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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.