Timeless Elegance and Luxury: A Stylized Wedding Shoot at the Westin St. Francis

Both my friend, photographer Shhivika Chauhan, and myself cannot sit still. Ever. We both always have ideas… so during the short “lull” in wedding season – between December and January – Shhivika suggested we do a Styled Shoot together – A Day Like No Otherand Shhivika Chauhan. Theme: timeless high elegance and City lights at dusk. Great! I love high elegance. I love the City. And I love the Westin St. Francis. We were so lucky that Catering Director Lauren Schardt invited us to the gorgeous Alexandra’s Ballroom on the Imperial (32nd) Floor high above the lights of the City. So I set out planning and designing… And here is the result  (published today on The Black Tie Bride blog). Hope you love it!

Let’s start with a dress fit for a princess…

dress in window

bride back train

… and a bouquet to match…

bride and bouquet

… as well as an Art Deco diamond and platinum bracelet and a South Sea pearl necklace.

pearls in glass

ring on plate

Custom-made wedding bands…


… and timelessly elegant, luxurious invitations.


A stunning altar piece with matching aisle decor …

altar piece

aisle decor

.. and a gilded harp to serenade the couple.



China, flatware, glassware and linens were chosen to complement the blues and golds in the ballroom decor…

place setting and carpet

… and a glorious, towering centerpiece of orchids, roses and hydrangeas anchored the look of the sweetheart table.

swtht tble


ctrpc detail

Elegant bride and dapper groom:

bride portrait

groom portrait

And here – comes the bride!

here comes the bride

here comes the bride 2

first kiss

Just married!!

petal shower

After that, it was time for THE CAKE! For that, the bride changed into a more modern, yet equally stunning dress, complemented by an antique brooch worn as a hairpiece:

haute couture

WestinStFrancis_StyledShoot_SHHIVIKACHAUHANPHOTOGRAPHY95For me,  the dessert table was sheer designer bliss and fun…

dessert tbl



cake pops

tete a tete

Thanks to all who collaborated with us and made it happen!

Model Couple: HM Model Agency  | Hair And Make-UpNicole Perez | Wedding Props: Everything But The Wedding Dress |  Calligraphy: Sarah Hanna | Custom Diamond Wedding Rings: VAS BIJOUX | Fine Estate Jewelry: Gleim Jewelers | Dessert: A Spoonful Of Sugar | Cake Pops: Sweet Lauren Cakes | Event Design Rentals: Stuart Rental | Bridal Gown: Novella Bridal SF | Groom’s Attire: Selix Formalwear | Invitations: Bella Figura | Floral Designer: Janelle Jacky | Live Harp Music: Anna Maria Mendieta | Venue: Alexandra Ballroom, Westin St. Francis, San Francisco | Event Planning & Design: A Day Like No Other – Jutta Lammerts |  Videographer: Ewa Samples | Photographer: Shhivika Chauhan




The Art of Lighting – WIPA at the Omni SF

In my capacity as the Regional Director of Events for Wedding Industry Professionals Association (WIPA), it is my honor and my pleasure to create four festive events per year. After all, my business, A Day Like No Other, is all about wedding and event planning and design! Our meetings are always elegant luncheons with a speaker presentation, beautiful decor and a “WOW!” factor for our members and not-yet-members alike. And this time, we had more than just one WOW factor!

But I am definitely getting ahead of myself. This time, on May 12, it was the venerable Omni Hotel in San Francisco’s Financial District, that played host to our meeting.

Omni Hotel small size

Originally built as a bank, it exudes the grandeur of a bygone era with a grand lobby, rich textiles, gilded crystal chandeliers… and a newly renovated ballroom. This ballroom actually became the “playground” for our speaker, Kim Martin of Impact Lighting – a live lab of lighting options.

The festivities began with registration…

17650162352_589372c749_k… and Cocktail Hour …


… and that’s where the “WOW!” surprises for our guests started. Our photographer, Loic Nicolas of Loic Nicolas Photography (who also provided the whole photo coverage, thanks to the help of Colson Griffith Photography) had brought a demonstration of his new 3D wedding photography technology…


… and obviously, guests are STUNNED by the possibilities!


As you see – WIPA events are always a lot of fun!

But, as promised, that was just the beginning. In accordance with the elegant new “Great Gatsby” style decor of the Omni’s function rooms, Magnolia Jazz provided music fitting to Great Gatsby times:


And if that hadn’t already been enough to transport guests into celebration mode, the strolling “Champagne Skirt” by CatalystArts definitely did exactly that:


Mimosas, anyone?!


Then it was time to sit down for lunch…


… at tables decked out in elegant blue-and-gold linens by Classic Party Rentals and centerpieces by Ha Rue Designs (who provided all other floral decor as well) …





… and the speaker presentation. Lighting designer Kim Martin…

17652656895_7dbc4ed875_k… relied on the power of “Show, not tell” and transformed the Omni ballroom by ever-changing lighting combinations:





That does deserve the title “WOW!”, right?! And Spencer Sarson Visuals videotaped it all so all WIPA members can watch this fabulous presentation again.

After lunch, the party was far from over, because – given that we are here all “wedding people” – one highlight was still to come: THE CAKE! And here is that piece of edible art by Maralyn Tabatsky of Have Your Cake:


Oh-so-beautiful outside, and oh-so-yummy inside:



And did people have a good time? Have a look yourself:





I’d say YES! Hoping to see you at our next event: September 1st, at the Argonaut Hotel San Francisco!


Work hard – Play hard at “Bespoke!”

The SF Bay Area and especially Silicon Valley are famous for their “Work hard/play hard” attitude – and we all got the perfect venue for that lifestyle delivered to our doorstep!

My friend Fernando Ciurlizza of La Bonne Cuisine got me one of the coveted invitations to opening night at Bespoke (Mille merci, Fernando!) and there I was, in the middle of ONE. IMPRESSIVE. SPACE. But I am definitely getting ahead of myself… a few more explanations!

Bespoke is an entirely new concept, bringing together cutting-edge, high-tech work space for 250 and (equally high-tech) party space for up to 1200 (!!) in a super-central, convenient location: the upscale Westfield Shopping Mall in the heart of San Francisco:

Mall entrance

Easy to reach, and – while unexpected as a location – just so convenient to shops…

cupola 2

Bespoke occupies a good part of the 4th floor, alongside a collection of restaurants, right under the impressive cupola.

entrance 2Work spaces at Bespoke offer each and every technical highlight one might require…

workspacefrom single work stations to small conference rooms – and the design is impeccable. To me, that makes working a lot more enjoyable!

Speaking of which – here’s the party space, tricked out with all the bells and whistles of A/V, lighting and data connectivity:

catwalk chairs

catwalkFashion show, anyone? Projection? Conference setup? Or rather dining?

dining table



And after dining – the party’s kicking loose for good! Look at these light effects…

blue tiles

green digitalIsn’t that fun? Throw in some music… and people will refuse to leave. I guarantee it!

While I assume that Bespoke will be the biggest hit with the “hi-tech crowd,” I can well imagine a “techie” couple throwing a wild dance party here for their nuptials… the design and entertainment possibilities are pretty endless at Bespoke!

Whirlwind Planning for a Beautiful Wedding: Catherine and Jithun

Last December, Catherine and Jithun enlisted my company, A Day Like No Other, to help them plan their wedding in August of this year, complete with traditional elements from Jithun’s native India – a Sangeet (dance party) a day before, for example… and of course a big Western style wedding. The even bigger Indian wedding would then follow shortly after, organized and hosted by the groom’s family in India. We were already right in the middle of all this planning … when the unexpected happened. A serious illness in the family forced Catherine and Jithun to move their wedding date up: to the following Sunday! Suddenly, we did not have another four months for planning, but a mere four DAYS.

Definitely a challenge! And definitely time to call in favors within my network of fantastic vendors – many of whom have become my friends over the years. I started making phone calls, and what happened was nothing short of a little miracle- everyone was immediately on board, and everyone agreed: we will make sure that these two wonderful young people will get more than an “emergency affair.” No, we would give them a joyful, memorable wedding celebration with all the bells and whistles we’d be able to muster!

First order of the day: find a new venue! On our first day of emergency planning, I received three offers, and Catherine chose the elegant Casa Madrona Hotel in Sausalito …

IMG_20150412_143440~2… just across the Golden Gate Bridge …

IMG_20150412_142412~2… and overlooking the San Francisco Bay and the Sausalito Yacht Harbor:


Catering would be provided by Poggio Trattoria next door – they cater all of Casa Madrona’s special events, and their food is simply stellar.

Catherine’s childhood Rabbi made himself available for an evening wedding ceremony, and florist Deidre Rastelli of Tutti Fiori provided a beautiful antique chuppah which she decorated over and over with the flowers of the bride’s choice.

IMG_20150412_175013~2And of course she made a bridal bouquet exactly as Catherine had envisioned it, in a saturated maroon color (her second accent color, together with an aquamarine blue). And boutonnieres. And bridesmaids’ bouquets. And centerpieces. Everything!

Jira of Wowpretty Salon sent two senior stylists…

Preview_CatherineJithun_Sausalito Wedding_SHHIVIKACHAUHANPHOTOGRAPHY Page 3

Preview_CatherineJithun_Sausalito Wedding_SHHIVIKACHAUHANPHOTOGRAPHY Page 1

and a wedding dress (the original one won’t get ready until May…) and pretty sandals were rush-ordered; the bride would wear her own stunning aquamarine jewelry…  here we go! Catherine, more beautiful and radiant than ever…

Preview_CatherineJithun_Sausalito Wedding_SHHIVIKACHAUHANPHOTOGRAPHY Page 6


And what a dapper groom she has!

Preview_CatherineJithun_Sausalito Wedding_SHHIVIKACHAUHANPHOTOGRAPHY Page 5My assistant Kelsey jumped in at the last minute and accompanied bride and groom and their families and guests throughout the day, from setup and hair/makeup session to ceremony, dinner and dancing – and provided our first photos of the day, until we get all the “real” ones from our photographer, Shhivika Chauhan. (We got a few from her already as a little preview – you see how fantastic they are!). Shhivika was already booked by another couple until early afternoon of that same day, but for her there was no question whatsoever: she headed over directly from her morning job to shoot Catherine’s wedding!

The Casa Madrona staff under the guidance of catering manager Stacey Turner did a beautiful job setting up the ceremony with a view of the yacht harbor, with the chuppah outside and the guest seating sheltered, inside.

Preview_CatherineJithun_Sausalito Wedding_SHHIVIKACHAUHANPHOTOGRAPHY Page 4Cellist Suellen Primost gathered her Espiritu Ensemble for elegant ceremony music, and then the great moment had come…

Preview_CatherineJithun_Sausalito Wedding_SHHIVIKACHAUHANPHOTOGRAPHY Page 7

Thomas Hughes Films live-streamed the ceremony for all those who hadn’t been able to attend at such short notice (and of course, they covered the festivities following the ceremony as well…)

Just married!

Preview_CatherineJithun_Sausalito Wedding_SHHIVIKACHAUHANPHOTOGRAPHY Page 8

Aren’t they a handsome couple?!

Cocktails were served on the adjacent patio, with guests watching the golden light of the sunset.



Meanwhile, my assistant Kelsey, catering manager Stacey and her team set up the dining room…

Preview_CatherineJithun_Sausalito Wedding_SHHIVIKACHAUHANPHOTOGRAPHY Page 9

complete with Catherine’s dream cake by Cake Coquette and favor boxes with French macarons from Chantal Guillon, all in her favorite wedding colors!

flipped and 2right

DJ Paul Burchfield of BigFunDJs got his equipment ready first for soft background music during dinner and then exuberant dance music, ranging from Frank Sinatra to Bollywood hits (yes!) and, of course, the Hora Dance:

Preview_CatherineJithun_Sausalito Wedding_SHHIVIKACHAUHANPHOTOGRAPHY Page 10It was a magical night…

IMG_20150412_202352~2Thank you to all who made it possible, and congratulations and many happy years together to Catherine and Jithun!


A Midsummernight’s Dream for Katherine and David

When Katherine and David, then just engaged …


… chose my company, A Day Like No Other, for their wedding coordination and design more than a year back, Katherine’s guideline was, “a Midsummernight’s Dream celebration.”

I loved that idea! Just a few stumbling blocks on the way… among others, that the wedding wouldn’t happen in summer, rather – in late spring. And that the venue needed to hold 200 guests, the original number envisioned by the couple. And that their first choice venue didn’t work out. So… I had a chance to jump into action right away! I happened to know a venue that was quite similar in ambiance, just a little further away, but in a geographic area with a very stable, warm climate, as our guarantee for the “midsummer” weather: Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley! This romantic, beautiful property amid rolling hills and vineyards was love at first sight for Katherine and David.


stone terrace 2

ceremony lawn

Once that was in place, the hard work started in earnest. First off: choose catering! The two wanted a relaxed dinner with food stations, “honest, yummy food” and free seating, and they found Paradise Catering, providing them with a BBQ station, salad station, and grilled cheese and tomato soup station (my total favorite!!), delicious hors d’oeuvres and a full bar, of course. The seating – wooden benches and coffee tables along with traditional dining tables – came from Chic Event Rentals (as did the professional lighting). diningWedding cakes and cookies on a beautifully decorated buffet were provided by Nga.Che (nga.n.che@gmail.com).


Speaking of decor… here we tapped into the couple’s shared profession! They are both pharmacists, so table decor consisted of a variety of apothecary jars serving as terrariums as well as antique medicine bottles…

dining tbl… and for wedding favors, guests received miniature mortars and pestles, the tools of the pharmaceutical trade!

favorsKatherine chose stylist/florist Natasha Kolenko for her flowers to complement the lush greenery and blooming rose hedges on property and to evoke a feminine, romantic feel in muted colors of apricot, silvery green, and ivory.

Bridal bouquet

swtht tbl

And here is our bride, in full hair and make-up by Hanh Nguyen of Beauteme (beauteme@gmail.com)…

bride… and a dramatic dream wedding dress by Galia Lahav. Time to meet her groom: First Look!

first look

Guests were meanwhile arriving at the ceremony lawn, welcomed by a refreshment station, guestbook and gift table.

gift tbl

guest bk tble

Finally the great moment had come: the bride was escorted to the ceremony by both her parents.

to the altarAfter their “I Do’s,” the couple went off for photos with acclaimed photographer Clane Gessel and videographer Doug Davis (DPWeddings) who captured the whole day from start to finish. Just wait until you see their photos and video!!

Guests  meanwhile enjoyed cocktails under a beautiful arbor and lawn games…

cocktl hr

cocktail tbl

… music by DJ Darion Bonnet and entertainment at the Photo Booth with Nick Napoli (both: DNA Entertainment). Meanwhile all the little ones (a lot of them!) had fun in the game room playing and doing craft projects with babysitter Rachelle Parrs (chellepea@gmail.com).

With dusk and then night falling, the atmosphere turned downright magical, and after dinner everyone was in the mood for dancing in the historic Carriage House! They were directed there by the signage I had designed in exactly the same style as the wedding invitations…


First, of course, went our couple:

First Dance

… opening the dance floor to everyone. The rest of the evening went by way too fast with dancing, cake cutting…

Cake cutting

… bouquet and garter tosses, a Grand Exit with glow sticks and a decorated getaway car … “a true whirlwind,” as Katherine put it. Exactly the “Midsummernight’s Dream” she had wished for!

lights 2

Many happy years together, Katherine and David, and our best wishes on your way!


Spring Awakening at the Bently Reserve

One of the most prestigious San Francisco event venues, the venerable Bently Reserve, and the go-to event entertainment company in SF – Entire Productions –  had both something to celebrate (their new look!), and they joined forces and did it together… beautifully so, as was to be expected!



Yesterday night, their “Spring Awakening” party drew a prestigious crowd, a true “Who’s Who” of the top Bay Area event professionals. (Wasn’t I lucky to be invited?!). Just in the first hour I met hostess Natasha Miller of Entire Productions, who had brought a whole army of her entertainers –

IMG_3331starting with a violinist on the mezzanine, looking down on the Great Room…

IMG_3330… where the “415s” kept the crowd going.

Who else was there? My friends and fellow wedding planners Duncan Reyes of Events by Design, Fred Sullivan and Jaime Botello of Sullivan & Botello Events; caterers John Silva of Culinary Eye and Fernando Ciurlizza of La Bonne Cuisine, while Ranjan Dey’s New Delhi Restaurant was busy serving delicious paneer bites, as were Janet Weisberg of  Ladies Who Lunch and 49Square:

IMG_3336To wash it all down, guests could help themselves to a glass of champagne from the strolling “Champagne Skirt”, again provided by Entire Productions:

IMG_3332Guests might go on watching the stunning contortionist performance courtesy of Entire Productions…

IMG_3338… from a comfortable lounge area provided by Blueprint Studios and decorated with floral arrangements from Michael Daigian Design and Amy Burke Designs:

IMG_3333Susan Sheinkopf’s Party Staff made sure all guests were perfectly taken care of, and I and all my other friends that I met – catering managers Mariell Rahmani of the Fairmont SF, Chrissy Wolfman of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, Helen Wu of the Presidio Trust; photographers Misti Layne and Clane Gessel, florist Pat Gibbons and videographer extraordinaire Thomas Hughes – we helped ourselves to all the delicacies including yummy mini cupcakes from The Whole Cake.

IMG_3337Photographer Colson Griffith and cameraman Patrick Sedillo captured it all, while wedding media queen Cristine Thomas of Today’s Bride certainly found a lot of news and eye candy to report on! And what’s so great about events like this – not only do they give us the pleasure of coming together with our longtime friends and colleagues outside of our work environment, not only are we being pampered to no end (as described!) – every time I  make new discoveries! There is always a business I haven’t worked with yet at my wedding events but that’s so fantastic it immediately lands on my “radar,” and, of course, new contacts and friends. Last night, for example, I was introduced to Bailey Nakano of the Regency Center, and we immediately hatched a plan to do an event there together. Such is the vibrancy of the SF Bay Area wedding pro’s community! I love it…. Thanks again, Natasha, for having us all, and for having me last night!


Casa Madrona – a Hidden Gem in Sausalito

If you are familiar with the San Francisco Bay Area, the name Sausalito will definitely ring a bell – former fishing village turned chic residential and shopping district just across the Golden Gate Bridge, with killer views of the City, Mediterranean flair, yacht harbor, millionaire villas. Right? And its most revered historic hotel is the Casa Madrona. Situated just across from the yacht harbor, it started out as a mansion built into the steep hillside 125 years ago, by and by added on with adjacent buildings, likewise climbing up four, five stories on the hill.


What’s new? A lot! I personally have known “the Casa” for a long time, but today I literally met her again for the first time. General Manager Sietse Nabben and Senior Sales Manager Stacey Turner-Bruckert had invited the leading wedding industry professionals of the Bay Area to a cocktail reception showcasing the result of a recent $25 million remodel. Let me tell you – it’s awesome! The “Casa” presents itself true to its historic charm…

seating vignette… with cozy seating areas on the levels between buildings, yet fresh and inviting and with all the amenities of the 21st century. And the flagship of it all is its “Alexandrite Suite” with breathtaking views…

But I am getting ahead of myself. As a wedding planner, I first needed to know where a ceremony could be held, and here it is: on the 3rd floor balcony overlooking the Bay and the harbor:

ceremony setup 1

Room enough for up to 70 guests, for an intimate wedding ceremony with a truly breathtaking backdrop.

And for cocktails following the ceremony, guests would be asked into the 4th floor Alexandrite Suite, a dream of elegant modern design and cutting-edge amenities, including its own workout room, its own office…

suite seating area 2… a huge media wall…

suite media wall… and its own professional kitchen …

suite kitchen… where the chefs of nearby Poggio restaurant prepared mouthwatering hors d’oeuvres and desserts for us.

flower arr 1Floral arrangements from Mill Valley Flowers beautifully complemented the blue of the Bay and the green of the hills, adding just one more visual joy to the overall design.

Up here, there’s space enough inside and out on the expansive patio for wedding guests to hang out, chat and enjoy the sunset over cocktails…

view 2… and of course a private yacht charter can be arranged, and a send-off brunch the next morning! The new Casa Madrona wedding packages don’t leave any wishes open. Bride, groom and their guests will be pampered in the utmost luxury, serenity and tranquillity – and that may well be the greatest treat of all. One thing is for sure: a wedding here will be unforgettable!

Jessica and Eric: A Truly EPIC Proposal!

So here comes, hands down, the most creative, elaborate and meticulously planned proposal I’ve ever seen! Planned and executed by groom Eric who is herewith officially awarded the title EPIC!

In his own words (as I couldn’t put it any better) here is what happened – from his earliest planning stages to his actual proposal to his beloved Jessica.

Here we go:

“I wouldn’t have expected anything less!” – is something that Jessica and I have been hearing a lot lately after telling friends our proposal story. However, before I spill the beans, I’ll give you a snip-it of our pre-engagement life together. #TeamAdventure is the name we were given after our very first time meeting each other in person. Jessica flew from New York to sail my homemade raft that supported 4 hammocks, a fire pit and a huge pirate flag, 45 miles down the Green River in Utah over a period of 3 days. She ended up moving out to California, and after many more dates with similar flair, it was clear to me that I had found a beautiful gal who not only thirsts for nature and adventure like I do, but more importantly has a giant heart for helping people in need. I knew that Jessica’s passion, character and kindness were very rare; so I began planning for the next big step in our relationship.

Jessica is a clever gal, and I knew that in order to pull off something epic, something she deserved, I would need to play the cards with a seasoned poker face. For many weeks prior to the proposal, I initiated “date day Saturday,” so that when this particular Saturday came, she would be an unsuspecting victim, oblivious to the chain of events that were about to ensue. On Saturday, March 7th, I told her that we were going to a fancy breakfast to start the day –  a subtle cue to dress up. A few days previous, one of her gal friends “coincidentally” took her for a manicure and she just recently had a facial, so she was looking phenomenal by the time she walked out her front door, expecting me to pick her up in my car… which wasn’t there… neither was I. Instead, she found hanging from her porch a Victorian skeleton key, and a letter. The letter had specific instructions to drive the key to the Toll House Restaurant in Los Gatos and ask the front desk for our reserved table. She drove there, and upon asking for our table, they said, “Sorry Jessica, but your table has been moved to a new location…” and they handed her another letter (and a cup of coffee with a note written on the lid, in MY handwriting, saying “Open the letter now.”) This letter, #2, had instructions for her to bring the key to Villa Montalvo – a  grand historic mansion, winery, and art center. As she exited Toll House and walked back to her car, she was surprised to find an apple and a third letter sitting on her hood. The third letter, written in my hand, was a map for her on where to park once she got to Villa Montalvo. She was definitely giggling and looking over her shoulder at this point, waiting for me to pop out of the bushes somewhere.

As she parked in the instructed spot,  letter #3 told her to look in the glove box where she found, low and behold, the fourth and last letter: a picture-map of where she should walk from the parking spot. Past the fountains, away from the Estate Villa, across the expansive English lawn, toward the private gated  “Love Garden”  where the onsite Event Manager was blocking the large Iron Gate. When Jessica produced her key, she was told that TWO keys are needed to open the gate… “but it shouldn’t be long before the other key arrives.” She pointed back up toward the Villa, directing Jessica’s attention to something…what was it? It was me, in a shiny silver suit, riding a horse…. riding… a… horse…. (Funny side note: She STILL had no idea that I was about to propose!)


The iron gates swung open as I dismounted Mickey, the faithful steed, and she fed him the apple (now it finally dawned on her what that apple had been for!)

1553165_10155327872070204_1695527287588907775_ojust before we started to saunter down the garden path together.

10608588_10205985894789505_6697442913493819513_oWe were walking toward a huge white colonnaded Roman temple in the garden where a beautifully set  breakfast table was waiting right in front of its steps. Suddenly a violin began playing in the distance. This was my cue. I dropped to my knee, pulled out that ridiculously sparkly ring and asked her to spend the rest of her life with me.

10998820_10205985894589500_2904409433498168912_o-1 I had a photographer (hiding under the table!!) to catch the candid moments. And she said YES! More photos, and then we had a 5 course, elegant breakfast, serenaded by the violinist who had meanwhile joined us.


breakfastAfter breakfast we took a few more photos around the Estate property.

11044994_10155327811055204_6769227548264812098_oThe photos were great, but in reality this was only a way to “kill time,” because the next big surprise was on its way. The photographer told Jessica he had one specific shot in mind: he wanted us with our hands on the banister of a spiral staircase. I told her that “coincidentally” there was exactly THE staircase at a friend’s home close by, and that this friend was expecting us.  Upon pulling up in the driveway, it didn’t appear there was anyone home. So we walked up to the front door and knocked. Both large doors opened in unison and a massive, 45 person “SURPRISE!” was yelled! We hugged and said “hellos” to everyone before walking up the spiral staircase where I told Jessica, “I have one last surprise for you.”

The curtains at the top of the stairs were pulled back, and there, basking in the sun on the back patio was her family from New York who had flown into town the night before.

10866049_10205985894669502_1573979335193163176_oI’d never seen a gal go weak at the knees, so I had to react quickly  to catch her before she fell back down the stairs…

I am so grateful to have amazing friends who helped make the entire day a major success. From one guy disguising himself to place the apple and letter on the hood of her car while she was inside the Toll House, to another who made everyone practice the timing of opening the doors for the surprise, and everyone else who helped coordinate catering, decorations, photography and the rest of the shebang. I am looking forward to our intimate celebration at the wedding and the many years of crazy, adventurous, elaborate shenanigans to come! After all, we wouldn’t expect anything less!”

WIPA Kickoff Meeting 2015 – Food, Wine and Education at Tank18!

Not to forget the fun and the networking, of course! As the Regional Director of Programs for WIPA, I had – again! – the pleasure to put together a great start into the year, our annual kickoff meeting. This year, the meeting was hosted by Tank18,  an urban winery in San Francisco (yes, that does exist!), whose motto is “Food, Wine and Fun!”


Tank18 venue photoThat about sums it up – except that WIPA is all about education, and so we have a speaker at every meeting. This time was no exception – except: we had none less than the famous Sasha Souza!

sasha souza smallEvent planner to the “rich and famous,” frequent speaker and book author (she signed her new book for us!)


… Sasha shared some of her insider tips with us: “Vision (the bride’s and groom’s) to Reality” (here  is where the event planner comes in!). Sasha is so knowledgable as a planner and at the same time so engaging as a speaker! We all took away valuable insights – how to read between the lines, how to find the right color for those who actually don’t have a favorite color (or so they say…) and generally to express the couple’s wishes in their wedding celebration more elaborately and distinctly than they knew them themselves. Which is an art form in its own right…

Well, in our case the “vision” was triggered by the unique venue we were invited to: a huge space with exposed beams, raw concrete floors and walls exuding “industrial charm,” and wine bottles lining the walls.

IMG_6212My first idea was – we need a huge, striking floral arrangement hanging from the rafters! The highly creative team at Mandy Scott Events made that a stunning reality …

hanging arr 3

… with a 20-foot arrangement of manzanita branches adorned with countless yellow tulips. These found their match in rows of small, matching but not identical, centerpieces lining the axis of the dining tables …

… and occasional arrangements throughout the event space:

bar arrangementWe certainly brought the “vision” of “Spring in the City” to life here!

But an urban winery still has its roots in viniculture, which evoked in me “visions” of harvest tables and simple wooden chairs… Stuart Rental Company made that a reality …


dining tbl 2

… with rows and rows of wooden tables and chairs, china, silver flatware, Riedel stemware and amber water goblets – it all fit perfectly! To make it look even fresher, we provided a subtle aqua accent with  runners and coordinated linens and napkins from Napa Valley Linens.

You might be wondering where these patterned plates came from? Where to Start Wedding and Event Management sponsored them (it works with clings from underneath!) – a really nice touch for our kick-off meeting!

More visions… Cocktail Hour in such an industrial-cool looking space? That needs some “shabby-chic” accents – which came, courtesy of Designer8 Furniture Rentals, in the shape of vintage sofas…

loungeGuests got to enjoy their delicious hors d’oeuvres (by Global Gourmet Catering) here (fantastically juicy little bites – no one could stop noshing!) together with cocktails from the bar:

barThe menu for our festive lunch? The three gourmet entree choices were created for us by up-and-coming chef Chris Kronner of Kronnerburger, and guests kept raving about the food.


… and a yummy dessert, again from Global Gourmet:


The “menu card,” true to our overall “vision,” took a whimsical shape as well. In true wine-country style, chalkboard artist Ryanne Steele of Steele My Heart painted it on an oversize blackboard …

menu(just read that and get envious!!) – and threw in some large-scale art on yet another chalkboard, as a striking backdrop to Sasha Souza’s book signing table:

GG bridgeWhat you haven’t seen yet is the stunning accompaniment to after-dinner coffee:



…and …

petits fours cropped… petit fours, both from Chantal Guillon next door, converting our “color vision” of green, brown and yellow into oh-so-delicious reality!

And there was so much more – live music (singer/guitarist Marcus Cappellazzo)

IMG_6247 was provided by Entire Productions, and beautiful custom-designed printed programs in our “Wine Country” theme came from Invitation Story:


Photographer Clane Gessel and  videographer James Ferrandini of Thomas Hughes Films recorded our 2015 spring celebration on film. Guests were treated to a prize drawing, and many went home with gifts ranging from wine to golf vouchers. And of course everyone got the latest edition of Today’s Bride Magazine (our media sponsor – so that everyone out there always knows what the SF Bay Area WIPA Chapter is up to!) What guests couldn’t decide, though, was what they liked best – the food? the wine? the decor? the networking? the fantastic speaker? But everyone agreed it was a super fun event, and our next one will be on May 12 at the Omni Hotel in San Francisco. Hope you are coming!

Fanfare Wedding Faire at Kohl Mansion: One-stop Shopping for the Elegant Bride!

Never heard of Fanfare Weddings? No? Then it’s about time!

Fanfare Weddings is a group of luxury wedding vendors in the Greater San Francisco Bay Area whose specialties cover everything a couple might ever need for their wedding celebration – one high-end business of each category (me being the wedding planner/designer). And for more than two decades, this group has hosted its own elegant, well-curated wedding fairs twice a year, mostly at the historic Kohl Mansion in Burlingame.

kohl mansion The Winter Show 2015 took place on January 29 – and it was the best-attended winter show ever. Nearly a hundred brides, grooms, future bridesmaids and proud parents came to sip champagne, find  elegant vendors for their upcoming wedding, win prizes and enjoy performances. It was more an elegant soiree than a classic wedding fair and everyone literally wore a big smile along with a goodie bag packed with glossy magazines and little favors.

Right at the entrance, they were greeted by a shiny white Maserati courtesy of Club Sportiva – the ultimate getaway car for the newlyweds!


And they were invited inside in style by Gabriel’s Trumpets Trio (Brassworks)  – a truly regal sound.


Step into the grand mansion, and find gorgeous flowers by Plan Decor (and many more breathtaking arrangements to come – you’ll see!)…

entrance tbleRight in the first room, I was waiting at my booth with armfuls of roses for those brides …

my booth


… and photo books of my many weddings for inspiration.

booth2I was flanked by Jessica Morton of Miabel Hair and Makeup Artistry and by Aria Bella, a classical trio of harp (Anna Maria Mendieta), Violin (Joyce Lee) and soprano (Gloria Mendieta Gazave).

Then there was a display of breathtaking wedding dresses by my friends Saida and Chantal from Nouvelle Vogue Bridal Salon:

Guests admired the beautiful light effects by Enhanced Lighting and got to enjoy yummy food by La Bocca Fina

… accompanied by wine and champagne by Mills Wine Group, with dessert (cake bites) from Have Your Cake:

cake bites… the exact same delicious cake that’s hiding under these gorgeous wedding cake confections:

Bill Choy of Travelin’ Joe served the most delicious coffee varieties to go with these cakes, and guests then proceeded to meet officiant Minister Maggie and the team from the nearby Westin SFO hotel, and to swoon over classic invitations by Hyegraph …

… and a beautiful dining table designed by Classic Party Rentals …

… with flowers from Plan Decor:


florist 1


Then it was time for the vendor presentation in the mansion’s soaring double-height Great Room – with Woody Miraglia of BigFunDJs as our MC – but not just some presentation!

There were musical performances by Gabriel’s Trumpets and Aria Bella Trio, there was a mini dance lesson by choreographer and dance instructor Cynthia Glinka of Dance with Glinka (get ready for your First Dance, brides and grooms!) …

dance instruction2

… Plan Decor raffled away a dreamy white bridal bouquet…

bridal bouquet

…and Have Your Cake gave away a cake… and, yes, the Westin gave away a weekend stay for two! Of course we also have a world-class videographer (Thomas Hughes) and photographer (Teresa Halton) to round it all off – as I said, one-stop shopping for the luxurious bride… and now we’ll all go to work planning these elegant weddings, and that’s the most fun work ever!