Amanda & Noah: a Beautiful Wedding in the Times of COVID

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.

You may now kiss your bride!
Just married!

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.

Timeless style icons: Jackie Kennedy

 “Fashions come and go, but style is timeless.” How often have we heard this! We all remember “Lady Di” whose fashion influenced a whole generation of young women worldwide. But there were others before her, most notably “Jackie O.”

Born Jacqueline Bouvier and nicknamed “Jackie,” she married John F. Kennedy, and with his presidency became the youngest US First Lady in history, at a mere 31 years old.

Her tenure lasted only three years, until the fateful day her husband was assassinated in Dallas, dying in her arms, on November 22, 1961.

As the First Lady, Jackie was expected to choose an American designer to design her official wardrobe, and she chose the then-darling of Hollywood’s greatest stars – Oleg Cassini. Together, the two were to create a “Thousand Days of Magic” (the aptly chosen title of Oleg Cassini’s gorgeous book on their collaboration).

In stark contrast to the matronly looks of previous (much older) First Ladies, Cassini created for Jackie Kennedy clean, simple silhouettes in sumptuous fabrics – geometric lines, big buttons – a total of 300 outfits in just three years. He made her the most copied woman in the world.

Probably the most famous dress of all Cassini creations was a white Swiss double satin gown which Jackie wore to the Inaugural Gala Ball in 1961 as her first appearance as First Lady. The dress was soon named one of the 50 Dresses that Changed the World by the Design Museum in England.

Interested? This book is worth reading – I have it and still enjoy it tremendously!

Wedding customs from around the world: Persia

A guest post by Nilou Nouri

Nilou has been serving as a Persian wedding officiant for many years – and has frequently done so for weddings by A Day Like No Other.

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.

All photos show sofreh set-ups by Nilou

A new cakemaker “on the block!”

There are still courageous people “out there” in our wedding vendor community, despite the disastrous effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. So courageous (or audacious?) that they start a new business right now. You read correctly. Patisserie chef Janay McCullough is opening an offshoot of her Avocado Catering company: Avocado Baking – dedicated to uncompromisingly modern and bold cake designs. And since what’s underneath that pretty exterior matters at least as much, here are her – equally bold – flavors!

Avocado Mojito: Moist vanilla cake, avocado citrus mousse, fresh mint, sweet Swiss meringue buttercream; a fun, refreshing flavor perfect for warm weather and adventurous eaters. It does not have a strong avocado flavor, rather it adds depth and fat to help balance the acidic citrus and fresh mint.

Berries & The Bees: Our signature, moist vanilla cake with salted honey roasted strawberry compote filling and sweet Swiss meringue buttercream. The ultimate crowd pleaser with fresh, bright strawberries, roasted with local honey, which lends a buttery note to the berries.

Chocolate Lovers: Vanilla cake, rich and silky fudge filling with sea salt, dark chocolate Swiss meringue buttercream. The perfect balance the dark chocolate. This flavor is for the serious chocolate lover.

High Tea: Delicately flavored earl grey tea cake, salted caramel, lemon zest Swiss meringue buttercream. The floral flavor of bergamot, a citrus that tastes like a cross between a lemon, orange, and grapefruit, lends itself well to the sweetness of our caramel. For adventurous eaters with a caramel addiction!

Tiramisu: Vanilla cake, soaked with boozy-coffee tiramisu syrup, with a cream cheese and espresso Swiss meringue buttercream. Our take on a classic favorite!

Now that you know what’s INSIDE, here is what the outside might look like:

DIY project with your kids: a whimsical mailbox

Collaborate with your youngsters to turn your run-of-the-mill mailbox into a little piece of art and make your mail carrier’s jaw drop! Just be aware that for this project it is necessary to wear a face mask – so it’s only suitable for kids old enough to do that and use a spray paint can responsibly.

Here are the supplies you’ll need:

Medium-grit sandpaper

Painters masks

Painters tape

Aluminum primer

Metal paint spray paint in the beautiful color of your choice

First of all, outfit all participants with protective masks, then start sanding off rust and old paint from your mailbox.

Next, you need to cover house numbers and the mail flag with painters tape (older kids can do that!).

Spray on aluminum primer and allow it to dry.

Then, apply the metal spray paint and let it dry completely. AND THEN the real fun begins! Have your young artists decorate your mailbox – easiest way is using stencils. Want to go one step further? Make a sculpture of your mailbox! Get inspired:

Clownfish
Piggy
Woof!

And the results? WOW!!

Peonies…

Today the peony blooms in my garden opened – in glorious pink and in white, reminding me of the wonderful summer weddings of years gone by – when peonies were the stars of bridal bouquets and centerpieces …

Janae Shields Photography
Andre Vega Photography

– and of the many brides of 2020, anxiously awaiting their postponed wedding celebrations – next year, maybe…?

Here is the first bloom of this summer on the peony bush I inherited with my garden…

… and here is the one I planted myself last year, unsure of whether it’d make it through the winter. Such beauty…

I read up a little on peonies and learned a few things I’d like to share you with you. Where did they get their name? In Greek mythology, actually. They are named after Paeon, a student of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine who became deadly jealous of his talented student. Zeus, the supreme God, used his divine powers to save Paeon from his boss Asclepius by transforming him into – you guessed it – a beautiful flower. The peony!

Nowadays, the peony comes in 33 known species, mostly herbaceous plants up to 3 ft or shrubs up to 11 ft (!) tall, in colors ranging from white and yellow to pink to dark red. Peonies thrive in temperate regions of Asia, Europe and Western North America, and they bloom for only 7-10 days in early summer.

They have been prized for their beauty in many cultures for centuries – look at these examples:

Chinese watercolor
Chinese stamp

Botanical drawing, ca. 1809
Impressionist painting, Henri Fantin-Latour

They have become one of the most desired flowers for weddings – and once their blooming season in OUR area is over, we can still get them from (you would NEVER have guessed that!) Alaska – of all places – where unique growing conditions due to long hours of sunlight create availability when other sources have completed harvest. Late-summer brides, rejoice… we’ll get you your peonies!!

Gabby is working her cake magic!

My longtime friend and colleague Gabrielle Feuersinger of Cake Coquette fame made a time-lapse video just FOR US!!! How nice is that?! In case you were wondering how long it takes Gabby for the elaborate decoration of one of her masterpieces, now we know: exactly 27 seconds – on timelapse!

You’ll have to look twice and watch a couple more times to see it all what she’s doing, but even then we’ll probably miss a good part of her skill and artistry. In any case – get inspired for your own edible art!

Please click the play button to see Gabby in action.

Here is the finished masterpiece close up:

And if you need even more inspiration, here are some of Gabby’s recent creations for you to swoon over!

Continuing education with “Masterclass” courses

Now that I suddenly have more time on my hands than ever before (and more time than I like…) I was looking for something constructive to do – beyond my COVID-19 support & encouragement series here, that is! I wanted to widen my horizon, learn something new, and not necessarily something related to my business.

I have to give my husband credit for finding something for me, something that I didn’t even know existed: “MasterClass!” It’s a platform of online courses taught by accomplished professionals in their respective fields – chefs and pastry chefs, to start with; there is Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue; interior designer Kelly Wearstler, fashion designers (Diane von Fuerstenberg, Marc Jacobs), dancers, magicians, star architects (Frank Gehry), photography (Annie Leibovitz), acting and game theory. And many more whom I haven’t even explored yet! Each master class consists of 12-20 lessons of approx. 20 minutes – short enough to fit into my day and sometimes to even watch several in a row. This is something I am now really looking forward to every day! I already found an intuitive approach to gardening through watching “Gangster Gardener” Ron Finley (and maybe I’ll eventually develop a “green thumb” after all!) and I learned from pastry chef Dominique Ansel to make heavenly Madeleines. (BTW, all the links above lead to free sample lessons – enjoy!!)

Have a look at the course selection. The cost? You sign up for a year, and for access to all courses on the platform you pay 50 cents a day. It’s so totally worth it… and NO, I don’t get a kickback for recommending the platform. I’m simply enthusiastic!

Let me know what you think…

Katie and Marcelo – International High Elegance at Palo Alto Hills Golf & Country Club

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.

Golden October sun bathing the rolling hills of the PAHGGC
A detail of the lush floral decor of the arch – a rich texture of hydrangeas, roses, dahlias, lilies and wildflowers, in shades ranging from ivory and blush pink to peach, mauve and wine red

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 bridesmaids were wearing subtle shades of mauve and pale lavender, accentuated by their bouquets which picked up this color scheme and complemented it with deep burgundy, magenta and ivory.
You may now kiss the bride!
Just married!

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.

Every guest table enjoyed a giant version of the bridal bouquet as its exquisite centerpiece
Mauve velvet napkins were adorned with simple green sprigs and a little wedding favor: a personalized wine cork to commemorate the occasion

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.

The newlyweds’ First Dance…
… was followed by a spectacular Father-Daughter Dance routine (which both of them clearly had sheer joy in performing!)

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: an Elegant Affair at Flood Mansion

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!