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Friday, December 9, 2011

Traditions and Surprises!

East meets West, Tradition meets Surprises, US Air Force meets Chinese Culture...from beginning to end Nancy and Steve's wedding preparations and the celebration itself were a graceful mixture of diverse cultures, respectful formality, and plain old fun.

During a year of planning the Palo Alto destination wedding for Nancy, living in Nevada and Steve, based out of Virginia, I was always impressed with the priority they made to honor their respective cultures: as a Colonel in the US Air Force, Steve's love and enjoyment of military traditions went deep; and honoring the Chinese heritage passed on to Nancy through many generations was key to all of her wedding decisions. BUT, there was always a sense of humor and playfulness surrounding each idea and plan we considered. As you will see from the photos by Catherine Hall, the wedding celebration for Nancy and Steve was one of lovely contrasts, expressing eloquently the mixture of history-steeped formality and child-like joy, which exemplified Nancy and Steve's relationship.

The Ceremony:

Stanford Memorial Church is one of the most traditionally beautiful locations to be married in the Bay Area; with its cathedral-like arched ceilings, a museum worth of intricate mosaics and stained glass windows throughout, and the the sheer immensity of the proportions, the church is breathtaking.
Nancy and Steve's wedding ceremony reflected the beauty and elegance of the church by incorporating the traditional liturgy, music and of course the majestic sounds of Wagner's Wedding March (Here Comes the Bride) played triumphantly on the historic pipe organ built into the church over a hundred years ago.

When Nancy and Steve exit as man and wife, the formality of the traditions begins to change a bit....

At the door of the Chapel, with all the guests assembled outside, Steve introduces his new wife to his fellow Air Force officers, who are lined up for the formal Saber Ceremony.

Steve ushers his new bride through the swords which rise as the couple approach....

...except for the last 2 sabers, which remain down, successfully halting the exit of the bride and groom. It is formally understood by all the Air Force officers involved, that until there has been an "acceptable" kiss, the bride and groom will not be allowed to move on....it took a lot of tries,

..but finally Steve and Nancy won the approval of those last 2 officers, and the sabers were raised. I think Nancy was initiated into the Air Force family with the traditional swat on the rear as she passed the last sabers...but they were very subtle, so you will have to ask Nancy to know for sure!

For the first non-traditional event of the day, The (Infamous) Stanford Band surprised Steve, Nancy and their guests by running out onto the quad just as the couple passed through the last set of sabers....a definite switch of atmospheres...but all celebratory!

It seems that one member of Steve's Saber Ceremony team also plays trombone with the Stanford Band occasionally; he had the band cued for this seeming serendipitous arrival...the officer, seen in white above, put down his saber to pick up his trombone and join the Stanford band in celebrating Steve and Nancy!

The Reception:

After the excitement of the Stanford Band, it was time to move to the Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club in Menlo Park where Nancy and Steve would host their wedding guests for cocktails, dinner, dancing, cake and a dessert buffet.

The striking place setting for each guest honored the Chinese traditions of Nancy's family, and incorporated her colors of blue, lavender, red and white.

After cocktails and dinner, the dancing began with the traditional first dance for Nancy and Steve...under the "stars" as would befit an Air Force wedding.

...but Steve and one of his colleagues in the Air Force had been secretly practicing another dance to get the action started....

After the first dance no one expected the music to switch quite as drastically as it did for the surprise performance Steve had planned; here again, the element of fun and formality continues to permeate the day!

Needless to say, the dance floor was soon packed with family and guests who were requesting dance lessons from these agile Air Force officers...they rocked!

The cake cutting provided a break in the dancing; here again, there was a formal and fun element brought into the traditional bride/groom cake cutting; Steve and Nancy cut the cake with an Air Force saber.

As you can see, this technique is only possible if the bride and groom are quite a distance from the cake and have a good aim...in Nancy and Steve's case, Steve proved to be an expert in wielding a cake saber!

The last tradition to be honored during the wedding day was a formal Chinese Tea Ceremony, managed by one of Nancy's aunts, who brought in a family tea set so Nancy and Steve could honor the elders in their families.

In Chinese culture, the bride and groom traditionally honor their parents and elder relatives by serving them tea the day of the wedding. In turn, the family members bless the marriage with words of encouragement and quite often, generous gifts of jewelry or cash, to help establish the couple in their new life together. The bride wears a traditional dress, or jacket, such as the elaborate one Nancy put on for the ceremony.

Nancy serving tea to her new relatives from Steve's side of the family.

Immediately after the formal tea ceremony, it was time for the exit of the bride and groom; by including everyone in a sparkler send off, Steve and Nancy kept their guests smiling with surprise all the way to the end of the evening!

Thank you to all of my wonderful colleagues who worked alongside me in the months of planning and throughout the wedding day itself, to pull together all of the details and transitions in the background, so Nancy and Steve's Traditional/non Traditional wedding celebration came off flawlessly.

Stanford Memorial Church
Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club
Atelier Joya
Weddings on Film
Catherine Hall Studios
Sound in Motion DJ's
Lone Star Transportation
Clifford Style

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

DIY ideas from a Cozy Fall wedding

Michelle Walker's beautiful images from a recent Fall wedding I coordinated at Nestldown have been featured this week on DIY Bride.

Please enjoy all of the great ideas Emily and Michal brought into their wedding celebration...smores; "make your own hot chocolate" cones; 4 flavors of pie instead of cake; handmade solid wood pie stands; handmade escort "flowers" in a alflafa grass "garden"; candies representing each of their family backgrounds...the creativity was evident everywhere; along with my staff I was able to support Emily and Michal not only in assuring the smooth running of the entire wedding day, but also in the setting up of their many ideas, so they could relax and enjoy their wedding day with family and friends.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Wedding Gown Detail...a second look!

When you are in love with the details on your wedding dress, why not allow those details to be enjoyed at other times during your wedding day?  Grace, one of my Fall brides, chose to copy the amazing flower design from her gown into the decorations for her wedding cake...

and in her hair, for a touch of interest when her veil came off after the ceremony.

Photographer:  Lisa Lefkowitz
Cake Designer:  Rachael Myers, Sweet Tooth Confections
Venue:  Menlo Circus Club
Florist:  Hunt Littlefield.

In the upcoming blog posts,  I will be sharing creative ideas from several of my 2011 weddings...I have learned so much as I worked alongside my wonderful brides and grooms this year, that I can't wait to share them with my readers!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Nancy and Steve's Summer 2011 wedding celebration!

Please enjoy with me the wonderful images by Catherine Hall from Nancy and Steve's wedding day at the Stanford Chapel and
Sharon Heights Golf and Country Club  by clicking the link below:
  Nancy & Steven

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Candy and cocktails, 32nd floor!

I have seen many types of candy buffets in the last few years since the fun favor display became popular; but Shasta and Anthony broke all records for the number of candies provided to their guests at their Westin St. Francis wedding reception last month.

Thirty six jars of different candies were displayed on the Imperial Floor of the Westin St. Francis as guests entered Alexandra's for dinner.  The candy was provided by Shasta's father who is in the food industry, and the display was created by Grant Rector, who was our florist/designer for the wedding.  This was one of the sweetest parts of his set up, according to Grant!  The guests  had a hard time waiting until after dinner to begin filling their "take home" containers with the bounty.

 View from Alexander's on the 32nd floor (Imperial Floor) at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco where Shasta and Anthony's guests enjoyed cocktails, before they saw the candy buffet, with background music by Anthony's grandfather at the grand piano.
Anthony's grandfather, relaxed and confident, provided beautiful background cocktail music for Anthony and Shasta's wedding guests in Victor's on the 32nd Imperial Floor at the Westin St. Francis.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


A rainbow greeted us as we reached the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe; the ski lift between the hotel and North Star Ski Resort is seen in the foreground.

Recently I was welcomed into the beauty and luxury of the brand new Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe for two incredible days and nights. Several Bay Area wedding planners were invited to experience first-hand this "Mountain Top" wedding venue so we can confidently recommend it to couples who are looking for a truly unique wedding venue. The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe has been open for little over a year, and is as yet undiscovered by many people. First time visitors arriving to attend a wedding here are immediately in awe of the massive wood and rock structure, and surprised by the personal and cozy atmosphere permeating entire Lodge like interior.

As a part of helping us understand what a wedding ceremony and reception would be like at the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, the event staff created a wedding rehearsal dinner, as well as an entire wedding reception for us to experience, with cocktails, 5 course dinner and a dessert bar, just as it could be for one of our clients.

First was the Fall themed Cocktail Reception, with design and decor by Sara Spurlock of Bellissima Floral Creations in the Tahoe area
Enjoying a glass of wine in the ballroom pre-function space with from left, Kelly Dolata, her assistant Tracey, Jubilee Lau, me, Michelle Barrionueva-Mazzini, Andrea Daly, Director of Catering Sales for the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe, and Janece Shellooe.

Dinner was presented in the Ballroom amidst a Winter Wonderland theme with sparkling crystal table runners, hundreds of candles, linens and florals in shades silver, light blue and ivory.

The food was all as elegantly presented and incredibly flavorful as this second course Seared Sea Scallops with fresh corn and micro greens.

The last treat of the evening was to have been presented outside, but due to the chance of rain for that evening, the dessert buffet was moved inside. We were all happy to enjoy this delicious display wherever it was; many of us took our coffee and treats out to the fire pit to relax and enjoy the full moon over the mountains...happily the rain did not materialize.

The chef created a wedding cake for the evening so we could see the intircacies of his cake design including the hand made candy flowers.

One especially welcome treat for tired wedding planners was an afternoon in the Ritz-Carlton Spa Lake Tahoe; before our treatments, the Spa Director gave us a tour of the entire facility which is one of the most extensive spa facilities in any of the Ritz-Carlton properties. This couple's massage/hot tub area was particularly inviting, reminding me of the couples I work with in planning their weddings whom I would love to have enjoy relaxing in this ideal location.

On the last day of our visit, the Ritz-Carlton Catering team provided shuttles to drive us down to Lake Tahoe to tour a very exclusive venue, Thunderbird Lodge, where many couples choose to have their wedding ceremony and cocktails, followed by their dinner/dancing reception at the Ritz-Carlton.

Thunderbird Lodge was built by George Whittell and named after his famous yacht, The Thunderbird.

Kelly, Jubilee, Andrea, myself and Elisheva Basseri enjoying the beauty of Lake Tahoe from the lawn at Thunderbird Lodge just before we left to return to our work in the Bay Area.

I hope that each of you are able to enjoy the newest treasure to be discovered in the Lake Tahoe area; for snow boarding and skiing, hiking, mountain biking and summer sports of all kinds, the location is perfect; but as far as as a wedding planner is concerned, the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe is the perfect spot for an elegant mountain wedding celebration! I hope to introduce some engaged couples to the possibility of a Mountain Top wedding in 2012 and beyond!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Why to Consider Wedding Videography

I often encourage couples to hire a wedding videographer because the images that are captured during the wedding day on film, when combined with the work of an excellent photographer, can tell a complete story of your day.

I recently met with Grace and Henry, who were married early this Fall, to review their wedding day, ask for evaluation of my service, and find out if they have advice for couples planning their wedding...without hesitation, the lesson they wanted to share is: Don't rule out having a wedding videogapher!

Henry and Grace were not enthusiastic about hiring a videographer during the wedding planning process, but because many relatives in Taiwan would not be able to come to the wedding, the family wanted a video to share with them. Henry and Grace chose to work with Weddings on Film, and their sister company, Basico.

Now after seeing this short video, Menlo Circus Club, Grace and Henry-the video , Grace and Henry are incredibly grateful to have hired Weddings on Film to capture their memories in video format.

As Grace said, "I could not believe how quickly the day goes by; watching this short video is like reliving the day, but seeing what was happening from all different angles; the video is a treasure we would not want to have missed."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

 I am excited to share James Burkart's creative film teaser of Tom and Angie's wedding day....enjoy the loving and unique phenomenon of "Tomgie"!

Tom and Angie, by James Burkart

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Grace, Henry, and their Great Team!

Grace and Henry's wedding this weekend at Menlo Circus Club demonstrated the beauty of teamwork; Grace and her family spent many weeks and months creating and gathering elements which would intimately personalize the wedding celebration for them.

The vendors Grace and Henry selected became a dynamically supportive team to carry out professionally and passionately the plans and details Grace, Henry and their families had lovingly put together.  The wedding celebration day was full of warmth, laughter, beauty, and flawless execution, which would only be possible with a well-organized and enthusiastic team.

From the customized cake topper designed ordered by Grace from an Etsy artist to include details such as Grace's wedding hair style, Henry's  distinctive glasses and their new, puppy...

...to the escort cards (hand written and stamped by Grace's mother)  presented on a display board customized in Grace's colors by Hunt Littlefield,

...to  Grace's mother's hand-written labels for wedding cake/dessert buffet...

...to the one-of-a-kind "memory tree"  drawn and produced by Grace's mother,
 Guests loved the opportunity to leave their fingerprints as leaves on the tree to create a fun reminder for Grace and Henry of everyone who was a part of their wedding day.

...the details in Grace and Henry's wedding represented many levels of family love and creativity, especially that of her mother Nancy.

The team of vendors and venue staff who worked together to prepare for the wedding day, as well as to be available from beginning to end of the day itself was one of the best I have had the pleasure of working with during my wedding planning career. 

 The pre ceremony photo team included Lisa, her assistant fluffing the train, and my valuable assistant for the day, Tony White.
Pre ceremony photos were taken at Gamble Garden in Palo Alto by our wonderful photographer Lisa Lefkowitz.  Hair/Makeup Artist Maria Chang went from the Four Seasons Silicon Valley where she started the day with Grace, to Gamble Garden for these photos and then on to the Circus Club where she remained until Grace and Henry were introduced into dinner; Maria made herself available to keep Grace looking lovely and feeling truly pampered.  It was fantastic!

Lisa Lefkowitz capturing the golden moments at sunset time...with results below!

The Menlo Circus Club is a gorgeous venue for any celebration, but it is particularly perfect for weddings with its cozy ceremony site nestled under a sheltering oak tree and  surrounded by well manicured polo fields,
...and the Polo Patio beside the polo field for post-ceremony cocktails and after-dinner relaxation. 

Working with Barbara Brooks and her top-notch catering staff at Menlo Circus Club made each step of the wedding planning and wedding day itself truly a pleasure.

I want to thank the team of wedding professionals who were alongside me during Grace's wedding day and in all the months leading up to that day, for their commitment to impeccable service and attention to details, including each lovingly crafted family creation.

VENUE/CATERER:  Menlo Circus Club
FLORIST:  Hunt Littlefield
PHOTOGRAPHER:  Lisa Lefkowitz
DJ/LIGHTING/PHOTOBOOTH:  Denon and Doyle, Solomon Dauber
HAIR/MAKEUP:  Maria Chang
HOTEL:  Four Seasons, Silicon Valley
CAKE/DESSERT DISPLAY:  Sweet Tooth Confections
JMW TEAM MEMBERS:  Tony White, Yvonne Fox

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tory and Zander, the Celebration!

What a joy to have been a part of Tory and Zander's wedding celebration on July 30th; it was a celebration of their love for each other as well as their love for their children. Kathryn Roethel wrote a wonderful article for the SF Chronicle which you can read by clicking the link below.

Tory and Zander
July 2011
Featured in the San Francisco Chronicle's Union Squared Series
"Carnival-theme wedding celebrates love of family"

For more information about this child-centered wedding, please read my previous blog post.

Another Huge Thank You to:

Nicole Sillapere, Sillapere Eco Events
Anne Millet, Mira Aster Stationers
Jon and Natalia, Got-Light
Natasha Miller, Entire Productions
Neil Adams, Blueprint Studios
Mike Whittle, Corporate Kids
Ethan Mantle, Componere Fine Catering
Alex Subrizi Photography
BethAnn Goldberg, Studio Cake
Paul Scheffert, SF Event Music
Kendall Peterson, Pure Luxury Transportation
George Rose, Elegant Journey Limousines
Eileen, Ritual Coffee Roasters
Armando Sarabia, Get Your Do Up
Miss Ember, Happily Ever Laughter
Daniel Swan, The Cheeseballs Band
Todd Outhouse, Rosewood Sand Hill
Terri and Dianne, Kohl Mansion

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Child-Centered Wedding Weekend

What could be better than having your face painted, then joining your friends/cousins for a buffet dinner of chicken tenders, mac and cheese, and strawberries?

Planning a summer wedding with the guest list made up of 70 children and 150 adults was a wonderful challenge for me this year! At the beginning of our brainstorming, the bride and groom let me know that each part of the wedding weekend was to be as Kid-Focused as possible, tailoring activities, foods, and decor to welcome and incorporate the children on every level. They wanted to do so in a way that allowed the adults to fully enjoy their time together celebrating with the bride and groom, knowing that not only were their children well taken care of, but they were having the time of their lives! I think we succeeded!

The weekend began with a Friday Welcome Barbecue, with entertainment, decor and food selected with kids in mind.

The welcome dinner on the lawn at Rosewood Sand Hill featured a Margarita bar for the adults, and a Mocktail bar for the kids. Featuring a menu of 8 hand-mixed specialty drinks using Monin syrups, sparkling water and fruit juices, each drink was named after the bride, groom, or one of their 3 children, who were of course in the wedding party! I must say, the candy display which was a part of the mocktail bar was frequented by many adults as well as children!

Soon after the guests arrived, our juggler/magician Thomas John, began moving among the children providing entertainment and humor to groups of 2 or 3 at a time. Just before dinner, we invited the children (and adults) to gather on the lawn for a juggling show, with group participation and lots of giggles to work up a healthy appetite!

The cozy day bed/couch served as a group seating area for the kids as they enjoyed their mocktails, candy, sliders, and barbecued ribs...

The same day bed/couch provided a cozy nap location after dinner when the parents were still enjoying their conversations, but the kids were ready to snooze after a long day.

After such a great welcome dinner, all the kids and parents were even more excited to see what was in store the next day at the wedding reception; we know they were not disappointed, because the fun never stopped!

When the children arrived after the wedding ceremony, and signed into their activities, they were greeted with a special kids-only buffet set up on the veranda at Kohl Mansion...

...as well as relay races, face painting, caricature drawing, parachute games, and even stilt walkers on the lawn to help get the wiggles out; after riding the shuttle from Rosewood Sand Hill to the wedding ceremony at Stanford, and then up to the reception at Kohl Mansion, it was time to MOVE!

After dinner, when the adults went into their elegant tent for dinner, the kids were invited into a Kids-Only Carnival area which included tossing rings on coke bottles for points and beating the Strong Man challenge by hitting the hammer on the base and ringing the bell at the top, eating unlimited popcorn, and claiming prizes when the right number of tickets were accumulated at the game booths.

The prize booth being stocked before the carnival games began!

As the afternoon/evening progressed, the action moved inside to another Kid-Only area for dessert (a cupcake display that highlighted flavors exactly the same as those in the huge wedding cake), story telling and and a magic show by costumed fairies, craft activities, quiet board games, and mats to relax and talk to friends about the excitement of the day.

When the band started in the Great Hall adjoining the kid's room, and the dancing began for the adults, many of the kids jumped into the action with their parents and danced the night away. However, several of the younger children were happy to curl up with a blanket in the lap of one of the child care workers, to just read stories and recoup after a very busy weekend!

There is much more to tell about this amazing wedding; I will be doing other blog posts, and the wedding will be written up in the San Francisco Chronicle soon; but one of the most unique aspects of the wedding planning and execution was providing responsible care and truly unique activities for the large number of children involved. I learned a huge amount in the year long planning process and feel privileged to have been trusted with this project.

It was the vision of my wonderful bride and groom, who desired to make this wedding weekend as much of a treasured a memory for their 3 children as it was for them; their vision gave me and my team the energy and creativity to think like children again! It was magical!

Thank you to:
Nicole Sillapere, Sillapere Eco Events
Anne Millet, Mira Aster Stationers
Jon and Natalia, Got-Light
Natasha Miller, Entire Productions
Neil Adams, Blueprint Studios
Mike Whittle, Corporate Kids
Ethan Mantle, Componere Fine Catering
Alex Subrizi Photography
BethAnn Goldberg, Studio Cake
Paul Scheffert, SF Event Music
Kendall Peterson, Pure Luxury Transportation
George Rose, Elegant Journey Limousines
Eileen, Ritual Coffee Roasters
Armando Sarabia, Get Your Do Up
Miss Ember, Happily Ever Laughter
Daniel Swan, The Cheeseballs Band
Todd Outhouse, Rosewood Sand Hill
Terri and Dianne, Kohl Mansion

Also, many many thanks to my invaluable Day-Of Wedding Team,
Tony White, Christine Brady, and Anjali Nagib