian events and their associated flexibility. They know many South Asians don’t drink, so they allowed us to pay separate prices for drinkers and non-drinkers.  We were able to provide our guests a premium bar, which was a priority for us.

Table and Chairs
The Galleria has tables and chairs for up to 300 guests which they setup and tear down. We rented the rest from Unica Party Rentals – that vendor did their own setup and tear down.

We rented our linens from Unica as well and our day-of coordinator’s team did the setup and tear down of those.

SF Reception 075Fire permit
We used floating candles in our decor. Any use of fire at The Galleria requires a fire permit.  As our caterer had to get a fire permit for the chafing dishes and outdoor food prep, we were able to get a combined fire permit that covered all these items.

Return gifts
Our family in India purchased traditional Oriya artwork to give away as favors.  We opted to have the pieces shipped to the US.  Even taking shipping costs into account, our choice to purchase favors in India was a cost-effective one. Our family helped put the gifts in decorative gift bags we found on Amazon.

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SF Reception 045General Advice
Know what your priorities are.  We prioritized food, music, and alcohol. Décor was a lower priority for us, and we managed to do without a decorator altogether!

Determine which items you’re willing to spend the most/least on.

Booking vendors

  • Get quotes from a few vendors in each category
  • Book the venue 1st
  • Focus on 1 vendor at a time (if you can)SF Reception 304 SF Reception 297

Avoid time sucks
Consultations, visits and tastings are fun, but a time suck.
Gather info first. Narrow down the options. Then do consultations and visits only with vendors you’ve shortlisted.

Save yourself from inbox flooding
Set up a separate, new email address just for wedding planning.

To go boxes
Ask the baker and caterer to bring ‘to go’ boxes for leftover cake and food.
Ask the caterer and baker to set aside food for the bride and groom to enjoy at home after the event, since you probably won’t have time to enjoy the food and cake at your reception.
SF Reception 008
Bridesmaids’ saris
Not going to South Asia for shopping?
Order online (you can get identical saris online – we used
Get the blouses and petticoats made at a local desi store (we went to Berkeley)

SF Reception 021Reception Seating
Work on the seating chart in advance but hold off on printing it as long as possible – there will be last minute changes, whether you like it or not!
SF Reception 002
Seating chart vs. escort cards
We chose to do seating chart posters instead of escort cards, since those can be a pain to print and can easily get misplaced or lost.

If you’re doing a chart, print 2-3 copies
Get them mounted on cardboard
Rent easels to display the seating charts in different areas at your venue

SF Reception 115Day-of coordinator
Hire a day-of coordinator, so you can relax and enjoy the event!  We loved our day of coordinator – Jessica Harris of Shine Event Productions. Take time to think through the services you need and clarify each vendor’s roles and responsibilities (i.e. some vendors deliver to the venue but don’t do setup/tear down). Your coordinator can assist with filling the “gaps.”

Make packing lists
A few weeks before the event, make a list of items that you will need (i.e. clothes, jewelry). Also make a list of other items (i.e. centerpieces, return gifts, etc.) that will also be taken to the venue, and arrange to have your day of coordinator pick up those items in advance and bring them to your venue so you don’t have to worry about them on your big day.  

The Galleria at SF Design Center

Raja Sweets
Excellent food at reasonable prices!

Day-Of Coordinator
Shine Event Productions – Jessica Harris
It was worth every penny! We were stress free and really enjoyed our reception.
Jessica was the most professional and reasonably priced of the coordinators I interviewed!

Pia Ka Ghar – Los Altos

Ahlishan Fashion & Fabric – Berkeley

Reasonable pricing
They show you a digital proof immediately while you’re designing online
No language barriers that often exist with Indian companies
We used photos from our wedding in India on the reception invitation

Linens, Chairs, & Tables
Unica Party Rental

Wedding Cake
A Spoonful of Sugar
We received lots of compliments on our cake.  Kathleen DeManti’s cakes are both beautiful and tasty!

DJ Tanveer
DJ Tanveer did a great job of MCing while managing our music.  Our guests had a great time on the dance floor!

SF Reception 331Photographer
Magnolia Weddings
Erich Valo is a wonderful photographer!  He came with us to photograph our multi-day wedding in India, and also photographed our SF reception.  He’s great at capturing precious moments while being in-obtrusive.  He’s kind, flexible, and very talented.

An Added Touch Flowers
Carol Antraccoli is a skilled florist who was willing to work with us to find floral and candle arrangements that were attractive while within our cost-conscious budget.

Bar Service

Hair & Makeup Artist
Lela Nguyen and her team did hair and make up for me, my bridesmaids, mother, and mother-in-law.  They did a wonderful job and the makeup looked still look fresh and flawless at the end of the night (post-dancing)!  Lela was also reasonably priced.  

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