A few other suggestions:
– for the “arty” part of your reception (music, photography, etc.): lots of great art schools, especially CalArts, around, you can get students to play for you and/or take pictures
– for photography, and potentially, venue, are you willing to go the “ethnic” route? I’m having my family reception in my SoCal hometown (Westlake) and I didn’t want to pay thousands for a photographer after already paying $6k at my ceremony. I found a Chinese studio that will do four hours for $800, PLUS my makeup. (Full disclosure: I am Chinese, but it’s not like these people don’t speak English or wouldn’t be perfectly capable of taking pictures of non-Chinese people.) You may not get all the “frills” (and you may run into a few brusque/rude people), but if you’re looking for a professional at bargain rates, sometimes you can’t be too choosey. Google “Las Tunas Drive” + “photography” or “bridal” and you’ll see a lot of yelp reviews for some of the places…a lot of angry people who don’t like being treated “rudely,” but if this doesn’t bother you, hey, why not. These people are not handholders, but if it’s worth the price to you, do it.
– for restaurants, Chinese restaurants also do huge banquet style dinners for much, much cheaper than American venues. That said, I am Chinese and I did not want to go that route, so I totally understand if that’s not what you want. However, I would definitely consider a Chinese bakery cake! Chinese bakeries can be AMAZING (check out Kee Wah Bakery and Diamond Bakery) and their cakes will be much cheaper while still being crazy delicious (I just wouldn’t try to get a crazy design).
– my eternal cost-saving tip: COSTCO!!! Costco does wedding flowers (something like 200 roses for $100 if you’re willing to DIY it a bit). Wine–my venue charges $20 corkage per bottle, but marks up their own bottles 3 times the price, with their lowest bottle starting at $30 (meaning it’s a $10 bottle of wine). I’m getting Veuve Cliquot at Costco ($38), which the hotel would be charging $130 for. Costco also sells truffles (you can buy cute boxes for favors) and petit fours for your dessert table. They have discount invitations. We got our bands, there, too. Basically, Costco = the best. Membership is $50.
– if you don’t want to do flowers, look into other pretty centerpieces, like fruit! For winter weddings, sugared fruits; for summer weddings, limes and lemons in a pretty glass bowl.
– If your venue doesn’t provide plates/forks/etc., you can consider going to Ikea, buying everything, then selling it afterwards. That’s what the folks at Young House Love did (google their wedding, it’s adorable.)
In short, search out ethnic options (for all vendors Chinese, look in San Gabriel Valley, also ask the families of any Chinese friends you may have) and go to Costco.
ETA: Oh, one last one. I’d search for unexpected venues, like a hotel in a super businessy part of town (like Chatsworth…it’s not exactly the coolest locale, but I bet they wanna attract your business), warehouses, etc. The vineyards/ranches/museums will probably mostly be expensive, but there are so many options!