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Monday, May 25, 2009

Tahoe dreaming, Ritz Carlton Style

Imagine staying in the luxury of a Ritz-Carlton Resort, high in the mountains above Lake Tahoe where you can walk out of the lodge for hiking in the summer and step right on to a ski lift in the winter! This is more than a dream, it is a reality in motion, and I was able to get a sneak peak recently when the staff from The Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe, hosted a "preview the property" party in San Francisco.

This is an aerial view of the RC Highlands, Tahoe; the opening will be in December, 2009.

Rolly Hepinstall, the Senior Catering Sales Manager, invited several wedding planners, and corporate leaders, from through out the San Francisco area, to meet the leadership team from the Ritz Carlton, Highlands, Lake Tahoe, over cocktails at the restaurant, Jardiniere. I had heard wonderful things about this well known French restaurant, and was excited to see the location, while learning about an exciting new property at Lake Tahoe.

I attended with Jubilee Lau and Janece Shelloe; always thinking about sites for rehearsal dinners, we quickly asked for a tour of the upstairs part of the Jardiniere where the private dinners can be hosted.

Traci Des Jardins, a chef/partner at Jardiniere will be partnering to open a signature restaurant at the new Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe property, so having the "launch" party at her SF location was perfect. If the food is anything like what we were served that night, guests won't want to eat anywhere else during their stay...yum!

The upstairs at Jardiniere, which can be used for private dinners, has an elegant yet chic feel...lots of warm light, interesting architecture, and an atmosphere that makes you want to linger over some great wine with someone special!

After our tour, Jubilee, Janece and I spent time getting to know Rolly, the catering manager, as well as Kathryn Kalabokes, a SF based wedding planner and her co-worker, Lisa.

Back: Rolly, Lisa and Kathryn; Front: Janece, Jubilee and me

Jubilee and I had fun imagining a mid-summer train trip to Tahoe, for a few days of R and R, as well as a hard-hat tour of the new Ritz-Carlton property...after all, we need to see the "before and after" perspective, don't we? Stay tuned for details.

One last shot before we left Jardiniere; we were all heading for the Knot party, at the SF Design Center, so we could introduce Rolly and his staff to more of the SF wedding community...this was only his second visit to our city, after moving out from Colorado, so he was eager to see everything! Rolly will be living in Tahoe, but for now, he is back and forth a lot, spreading the word about his Tahoe dream-come-true location!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Gina and Bryan

Gina and Bryan have maintained a long distance romance for the last 5 years, as they both completed medical school and began internships, on opposite sides of the country!
After this past Saturday's wedding, they will now finally be living in the same state, Maryland, and they will BOTH be working at the same hospital! This was a long awaited event, celebrating the beginning of their married life, and the end of a their years apart from each other!
Taylor Pham, owner of Thi Cosmetics, arrived at Gina's home at 7:15am, to begin hair and makeup for Gina, and her mother.

Gene Higa, our wonderful photographer, and his assistants arrived in time to take some great shots of the finishing touches by Taylor Pham, as well as a few shots of Gina in her garden. Immediately after this photo, Gene left for Stanford, and I whisked Gina out to the waiting limo, which drove her to the Stanford campus to meet Bryan near the Memorial Chapel. Justin and Georgina, of Weddings on Film, was also meeting at the Chapel, to capture footage of Gina and Bryan's first meeting.

This location meant a great deal to Gina and Bryan, because they had spent many hours there praying together, and individually, about their relationship, and where it would lead them... they wanted to be there at the beginning of the day, which was the answer to their prayers.

Meanwhile, up at Fogarty, my staff and I were working with the staff of Thomas John Events, and Susan Groves, In Full Bloom Florals, to prepare for the ceremony and reception, which would begin very soon after Gina, Bryan, Gene, Georgina and Justin arrived...did you notice how many "J/G" sounds we had for this wedding? It was crazy at times!

Beth Ann Goldberg, of Studio Cake, created this lovely cake for Gina, but the one she made as a surprise from Gina to Bryan, a University of Texas football fanatic, was totally amazing...I will save it for the end of my entry.

Before moving up to check on the ceremony set up, I looked in at the reception dinner as the caterers and Susan were completing the preparations. The decorative paper items, including the menus, programs, escort cards, and table numbers, were designed and produced by
Rachel Hanson; she did an excellent job, choosing colors which matched Susan Groves' floral designs perfectly.

The ceremony site was ready in plenty of time for the guests' arrival, but we didn't put out the flower petals until the very last minute...the temperature approached 95 during the day, so we were not putting anything in the sun until it was absolutely necessary...including the guests! Guests arriving on the shuttles from Palo Alto hotels, were welcomed with iced fruit drinks and water, and invited to wait in the shade until the ceremony was beginning.

Gerbera Daisies can last well in the sun, and looked fresh throughout the ceremony.

After the ceremony, the guests would be invited down to the deck, where we set up the escort cards under an umbrella, once again, avoiding that sun whenever possible!

I had no more time to take photos until cake cutting! As at every wedding, my assistants and I were in constant motion, assisting the bride, groom, wedding party, guests and vendors as needed, setting up the candy buffet, loading the bride and groom's Honeymoon luggage into their waiting limo, and of course, keeping the events of the day moving along as planned.

In the usual reception scenario, after Bryan and Gina shared the first piece of cake, toasted their guests, it would be time to return to dancing, but...

... as Gina was closing her thank you remarks to the guests, she referred to a surprise she had for her new husband, who is an intense Texas Longhorn's Football fan...and to the sound of the University of Texas fight song, out came BEVO, the longhorn mascot who travels with the football team wherever they play...well it was a cake in the shape of BEVO, resting on a re-creation of the AstroTurf rug he always travels with, but he was quite similar in a lot of ways!

What can I say...BEVO stole the show! The yard line marks are 05-16-09, the date of the wedding, Texas Longhorns adorn each end of the the AstroTurf, and nobody, least of all Bryan, was willing to make the first cut into BEVO's chocolate cake body. Bevo had to be taken to the kitchen, so Tom's staff could serve the cake, out of Bryan's view!

By the end of the evening, the weather had cooled off, and being outdoors was delightful...Woody Miraglia, the DJ, and I had all of the guests form a double line up the drive way to the the waiting limo, so Gina and Bryan could run through the cheers and waves of their friends, savoring the last moments of a thoroughly memorable and love-filled wedding day.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Hand-Picked "Practice Bouquet"

I love weddings in the Spring, when my rose garden is in full bloom, because then I can provide a live, hand picked "practice bouquet" for the bride at her rehearsal! This weekend I was able to surprise Gina with the bouquet below when she arrived for her rehearsal at Fogarty Winery.

The roses included: Climbing Eden (pink and white), Evelyn (yellowy/peach), and the wild looking Lyda Rose.

Since Gina's colors were various shades of pink, I created the bouquet incorporating many of the pink roses from my garden, and chose to wear pink for the rehearsal. It was a fun way to begin the wedding weekend we would spend together!

Meeting all of the people whose names I have been typing for months, is a fun part of any rehearsal. At Gina and Bryan's rehearsal, in addition to the 4 bridesmaids, 4 groomsmen, 4 flower girls, and 2 ring bearers, I also met the groom for the first time! Bryan has been hard at work in Maryland, completing his medical internship, so had not been out to California at all during the 9 months I have been working with Gina to plan their wedding!

My good friend Ellie Warner, the Event Manager at Fogarty, and I worked together to orchestrate this rehearsal...once the family members, bridesmaids, officiant, groom and groomsmen are in place, it was time to coach the 4 flowergirls. They were naturals, as are most little girls between the ages of 3 and 8!

The two ring bearers, on the other hand, took a bit more coaching...Ellie was their personal trainer!

They did a masterful job of pretending they had the ring pillows, and staying closely in step...but they almost went straight down the right side of the ceremony site, instead of turning slightly to enter the center aisle...Ellie was there, right on time, to redirect their enthusiastic walk to where the rings would need to be the next day!

I had a wonderful time with Gina, Bryan and all of their family and guests during the wedding day. I will share my photos in my next blog entry, which will have to do until Gene Higa's images, and Weddings on Film footage, are available!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

A personal touch!

As many couples are in the process of planning how to personalize their weddings for 2009/2010, I want to share some of the great ideas my clients and I were able to come up with for 2008 weddings...a good idea is always inspiring, especially when the results have proven to be very successful!

IDEA ONE: Wine corks can be used as escort card holders and...

...also as table name holders; all it takes is strong glue, a drafting knife to make slits, and some time at the end of the day to sip wine and prepare for the wedding day... lots of corks needed, so ask your friends to begin saving them now!

IDEA TWO: Have a painter begin an oil painting at the beginning of your wedding day, and complete it by the end...fascinating for the guests, and a work of art to be treasured for generations, beginning with the bride and groom, and their future family.

Fogarty Winery provided the perfect backdrop for Laura and Mike's wedding canvas...

As the day progressed, so did the painting! By the time the sun set, the painting was complete, and the guests were heading home...but the memories were captured, and the painting now resides in Mike and Laura's home.

IDEA THREE: Use unexpected items in your centerpieces, emphasizing texture, more than color.

Flowering kale and young bamboo...a refreshing combination!

IDEA FOUR: Name your tables in ways that are uniquely personal for you...Mike and Laura are both left handed, and firmly believe being left handed adds a dimension of creativity and intelligence unknown by those who are right handed...therefore, they named each table after a famous "Lefty Hero".

IDEA FIVE: Incorporate photos from your parents' wedding, and use photos of your engagement session to create, or have your photographer create, a unique guest book...maybe your children will display your guest book at their wedding!

IDEA SIX: Surprise the groom with a cake just for him...in this case, Mike loved the Boston Red Sox, so a groom's cake of Fenway Stadium was perfect...the caterer and I added the beer back drop....a nice touch, don't you think?
IDEA SEVEN: Rather than providing disposable cameras for your guests, provide CD's and mailers so the guests can share their best shots from their own digital cameras...these days, almost everyone at a wedding brings their their own camera, so Laura and Mike decided to try a new twist on seeing later what the guests saw on the wedding day!

Periodically during the summer, I will be sharing other great ideas, both from this year and last, to stimulate your creativity for personalizing your wedding!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Engagement season...time to play!

I was pleased to see samples of Andrew and Dianna's engagement session posted on Geoff and Lara White's blog recently...I am really looking forward to July 4th, when I will be working with this lovely and fun couple!


I hope these images encourage you to make time for an engagement photography session during the special months leading up to your wedding day...not only does it capture the romance between you, but it forces you to take a day off, just to play...a necessity which can easily be overlooked in the busy season of engagement and wedding planning.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Jenya and Jacob- dogs and chess!

Jacob and Jenya met walking their dogs, Marley and April, so it was natural for the two beloved pets to be a part of their wedding...

Marley carried Jenya's ring and April carried Jacob's...in pouches on their handmade floral collars, not in their mouths!

Being Russian, Jenya had a keen interest in chess, a game Jacob also enjoyed; when the two of them weren't walking their dogs, or working at their high tech Silicon Valley firms, they were playing chess...so, the reception dinner tables were named after chess pieces, the cake was a whimisical tribute to the game, and naturally, the colors were black and white!

Jenya totally enjoyed her day...having fun with her bridesmaids was almost equal to the excitement of marrying her beloved Jacob!...3 of her attendants were high school friends from Russia, and the 4th was her new sister in law, all very photogenic and quite silly when given a chance to play!

Black and white set the tone for Jenya's choices of linens, florals, favors, chiviari chairs, and of course, cake design!

Jenya's chair at the reception; note the chocolate chess piece on her bread plate..."borrowed" from the wedding cake as a sweet surprise when she was seated for dinner!

For Jenya, the fun of the wedding day began with an early morning hair styling appointment (..notice the veil already in place!) and "breakfast" of hearty hamburger and french fries with her bridesmaid, Natasha!

Jenya looking out at the ocean from the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay Conservatory, before she goes upstairs to put on her wedding gown.

A relaxed, and adorable bride, Jenya poses coyly for pre-ceremony photographs in the lawn area behind the RCHMB.

I will have more photos from Jenya and Jacob's wedding when their photographer, Michael Kitada, sends me his images; for now I wanted to share a few of my own memories.
Below is one of their favors, which I brought home and placed with some flowers from my garden, as another reminder of the dog lovers/chess players who will always remain a king and queen in my mind and heart!