The playwright wrote his masterpiece.The actress shone in her most brilliant performance.And the best of it: it was all non-fiction!Opening night at the historic Forest Hill Clubhouse on September 15, 2012, was for real – with an enthusiastic audience of friends and family – and the piece premiered will hopefully run for countless seasons: Anna & Daniel in Love!Flashback:Anna leads a double life as a website designer (her day job) and an actress (at night). She and Daniel first met 5 years before our opening night in a theatrical capacity – he as a writer, and she as a performer, during a monthly event called Playground – writers have a few days to create a short play off a prompt, and then writers and actors all get together to rehearse and perform those plays on one Monday night per month.A short while later, the two met again – by utter coincidence – at a client they had in common for their day jobs: Daniel as a tech provider and Anna as a web designer.
They stayed friends through various relationships and long distances… until they suddenly found themselves single at the same time – and suddenly, finally realized that they were both done for. So sooner or later it was a foregone conclusion that their story would culminate in – a wedding!
And while most brides are simply overwhelmed by the amount of organization, decisions, logistics involved in such an event, Anna was totally unfazed. “When you have a background in theatre,” she commented, ” you’re pretty well-equipped to handle weddings. First and foremost, you’re accustomed to the unexpected – in fact, you embrace it – and really, weddings can’t hold a candle to what you run into in theatre. What’s a caterer showing up late compared to an audience member who breaks her leg in the middle of the show (it really happened – don’t ask me how!)… or to finishing your heart-wrenching Act II monologue, only to hear someone let out a thundering snore in row 2… or to knowing that whatever you do that night is going to be judged publicly in a major metropolitan newspaper?”
Well said, indeed. So our actress-bride courageously sailed the ocean of wedding planning and preparation, keeping everything in line. Her rule was, “If it feels too expensive, it probably is. Keep looking.” This kept her budget in check. Clothes and photography? Totally worth every penny. Chairs? Um…who’s going to remember chairs? Anyone? Exactly. “No fuss, no muss” was the motto – the two worked hard to get things in order – but in the words of Anna’s mentor, “Grasp – lightly. Be prepared for the expected and the un- – and welcome them both!”
And when the unexpected happened… the bride did NOT freak out! Just hear her in her own words: “When I handily wrecked my 2-hour old manicure (and pedicure – again, don’t ask) by arranging my flowers last-minute, I knew just the tricks to smooth things over (a slight layer of polish remover followed by a light application of a close-enough color and, yes, magic marker).”
As for the wedding itself, they decided to emcee their own ceremony. They wanted to tell their story in their own words to make it clear that this wedding was something they were very consciously and responsibly choosing to do. The groom’s father, a minister in real life, officiated the ceremony – it doesn’t get more “in the family” than that!
And our two theater stars kept their audience laughing, not crying, and celebrated it all with really good cocktails afterwards.For their venue, Anna and Daniel had chosen the historic Forest Hill Clubhouse in San Francisco, a structure with a stellar architectural pedigree (Bernard Maybeck of Palace of Fine Arts fame) and a romantic charm to it that one wouldn’t expect in a metropolis.Shaded by mature trees, it transported our “theatrical” couple, their real-world masterpiece performance and their guests to a time where things were simpler (or so we tend to think…) and where matters of the heart still counted. And so they couldn’t have imagined a wedding more suited to who they are.
As for their honeymoon, they had the blessings of their families and co-workers to escape entirely – and Anna had pictures from the late 70’s when HER parents had gone to French Polynesia. It didn’t take much convincing to choose that location – just google “Tikehau” to get a taste.
They went off the beaten track – most honeymooners flee to Bora Bora (understandably – it’s beautiful!), but they opted for a trip to the Tuamotos, a fairly unknown cluster of islands further north.
They spent three weeks in remote, picture-perfect islands, living in smaller (more affordable) pensions and eating fish three meals a day – weathering inclement weather and a civil aviation strike that left them stranded for a few days (and with the Western concept of schedules and deadlines unheard-of in Polynesia, they couldn’t hope for much understanding from the locals); they went swimming with humpbacks and trekking through the mountains – and it was the adventure of a lifetime.
Anna’s conclusion: “Opening your mind to the unexpected is the lesson, here. And there are ample rewards for that mindset – as well as strong suntans!”
Congratulations, Anna and Daniel!
For a post-wedding dance party in a raw, historic industrial space with a somewhat gritty vibe, I designed centerpieces using very few florals – but instead lots of glow and reflection. I picked up the industrial history of the space with mirror bases and polished rocks (sprayed antique gold) and arranged dried branches and pods (some of them also discreetly gilded) together with grouped black/velvety-red roses. Antique-gold hurricanes and amber gems scattered on the mirrored bases lent extra reflection.
For smaller tables, I chose a variety of succulents in stark graphical shapes instead of vases:
The overall effect was one of intimate, golden light and retro-raw décor in the dimly lit dance hall – perfect!
For a bride who, as a lover of literature in general and antique books in particular, had chosen an “antique books” theme for her wedding, I designed mismatched centerpieces containing beautiful antiques volumes and beautiful items to complement them. Since tables were not numbered, but named after the bride’s favorite authors, some of the centerpieces also contained poems by these respective authors, calligraphed on artificially aged paper scrolls:
While some arrangements contain fresh flowers…
some are more masculine…
… others decidedly feminine with pastel wildflowers, a fan, and a perfume bottle.
Case in point: the possibilities of this theme are endless, and they are all attractive!
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:
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 [email protected]
For a formal and elegant wedding with a “vintage glamour” theme, I designed a stunning escort card display of 200 peacock feathers, fanning out from a vintage wine crate:
Each escort card was hung from one feather, and the feathers were then arranged in alphabetical order in several rows, front to back.
This arrangement was not only a visual focus, but also a conversation piece for guests – and each guest arrived at their seat carrying a beautiful feather…