Persian Glamour at the Fairmont: Shifteh’s and Hassan’s Elegant Nuptials

Shifteh and Hassan were truly meant for one another – their families have been best of friends for ages, and the only surprising thing is how long it took the two to progress from “just friends” to dating and engagement! Fast-forward four years, and the two were ready to tie the knot – elegant Persian style, of course! They had booked their venue – the storied Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco – when they realized that they’d need a lot more elements to make their celebration festive and unique, and that they did not have the time to do all the necessary research, come up with the design and so many more things. They approached my wedding planning company, A Day Like No Other, for help, and we jumped right in. Design decisions, color palette, inspiration photos, vendors, entertainment ideas… a true whirlwind in the scant five months we had!

Finally the Great Day had arrived – and the Weather Gods were looking upon us very favorably with one of those golden San Francisco October days with clear skies, a warming sun and a slight breeze.

Shifteh’s day began with hair and makeup by Adelina Eidelman

…who transformed a pretty young woman into a radiant, glamorous exotic beauty. Mr. Siasi of Rose Express Florist delivered a lush cascading bouquet of pink roses and white Phalaenopsis orchids …

… a real match for Shifteh’s luxurious Rosa Clara wedding dress …… with exquisite beading and a breathtaking illusion back:

Here is a detail of the incredible beadwork…

… and here are the princess heels to go with it!

For their First Look, bride and groom were allowed into the famous Presidential Suite – the Fairmont Penthouse – where so far every president of the United States has stayed when visiting San Francisco.

This is the view a president would enjoy from the patio – and here is the library with the hidden escape route (accessible through a movable bookshelf in the upper story)…

… a route that was purportedly used by Marilyn Monroe for her secret rendezvous with J.F. Kennedy. Definitely a very, very special spot for a First Look!

From there, Shifteh and Hassan went onto an extended photo tour with their photographers Evonne and Darren (wait until you see THEIR photos – until then, all we have are my snapshots…) and videographers of Mario & Fran Productions.

Meanwhile, frantic preparations by the Fairmont team led by Jenni Rowe, my assistant Lisa and myself were underway to get everything ready for the Persian wedding ceremony, Cocktail Hour and dinner reception.

The ceremony was held in the Pavilion Room, with a sofreh by Lili Ghazian of Aroosi by Lili, centered under an enormous Beaux-Arts chandelier.

Here comes the bride on her father’s arm, preceded by Persian violinist extraordinaire Pourya Khademi:The traditional ceremony was officiated – bilingually! – by Dr. Payman Amiri, with a very lighthearted touch that made everyone smile!

Following tradition, the bride’s sisters and sisters-in-law showered the couple with “sweetness” by rubbing sugar over their heads.

After the ceremony, the couple was showered with precious gifts – mostly jewelry – another beloved Persian custom. Guests were meanwhile enjoying cocktails in the adjacent Rooftop Garden, a little urban oasis…… to the accompaniment of violinist Pourya – whose familiar Persian tunes literally touched the heartstrings of all guests with sweet memories.

Dinner was served in the Crown Room on the top, 24th floor of the Fairmont Tower, all decked out in champagne linens, gold toned draperies, and glorious tall centerpieces of roses, hydrangeas, chrysanthemums and orchids from Rose Express Florist

… and chargers and chairs from Hensley Event Resources. Everything came together just perfectly.

For favors, the Mother of the Groom had prepared glittery organza bags filled with white and gold Jordan almonds, tied with personalized ribbon…

… a true labor of love! A mini sofreh adorned the room…

… and another table was literally bending under trays and trays of delicious Persian sweets:

Guests found their seats with elegant escort cards lined up in the foyer of the Crown Room:

… and with that, we were ready for the Grand Entrance of the newlyweds. These two gave a whole new meaning to the “grand” in “Grand Entrance!” Like royalty, they were accompanied by violinist Pourya…… and dancers from Niosha Dance Academy, one of them the bride’s younger sister, dancing in honor of the couple.

After that, it was time for a lavish four-course dinner, toasts and speeches, while darkness fell and the City below began to sparkle like a box of jewels:

The couple quickly stole away for a few dramatic photos with Pourya …

… on the Grand Staircase. When they returned, it was already time for their First Dance as a married couple:

With that, the dance floor was officially open! Guests had the choice between rousing music by DJ Alireza and fun at the SnapFiesta photo booth. Most of them did, of course, both!

Another highlight of the evening was cake cutting…

… which in the Persian tradition is by far not as easy as it sounds: the groom first has to obtain the cake knife from a succession of dancing ladies who are teasing him and expect to be paid off generously…

… before surrendering the knife! Eventually, after an extended Knife Dance, they let Hassan have the knife…

… and the couple’s first official task of cutting the cake together proceeded without a hitch. What else? Bouquet Toss, of course!

Shifteh tossed, and a single young lady caught it – so she is next in line for a celebration as glorious as Shifteh’s and Hassan’s. The evening came to a close far too soon, and everyone went home tired and happy.

Many happy years together, Shifteh and Hassan, and dance on…

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A Lot to Be Thankful for… Kate and Aaron at the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay

All weddings are joyous occasions (one of the reasons I like my job so much!) – but Kate’s and Aaron’s wedding, last Saturday at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Half Moon Bay, was truly exceptional in the joy and gratitude it celebrated.

The bride had suffered a near-fatal accident a few months ago (at her Bachelorette Party, of all occasions…) – and against all odds, she survived – paralyzed down from her chin. The unanimous verdict was that she would never be able to walk again. It was, by all measures, a catastrophe. But what none of the experts had factored in is that Kate is a fighter, determined and strong. She learned to walk again. She wore a neck brace for months. When her Mom booked my company, A Day Like No Other, for help with planning the wedding that would nearly not have happened – Kate said she might have to wear her neck brace with her wedding dress. And that she’d be perfectly content just lounging by the dance floor and watching, grateful for having a wedding and just being there.

Well, let me tell you – even since then, she’s made giant strides, and no one would have suspected what this radiant and happy bride had gone through to get to this point! But, of course, I am getting way ahead of myself. First things first…

The couple’s venue, the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, is dramatically perched high up on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, a gorgeous setting with endless views.

For their wedding day (close enough to the Thanksgiving Holiday), the hotel was resplendent in pumpkin decor:

… and the weather was a perfect “golden October” with blue skies under a warming sun and a slight breeze.

For Kate and her six bridesmaids, the day began with hair and makeup services by Teri Lacro of The Charismatic Bride.

Everyone was in high spirits! Christina Averkin of A Bud and Beyond delivered gorgeous bouquets…

… in Kate’s favorite colors of blush pink and pale peach, in a loose, feminine style, finished with fluttering silk crepe ribbons. She also brought boutonnieres for the gentlemen…

… and the most gorgeous ceremony decor and centerpieces – you’ll see!

Kate had chosen a glamorous, nearly transparent, very form-fitting Lazaro lace dress (and with her supermodel figure, she pulled it off to a stunning effect!)

She did need some help from her Maid of Honor and bridesmaids, though, to put on her golden Jimmy Choo heels…

… but with that done, she was ready for her First Look with her groom, Aaron.

Photographer Cooper Carras and videographer Spencer Sarson captured it all (just wait until you see THEIR photos and video footage! For now, all I have to offer are my own snapshots…).

Meanwhile, preparations were underway “behind the scenes” to get everything ready for the great celebration.

Wedding and Special Events manager Sophie Lelievre, banquet managers Joseph and Juan and their teams set up the ceremony chairs …
…and welcome bar, cocktail tables and linens, and the dining setup in the ballroom; the Stuart Event Rentals crew set up chairs and elegant lounge furniture around the dance floor; florist Christina installed a semicircular wall of flowers as a ceremony backdrop … … Jonathan Metcalf and assistant Taylor of PSAV set up a sound system for the ceremony, and my assistant Annie Chang and myself were busy organizing and putting finishing touches on things.

Guests arrived by shuttle (from Le Grande Affaire) and were treated to their first glass of champagne right there on the Ocean Lawn. Guitarist Jay Alvarez serenaded them while they were finding their seats for the ceremony and accompanied the festivities with beautiful wedding standards and a few of his own compositions.

Then finally, the great moment was there: Here comes the bride!

The very personal ceremony was officiated by Andrew, the groom’s uncle – and as a close family member he, of course, was keenly aware of what a miraculous moment this wedding actually was. It was very, very touching and emotional. And full of joy, of course! Here they are, just married!

Off to many more photos and video shots… especially as we were getting closer to Sunset, the light turned a magical rose gold color. Kate and Aaron were so beautiful together, literally bathed in a golden glow.

Time for dinner! The grand ballroom of the Ritz was aglow with shimmering linens, candles, uplights and elegant floral centerpieces…


with the Head Table of course getting the extra special treatment! 

Over dinner, the bride’s 93-year old Grandfather gave a song performance in honor of the newlyweds – his way of toasting to their future!

More guest entertainment: The Laugh Box photo booth – a total hit with everyone. And then it was time for the First Dance:

Against her professed plans,  “Amazing Kate” did NOT just lounge and watch her guests dancing – she danced herself and was right in the middle of everything!

What else? Cake cutting! Gabrielle Feuersinger of  Cake Coquette had delivered a glorious classic four-tiered wedding cake…

… and Kate and Aaron accomplished their first official task as husband and wife – cutting that cake together – with bravura.

Then it was off to the dance floor again, where Dan Meblin and the Pop Fiction band was heating it up for the crowd!


Everyone was having a great time, and Kate and Aaron especially were overjoyed and happy. Next up: their Honeymoon on Kauai and Lanai. Have a wonderful trip together, starting off your shared journey of a lifetime!

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Karin and Andy, a Celebration with Friends and Family at Allied Arts Guild

When Karin and Andy decided to tie the proverbial knot, they realized pretty quickly that with their busy professional lives they would not really have the time to plan their celebration themselves. They brought my company, A Day Like No Other, on board early on to help with planning, logistics, design and decor. A few priorities were clear from the get-go: an intimate venue for their 70 guests, elegance but without the usual “frills,” a cozy celebration with good food and good company. When looking for the perfect venue, the couple fell head over heels for Allied Arts Guild, a lush garden setting with a beautiful Spanish-Mediterranean style building and adjacent courtyard – all conveniently located, yet a little world of its own.

Design-wise, we complemented the impressive architecture with a “farm style” outdoor dinner setup of long rows of bare wooden tables with antiqued cross back chairs, a rustic floral decor based on shades of green with dark eggplant-color accents, and string lights and candles.

For the celebration, Karin and Andy focused on what is so essential to them: a Jewish ceremony, contributions of their closest family members and friends – and having a good time! Speaking of family members: the couple’s super cute doggie “Sawyer” would of course be attending!

Photo credit: Elizabeth Murray

 

Photo credit: Elizabeth Murray

 

Last Saturday, all our planning came together on a glorious Autumn day, under blue skies and a warm golden October sun. For Karin and her Maid of Honor, Andy’s teenage daughter Julia, the day began with hair and makeup by Jessica Morton of Miabel Artistry.

The bride complemented her classic lace dress with an elegant bouquet of sculptural flowers by Ingela Floral Design (who supplied floral decor throughout)…

Ready for her First Look!

All these precious moments were captured by Juan Pinnel of  Pinnel Photography – wait until you see HIS photos! Right now, we are grateful to have the first snapshots of the Great Day by my assistant Lisa Siyuan Li (thank you, Lisa!)

Meanwhile, preparations were underway for the ceremony on the lawn to the left of the Rose Allee. AAG manager Tiana Wong and her team set up ceremony chairs, Carol Attia of Under the Chuppah installed a beautiful rustic birch chuppah …

Photo credit Carol Attia

… and Ingela Ruschin of Ingela Floral Design decorated it with an asymmetrical arrangement of dark eggplant and wine red flowers. The Day Like No Other team, led by Mary-Kate Greenberg with assistance by Lisa Siyuan Li, was busy putting the finishing touches on everything.

Ceremony music – acoustic guitar – was the contribution of Andy’s neighbor Roger Jones, a truly heartfelt wedding gift to the couple!

The Processional began with Julia, the Maid of Honor, accompanied by ring bearer Sawyer:

Here comes the radiant bride, escorted by her father:

The traditional ceremony was officiated by Rabbi Lisa Kingston (of the Peninsula Temple Beth El) with the prescribed seven readers and the ritual of breaking a glass at the conclusion. Mazel Tov! Here they are – just married!

Photo credit: Elizabeth Murray

Time to party! TJ Solarski of JW Catering and his team was waiting for the couple and their guests with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres in the Courtyard… 

Doesn’t that look delicious?!

The couple’s friend Carla Helmbrecht and her Jazz combo entertained and delighted guests with hours and hours of music – another very personal touch in this celebration of family and friendships. Guests left their good wishes and marital advice in the guest book:

Everything was lovingly put together and accessorized for an elegant yet relaxed, summery rustic look…

Doggie Sawyer, having fulfilled his ring bearer duties with bravura, and having starred in scores of family photos, then took some leisure time with his Doggie Mom of the Day, dog walker (and dog enthusiast) Liz Murray – for walking, playtime, dinner and a nap, until his humans would be done partying and take him home with them.

Dinner tables with matching Hickory Crossback chairs (from Stuart Event Rentals) were set up in the Sunset Patio …

… for a rustic yet sophisticated ambiance with eucalyptus garlands running down the length of the tables, interspersed rustic lanterns and  amber water goblets – and with string lights hung overhead…

As guests were dining, darkness fell, and the scene turned downright magical. After dinner, everyone moved inside to the Sunset Room whose whole back wall had been converted into a family photo gallery…

… and where the wedding cake (from Susie Cakes) was holding pride of place:

Bride and groom tackled their official first task as a married couple – cutting the cake together – with gusto!After that, there was no holding back the guests from the dance floor…

Everyone was having a really great time, and nobody wanted to go home… Many happy years together, Karin and Andy! Again – Mazel Tov!

 

 

 

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A Palace right out of a Fairytale for Deanna’s and Jeffrey’s Glamorous Wedding Celebration

After a full ten years of courtship, Deanna and Jeffrey took the plunge and decided to get married, and they brought my wedding planning company, A Day Like No Other, on board right at the beginning. We had about a year to put together a celebration for their 300 guests, and of course the two wanted it to be extra special!

They would have their ceremony in their home parish, but then, for their reception,  we would “put on the glitz!”

Finally, on my birthday (!!), it all came together in a memorable celebration. Have a look…

For Deanna and her bridesmaids, the Great Day began very early with hair and makeup services …

… expertly done by bridesmaid Merica and by the Mother of the Bride herself! (Just the first one of so many personal touches at this wedding… you’ll see).

Florist Natasha Kolenko delivered the most beautiful bouquets for bride and bridesmaids, soft and feminine, with unexpected touches like bicolor lilies and snowberries, the handles finished with antique silk ribbon…

The gentlemen got matching boutonnieres…

.. and while the ladies were busy with hair and makeup, the gents helped one another with their bow ties…

Deanna meanwhile got into her breathtaking, form-fitting lace dress with the help of her Maid of Honor…

… slipped into her golden high heels…

… and was ready to head off to Church! They had chosen their home parish, Our Lady of Peace in Santa Clara, where Church Coordinator Genevieve Van Tuyl organized the processional and guided the bridal party.

And here comes the bride, escorted by her parents… 

One hour later: Just married!

Off they went to many more photos by Tuan and Bradley of Tuan B. & Company and video footage by Kien Nguyen of Kien Pictures!

Meanwhile, frantic preparations were underway to get their reception venue ready for their reception: Dynasty Seafood Restaurant in Cupertino, a fixture for fine dining in the local Asian community. Terry Dudley and her team from Fine Linen Creations transformed a standard dining room into a fantasy of golden glitz and glamour – with miles of draperies, uplights, linens, gilded chairs and and and…

an impressive walkway for the couple …

… a custom white dance floor personalized with the couple’s names in gold script …… a Sweetheart Table fit for royalty, complete with gilded thrones …

… a matching dessert table…… sign-in table, and a dramatic flower wall as a “selfie backdrop!”

My assistant Myrtle Ventura and I were busy setting out the various decor elements, completing the candy bar, and putting finishing touches on the table settings with beautiful centerpieces by Natasha Kolenko in the center of the traditional “Lazy Susans…”The groom’s cousin Bernard Balaoing, a professional DJ, had offered his services “within the family” and was busy putting together a sound system and stage lighting.

Then the dining room doors opened, and guests simply marveled at the golden opulence awaiting them.

More cousins of the bride’s and groom’s pitched in as greeters at the sign-in table. Anna Tran and Jamal Fedalizo, friends of bride and groom, performed MC duties throughout the evening (on a professional level, at that!)… so there was lots of help from friends and family to make this celebration both perfect and very personal.

After cocktails, guests were treated to a traditional 10-course Chinese banquet accompanied by an open bar. Entertainment? Plenty. Jacqueline, the sister of the bride gave the first song performance of the evening…… followed by a dance performance by the Flower Girl (yes! At a mere four years of age she mustered the courage to step on the dance floor and dance in front of 300 guests!), and another song performance by the groom’s talented cousin KC Frando…

In between, the couple changed into Vietnamese attire as a nod to the bride’s heritage…

… and with so much going on, Deanna hardly found time to catch her breath for a quiet Mother-Daughter moment…

Then we dimmed the lights, and the palatial dining room turned downright magical…

What else? Cake cutting, of course! What a glorious cake that was… Another piece of edible art from Gabrielle Feuersinger of Cake Coquette, pale yellow, flecked with edible 24 karat gold and decorated with artistic sugar flowers…

… accompanied by a song performance by the bride’s aunt. Two very musical families, indeed!

Throughout the evening, caricature artists Michael Rosenthal and his Dad, working as a duo, sketched caricature drawings of all guests – as special wedding favors for the guests to keep.

The waiting line literally wound “round the block!” And the newlyweds got THEIR portraits done even without sitting for the artists – Mike can do that from afar and just from an iPhone snapshot, adding the serious “BLING” on the bride’s finger, of course, with a big arrow pointing to it. So much fun!

The couple’s First Dance…

… followed by Father-Daughter, Mother-Son and Money Dances…

… opened the dance floor to the crowd, and then there was no stemming the flood any more. Dance, dance, dance!!

At the conclusion of the event, nobody wanted to go home. Everyone agreed – that was, hands down, one of the best parties ever!

Wishing you, Deanna and Jeffrey, many more parties and a lifetime of happiness!

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