Nicole’s and Rob’s Sweet Spring Wedding

Nicole and Rob are two highly trained, super-organized, super busy young professionals, Nicole a scientist completing her PhD, and Rob an engineer. Getting married was something they approached with their usual efficiency. Venue? A community center at walking distance from home. Priorities? Friends, family, fun. Deprioritized: fuss and frills!

Nicole approached my company, A Day Like No Other, mainly to pull all her ideas and planning details together and to oversee the wedding day itself – which we did. As is common with weddings, we found quite a few more things to work on in preparation for the Great Day.

Nicole’s and Rob’s wedding would become so very special through the many personal touches – friends and family contributing and planning surprises, for example – and that started way ahead of time: for her wedding dress, Nicole chose her mother’s – both of them are tall and slender, and with some modernizing and streamlining (the bottom ruffles had to go…) this storied dress turned out perfect for a modern young bride:

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Short and sweet – no veil; just a pretty, sparkly headpiece tucked into the bride’s simple updo – no make-up… well, she doesn’t even need any, as pretty as she is!

Getting ready at home…

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… with her bridesmaids helping – they all deserve a toast! (As does our tireless photographer, Megan Reeves, who captured every precious moment…)

Bride and bridesmaids

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Beautiful bouquets of Calla lilies in vibrant orange from Nature’s Alley (who delivered all floral decor for the wedding) complemented the beauty and upbeat spirit of these young ladies:

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The groom and his groomsmen were also getting ready …

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… donning matching neckties…

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… and now everyone is ready for the First Look at their wedding venue, the Lucie Stern Community Center – a beautiful Spanish-Mediterranean complex set amid a lush park:

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Groom First Look

Waiting for his bride – and here she approaches:

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As was to be expected, Rob was completely blown away by Nicole’s youthful beauty:

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First Look

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Time for photos! Bridesmaids, groomsmen, family…

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… and the groom with his Best Man – who would share many a funny story of their long friendship later that day.

Groom and Best Man

Guests were already gathering,

bicycle… welcomed with the homemade Meyer lemonade provided by a friend (and insiders got the hint…)

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… in the courtyard where the ceremony was going to take place –

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Preceded by a very excited flower girl – Here Comes the Bride, accompanied by music from DJ Jeremy Productions (who provided music and entertainment throughout)…

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The ceremony was officiated by a longtime friend of the couple, an ordained minister. It doesn’t get more personal and more meaningful than that!

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Rings

Bridesmaids bouquets

Just married!

Just married

… and definitely time to party and share cocktails with their many guests, provided by Mills Wine Group and expertly poured by Pour Girl Bartenders. And of course everyone had a blast with the photo booth by Photomatica! One very important guest, however, had been missing so far: the couple’s beloved Viszla puppy “Pepper.”

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To the big surprise of the newlyweds, a neighbor brought her for a cameo appearance (a carefully orchestrated “grand conspiracy” in which we, the planners, also had a hand…)

Cuddling Pepper

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So… is THIS the official wedding photo? Or the next one?

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Soon enough, dinner was ready in the ballroom decked out with string lights:

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Bouquets

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From centerpieces of floating flowerheads and candles to coffee mugs: everything played along the couple’s wedding colors of blue and orange.

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Dinner was a rustic taco bar buffet from Prochaine Oaxacan Kitchen,

Taco barand everyone was digging in, barely leaving a little space for dessert – THE CAKE (from The Prolific Oven)! In this case, a yummy carrot cake with a personalized topper:

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Honoring tradition, the newlyweds cut the cake together – officially their first collaboration as a married couple:

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With more cakes in various flavors to choose from – everybody’s “sweet tooth” got satisfied, that’s for sure. And then, after the newlyweds’  First Dance and the traditional Father-Daughter Dance, nothing held the crowd back from dancing:

First Dance

Father Daughter Dance

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Dance Party

It was such a fun party for everyone! Guests took home unforgettable memories AND stemless wine glasses engraved with the couple’s names.

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Many happy years together, Nicole and Rob, and keep walking hand in hand!

Walking together

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Elopement of a Glamour Heiress – A Stylized Photoshoot

A few weeks backs, my company, A Day Like No Other, created exactly that – if only for a stylized photo shoot! Once in a while, I let my fantasies run wild and make these daydreams a short-lived reality, just for long enough to take photos and preserve these flights of fancy.

So here is the daydream that we set to scenes and pictures AND to music (and all published in Ceremony Magazine of Spring 2016!).

A glamorous young heiress, super-wealthy, beautiful and spoiled (yes! She can have anything she wants, and she’s used to that!), elopes to San Francisco with her fiancé (who is just as beautiful and not poor, either…) to get married at one of the City’s most iconic venues: the Imperial Floor of the Westin St. Francis Hotel in the heart of the City. Said young heiress is all into 1920s silver screen goddess glamour – that’s her style; nothing less.

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To bring this vision of elegance, style and beauty to life, I rounded up more than a dozen collaborators, and all of them did a fabulous job in what they do best – so the results are, I believe, spectacular. But have a look yourselves!

Our couple is traveling to San Francisco in style – in a vintage silver Rolls-Royce, chauffeured by a driver in uniform (who in real life happens to be a private collector and owner of three more of these beauties, and who just loves to put on a great show with me!). Bride and groom ask for a road stop on the Presidio, in front of a historic chapel and amidst the typical San Francisco fog.

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Photo shoot Ceremony Westin-151Their chauffeur sets out an elegant picnic for them, with tea, pastries and champagne, and their violinist (!!) who is traveling with them, serenades them from the background.

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The bride is wearing an Italian silk travel wedding dress and a vintage mink shrug, and the groom is dapper in his classic tuxedo.

After their picnic, they proceed to the Westin St. Francis hotel…

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Photo shoot Ceremony Westin-141…to get ready on the Imperial Floor (the ballroom floor that is only accessible by private elevator key…) where everything is being prepared for their ceremony in Alexandra’s Ballroom. The bride needs to change, of course, have hair and makeup done according to her ceremony look, and to don some exquisite vintage jewelry – Art Deco pieces set in platinum.

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For their ceremony, floral arrangements and classic wedding tunes played by their traveling violinist form a fitting backdrop, and once married, the two are showered with rose petals.

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Time for portraits – and of course, our bride has brought her cute little dog; the two are inseparable!

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Once all the photos are done, the couple can finally sit down at their sweetheart table,

Photo shoot Ceremony Westin-104… which is lavishly decorated with elegant linens, stunning floral arrangements, an antique menorah candelabra, and exquisite china, glassware and flatware befitting the occasion. Their table offers a spectacular view, overlooking the heart of San Francisco from 34 stories up…

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Photo shoot Ceremony Westin-23And, yes, of course there are custom-designed, calligraphed menu cards as an extra touch of excellence!

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The best is still to come: a dessert table with not one, but two wedding cakes in true Art Deco style, but with a delicate surprise: elegant ladies’ shoes (all edible, including the label on the insole!!) as toppers.

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After so much enjoyment, the couple tops it off with their First Dance – which is, of course, just as spectacular as everything that came before. A Dream Day Like No Other in pictures…

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We would like to thank all our contributors who made this folly possible:

Ceremony Magazine

Our photographer: Vicens Forns for Ceremony Magazine

Our models, Lindsay Knox, and her manager, Mom Casandra Knox, Gavin Farrington and Sherlock the dog

Our venue: The Westin St. Francis Hotel

Hair and Makeup: Miabel Artistry

Wedding dresses and accessories: Nouvelle Vogue

Vintage jewelry: Gleim the Jeweler

Rentals: Classic Party Rentals

Linen rentals: Napa Valley Linens

Calligraphy: Monks of Age

Wedding cake and pastries: Morgane Ric, 510-776-1643. info.jolicake@gmail.com

Floral décor: A Loves in Bloom

Violinist: Joyce Lee

Antique candelabra and candlesticks: Poetica Art and Antiques

 

 

 

What I Learned about Love, I Learned from my Dog

It’s about time to honor the “woof” in “Wedding Woof” again! One of my recent couples provided a gentle reminder… Krista and Ben, at home in Australia, could not bring their beloved dog Sophie to their destination wedding in Big Sur – but they knew to honor Sophie with a ceremony reading dedicated just to her. And that was so beautiful and true that I want to share it with you, my readers.

I will dedicate my version to our beloved Buzz who has shared our lives for 13 and a half years and is still making us smile every single day.

with Buzz in Snow

Here it goes:

Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joy ride together. Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

When you want treats, practice obedience.

Let others know when they’ve invaded your territory.

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Take naps together and stretch before rising.

Run, romp and play daily.

Be loyal.

If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

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Avoid biting, when a simple growl will do.

When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

No matter how often you’re scolded, don’t buy into the guilt thing and pout – run right back and make friends.

Delight in the simple joy of a long walk together.

Love each other unconditionally.

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Nataly and Derek’s Joyful Wedding Celebration at Nella Terra Cellars

A schoolteacher from Bolivia. A product manager (with a bioengineering background) from China. These two couldn’t have come from any more different backgrounds. And yet – they are so much more similar than different, and that is what ties them together. They met five years ago, both foreigners to this country, but with so many shared values and interests… they both care deeply about others. They are immensely curious and love to travel and experience new cultures, adopting the best of everything. They are happy with simple things, love to discover “hole-in-the-wall” restaurants and to walk with ice cream. They both love dogs and have just adopted “Peanut,” a tiny furry bundle of joy.

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The two took their time of courtship until it was clear to absolutely everyone that they should stay together forever, and on Valentine’s Day this year, Derek proposed in Puerto Vallarta. Yes, he is a romantic at heart!

Having been a friend of Derek’s for years – and an immediate fan of Nataly’s as well, as soon as we were introduced to one another! – I was so happy that the two entrusted their wedding planning to my company, A Day Like No Other. Hands-on people that they are, they had already found their venue: Nella Terra Cellars in Sunol, a hamlet in the SF East Bay. “Nella Terra,” meaning “into the Earth,” is exactly what Nataly and Derek were looking for. An oasis in the middle of vineyards and rolling hills –

MGA_2615… a curvy white tent to host a big celebration and an adjacent ceremony arbor overlooking a pond and well-trimmed greenery and pathways, and a beautiful patio for cocktails; just the right thing for extended families and friends gathering from as far as China, Canada and Bolivia – two hundred of them!

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True to her Latin American heritage, Nataly wanted vibrant color for her wedding: warm yellow, orange and a little red, and turquoise a a counterpoint. From ceremony decor to favor boxes, from bouquets (from The Flower House) to lanterns – everything displayed her favorite colors for a very cohesive, joyful and upbeat look. Nataly’s Dad had added his own personal contributions –

MGA_1116… a handmade wagon to hold much-needed parasols for ceremony guests, and a whimsical seating chart of antique picture frames. Videographer Martin Meyer of martinFILMS and Photographer Professor Matthias Geiger worked their magic with the camera:

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Reverend Dr. Lili Goodman Freitas of Weddings of Heart officiated the ceremony, made intensely personal through readings of poems both in Spanish and in Mandarin, and accompanied by guitarist Bruce Brill.MRG_2396And here they are: Just married!!

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While the couple had many, many more pictures taken all over the property …

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my assistant Kelsey and the venue coordinators were busy getting everything ready for dinner in the tent:

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… where guests were treated, among other things, to a traditional Chinese roast pig (a contribution from Derek’s Dad) and to live Bolivian traditional songs by the authentic Bolivian band Kumara – again a nod to the bride’s heritage (plus, her cousin Gonzalo plays the charango and guitar in the band!) It was fascinating to see how these two diverse cultural backgrounds seamlessly merged into one warm and joyful celebration! Including the cake from Margaret’s French Bakery, of course, dressed up for the occasion –

MGA_1365– which was accompanied by the couple’s other favorite dessert: Smitten’s ice cream! (Tcho chocolate was my all-time favorite flavor…). Everyone was having a great time –

MRG_2493… among other things, with Night Owl Photo Booth. The evening continued with dancing to the music of DJ Steve McDowell of Fantasy Sound, and as darkness fell, myriad string lights and chandeliers in the tent turned the scene downright magical…

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MGA_3412And my favorite photo? Here it is:

MGA_2408“Love does not mean looking into each other’s eyes all the time, but looking in the same direction.”

Next destination for the two: Italy! Have a fabulous Honeymoon, and Arrivederci!

The Perfect Performance: Marissa’s and Jordan’s Wedding at Studio Trilogy

What’s the most unusual, most hip and chic wedding venue you’ve ever been to? I bet you’ve never been to a wedding at a professional recording studio!

Well, I was the lucky one! When Marissa and Jordan approached my company, A Day Like No Other, for help with their wedding coordination, they had already booked Studio Trilogy in San Francisco – a professional recording studio with a long list of illustrious clients, among others Willie Nelson, and every free spot on the walls adorned with photos of pop and rock luminaries “in action.”

To my great surprise, Studio Trilogy offers much more than the recording studios themselves – there is a dramatic double-height Great Room with exposed wood beams and a fireplace, a cozy media room, a secret room hidden behind a movable built-in shelf, a gallery, a bridal preparation area complete with a separate bathroom, a patio, two kitchens… in short, a spacious, chic venue with all the bells and whistles!

The couple had made sure there were many personal touches and a lot of consideration for guests throughout: arriving guests left their cars with California Valet Parking (no hassles with that) and, instead of signing a guest book, took Polaroid snapshots and clipped them to wire frames in the foyer.

Speaking of photos – the guests got to see a lot of those! The built-in library shelves of the Great Room had been filled with at least a hundred family and couples’ photos, interspersed with as many candles…

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Embroidered handkerchiefs “for your happy tears” and yarmulkes (the traditional Jewish skullcaps) were set out for the guests..

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For her great day, the bride had chosen an exquisite lace Empire dress with a crystal-encrusted sash and straps …

 

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… with a feminine bow in back, complemented by gorgeous strappy, glittery high heels…

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…and  an artfully “undone” updo. The proud Mother of the Bride placed the veil herself on her daughter.

Marissa’s good friend Jo Newman was the hair and makeup artist for the day for bride, mothers, and bridesmaids, and all looked equally radiant! Another good friend, acclaimed wedding, portrait and lifestyle photographer Laurie Smith, had come all the way from Los Angeles to capture every precious moment of  her friends’ wedding.

For the ceremony, Marissa’s Dad had handcrafted a Chuppah …

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… which was then decorated with a lush flower arrangement by Aili Ice Designs:

… and the bride carried a beautiful bouquet to match:

The ceremony was officiated by the brother of the groom, with parents, closest family members and a good hundred friends surrounding the Chuppah. The star of the day? Ringbearer dog Max! Here he is, front and center, sporting a white bow tie and cuffs, in the official wedding photo:

He really did a good job, assisted by two more ring bearers, Avi and Mikayla.

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DSC_3052Marissa’s niece, 14-year old Allie, a gifted pianist, contributed in her own way – she played the bride’s processional, Pachelbel’s famous Canon in D, on the grand piano:

DSC_4508 and for the couple’s First Dance it was their friend Steve playing.

Guests mingled in the gallery and on the patio …

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… with cocktails from two bars, hors d’oeuvres from TipTopTapas …

DSC_3000… and traditional Jewish music by the Stanford Klezmer Band who went on to intonate the time-honored melody of Hava Nagila for the mandatory Hora Dance – and the crowd exuberantly danced along and lifted the newlyweds high up on chairs.

DSC_3502The party got off to a great and joyful start – and did not stop ever that night! There were, of course, toasts and speeches from so many loved ones, and then the dancing and dining resumed. For the “dance party” of the night, the couple had enlisted a fantastic band, “Love Fool.”

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DSC_4869They kept the crowd going – on and on – clapping, stomping and singing along. And – did I mention the candy bar?

It was supplemented by decorated wedding cookies and cake pops in four flavors (a labor of love by Marissa’s Mom) and Jordan’s favorite  ice cream sandwiches: “It’s It,” a local SF specialty. To-go bags invited guests to take candy home as their wedding favors, and many rediscovered their “sweet tooth!”

What a wonderful day… and that is why both I and my tireless assistant Kelsey love our jobs so much!

Many happy years together, Marissa and Jordan (and Max!)

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Dog-Friendly Weddings – a Few Words of Wisdom on the BAWN Blog!

Michelle Buzz lowresI just wanted to share great news with you, dear readers: BAWN Blog just published our Tips for a Dog-Friendly Wedding! Have a look… and I hope it helps to make your planning easier!

 

Family Fun on the Ranch: Pam’s and John’s Wedding on Mt. Diablo

After seven years together and a full year of planning and do-it-yourself projects, Pam’s and John’s dream finally came true: Wedding Day! I am so happy they allowed my company, A Day Like No Other, to accompany their journey from first ideas to ceremony and celebration, from preliminary sketches to planning memos and vendor sourcing to final timelines.

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From our very first planning and brainstorming session on, one thing was clear: this wedding would be a big fun affair. Both Pam and John are fun-loving, quirky personalities who don’t care a bit for convention, but very much for their families – all just as upbeat and fun-loving as they themselves. There would be lots of kids in the wedding, and of course their own “baby” (or rather: fur baby) Cody. So what emerged was the idea of a carnival-themed wedding on a dog-friendly farm. Now, that’s definitely not your “run-of-the-mill wedding!” Far from it… what else? Lots of DIY projects – hand-crocheted boxes, centerpiece decor, and even little birdies for the wedding cake. Handmade paper flowers for the centerpieces. A color scheme of nostalgically muted, slightly faded pastel colors, mainly mint and peach and a dusty rose. And no conventional catering, please!

Look what we put together:

Our venue: Diablo Ranch, a working ranch at more than 1,000 ft of altitude high up on Mount Diablo in the San Francisco East Bay, with miles and miles of views…

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… and a romantic farmhouse with a shady courtyard…

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… and real farm animals…

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horse… and a beautiful pool for poolside dining:

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On wedding day, we were all tempted to jump in – with temperatures soaring to more than 100 degrees!

The bride (already in full hair and make-up by Nini’s Epiphany) and her bridesmaids were getting ready in a cool tack room…

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brideshowing off the dreamy bouquets by Green Petal Designs:

bridesmaidsThe groom and groomsmen dressed up as well:

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The fantastic ranch team …

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(and my assistant Angeliki and I) were all busy putting final touches on the setup. Arriving guests were greeted with beautiful Chinese hand fans (their wedding favors) – very much appreciated on this hot day!

fansPhotos of the couple (and more yummy favors, little “honey bears” hand-filled by the bride) led the way…

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… to the table assignment board – handmade by bride and groom:

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Then it was time for the First Look:

in the fields… and bridal party photos (by Majesta Patterson),

The ceremony, officiated by Rev. John Sullivan (rev@johnsully.com), took place in a magical spot under an old gnarly tree, overlooking a valley…

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Cody 2And here they are: Just married!

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First one to congratulate his Mom – was Cody:

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It was a glorious day for charming couples’ portraits and bridal party photos:

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Just married

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Time to party! With music by Love in the Mix, guests – young and old! – enjoyed real Carnival games by FunServices:

carnival… and Photo Booth shots by Night Owl photo booth.

As promised, food and drink were “off the beaten path” as well: since “Life is short – eat dessert first!” guests (as well as the newlyweds, of course!) were first treated to yummy ice cream from the Garden Creamery ice cream truck!

ice cream truckAnd after that – the “Yummi BBQ” Chinese  food truck served more substantial fare.

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Dining tables by the pool were decorated with centerpieces (of course!) handmade by the bride: pastel-colored jars filled with paper flowers crafted from coffee filter paper… a true labor of love!

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Everyone simply had a blast – kids and grown-ups alike! Everything was captured on video by Luke and Pamela Goodman – like the cutting of the cake (and cupcakes by Cupkates):

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… the couple’s First Dance and the most glorious sunset ever – a fitting end to an unforgettable day!

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Many happy, fun-filled years together, Pam and John – and our very best wishes!

And here is their wedding video – for the fun of it!

WEDDING: Pamela and John Short film at Diablo Ranch from Luke Goodman on Vimeo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dogs in our Lives – and our Weddings!

Dear Canines, I have to offer you my sincerest apologies. I have shamefully neglected you lately, writing about your humans only. Which is not right – among other things because of the name of this publication: Wedding Woof!

So here’s to the “woofs” in Wedding Woof – and especially to those who were or will be stars in my weddings at A Day Like No Other! After all, I am the only wedding planner in all of Northern California specializing in dog-friendly weddings… so, now I’ll finally live up to that reputation and give all my readers a glimpse of how my couples have included (or will include) their beloved companions in their weddings.

Let’s start with Natasha and Fabian. They had a very traditional wedding with a full Catholic Mass for their ceremony, followed by a huge celebration for close to 250 guests. Their beloved boxer girl wasn’t allowed at the Church (of course not…) nor at their venue. But the two found a way!

Natasha and FabianThey headquartered in a beautiful dog-friendly hotel very close to their reception venue – and that’s where they spent the night before their wedding, the morning of their wedding day and later on their First Night (Inn at the Presidio). That way they had their pretty canine with them most of the time (and for the photos, of course!) – and while they were away, she was lovingly being taken care of onsite, just waiting for her humans to return to her at the end of the day, “just married!”

“Lucky” was even luckier! Her people (Peggy and Jose) got married outside, so their rambunctious puppy was allowed to stay onsite – but the waiting time until finally she was allowed close to her master and mistress again, stretched to near infinity for her…

Peggy and Lucky

Now it’s time for a walk – off to married bliss!

Next up: Pastis and Milo! They were allowed to accompany their humans (Valerie and Andrew) all the time at their very dog-friendly wedding venue (Pasadera Golf Club, now Jack Nicklaus Golf Club, in Monterey). They even were the pro-forma ring bearers…

Milo and Pastis

Now come – two Cody’s!

Cody no. 1 is living with Amy and Tec who will get married in San Francisco in August. I happen to know because I am their wedding planner! And Cody happens to know, too – he actually mailed the “Save-the-dates:”

Amy Tec CodyIsn’t that cute?!

And here’s one more cutie: Cody no. 2. He is living with Pamela and John, and he will definitely be the star at their wedding in July:

Pams furbaby codyHis humans went to great lengths to find a totally dog-friendly venue so he could be with them all the time. Diablo Ranch in Walnut Creek proved to be the perfect choice for a wedding celebration equally kid- and dog-friendly, with a carnival theme and lots of fun for everyone.

Last but not least there is Buzz, an Australian Shepherd, without whom his Master’s wedding would have been – unthinkable! So Philipp, his loving Dad, and Michelle, his Mom-to-be, went on a quest to find an elegant but dog-friendly venue. On a hot day in August, they and their constant companion Buzz visited and instantaneously fell in love with Stonepine Estate in Carmel Valley. Said the groom, “Buzz used the first moment we were distracted to escape and jump into the reflecting pool – to emerge dripping and dirty, shaking vigorously, a total mess… Michelle and I were sure that that was the end of our wedding dreams at Stonepine! They would never let us come back. In a word, we were heartbroken. But – miracles still happen! Instead of being shocked, someone appeared with a stack of fluffy white bath towels for the canine visitor’s convenience… needless to say, that’s where we got married, with Buzz in attendance!”

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Please share your story – jutta@daylikenoother.com

ACPWC Napa Spring Tour – What a Day!

As my faithful readers know, I graduated from ACPWC (Association of Certified Professional Wedding Consultants) and also earned my “Professional Wedding Consultant” title there – my solid foundation for my work as a wedding planner and designer, my starting point and everyday resource. I loved that school! But ACPWC is way more than only a school – it’s a nationwide professional organization for wedding industry professionals with a continuing education program for members. Part of that are organized  site and venue visits. And here we are: the Spring Tour this year – a whole day of wedding venue visits – went to the SF Wine Country. To Napa Valley, to be exact; membership chair Angie Mack had again outdone herself in putting all that together! Deborah Moody, our tireless Executive Director, came with us, and Social Media Chair Miranda Meisenbach recorded and posted right away what we ladies were up to during the day.

And here we go: starting point was the Springhill Suites Marriott Napa Valley hotel, where we were not only treated to a tour of the property, but to breakfast and a Welcome Bag as well!

It’s a newer property offering the Wine Country Wedding experience at a moderate price point, but with everything one expects from a Wine Country getaway – pool and fitness center, 100 all-suite guest rooms, ball rooms and a tent for weddings up to 250 guests, as well as a ceremony lawn where a Tuscan-style setting is a beautiful backdrop for a wedding ceremony.

OR – the ceremony could be held at the quaint St. Joan of Arc Cathedral Church in nearby Yountville…

It has retained the simple charm of a little village church “that Time forgot…”

Another unexpected discovery was to follow right away: stylish North Block hotel in Yountville. Never heard of it? Me neither… it’s got a new owner, a new name, and a beautiful new makeover and concept for weddings!

With the nostalgic appeal of a Mediterranean village, a central plaza where the onsite restaurant puts out tables and chairs and where brides can say their vows at the antique fountain on the plaza, the 20-room luxury boutique hotel is a total secret even to wedding industry insiders. A beautiful pool was beckoning … (as you can see, it was the perfect hot summer day in the Wine Country!)

… and the hotel’s Redd Wood restaurant looked just as inviting, with lots of French bistro character and unique design touches:

North Block is, by the way, dog-friendly for ceremony and outside cocktail hour, so bring your furry friend, as ring bearer or as witness to your nuptials! North Block also offers a unique approach to planning an intimate Wine Country Wedding – a hotel buyout. Just imagine to have the whole little “village” to yourselves and your closest friends and family who’d occupy the guest rooms; you could be married right there on the plaza, have your cocktail hour there and dine in that wonderfully nostalgic “pizzeria” (where the chef will customize your gourmet menu – don’t be fooled by the “pizzeria” sign in the window!!) – and then you can dance under the stars. North Block can accommodate weddings of ca. 50 guests – so, small affairs only – but that they do in high style!

After lunch at Pacific Blues Cafe on the Yountville “town square,” we went to visit the Domaine Chandon winery where exquisite “bubblies” are produced in the French method, “methode Champenoise.” Go and try the finished product – it’s delicious!

The Champagne develops in huge barrels – or rather, tanks! – it’s really impressive:

… and then you can sit back in the ultramodern tasting room and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy…

… which we did, later! First we toured the beautiful property which is extremely sought-after for elegant weddings. Small wonder…

… especially since only six (SIX!!) can be held there per year! But just look at the possibilities:

Shaded lawns with views of the valley, intimate patios and grottos, a dining room (Etoile, a true star – of the Michelin variety, no less!) in a streamlined modern design – Chandon can accommodate elegant weddings from 12 to 120. A dream! And then we wrapped up with their rosé Champagne on the patio. We could have just stayed there for the rest of the day…

… but more site visits were awaiting! Next stop: the combined property of Vintage Estate (super dog-friendly!!) and Villagio Inn and Spa –  another Italian/French fantasy with more than 200 beautiful guest rooms, flowing waterways, palm trees and blooming flowers everywhere.

It’s a whole little Mediterranean town in itself with restaurants, pools, and a world-class spa… and what’s even more, the “old” spa building was converted into a get-ready house for the bridal party, with a sitting room, mani/pedi/hair/make-up room, its own steam sauna and pool AND its own kitchen! Can be rented for the whole wedding day… simply fabulous! Ceremonies for small parties as well as for large weddings can be accommodated on site…

… followed by cocktails, dining and dancing – under the stars or in the rustic-nostalgic “Barrel Room” until two in the morning…

Make it a whole destination wedding weekend for yourselves and for your guests – so much to do! There is a golf course, tennis courts, pools, the spa and the restaurants, the quaint little town of Yountville and the beauty of the Wine Country beyond. It’ll be unforgettable for everyone!

Last visit of the day was to Black Stallion Winery on the world-famous Silverado Trail:

Situated on the grounds of an old equestrian estate, Black Stallion Winery offers a spectacular setting for a California Wine Country Wedding experience. Terraces and patios and several indoor spaces – including the historic Barrel Room – lend themselves to flights of wedding design fancy, blooming, romantic, rustic, nostalgic – as you like it!

Not even to mention Black Stallion’s world-class wines to accompany any meal… your guests will be in Bacchus’ Heaven! (as were we ourselves, after all that delicious wine tasting…)

With that, our excursion concluded – we were all so full of new impressions, exciting (wedding) possibilities, so exhausted and so happy! What an incredible tour!

Sylvan Lake – a Hidden Gem in the Wine Country

Last weekend, I made an incredible discovery: a hidden gem of a wedding venue in the Bay Area Wine Country! It’s totally unknown, totally private and secluded, it’s a beautiful enchanted garden, it’s even dog-friendly… what else can I say? It’s simply a treasure.

Sylvan Lake is high up in the mountains above picturesque St. Helena, but even after having lived in the Bay Area for more than a decade, and – of course – having visited the Wine Country countless times, I had no idea that Sylvan Lake existed, or where it might be. And just driving by, you would never suspect what’s hidden behind this unassuming driveway. Nor would the owners want it to be any other way.

John and Luise bought the property fifty years ago. Yes, fifty. And they’ve been working on it every single day, making it better and more beautiful, modernizing it inside while keeping the romantic facade overgrown with ivy – a storybook house. And, of course, they’ve lovingly tended to the gardens, and – as you will see – it shows.

The  most amazing thing, however, is, that the two wish to share the beauty and romance of their hidden treasure with others, to make young couples’ special day – even more special. And so, for many years, they’ve opened their doors for weddings, but never more than just 15 a year – so they can focus on every single event. John has amassed a whole inventory of things that you’d expect to have to bring: he has heat lamps and props, he’ll string dozens of Chinese lanterns across the expanse of the lawn and hang them from the trees, he’ll provide bar tables, market umbrellas and small patio lights and, and… It’s his joy and pride to provide a beautiful setting for a young couple’s most beautiful event.

John’s and Luise’s house looks like straight out of a storybook:

… and this is from where the bride would walk down the aisle to where the ceremony would take place: under an enormous old olive tree:

… and when the couple is officially pronounced “husband and wife,” John will let the world know by ringing his historic bell:

whose sound literally carries throughout the valley. Talk about romance…

The wedding party can then begin on the big lawn:

….surrounded by towering trees, blooming flowerbeds and impeccably pruned boxwood hedges. When night falls, the scenery turns magical under the Chinese lanterns, and dancing starts – to whatever music you’d like, live, DJ – your choice! And with a few restrictions, you can party into the wee hours of the morning – a very rare treat! By the way, John, a trained concert pianist, keeps his Baldwin grand piano perfectly tuned at all times, and while he will not play himself – his fingers, he says, are not that nimble any more – he’ll invite whoever will play at the wedding, and with the living room windows wide open, its glorious sound fills the garden.

I begged John to play a little bit for me – and he obliged, right there – in the middle of his incessant gardening chores:

He hardly ever says no! Another thing he can’t say No to is – young couples bringing their beloved dogs to their wedding. As long as he or she is kept on a leash and supervised, John and Luise welcome canines at weddings. After all, their “Lady” and her daughter “Piglet” are the joy of their lives!

But John’s and Luise’s hospitality doesn’t stop here – for the newlyweds, they open their cute little cottage so they can spend their first night on the property:

…complete with living room, bathrooms, kitchen and bedroom under the eaves… and that is part of the package.

And even that is not all. On top of everything else, John and Luise invite the young couple to their historic farmhouse in Italy for a whole week of honeymoon! It’s a building from the 16th century, lovingly restored and modernized inside (by the indefatigable John himself, of course!), and it’s situated in a side valley of the Italian Alps, beneath Monte Rosa, in a region still untouched by tourism.

With such generosity, small wonder then that all the couples who have tied the knot under John’s and Luise’s olive tree over the years have remained friends – many of them returning to Sylvan Lake unannounced to show the two a tiny bundle, their own pride and joy. And that’s the biggest reward for John and Luise.

I am sure that by now you’re hooked! Contact me if you’d like to have your own wedding at Sylvan Lake – email jutta@daylikenoother.com