A Wedding on Top of the World: Megan and Casey at Thomas Fogarty Winery

Here comes a little preview on one of the most beautiful and most quintessential Californian summer weddings of the season: Megan’s and Casey’s celebration last weekend at Thomas Fogarty Winery in Woodside.

The setting is simply spectacular – high up on the crest of the mountain ridge running along the SF Peninsula, overlooking endless vineyards down to the San Francisco Bay with unobstructed views… it’s literally on top of the world! Megan and Casey could not have chosen better for their nuptials – this was sure to wow their more than 150 guests from far and near.

Megan, who had been away for study abroad and humanitarian work, only returned to the Bay Area three weeks before the Great Day. By then, her Mom had done most of the preparations together with my company, A Day Like No Other. But Megan jumped right in and put her own spin and her own finishing touches on everything in that short time! Our Senior Coordinator Kelsey Holtzinger guided the planning process on the “last stretch” and coordinated the festivities expertly from start to finish.

Come wedding day, Heaven was literally smiling on us – Megan and Casey had the perfect day with blue skies, summery warm sunshine and a slight breeze… Fogarty Winery showed itself at its best:

megan-and-casey-108-copyEndless views and extensive vineyards…

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… and vintage trucks just for the sheer beauty of it!

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The bride got ready in the cottage onsite:

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megan-and-casey-170-copy… and here she is, radiant and ready to meet her husband-to-be!

Casey meanwhile got his boutonniere:

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… and off to the much-anticipated First Look!

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A few more photos…megan-and-casey-192-copy… and it was already time for the ceremony.

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megan-and-casey-417-copy“You may now kiss your bride!”

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Official wedding photo of the new “Mr. and Mrs.”:

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Meanwhile, the venue staff, catering staff of La Bocca Fina catering and my tireless Senior Coordinator Kelsey had beautifully set up everything for cocktails and dinner. In accordance with the winery setting, wine corks did duty as escort card holders:

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and the dining tables in the open-air pavilion were set with gorgeous centerpieces by Bloomsters.

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Dinner was presided over by the newlyweds at their Sweetheart Table:

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… while guests feasted on a fresh farm-to-table dinner from gold-accented plates, flatware and glassware.

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Photographer Nathan Worden snuck the couple away for Sunset photos:

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Entertainment was provided by Big Fun Diskjockeys and Night Owl Photo Booth.

Here, Megan and Casey share their First Dance as a married couple:

megan-and-casey-663-copy… followed by a wild dance party:

megan-and-casey-825-copyPhotographer Nathan Worden and Owl and Tree Videography captured all those precious moments.

When dusk fell, the scenery turned downright magical…

… and the newlyweds were sent off to their married bliss with a sparkler parade!

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To Megan and Casey – our very best wishes for a long and happy marriage!

 

Wendy and Jason: an Elegant Summer Wedding at Kohl Mansion

Wendy and Jason are two super-busy young physicians – with absolutely no time to spare. Planning their wedding was something they were so much looking forward to, but that was definitely posing a challenge. So much to do – and where to start? I am so happy they chose my company, A Day Like No Other, to help them plan their Great Day. We had a little over six months, and we had a lot of work to do in that time – and finally today the Great Day had come, and everything was coming together beautifully.

For Wendy and her bridesmaids, the day began with a beauty session at Wowpretty Salon – and they all emerged looking like Hollywood royalty!

wendy-and-jason-024City Express Limousine service took them directly to their venue, historic Kohl Mansion in Burlingame, stately amidst its own mature park – and under blue skies, a summery-hot sun and slight breeze. In short, simply perfect!

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Here is Wendy’s elegant ivory lace wedding dress…

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worn with a dramatic cathedral-length veil…

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… and veritable “princess slippers!:

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Not to forget, of course, her dreamy all-white bouquet by Green Petal Designs:

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Groom Jason was likewise dressing up together with his groomsmen:

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… while photographer Mae Stier was snapping away and videographer Kien Nguyen joined her in recording every precious moment.

Meanwhile, the venue staff had set up the ceremony chairs out on the lawn under towering ancient trees, Toast Catering was busy in the kitchen and setting up bars and dining tables …

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… in elegant hunter green, ivory and gold and a matching sweetheart table presiding over the double-height dining room…

… florist Janelle Jacky-Litt of Green Petal Designs set out centerpieces (potted Phalaenopsis orchids which one guest at each table would win as a special favor), ceremony decor and many more beautiful arrangements…

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and my two fabulous assistants Angeliki Menig and Haneen Saideh were arranging escort cards (hand-calligraphed by A Day Like No Other) …

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and guest book table …

IMG_3131… and so much more. DJ Nick Conforti of Sound in Motion installed all we needed for ceremony, cocktail hour and dining, and Satura Cakes and Mr. & Mrs. Miscellaneous contributed wedding cake and ice cream bar, respectively.

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Guests were greeted in the driveway by… bride and groom, dancing in the breeze! (Wendy and Jason do have a great sense of humor – you can tell!)

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But then things got serious – seriously elegant, that is…

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Outside on the ceremony lawn, refreshments were ready for the guests – a welcome treat at 81 degrees!

Ready for the long-anticipated moment: here comes the bride!

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Wendy was unstoppable on her walk down the aisle, even as her veil caught the breeze, got stuck briefly and tried to hold her back!

The ceremony was officiated by a longtime friend of the couple’s and was lighthearted, brief and very, very personal.

Just married! Time for more photos, cocktails – and the whole glorious party that’s going to ensue!

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Time for portraits – Kohl Mansion offers a lot of beautiful backdrops for that!

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After dinner – there was OF COURSE more to come… first off, cake cutting, but “ice-cream feeding!” Ice cream aficionados Wendy and Jason did feed one another, but with a tweak on tradition:

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And then: their Grand Entrance as “Mr. and Mrs.”…

wendy-and-jason-692-copy… followed by an epic dance party!

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And here is the day – in live action, courtesy of Kien Pictures…

Wendy & Jason Wedding – Highlight – Kohl Mansion from Kien Pictures on Vimeo.

 

Many happy years together, Wendy and Jason! Keep celebrating!

 

Nancy and James’ Epic Fall Wedding – Luxury, Elegance and FUN!

When Nancy and James – partners in life and in profession – were ready to tie the knot, they were, as usual, in agreement about pretty much everything.

Engagement 1

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

They would get married in Church. They would have a very elegant reception. They would have lots of guests. It would be in Fall, with early dusk and lots of candlelight. They would be dancing the night away. And so it was – but so much more!

The two engaged my company, A Day Like No Other, early in 2015, giving us a good nine months until Wedding Day in November. And as it turned out, we needed that time – because Nancy’s imagination took flight in the most beautiful way… Starting from “Old San Francisco glamour” at the famous Intercontinental Mark Hopkins hotel (a historic landmark originating from the opulent private residence of one of the infamous railroad barons), we kept adding more and more personal touches, and come Wedding Day, Nancy’s and James’ celebration had become unique, quirky and unmistakably “them.”

Elegant invitations from Hyegraph set the tone for what was to come:

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

The day began with an extensive “beauty session” (by Wowpretty Salon) for Nancy, her bridesmaids and the mothers, all at a suite high up in the Mark Hopkins tower.

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Invitationimage by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

Here Nancy’s wedding shoes take center stage…

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image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

… and here is her elegant bridal bouquet, handmade by her Aunt… a long-standing family tradition.

bridal bouquet

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

Bridesmaids were treated to some bubbly that morning, and that got everyone in a festive mood right away!

bridesmaids champagne

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

And here is our radiant bride in all her finery (dress by Novella Bridal), ready to meet her groom:

bride portrait

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

Following another time-honored tradition, bride and groom decided NOT to see one another before the Church ceremony; and so they both traveled the couple of blocks from the Mark Hopkins to Old St. Mary’s Church (one of the oldest ones in San Francisco) separately via Cable Car trolley.

cable car

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

The Church itself is very impressive…

Church nave

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

… and it had been adorned with large altar arrangements and ivory bouquets along the aisle.

Church Aisle

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

And here they are: just married!

Just married

Time for photos… a lot of them! JC Page was tireless… and look what beautiful photos we got here! Cecil Bonifacio served as our videographer, and we can’t wait to see what he’ll create for us.

Couple colonnade

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

flyaway veil

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

bridal party

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

Once back, the couple joined their many guests for an elegant reception in the Peacock Ballroom with gorgeous florals by Green Petal Designs and Lighting by Just DeLights..

Dining room

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

centerpiece

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

Cake table

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

In lieu of a traditional guest book, the couple went for Hollywood glamour and had their guests sign magnum bottles of their favorite Pinot Noir instead:

Guest book bottle

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

The first dance of the newlyweds…

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image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

… kicked off a wild dance party with Mariachi

Mariachis

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

… a twirling flower girl…

Flower girl dancing

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

… glowsticks, purple lighting – and lots of fun for everyone…

Groomsmen dancing

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

… with the bride serving as the DJ (at least for a little while – a longtime secret wish of hers came true on her wedding day!)

More personal details? Popcorn snacks and cotton candy in “grown-up” flavors from Sweet Puff Candy!

bride dancing

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

True to the bride’s Mexican heritage, each guest received a very personal favor: a package of coffee handpicked by the new “Mrs.”

Favors

image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

It was, just simply – unforgettable! Many happy years together, Nancy and James!

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image by www.jcpagephotography.com, @jackieplusjay

 

 

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…

Dressing up

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

Bride and bridesmaids

Bridesmaids toast

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:

Bridal bouquet

Bridesmaids bouquet

The groom and his groomsmen were also getting ready …

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… donning matching neckties…

Groom buttoning up

… 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:

Venue sign

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:

Couple First Look

First Look

Kiss

Time for photos! Bridesmaids, groomsmen, family…

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Groom and groomsmen 2

… 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)…

Here comes the bride

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.”

Pepper

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

Couple and dog

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

Official photo 2

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

Dining setup

Bouquets

Centerpiece

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

Coffee mugs

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:

Cake cutting

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

Dance Party 2

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.

Embrace

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

Walking together

Kiss bw

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

 

 

 

Forecasting Trends at Hamlin Mansion: WIPA kicks off 2016

Last week, months of planning came to fruition in a spectacular event: the WIPA 2016 kick-off meeting at historic Hamlin Mansion in San Francisco. To me, this was extra special because it marked the conclusion of nearly four years as Event Chair and the Regional Director of Programs for the WIPA SF Bay Area Chapter. I absolutely wanted to conclude my tenure on a high note – and that’s what happened.

Our speaker set the theme: Kate Patay of Creative Coverings, acclaimed wedding industry expert and frequent speaker around the nation, presented “Forecasting Trends” – based on a multitude of media channels and, of course, social media. AND in her capacity as Director of Sales and Marketing at one of the area’s pre-eminent linen rental companies, she also set the tone for the design by sponsoring exquisite linens which I used as the jumping-off point for the rest of the event design. True to her theme, she chose from the Pantone Colors of the Year, mainly a dusty rose with lots of sparkle, expanding both into lighter hues up to ivory and down to an elegant mocha and chocolate. It was perfect both for the rich wood paneling in the Mansion’s Great Room – where we enjoyed both Cocktail Hour and later on coffee and dessert – and for the light-filled dining room overlooking the San Francisco Bay.

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

Heavens were literally smiling on us with blue skies and a slight breeze, and the venerable mansion presented itself from its most beautiful side. Misti Layne of Images by Misti Layne (photography) and Kien Nguyen of Kien Pictures (videography) made sure not a single moment was lost!

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

A mock ceremony setup demonstrated what it could be like for a real wedding… with chairs from Stuart Event Rentals (who also sponsored lounge furniture and the dining setup). Living hedges from Interior Plant Design gave the scene extra polish and elegance.

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

Guests were serenaded by Matt Roads Trio from Ivy Hill Entertainment and could hang out in the elegant lounge…

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco
WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

The bar was stocked with world-class wines from  Wente Vineyards

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

Time Capsule Party provided a totally different photo booth experience: guests received their photos printed on vintagey- looking aluminum plaques – outfitted with magnets! I am sure, countless ones are now gracing fridges around the Bay Area!

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

Two of the most important attendees: caterer Elaine Bell and speaker Kate Patay

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

And here are some of the delicacies that Elaine treated our guests to at Cocktail Hour:

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

We had even more to offer to our guests – our own gold-metallic (temporary…) tattoos with the WIPA logo from AnnaBee! They are fully customizable and are such a pretty idea for weddings!

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

That’s me greeting guests at the door – with Mr. Shin from Michi’s.

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

Everything was prepared for the educational part of the day, with Fantasy Sound providing A/V services.

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

When Kate Patay began her presentation on “Forecasting Trends,” our guests were riveted. Kate is such an engaging speaker, lively and funny, that you don’t even notice how much you are learning while being entertained! Everybody took home a lot new insights and “food for thought.”

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

After the swearing-in ceremony of the incoming Board of Directors…

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

… a festive luncheon was awaiting our guests, with tables covered in sequined linens from Creative Coverings, glistening with china, glassware and flatware from Stuart Event Rentals, and gorgeous spring flowers from Green Petal Designs.

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

Every guest found a pretty favor box at their place setting, chock-full with samples from Kiehl’s.WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

Lunch presentation was so artful that one hardly dared to touch it – but on the other hand, the food was way too delicious NOT to dig in!

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Following lunch, we all returned to the Great Hall where dessert was waiting for us: delicious fresh meringues from Le Grand Meringue:

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco


WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

… and fantastic cakes from Perfect Endings:

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

A lucky winner takes home one of the gorgeous centerpieces…

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

… and guests just didn’t want to leave!

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

A shuttle bus from Destination Systems took guests back to their cars in comfort and ease, and everyone agreed: that was a great start into the WIPA year 2016!

WIPA meeting at Hamlin Mansion, San Francisco

Thanks again to all our generous sponsors!

 

 

VENDOR SPOTLIGHT: Gavin Farrington, Photographer – a Man of Many Talents

If you first meet photographer Gavin Farrington with his boyish, slightly rugged good looks, you’ll probably associate “the movies” or expect him to step right out of a high-gloss magazine. Well, you’re not wrong – he has modeled here and there! (And you’ll see him doing exactly that, in Ceremony Magazine Norcal, 2016).

But that’s not how I first met him. I met Gavin in his capacity as a very special and highly successful wedding photographer – one who is traveling the world to provide photo coverage at high-class wedding events, and, more importantly, one who is truly passionate at what he’s doing. Curious as I am, I wanted to know whether Gavin had wanted to be a photographer all his life? And how he became an acclaimed wedding photographer? And so many other things!

Little did I know what surprises he had up his sleeve.

Did he plan to become a professional wedding photographer? “Not at all!” is the response – although even as a schoolkid, Gavin’s favorite toy was his little Kodak box camera with its flash cube. Already then, Gavin was equally fascinated by snapping pictures as he was by the technical side of things. He learned all the mechanics that were then still an integral part of photography, including teaching himself how to develop film in a darkroom. In High School, he became the Yearbook photo editor with the added privilege to use the school’s professional darkroom. He bought his film material in “bulk” and rolled his own film cartridges. Because of him, the school’s long-abandoned photography curriculum was revived.

But still – making this his profession didn’t occur to Gavin. In College, he double-majored in Design and Multimedia/Web design. He worked throughout his College years, and all his jobs took him into the computer/IT field. He drifted more and more into the tech area – “I’m a tech nerd at heart,” he confesses with a smile – and while wrapping up his College degrees, he was approached by the Dean who had unsuccessfully tried to fill an IT/administrator position in the department from which he was about to graduate. Would Gavin be interested? He was! And that’s how he became the Systems Administrator for the graduate and undergraduate art departments of his College – and stayed on for a full five years. Still, that job wasn’t enough. He studied Japanese on the side, just out of interest in the culture and the language.

Eventually, he became restless, seeking new challenges. In a radical change of careers, he moved to Japan to teach English. He became totally immersed in this new world, and he is fluent in Japanese to the present day… another thing I would never have expected! During a visit home to California, a photographer friend of his asked Gavin to quickly help out with one of his assignments – shooting a wedding. And all of a sudden, Gavin knew what he had subconsciously been seeking all these years: the beauty of human relationships, the intensity and at the same time the intimacy of the moment, all revealed on this festive day, the sheer joy of the occasion.

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For Gavin, there was no turning back from this sudden revelation. He wrapped up his job in Japan, returned to California and started preparing for the new career he had become so passionate about on that momentous day, helping his friend. There was no holding back for him – and let me tell you, if Gavin has made a plan, nothing will stop him. Constantly striving for the highest quality – technically and artistically – Gavin the wedding photographer has made his way to the top over the past years. His unique style has gained him an enthusiastic followership. He is the master of the tender moment, capturing these priceless images that his couples will cherish for the rest of their lives.

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Looking back, what has changed in photography since his early photo adventures and darkroom work? “Digital photography has liberated us,” muses Gavin. “It allows us to shoot as many photos as we want, unencumbered by handling physical film and no longer limited to composing every single photo with deliberation. Digital photography allows us to take a lot more risks and enables us to capture the fleeting moments we might have missed with conventional technology. It gives us so much more flexibility in perfecting every single photo “after the fact.” It does not, however, cut down on the work.”

In fact! For every single wedding event, Gavin (including assistant) takes 6,000 to 8,000 photos. It’s mind-boggling! Then come the long hours of sorting through and perfecting what passes this test – 120 to 180 hours easily. It truly takes dedication, perseverance and passion to do this gargantuan task for every single couple.

I asked Gavin what his favorite wedding locations have been over the years, given that he has done so many destination weddings. His response came as a surprise to me – or maybe not. “Maybe India, or Cancun… or San Francisco City Hall,” he said, and added: “It’s not so much about the location for me. It’s much more about the personal relationships between the bride and her closest family, the groom and his family. My most beautiful weddings were those where the closeness of the families became palpable, and where I felt so privileged and honored to be included in such a pivotal moment in these families’ lives.” And in return, Gavin gives them the lifelong memories of their most beautiful and tender moments, condensed in breathtaking photos. Here are a few of his own favorites. Enjoy!

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Shirley and Kevin’s Wedding at the Palace of Fine Arts

Shirley’s and Kevin’s wedding celebration was one of the most unusual ones my company, A Day Like No Other, has ever planned. First, we had a full nine DAYS to pull together what was already in place and fill in what was missing. So that was quite a challenge in itself. Then, Shirley and Kevin are totally unconventional, non-conformist personalities. They do things their way! Let me share with you just how unique their wedding vision was.

For their ceremony, they chose one of the most famous San Francisco landmarks, a staple in every tourist guidebook (I’ll show you which one in just a moment!) – but for their reception, it was a rustic microbrewery in a gritty part of town. Lots of flowers? Nope. Only a bridal bouquet – and that was anything but standard: teal and turquoise-colored orchids with peacock feathers! A traditional wedding cake? Nah…the two were cutting a pie, yummy and messy! A dignified sit-down dinner for their reception? Forget it! Beer and a taco bar, and lots of fun with all their friends!

So here we go. For their 11 am ceremony, the bride (and Katye, her hair and makeup artist) had to get up literally before sunrise.

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At least the view from their room at the St. Regis Hotel SF was absolutely spectacular!

viewOnce hair and makeup were in place, Shirley got in her gorgeous dress: a champagne-colored, pearl and crystal-encrusted gown with quite a train…

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…isn’t it spectacular? And her wedding shoes were a perfect match: golden strappy sandals fit for a princess!

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It took the assistance of all  her seven bridesmaids, all in color-coordinated purple dresses, to get the bride dressed:

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Here she is in all her finery! What’s missing? That glamorous cascading bouquet by Bella Fiora:

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… and now Shirley is ready to go meet her groom Kevin for their First Look at the famous Palace of Fine Arts,

The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, California at sunrise. The Palace of Fine Arts was built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, today we know it as the Worlds Fair. The domed structure was named the Tower of Jewels. The PoFA is currrently undergoing renovation so the onlt access is from the pond. Not sure how long the renovation will take as we left before the Exploratorium open.

– a Roman-ruin-style edifice that was built by none less than Bernard Maybeck for the Panama-Pacific World Exposition in 1915 as a monument to the survival and vibrancy of the City of San Francisco that had been devastated by a horrible earthquake and raging fires in 1906. The setup for the couple’s great moment had been provided by YPR – and so everything was ready and in place for them.

The ceremony took place under the Rotunda:

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Palace of Fine Arts Wedding, Shirley Chan and Kevin Balkoski Wedding, Triple Voodoo Brewery Wedding, San Francisco Wedding Photographers, Huy Pham Photography, Jutta Lammerts,

… with only parents and siblings as guests, and with the couple’s closest friends as their attendants. Again, Shirley and Kevin defied convention: they had a total of fourteen attendants but only five guests, all seated around the Bride and Groom in a circle of love and closeness. A longtime friend of the couple officiated a ceremony that could not have been more personal, in a setting that could not have been more spectacular. Harpist Erica Messer accompanied the ceremony on her instrument and sang for them, and everyone was moved to tears.

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just married!

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Then, of course, it was photo time with Huy Pham and his team – first at the Palace of Fine Arts,

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Palace of Fine Arts Wedding, Shirley Chan and Kevin Balkoski Wedding, Triple Voodoo Brewery Wedding, San Francisco Wedding Photographers, Huy Pham Photography, Jutta Lammerts,

then on nearby Crissy Field close to the Golden Gate Bridge, with an executive bus by Sonoma Sterling Limousine taking everyone around town:

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… to the Sutro Bath ruins…

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… and to the Northern Waterfront:

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Meanwhile, reception preparations were under way at Triple Voodoo Brewery:

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Palace of Fine Arts Wedding, Shirley Chan and Kevin Balkoski Wedding, Triple Voodoo Brewery Wedding, San Francisco Wedding Photographers, Huy Pham Photography, Jutta Lammerts,

… where wine and champagne had been added to the regular offerings of a multitude of specialty beers, in recognition of this very special occasion.

A welcome table – in the couple’s bold wedding colors of teal and purple – displayed their vows for all the reception guests who hadn’t been at the ceremony, and a dessert buffet…

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… with pies and cupcakes stood in for the standard wedding cake. Wedding favors – playing along the teal-and-purple color scheme – were set out for the guests:

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Here are the newlyweds, happily toasting –

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They are truly a fun couple! Everyone had a blast at their relaxed beer-and-taco dinner (OF COURSE without seating assignments!) followed by a wild dance party to the tunes of DJ Kevin Combs of Elite Entertainment – with the DJ enthusiastically singing along! The energy was really contagious, and guests only took a break for the bouquet toss (yes, the bride did toss that huge bouquet!), garter toss, and cake cutting (or rather: finger-licking pie-cutting!)

And for those who preferred cupcakes over pie, there were dozens and dozens of cute mini cupcakes from Kara’s!

Palace of Fine Arts Wedding, Shirley Chan and Kevin Balkoski Wedding, Triple Voodoo Brewery Wedding, San Francisco Wedding Photographers, Huy Pham Photography, Jutta Lammerts,

Palace of Fine Arts Wedding, Shirley Chan and Kevin Balkoski Wedding, Triple Voodoo Brewery Wedding, San Francisco Wedding Photographers, Huy Pham Photography, Jutta Lammerts,

Palace of Fine Arts Wedding, Shirley Chan and Kevin Balkoski Wedding, Triple Voodoo Brewery Wedding, San Francisco Wedding Photographers, Huy Pham Photography, Jutta Lammerts,

What an incredible night… and at the end, the two were whisked away to their official First Night at the St. Regis in a black Escalade from City Express Limousine Services.

Everyone had a great time – and the newlyweds were just tired and happy! Congratulation, Shirley and Kevin, and many happy (and fun!) years together!

WIPA Goes Yachting on the ‘California Spirit!’

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Isn’t she a beauty? More than 100 ft long, sleek, elegant, and carrying up to 130 guests, the ‘California Spirit’ is definitely the stuff of dreams! As the Director of Programs for the SF Bay Area Chapter of WIPA, I am constantly on the look-out for new exciting venues to showcase to the top-notch wedding industry professionals attending our events, and when I received an invitation to hold one of our Happy Hour Mixers from  Yacht Connections International, I literally jumped at the opportunity!

Last night, dozens of the best of Bay Area wedding pro’s flocked to Pier 40 in San Francisco to enjoy the sunset over delicious wine and hors d’oeuvres on one of the elegantly appointed decks of the exclusive yacht ‘California Spirit.’

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Just imagine yourselves there for your wedding (up to 100 guests fit comfortably!) out on the Bay with a gorgeous view of the City skyline from the water, with Angel Island, Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge just a stone’s throw away!

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Elegant Art Deco-inspired interiors add to the charm, with so many decor items lovingly placed all around…

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… and the food is just “yummy!” Help yourselves from a buffet with a view…

 

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… and dessert to match!

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Our WIPA Board Member and Treasurer, florist Mandy Scott, contributed floral arrangements in vibrant summer colors…

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… and new WIPA friend Elisabetta Lilly Redaelli of LillyRed Photography took photos – documenting a truly vibrant party:

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All in all – a huge success… everybody had a great time on the yacht and will most definitely spread the word among couples how fantastic it would be to get married by the Captain out on the water, then celebrate and dance the night away like the “jet set!”

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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!