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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Travel, tango and each other!

Valerie and Robert have traveled throughout the world during their years together, and decided to incorporate their love of travel into their intimate wedding celebration recently at the Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay.

During a trip to South America several years ago, Valerie and Robert developed a passion for the Tango, and have been taking dance lessons for months to surprise their guests with their first dance....of course, a Tango!

We all were enthralled as the couple entered the dance floor with a flourish, faced each other with a dramatic look, and began a complex set of twists, twirls, kicks, and ended with Robert sweeping Valerie off her feet in a choreographed dip and hug....Bravo!!

Another tribute to the couple's international flair was the surprise Groom's cake, created by Susan Morgan of Elegant Cheesecakes, in the shape of a much loved suitcase, sporting labels of a few of the countries they have visited.....this was almost too beautiful to eat, but after lots of photos, the guests were happy to enjoy the taste of the cake inside...a four layer mocha/hazelnut delight!

After dinner Valerie and Robert, accompanied by their photographer
Lisa Leigh, her videographer, and myself, took a sunset stroll towards the amazingly beautiful cliffs below the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay. We happened to go out just as the bagpiper, who plays on weekend nights at the Ritz Carlton, was beginning his walk to the lawn to play for the guests.

Valerie and Robert were so much fun to work with, because their enjoyment of each other was obvious and infectious...I captured one example of that joy as they stopped for a spontaneous hug during our sunset walk.

The weather that day was beyond incredible, especially for those of us who work often at the RCHMB...it is very, very seldom warm enough to fully enjoy being outside and relaxed, that close to the ocean...during the warm months, when it is hot inland, the coast can be covered with dense and moist fog...but as you see from my photo of the ceremony, the day was picture perfect!

One of the special items I packed up for Valerie and Robert at the end of the evening was this framed print, one of several we used to decorate the area where dancing took place...I can see why they wanted to hold on to this reminder of their first dance, and their travel/tango themed wedding celebration!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A new SF gem: Crown and Crumpet

The entrance to Crown and Crumpet welcomes you with an assortment of sweets, bulk tea, and hand made tea cozies for sale.

What I love most about tea is the way people slow down to enjoy the experience; having tea is such a friendly and happy thing to do, and the new Crown and Crumpet, in Ghiradelli Square, is a perfect spot to enjoy the total experience with friends!

Viola Sutanto, owner of Chewing the Cud, me, and Jubilee Lau, owner of Jubilee Lau Events.

Can you imagine a more cheerful table setting than this!? Jubilee, Viola Sutanto, and I met to reconnect over tea, after several months of not seeing each other. We had all heard of the new tea shop in San Francisco, and were excited to check it out together.

Our "tea for three" tray was a yummy combination of gourmet sandwiches, tiny sweets, and of course, fresh scones with lemon curd and clotted cream! We each chose a different kind of tea, which was served in individual tea pots with bright and very efficient tea cozies...ahhhh, tea cozies are so comforting!

In the back part of the tea shop is an area for settling in with a cup of tea and a good book...the fire is always roaring, as it is on a digital screen..no heat, but lots of ambiance for some of those cold SF summer days!

The owners of Crown and Crumpet have a refreshing sense of humor, which is evident in every aspect of their decor and even on their plates. In case you can't read this, it says: "Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with tea cozy, doesn't try it on his head."
This especially appealed to me because my husband has been known to embarrass me in front of friends by putting our tea cozy on his head, instead of on the pot of tea; now I see his uncouth behavior is in the range of normal...at least at Crown and Crumpet!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Vintage Elegance, Fairmont Hotel, SF

As many of you know, I love staying in hotels when I coordinate a wedding away from Palo Alto. I enjoy absorbing the ambiance, partaking in the amenities, and being an anonymous traveler, watching people, writing in my journal, and reserving my energy for the day of the wedding itself.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of staying at the San Francisco Fairmont Hotel on the top of Nob Hill; the view out of my window was amazing! Build in 1906, and rebuilt in 1907, after the SF earthquake, the hotel has a feeling of history and classic elegance I just love...and they made the windows so huge back then! I was able to open the window in my room to the panorama of SF Bay, Alcatraz Island, Coit Tower, and Treasure Island!

After the Friday afternoon rehearsal at Merchant's Exchange, in the heart of downtown SF, I put on my walking shoes, and explored the area between my hotel window and Fisherman's Wharf...during my one hour "explore" I crossed Chinatown, Little Italy, to finally land in SF tourism central, Pier 39! I don't need to get on a plane to experience international cultures!

The lobby at the Fairmont is breathtaking! It remains just as it was in the early 1900's, when presidents, movie stars, and railroad tycoons made The Fairmont their home base for San Francisco meetings and celebrations. The Italian marble floors and pillars, opulent light fixtures, and the pure grandeur of the high ceilings and curving stairways speak of a bygone era, yet welcome guests from the 21st century to enjoy the ambiance and savor the beauty, just as it was.

I spent a lot of time in this lobby on Saturday, the wedding day, because my bride and groom, and wedding party were having pre-ceremony photos taken here, and the transportation to the wedding ceremony left from the hotel entrance. Throughout the day, I was constantly amazed by the personal, competent, and extremely friendly service we experienced with each and every Fairmont Hotel staff member. Sometimes a large hotel, which is a common sight-seeing spot for visitors, can become "hardened", or impersonal, but not at the Fairmont! When I find a venue such as the Faimont, where my clients are treated as if their wedding is the most important event of the year, and that each of their requests is of prime VIP importance, that is a place I will recommend over and over!

Plus, look at the wonderful room I had to come back to after a very long (13 hour) wedding day, and the sunset view from my beloved and huge window...I can highly recommend the SF Fairmont hotel, from personal experience!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Chanel, Julia Morgan, and a Silver Cloud

The Merchants' Exchange Building, with the Julia Morgan Ballroom on the 15th floor, provided the perfect setting this weekend for Haidee and Wilson's Vintage themed wedding.

I learned a great deal about the 1920's and 1930's as I worked alongside Haidee to bring her vintage themed ideas into reality. Before being hired by Haidee, I knew little about Coco Chanel, the French fashion designer from the 20's, who revolutionized all aspects of feminine dress, accessories and perfume...but now the very familiar interlocked C's remind me of Coco Chanel, AND of Haidee!

Haidee had this 20's themed tray in her suite at the San Francisco Fairmont Saturday, as she got ready for her wedding. The perfume bottles are antiques from the vintage era, the perfumes are of course Chanel #5, the jeweled hat was worn by one of the 4 flower girls, the brooch and earrings were Haidee's bridal accessories, and inside the black velvet case is an authentic Chanel hand mirror.
Many of these items were wedding gifts to Haidee, a token of the way family and friends embraced her desire to bring back the 20's, for her wedding day!

The wedding cake, besides having the Chanel emblem prominently displayed, was decorated to match 4 of the ornate picture frames Haidee used for table names...each frame had a different design, so BethAnn Goldberg, of Studio Cake, borrowed the frames for several days, so she could make icing molds to exactly match the borders on the frames..and speaking of vintage, the cake topper was the one used in Wilson's parent's wedding in the early 40's!

The ceremony took place in the lobby of the Merchants' Exchange building, which was designed by the world renowned Bay Area architect, Julia Morgan in the 1920's; the understated elegance, which Julia Morgan knew would be timeless, is as striking today as it was when it was first opened in 1924. Also thanks to Haidee, I am now much more knowledgeable about Julia Morgan, and her contribution to our architectural and cultural heritage...that woman was tiny, but really rocked her world!

Haidee chose shades of white, cream and silver, with accents of green, to continue the vintage feel of understated elegance, with elements of "bling" to add interest and "class".

Haidee made her own escort cards, as well as the fur covered boxes to display the escort cards; notice the names she chose for her tables...Paris, 1925; The Charleston, Gone with the Wind, Herbert Hoover... the bridesmaids sat at Coco Chanel, but Haidee and Wilson were at the Jazz Age, since Wilson is not as big a fan of Chanel as he is of good old Jazz!

Haidee brought feathers, bling, fur, and fluff into various aspects of the decor. Her candy buffet was decorated with the tulle and feather balls used to decorate the aisle during the ceremony...even the shapes of the candy containers are reminiscent of the old candy shops where children selected their penny candy at the counter, and put them in small bags to savor later. The guests at Haidee and Wilson's wedding reception filled their favor bags to the top, so that all the candy was gone by the end of the evening...whatever the theme at a wedding, candy is always appropriate!

I will really miss working with Haidee and Wilson, but it was a joy to see so many of their ideas become reality on their wedding day. I love the smile on Haidee's face as she thanked her guests for being a part of her dream come true...

I was able to be with Haidee throughout the wedding day; here I give her a hug before she goes to meet Wilson, and move forward with teh celebration we had been planning for so long. This is what makes my job more than a job!

Geoff and Lara White , Haidee and Wilson's photographers, will have amazing professional photos on their blog soon, so you can see the Silver Cloud Rolls Royce which brought Haidee to the front door of the Merchant's Exchange for her entrance into the wedding.
I was much too busy cuing the harpist, family members, and wedding party to get the ceremony started on time, to get a photo of Haidee's entrance, but it was extremely dramatic, not unlike the way movie stars entered their premiers in the Roaring Twenties in Hollywood!

Did I mention that I love my job!?

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Castello de Amorosa

Driving into the Napa Valley area always has reminded me of a trip to Italy, but after my recent visit to Castello di Amorosa, outside Calistoga, I am wondering if there isn't a secret passage into Italy when you drive through these gates.

Hidden from view of cars racing by on the St. Helena highway is this modern day recreation of a 10th century Italian Castle. When my friends and I were invited to drive up for a tour and wine tasting, we had no idea what awaited us!

Audrey Hardy, the new Director of Hospitality at Castello di Amorosa, provided us with a personalized tour, touching on all 8 levels (4 above ground, 4 below ground) of the castle; it is absolutely amazing to see the authentic detail, from the roof tiles taken from the remains of actual villas in Italy, to the hand painted frescoes in the Chapel and Banqueting Hall to the wine caves carved out below ground, just as they were in the Dark Ages!

This view could definitely be in Tuscany; the green rolling hills, the lovingly-tended grape vines, and the stone turrets to frame the entire panorama took me back to fond memories of San Gimiaghano, one of my favorite Italian towns.

Jenne Hohn, Jubilee Lau, and Morgan Doan, 3 of my closest friends from the early days of my Wedding Planning business, had a wonderful reunion during our day at Castello di Amorosa.

The Banqueting Hall is furnished with hand-made replicas of the massive tables and chairs found in castles from Italy in the 1200's, and decorated with frescoes, painted by 2 Italian brothers who came over from Italy just for this project.

This is one of the dozens of wine caves, built in a variety of sizes and configurations, where wine is stored, and intimate dinners can be hosted.

The Knights' Room, a larger below-ground option for events, replicates the area where the knights in the days of war between castles, would meet to don their armor, before heading out to battle.

After our extensive walk through the castle, Audrey treated us to a gourmet wine tasting, with 14 varietals, produced and bottled at Castello di Amorosa, as well as a chocolate pairing with their reserve Cabernet Savignon. Wow, what a day...after this, my little group took Audrey out to lunch in Calistoga, where we learned more about her new role as Hostess of a Castle!

I encourage you to make a visit to Castello di Amorosa; most of us can't afford a trip to Italy this year, but a drive up to Calistoga, could easily be with in the budget, and will provide the dose of Italian beauty and culture you may be missing...it did for me! Ciao!