These two were among the many couples whose wedding got postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Undeterred, they tied the knot in an intimate ceremony close to their originally planned date (so meanwhile they have already been legally married for a good year!) and my company, A Day Like No Other, had the honor of planning afresh with them in 2021. The venue of their choice was still Thomas Fogarty Winery, perched high atop a mountain ridge with million-dollar views over all of Silicon Valley and up to the San Francisco skyline to the North.
Once the bride and the mothers had completed their hair and makeup styling (by Brides by Lydia), the bridal party and closest family was taken to the venue by shuttle (Destination Systems) for pre-ceremony photos (by Hazel Photo – all photos in this blog post except otherwise noted) and video (by Weddings on Film).
What happened to Amanda and Noah is – unfortunately – very typical for many engaged couples looking forward to their once-in-a-lifetime wedding celebration. The two had booked an elegant hotel wedding in Hawaii and could absolutely not wait for their great day to arrive. And then came COVID-19. It ruined everything… so Hawaii had to be called off. That was already a major heartbreak. Amanda and Noah “re-grouped” and started all over. They would have their wedding at the beautiful Marin Art and Garden Center, not far from their new home, and they would invite more than a hundred guests to a charmed afternoon and night in this romantic park. But even this was not going to happen. The COVID-19 lockdown put an end to this plan, too. The couple was deeply disappointed and at a total loss what to do now. They did not want to postpone getting married even longer. So they turned to my company, A Day Like No Other, for help.
It was clear that the maximum number of guests they could have was thirty – so it would be a very intimate celebration. But I wanted this to be a unique, memorable and beautiful celebration for the two – so I recommended a little-known secret to them: the historic Casa Madrona Hotel in Sausalito. Charming, built into a steep hillside and overlooking the yacht harbor and SF Bay with spectacular sunsets, this was the perfect location for their small gathering.
Additional bonus: the teleconferencing capabilities that Casa Madrona is offering! That allowed Amanda and Noah to have all guests from their original list of invitees attend their ceremony, at least virtually. A small consolation, after all…
One other thing: while Marin Art and Garden Center, their previous choice for their wedding celebration, remained closed for social events, the two got permission to have wedding photos taken in this spectacular setting. Another consolation!
And so, the great day final arrived. The bride and her bridesmaids got ready at the couple’s home, with hair and makeup services by Maya Roget. Photographer Anne-Claire Brun captured every moment.
Once all the ladies had their hair and makeup done, it was time for the bride to get into her spectacular dress:
… elegant, feminine and modern at the same time, and it fit her like a glove! This was, of course, a classic mother-daughter moment…
And here is Bride Amanda!
Ready to pick up her romantic bridal bouquet by Fleur Real…
… and off to her First Look at Marin Art and Garden Center.
A couple’s First Look is always one of my favorite moments – so special…
And now: many more photos!
One photo with the bridesmaids and groomsmen…
… and off they all go to Casa Madrona for the wedding ceremony and reception.
The teams of Jazmine Herrera at Casa Madrona, of Poggio Trattoria, the in-house caterer, the florist and myself had been busy getting the event space ready. The ceremony was to be held on a balcony overlooking the Sausalito yacht harbor, with guest seating spaced out following social distancing requirements. The Amethyst Duo played wedding classics out on the balcony.
The ceremony was officiated by the brother of the groom – it could not have been more personal and more heartfelt.
The video wall in the Junto Suite where the reception was held allowed remote guests to congratulate the newlyweds from afar.
While the onsite guests were enjoying cocktails with a view of the San Francisco Bay, the couple went off for more photos.
And then dinner was ready!
Because of the ongoing pandemic, we had little bottles of hand sanitizer on the dining tables… along with flowers and table numbers!
The couple and their guests were definitely enjoying themselves.
One more highlight of the day: Cake cutting! (The minimalist cake was by Butter&)
Amanda and Noah spent the rest of the evening just chatting with their guests, having fun and having quality time with their nearest and dearest. Although their wedding day unfolded so differently from what they had originally planned – it turned out beautiful, meaningful and very memorable. The newlyweds were simple – happy.
All weddings, as celebrations of union between two individuals, are filled with ritual. Some rituals are, for the most part, universal, such as wearing white by the bride, or the exchange of rings and exchange of vows. Some rituals vary depending on the cultural backgrounds of the families. Many rituals of food are used during the ceremony, to symbolize sweetness (sharing honey) or the bitter-sweetness of marriage (sharing sugar-covered almonds), etc. Some rituals symbolize the binding of the union of two individuals (hand-fasting, lasso-ceremony, chuppah or the sugar-rubbing cloth held overhead the couple) and some rituals highlight the coming together of two families and communities (unity candle lighting, ring warming ceremony, etc.).
The Iranian (Persian) ceremony is full of beautiful, meaningful rituals, all of which point to nature, love and the spiritual world. And, unlike many wedding ceremonies worldwide, where religion plays a central role, the Iranian (Persian) ceremony is entirely secular. All of its elements point to nature, beauty and love between the couple. Additionally, there is great emphasis on the importance of literature by reciting beautiful love poetry of classical Persian poets such as Khayyam, Hafez, Rumi and others.
During their nuptials, the couple sits in front of a decorative spread, Sofreh Aghd, with items symbolizing well-wishes for their married life. These include a mirror (for reflection), candles (light in the universe), crystalized sugar (sweetness), eggs and nuts (fertility), flowers (beauty), herbs and fruit (health), bread (sustenance), spices (to ward off any negative energies) and a book (usually poetry or holy book depending on the preferences of the couple). In addition to these items, two large sugar cones as well as a container of honey will adorn the Sofreh and will be used during the ceremony. The cones (which represent the couple) will be rubbed together over a cloth held over their heads, in the hopes that every contact between the couple will result in sweetness! The honey will be used by the couple to take turns feeding to one another with their pinky fingers and also symbolizes sweetness for their marriage.
During the Persian wedding ceremony, the Officiant asks the couple for their declaration of consent. While the groom answers with a loud and resounding “ba’leh”, or “Yes!”, the bride traditionally would not respond the first nor the second time that the question is asked. During this silence, her girlfriends would chime in and say, “the bride has gone to pick flowers” or “the bride has gone to bring rosewater”. In the old days, the groom would be seated outside of the ceremony room (which was traditionally a female space) and the bride’s girlfriends would tease him and say “she’s not here, she’s gone to pick flowers”! Another reason for this delay may have been to allow the bride to consider the decision that would forever change her destiny.
After the couple has given their consent, they share their vows and rings and feed each other honey! At the end of the ceremony, the close relatives of the couple will present their ceremony gifts (usually jewelry or envelopes with cash) before the couple is announced and shares their first kiss as married!
Today many couples choose to modify the ceremony to fit their wishes, beliefs, budgets and preferences. Some will have an elaborate Sofreh of considerable proportions, and some will display a modest version with a few key items. For couples who are celebrating a mixed union, coming from different traditions, many times on the Sofreh will be displayed items reflecting their backgrounds. For example, in my work with mixed/fusion couples, I have seen everything from an Irish horseshoe and Child of Prague statue, to a Mexican lasso and coin, to the Native American basket, to the Jewish wine glass and the African American broom, among other items. These objects fit beautifully together and are a testament to love, union and mutual acceptance between two individuals, their families and communities.
Every wedding is so very special and such a happy occasion. Afterall we are celebrating the greatest force in the universe, Love! So regardless of size, venue, expense and any fanfare, the true essence of every wedding is the celebration of a union, and the coming together of families and communities. Rituals help to make this special occasion even more meaningful and memorable.
Call me old-fashioned – but when it comes to the wedding ceremony I always recommend “classics.” And the most beloved ones of them all are – Canon in D (chosen by at least 80% of all my brides for their processional), Mendelssohn’s Wedding March (a favorite for their recessional) and “All You Need is Love” by The Beatles.
Here they are!
The oldest one of them all is Pachelbel’s Canon. Johann Pachelbel was a German Baroque composer and organist who enjoyed tremendous popularity in his lifetime (1653 to 1706). Most of his extensive body of work is nowadays forgotten outside of musicologist circles – some of you may know his Chaconne in F minor and his Toccata in E minor for organ – but the one piece of music that has survived is his Canon in D – it has literally become synonymous with wedding music.
For the recessional, the “classic” choice is Felix Mendelssohn’s Bartholdy’s Wedding March (from his incidental music to Shakespeare’s play A Midsummernight’s Dream).
Felix Mendelssohn was a German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period. A true prodigy, he performed as a pianist at the age of nine, and he wrote his first symphony at the age of 15!! Mendelssohn’s compositions include symphonies, concertos, piano music and chamber music which are all still part of the standard concert repertoire; but even those without ties to classical music love the Wedding March! Here it is, played by the Berlin Philharmonic.
And for those who’d rather go a little more contemporary – but still stick with a timeless classic – for their wedding music, there is the last word on love from The Beatles, here played for us by our own Synchronicity Strings!
Many of you will know (and love) Thomas Fogarty Winery as an elegant wedding venue – a good number of you will even have worked there at one or more weddings.
It’s spectacular – on clear days the view encompasses everything from the Bay Bridge to the North, all of Silicon Valley to San Jose in the South. Sunsets – and even the fog rolling in – are sheer beauty.
I am certainly one of Fogarty’s biggest fans! And so I would like to share with you how all this came about – there is backstory to it!
The founder of Thomas Fogarty Winery is actually a famous physician, Dr. Thomas Fogarty Sr., who worked at Stanford University and who made an invention in 1961 that has literally saved countless lives around the world ever since: the Fogarty catheter. This device allows to remove fresh blood clots from arteries without surgery, and it has become a staple of cardiologists everywhere.
Charmed by the natural beauty of the Santa Cruz Mountains, Dr. Fogarty built his family home up on Skyline Boulevard and began acquiring the surrounding land.
By 1977, he had accumulated over 300 acres of land, and in 1978, he planted his first vineyard – with that, Thomas Fogarty Winery was officially founded! The winery is now producing mainly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – and they are fantastic!
With the construction of the architecturally stunning open Pavilion,
where the majority of festive dinners are now hosted, the winery developed into an elegant event space with a capacity of over 200 guests, indoor/outdoor options and beautiful ceremony lawn.
And we all can absolutely not wait to be back there soon, celebrating love and the beauty of the gorgeous setting. You need not take my word for it: watch this video of one of my weddings at Thomas Fogarty Winery!
The world around us has taken a long pause due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic, forcing most of us to shelter in place and practice social distancing. While the essential businesses are still operating, the wedding industry has literally stopped in its tracks. All events have been cancelled or postponed to the near… or the far future…? The couples who spent months navigating the wedding planning process are now facing a new set of challenges. All small business owners who cater to the wedding industry like photographers, florists, caterers, hair and make-up artists are without work for possibly months.
When the shelter-in-place order gets lifted, the return to normal life will likely be a multi-stage process, and eventually some gatherings will be allowed.
Below are a few ways how to make your wedding safer for you and your guests.
Keep it small.
Looking back at the last couple of months, events with over 50 attendees were the first to be cancelled, so it is likely that the return to normal will follow a similar path. Keeping your guest list small will likely help to “make it happen” as it will be safer for everyone – and as a side benefit in these uncertain times, it will be cheaper, too. I know, you tried to keep that guest list small from the beginning, but in the current situation I think everyone will be much more understanding.
Even without a pandemic, planning a destination wedding presents its own set of challenges – but risking to contract the virus on a plane or getting stuck somewhere en route is not fun at all.
Keep it outdoors.
The chance of catching a virus in an open space is much smaller than in an indoor space, so take advantage of the beauty of our nature and get married outside! Vineyards, parks, backyards, and beaches are all great options.
Streaming your event.
One of the ways to keep your most vulnerable guests safe is to live-stream your wedding.
It could be just the ceremony, or it could include more key events like your First Dance, Cake Cutting or speeches.
Hiring videographer to document your celebration is a great idea as well.
Avoid buffet or family-style served meals.
Having all guests use the same serving spoon is probably not the best idea in these times, so if you decide to have a buffet make sure that all food is served by catering staff.
Offer hand sanitizer and reusable face masks with fun designs to your guests.
I know that hand sanitizer is “worth its weight in gold” right now! Still, try to find it for your celebration. There are also a lot of cute face masks available these days; the skilled craftspeople making them would certainly be happy to help you.
We are sheltering in place to “flatten the curve” – but after a few months of confinement at home we will all go back to our “normal life,” whatever that means. It will certainly take time to recover and life might be different than before, but the world will start spinning again and people will start getting together again and celebrating. No matter how scary things are right now – the most important things are that we have our health and that the people we love are close. If this continues, then we are winning.
Here’s to International Relations! Bride and groom actually met while studying – you guessed it! – International Relations (plus an MBA on top of that…), and what they entered into was, in fact, a very international (and for the longest time, long-distance) relationship: Marcelo is originally from Argentina, studied in Philadelphia, where he met Katie, originally from the SF Bay Area – but she had lived in West Africa for four years for her work… in no time, the two bridged any international issues and became inseparable, albeit in separate locations; only a few months before their wedding, they actually, finally, were able to move into their first shared home.
Given that they both were living and working far apart and far away, Katie’s parents and family friend Alice stepped in to take the lead for a truly memorable, truly big (280 guests) and extremely elegant wedding celebration for their only daughter, and they brought my company, A Day Like No Other, on board to come up with ideas and make them a reality for that one glorious day in October when all our yearlong hard work came to fruition.
Katie and her bridesmaids got ready at the house of Katie’s parents.
Fiona Tsang of Urban Beauty Loft and her assistants worked their magic on the bride, bridesmaids and mothers, and photographer Taralynn Lawton (all photos in this feature are by her!) and videographer Jesse Eckel of Owl & Tree Films captured it all, including Katie’s diaphanous wedding dress…
… and all the pretty details.
And here is a timeless mother-and-daughter moment…
Florist Janelle Jacky-Litt of Green Petal Designs delivered Katie’s bridal bouquet and all other personal flowers (and then started floral installation for the festivities)…
Marcelo and his groomsmen were also dressing up…
With that, bride and groom were ready for their First Look at the Municipal Rose Garden in San Jose…
Isn’t it romantic?!
While bride and groom were busy taking many, many pre-ceremony photos, my team, multiple vendor crews and family friend Alice were hard at work (actually, everyone had started work in the early morning hours…) to transform the chosen venue – the Palo Alto Hills Golf & Country Club – for Katie’s and Marcelo’s ceremony and reception. Annette Boyd Kevranian of Method42 Productions and her crew were rigging suspended floral decor and string lights and installing draping; the venue team led by onsite manager Brittany Rieland set up tables, chairs and lounge furniture and set the dining tables; my assistants and I were setting up signage and completing table settings; and…
florist Janelle brought the beautiful parklike surroundings inside by adorning every easel, railing and surface with trailing vines, visually connecting the outdoor ceremony setting with the indoor spaces for the reception.
Once the ceremony setup was in place, DJ Henry Kim of BIG FUN Disc Jockeys installed a sound system, and the Synchronicity String Quartet arrived to serenade the bridal party and the guests at the ceremony.
Hand fans doubled as ceremony programs…
… and soon enough guests were arriving (shuttled in style by Le Grande Affaire), and the ceremony began. Officiated by a longtime friend of the bride’s family, it was heartfelt and authentic – it does not get more personal than that!
The newlyweds had more photos to take…
… while their guests were treated to cocktails and hors d’oeuvres on the elegantly appointed patio.
Cozy lounge furniture and color-coordinated blankets beckoned; living green trees were literally bringing the gardens to the patio… and built-in heaters provided warmth against the late Fall evening chill. To keep guests well entertained, a photo booth by The Laugh Box provided unlimited fun!
Indoors, a guest book table was used to display a personal photo gallery…
… whose backdrop, a natural stone wall, was filled with flowers in every niche and “overgrown” by gracefully trailing vines – all the masterpiece of florist Janelle.
Then it was time for dinner! The dining room had been transformed into an indoor garden scenery with string lights, living trees, a giant floral arrangement suspended above the Head Table, stunning tall floral centerpieces, white-washed Chiavari chairs and elegant place settings.
Once all guests were seated, the new Mr. & Mrs. opened the lavish dinner buffet with their Grand Entrance.
Over dinner, Katie’s Dad surprised everyone with an outrageous performance:
He expertly “decapitated” a bottle of Champagne with a saber!
The two clearly enjoyed the evening! What else was there to do? Cutting the wedding cake (from Studio Cake)…
… and opening the dessert buffet of Argentinian cake specialties…
… and dancing, of course! DJ Henry Kim – who also served as our bilingual MC – kept the crowd going with the perfect mix of Argentinian tunes and international favorites.
That opened the dance floor to all guests.
It truly was an “International Summit” and an epic party! Keep celebrating life and love on your shared journey, Katie and Marcelo!
D. and J. are a young power couple, accomplished and hardworking – one a wealth advisor, one an attorney, and they value their privacy (hence – initials only!). When they decided to start the New Year by tying the knot after four years of courtship, they chose one of the iconic San Francisco grand mansions for their venue – the historic James Leary Flood Mansion with an unrivaled view over the San Francisco Bay, marble columns inside and out – in one word, true grandeur. They chose a catering company befitting this elegant setting (Melons Catering) and they chose their photographer (Anna Hogan Photography), but then their long hours at work took over, day after day. Suddenly, their wedding date was just a few weeks away, with the Christmas holidays in between… and they realized that it was time to accept a little help.
At the recommendation of Sheldon Sloan of Melons Catering, my company, A Day Like No Other, had the honor of completing the planning of this unique event. When we could get started “for real,” we had only two weeks left. Time to hurry! Not only that – the forecast of inclement weather forced us to move the whole party inside at the last moment. But given the classic architecture of Flood Mansion, this only made the event even more glamorous!
And it certainly did not dampen the spirit of the bride and her bridesmaids. Everyone got ready in style at the prestigious Fairmont Hotel SF…
The bride wore an ethereal dress…
… to accompany the spectacular rings.
All the ladies looking stunning in hair and makeup by A Toast to Beauty (Savanna Allen) and with their bouquets by Poppy Cart Flowers, they were ready for the party to begin.
It did begin – with the couple’s First Look in the courtyard. While groom J. was waiting, bride D. stepped out and gently tapped him on the shoulder from behind.
What an emotional moment… leading immediately to the best photo of the day! Let’s call it “the official wedding photo…” (but we can’t show…sorry!)
Then the two took many more photos with bridal party and family, and both Anna Hogan Photographers and videographer Martin Meyer of martinFILMS captured those precious memories.
Meanwhile, many teams were working frantically behind the scenes, not only my assistant Nimy and I. The crew of Melons Catering were setting up the kitchen, the bar, tables and chairs.
Isn’t that regal? The bride had chosen rich jewel tones accompanied by metallic gold accents. What a sight!
Florist Jacqueline Devins was busy decorating the chapel, dinner tables, cocktail tables, sconces, railings; Megan Woods of Enhanced Lighting worked her magic to bathe the walls in soft shades of peach and to project a custom gobo on the dance floor; a string duo under the leadership of Rocio Lopez Sanchez (SF Conservatory of Music) arrived, DJ Sami Funk of Heart of Gold DJs prepared musical entertainment, and Night Owl Photo Booth set up a booth for even more fun.
Then the great moment had arrived. Here comes the radiant bride, accompanied by her parents:
The ceremony was officiated by a personal friend of the couple, and soon enough, the groom broke a glass (in Jewish tradition), the couple was pronounced husband and wife, and Jeff received official permission to kiss his bride!
Guests were asked to a group photo outside, then enjoyed Cocktail Hour in the Reception Room, while dusk fell outside and the view turned really magical. Following the bride’s family’s Persian tradition, we had set up a sofreh-aghd (wedding spread) showcasing many symbols of the sweetness of married life.
Then everyone was invited to dinner in the Great Hall – surrounded by classic architecture, marble columns and floors, illuminated by candlelight – a truly splendid sight.
Each place setting was topped with a little rosemary sprig, and a “program” card welcomed guests to the remaining festivities of the evening.
At the beginning of the festive dinner, the newlyweds honored the Persian tradition of feeding each other a little honey from the sofreh, and then delicious dishes began to appear… Champagne toasts, speeches, table visits – time passed by so quickly! Next highlight: the couple’s First Dance as husband and wife on their personalized Dance Floor: and that set the dance party off! Guests only took a short break for just another special moment: the traditional cutting of the wedding cake (by Susie Cakes).
The newlyweds accomplished this “traditional first task as a married couple” with bravura, and all guests got to enjoy all the various flavors (each layer was different!) with coffee and tea. But that was not all…
The couple had arranged bus transportation (by United Coach Tours) for their guests to an afterparty. Everyone agreed – this was EPIC! Keep celebrating, D. and J., and a lifetime of happiness to you!
Anna and Etan had chosen Thomas Fogarty Winery for their wedding – a spectacular venue with endless views over all of Silicon Valley right to the San Francisco skyline – and brought my company, A Day Like No Other, on board to plan everything else – from vendor sourcing to design, ceremony planning to wedding day schedule. Our many months of planning time literally flew by, and on the first weekend of September, Wedding Day was upon us.
Anna and her bridesmaids got ready at the Garden Court Hotel in Palo Alto where Felicia Chang of Bun Bun Bridal Lab had set up a veritable beauty lounge.
The girls REALLY had fun together… see here!
Then it was time for the bride to transfer to her wedding venue in style – we had reserved a stretch limousine from Le Grande Affaire – and to get into her dress…
… a delicate, diaphanous, lace-encrusted stunner!
Matching the blue-and-silver color scheme, Anna had chosen shimmering silver wedding shoes. Here are the rings….
… and the beautiful bouquets for bride and bridesmaids (by Marie Krick of Laurel & Vine)..
And here is the happy bride…
Groom Etan was also getting ready…
… and he and his groomsmen were outfitted with boutonnieres matching the bridal flowers.
It all turned out exactly as bride Anna had envisioned it – until the weather threw us a curveball: a freak storm forced us to move dinner inside, and the catering team, onsite coordinator Kaitlin Brinton, my assistants Chrissy Wolfman and Stephanie Hui and myself, and even our DJ scrambled to carry everything inside. Incredible but true: it was all done in a mere twenty minutes, and guests could sit down in warmth and comfort to a delicious meal by Toast Catering. The rest of the evening progressed smoothly, including cutting the breathtakingly elegant (and super delicious!) wedding cake (by Cake Coquette).
The remainder of the festivities was dedicated to dancing to the rousing tunes of DJ Woody Miraglia of BIG FUN Disc Jockeys …
… and the newlyweds just snuck out for a moment to take photos with sparklers, despite the howling storm…