Caroline’s and Merrick’s Wedding: Chinese Tradition with a Fresh Twist

Caroline and Merrick are a true Silicon Valley power couple, working crazy hours, jetting around for business all the time – a really hectic lifestyle. When they decided to tie the proverbial knot, they realized quickly that they would not have the time nor the bandwidth to do the planning themselves. In comes my wedding planning company, A Day Like No Other! Already in our first planning meetings (e-meetings, of course!!), a few things about the couple’s vision for their Great Day emerged: a traditional Chinese banquet, in honor of their shared cultural heritage and their families, was a “must.” To that end, they had booked one of the “mainstays” of Chinese cuisine on the SF Peninsula, Koi Palace in Daly City. A Tea Ceremony and a Western wedding ceremony at a pretty, picturesque location – also a “must.” And for that, they had settled on the beautiful Allied Arts Guild, a Spanish-Mediterranean compound set amidst manicured gardens, serving as¬† the home to multiple artisans, art galleries – and as an event space. The rest still had to be filled in… and so we got started! Given that we only had three months of planning time, we needed to move quickly. But then – life intervened, and business travel, and the Flu season… and all of a sudden, things got really hectic…

Last Saturday, all our work came together in exactly the wedding celebration that Caroline and Merrick had been hoping for, and despite the end-of-November date, Lady Luck and the Weather Gods were smiling upon us, and the predicted rain held off until a few hours after the Great Day.

For Caroline, her bridesmaids, junior bridesmaids and flower girls, the day began early with hair and makeup services by Tiffany Chiang of Design Her Image.

Florist Shannon LaVoie of Rare Sparrow had made elegant bouquets in the bride’s chosen color of wine red with blush pink and a tiny dose of peach; and altar arrangements to match.

Caroline slipped into the first of her three (3!) dresses, a stunning red-and-gold embroidered Chinese sheath dress, for the traditional Tea Ceremony: serving their parents tea as a symbol of their gratitude and devotion.

Photo credit: Augie Chang

Augie Chang, our photographer extraordinaire for the whole day, and his assistant Luisa captured every moment and shared the first few of their many beautiful photos with us for a little preview (and I will supplement with my own iPhone snapshots as needed, for the moment….)

After that, it was time for the couple’s First Look in a white Western wedding dress..

Photo credit: Augie Chang

…which fit the bride to a “T.” Isn’t she beautiful?

Photo credit: Augie Chang

… and here comes Caroline in her white dress to show herself to her “Prince Charming” for the first time!

Photo credit: Augie Chang

Photo credit: Augie Chang

This could be their official wedding photo, don’t you think? Off they went for many more romantic portraits in the gardens…

Photo credit: Augie Chang

Photo credit: Augie Chang

… with and without flowergirls and junior bridesmaids!

Photo credit: Augie Chang

Meanwhile, frantic preparations were underway to get the ceremony and reception space guest-ready in time. Stuart Event Rentals had delivered chairs and tables; hors d’oeuvres came from Draeger’s delicatessen, and my assistant Quan and I were busy pulling it all together and installing the whimsical ceremony backdrop of suspended paper rosettes …

… setting up gift and guest book tables, signage and a myriad of other things!

Caroline and Merrick had provided a multitude of family photos for a true photo gallery which served as a backdrop to our Welcome Table. Time flew, our guests were arriving, and our ceremony musicians, cellist Stephanie and pianist Jenton, friends of the couple, began playing – their personal wedding present to Caroline and Merrick.

Here comes… not the bride, but the true little stars of the day – our twin flowergirls!

Photo credit: Augie Chang

And now, finally, comes the bride on her mother’s arm:

Photo credit: Augie Chang

Officiant Chris Thielen welcomed the congregation and directed a ceremony that could not have been more personal, warm and lighthearted – everyone was smiling and laughing, and sharing the happiness of the moment.

Here they are: Just married!!

Photo credit: Augie Chang

Photo credit: Augie Chang

What followed? More photos. And for the guests: Cocktail Hour on the patio with a special surprise that made everyone’s (not only the little ones’) hearts skip – a real cupcake food truck (Kara’s Cupcakes’ KaraVan) serving fresh and yummy mini cupcakes, hot chocolate, tea and coffee. Not a crumb was left at the end! Go have a look for yourself:

Photo credit: Augie Chang

As I said – tradition with a twist, and that was not the only one! The newlyweds made their exit in the cutest getaway car EVER -the husband’s vintage Mini…

Photo credit: Augie Chang

Fast-forward to our Chinese banquet at Koi Palace, famous for its indoor Koi pond:

Tables were being set…

… the couple’s Sweetheart Table was being decorated…

… a Sign-in Table and Seat Assignment Board installed…

… and the DJ and our bilingual MC Jackson (from TDE Wedding) completed their setup and got ready.

Maid of Honor Michelle, my assistant Quan and I set up the cake-and-candy table…

…with a cake and French macarons from Paris Baguette and a lot more delicious sweets. What you have certainly spotted in the middle is another one of Caroline’s and Merrick’s personal twists: a Chinese “double happiness” symbol built from LEGO bricks!! The two are LEGO fans… talk about “personal and unique!”

With that, we were ready for the guests and for an epic seafood banquet, many speeches and toasts… and for a lot of fun with the next surprise of the evening: Giggle & Riot photo booth producing cute little flipbooks as wedding favors!

Then it was time for Caroline’s and Merrick’s first official task as a married couple – cutting the cake:

And finally – the couple’s First Dance, of course!

Photo credit: Augie Chang

It was a long day filled with happiness, warmth and laughter, and everyone went home with a big smile… Wishing you a lifetime of happiness together, Caroline and Merrick, and may you always find the time for shared laughter and a LEGO project!

Chiew’s and Justin’s Neverland – an Epic Party

“Neverland?” Wasn’t that Michael Jackson’s famous 100 million dollar dream estate? Oh yes, and Chiew’s and Justin’s epic wedding celebration was inspired by just that fantasy. A guest list of 500. A seafood station with an ice sculpture, an 8-course banquet dinner and a dessert buffet at least 30 yards long. A succession of four dresses for the bride. An LED dance floor. A profusion of white orchids. Oh – and as fantasies go, they are sometimes a little unreal: we had a mere eight weeks of planning time!

When Alicia, the groom’s sister, approached my company, A Day Like No Other, with her plan of a 500-person wedding “2 months from today,” I made a big leap of faith and said YES. I am so glad I did! It was intense, it was exciting, and the result of all our efforts… even better than I could have imagined! Come look for yourself!

Wedding Day began early for the bride and her bridesmaids: hair and makeup (by cousin and beauty professional¬†Angela Le Tatsumi) had to be done before the traditional Tea Ceremony at 11 am. That and a family luncheon at the the house of the groom’s sister were followed by the bride’s first dress change of the day: with the help of her bridesmaids, she slipped into an elegant traditional white wedding dress (by Helen Miller)…

Personal flowers (as well as all altar pieces at church and centerpieces at the reception) were created by Ivy Vuong of Flowers by Ivy…

The bridal bouquet consisted of roses in palest blush pink and ivory, with ivory berries, and the bridesmaids had smaller versions with green berries and eucalyptus.

With that, Chiew was ready to go to Church…

…. in a white stretch limousine by Le Grande Affaire. The wedding mass was held at St. Francis of Assisi Church in San Jose, a modern, light filled structure decorated with ivory and light green flowers.

And here comes the bride, escorted by her Dad:

After church, the couple went on an extended photo tour with their photographers, Danny and Julia of Danny Dong Photography (just wait until you see THEIR photos!!) and videographers from Solace Studio. My assistants Jessica, Lisa and Myrtle and I were meanwhile busy setting up the reception venue, Villa Ragusa in Campbell, together with the venue team under the leadership of venue manager Hilary Carpeneti. The huge ballroom had already been draped and decorated all around by Terry Dudley and her team of Fine Linen Creations who also provided the linens, clear Chiavari chairs and tabletop items.

The Head Table, presiding over the room and the LED dance floor, got special treatment, of course.

Bloom Catering had prepared an enormous seafood bar topped with a dramatic ice sculpture – which was filled with delicious scampi!

They had also set up a beautiful cheese-and-fruit station…

with their own exotic floral decor by Duc Quach of Flower Decor...

… and the same was true for the spectacular dessert buffet of individual cups of custards – at least a dozen flavor varieties! – chocolates, small cookies and and and…

With that we were guest-ready! And this is what arriving guests got to see:

Posters at the entrance – unmistakably the right wedding! Then the stairs leading up to the ballroom foyer, glamorously transformed with draping, flowers and lanterns by Fine Linen Creation in collaboration with Flowers by Ivy…

A “guest book” (actually framed photos of the couple in a shadowbox, with little heart-shaped cards to write on and drop into the shadowbox) and dramatic flower arrangements were awaiting in the foyer…

… and an impressive table assignment board for all 500 guests!

Modern white lounge furniture (by Stuart Event Rentals) rounded out the elegant setup – and at the far end of the foyer was the seafood bar. An absolute stunner to welcome guests with!

I nearly forgot to say that the “real” bar – the one serving alcohol – was about 30 ft long… then guests took their seats, and in came the newlyweds in a truly Grand Entrance!

Guests were served a delicious 8-course Vietnamese-fusion dinner by Bloom Catering. Bride and groom were the only ones who didn’t get to enjoy much of it – they went visiting tables after the bride had changed into a traditional Vietnamese dress:

After dinner, the newlyweds had one more task to take care of: the traditional cake cutting.

The rest of the evening was sheer fun: First Dance on the glamorous LED dance floor…

… and a wild dance party for everyone with music by DJ Paul Goyena. And then, of course – a photo booth from Night Owl Photobooth, a true crowd magnet! The bride found the time to change yet again – this time into an eggplant-colored short cocktail dress in which she was dancing the night away. Don’t you agree – this was the party of the decade!

Many happy decades together to Chiew and Justin! And many more epic parties…