“Inspire/Imagine/Ignite” – Hartmann’s Gorgeous Customer Party

I feel lucky. I got invited to an incredible party – Hartmann Studio‘s customer appreciation party, tonight, at Fort Mason Center in SF. And I can tell you: with THAT party, I as a customer do feel appreciated! Hartmann Studios, one of the leading rental companies, and Impact Lighting, their sister company for all things “lighting,” pulled off a glorious show with what they do best, and they did it to perfection: Hartmann transformed the Festival Pavilion into a series of exciting event spaces, and Impact lit up the entrance – and the sky! But of that later.

Hartmann Studios had invited dozens of caterers and florists to elevate their furnished, draped and lighted event spaces to a living, breathing, inspiring party experience.

So many discoveries to be made, so many beautiful surprises! What caught my eye first were the gorgeous floral designs – Nancy Liu Chin‘s totally over-the-top glamorous, gold-and-black table installation complete with black chandeliers to start with.

 Then there were the dramatic supersized trophy vase arrangements by Hunt Littlefield

and a surreal vignette by Spiral Hand Floral and Event Design.

Asiel had come up with a light show behind a chain curtain as a backdrop to a futuristic arrangement;

Nicole Ha Designs got inspired by Alice in Wonderland,

Montbretia shone with a more traditonal, beautifully composed arrangement,

and Mandy Scott showed a spring-inspired design in hues of yellow and  green that was at once utterly beautiful, fresh, elegant and optimistic!

Having feasted my eyes on all these beautiful designs, I had to try the food as well – 17 catering companies offered delicious bites; impossible to sample them all! Therefore, the selection here is highly incomplete… but nevertheless: here are my personal highlights: Taste Catering, Wolfgang Puck and Melons – gold standards in the area; and my personal discoveries: Thomas John Events with a breathtakingly beautiful presentation of, among other things, beet and goat cheese bites with edible flowers,

and, for dessert, Tout Sweet, with super-rich dark chocolate pastries of heavenly intensity and texture, passionfruit tartlets, macaroons and sandwich cookies… to die for!

I sampled until literally I could eat no more… what a feast! But it was not over yet! Stepping out on their way home, guests were greeted by a celestial light show of sorts – serious competition for Aurora borealis.

That’s what I call a party – one that, in fact, was inspiring, full of imagination, and delivered the promised “ignition!!”


Art and Fun, Food and Wine: Peggy’s and Jose’s Wedding

Peggy and Jose had taken their time with an extended courtship,

 … and when they decided to get married, they knew exactly how they wanted to celebrate: nothing formal or stuffy – but a joyous party with friends and family, good food and wine, music and dance… and a very personal touch! Peggy, a High School art teacher, immediately jumped in design mode, and I was lucky enough to be included from the get-go. Together we created a unified design concept, and Peggy the artist literally created and crafted all aspects of the decor elements, starting with the invitations:

Once the venue had been chosen – a charming historic structure under mature trees…

… Peggy decided on her wedding colors: soft blues, greens and turquoise sea glass hues to complement her favorite “flowers”  – succulents! And as Peggy is not only artistic but also super organized (a rare combination of talents!), she started a veritable succulent farm in her garden six months ahead of time. She made her bouquet and matching boutonnieres for the gentlemen herself, and she hand-dyed neckties and scarves in sea glass colors for her bridal party.

The aisle was strewn with green and turquoise silk petals, and I came up with a floating canopy as a ceremony backdrop, held up by helium-filled balloons in – of course! – seaglass colors.

The ceremony was captured on film by Tony Nguyen of Portraits by Tony and Thomas Dowrie of Video Impressions

… with this highlight: “You may now kiss your bride!”

And here they are, Just Married! Singing and dancing to the Beatles tune, “When I’m Sixty-Four,”  with their dog Lucky…

… and off to the official wedding photos by Portraits by Tony!

Guests meanwhile enjoyed a cocktail hour with appetizers, wine and beer from Mark Stahlnecker‘s bar, and music by DJ Peter Haley of the Spinheads who kept the crowd entertained throughout dinner and beyond.

Tables were decorated with hand-stitched blue-green moire ribbons, succulent centerpieces from Peggy’s own nursery, planted in bowls thrown and glazed – by Peggy, of course!

As a nod to the groom’s heritage, an authentic Mexican dinner was provided by Mexican Taco Party to the sounds of Buena Vista Social Club – and then a wild dance party ensued! Guests only took a break to applaud the newlyweds cutting their supersize cupcake by Sibby’s Cupcakery (sitting on a stand painted turquoise by, you guessed it, the bride herself!).

Afterward the couple enjoyed their First Dance…

… followed by the Father-Daughter dance…

… and a glorious Grand Exit with supersize sparklers!

Guests took home their champagne flutes as favors, with a little thank-you card (mimicking the save-the-dates) tied on with personalized ribbon.

Cheers and best wishes, Peggy and Jose!


A Mediterranean-Style Summer Party

A historic Mediterranean Estate surrounded by lush gardens and a manicured park was the scene of an elegant late-summer party, complete with lunch on the patio, hand-calligraphed menu cards, a one-of-a-kind vintage Packard limousine, and even a harpist.

villa montalvo


car stairs

What could be a more beautiful setting for a leisurely late-summer lunch party than a historic country estate in a park? That’s why I chose the famed Villa Montalvo in Saratoga as the venue for a festive luncheon – with cocktails in the enclosed courtyard centered around antique fountains….

cocktail hour

… and harp music to set an elegant mood and a decidedly “polished” atmosphere.


Guests were then invited to a three-course lunch menu on the intimate covered patio, looking out onto the extensive park surrounding the Villa.

lunch tables

lunch crowd

Guests found hand-calligraphed, pentagram-shaped menu cards on their place settings,

menu on place setting

announcing a gourmet meal of organic vegetables and lean meats…


Starting with a … bisque…. and continuing with an heirloom tomato salad accompanied by goat cheese, adorned by tiny edible flowers, in the rust-and-burnt-orange colors of the “upscale-rustic” checkered silk linens…


… and concluding with a turkey or vegetarian entrée that looked and was equally delicious.


Tables were decorated with beautiful antique Tuscan-style stone urns filled with yellow and orange late-summer blooms and fruits – a small cornucopia on each table!


Following lunch, guests enjoyed coffee

coffee bar

and two varieties of delicious cake


in the Villa’s solarium and on the side patio.

dining room

To round it off, departing guests received an unexpected party favor: hand-calligraphed seeded paper –


ready to plant and bloom for a beautiful memory of a gorgeous day!


Event Design: A Day Like No Other; Venue: Montalvo Arts Center; Catering: Culinary Eye; Music: Krista Strader; Florals: Tutti Fiori; Cake: True Confections; Calligraphy: Monks of Age; Vintage Limousine: Elegant Journey; Photography: photograffiti

Sophisticated Glamour: Jane and Greg’s Wedding at the Julia Morgan Ballroom

Last Sunday, I had the honor of coordinating (alongside famed onsite coordinator Linda Hylen) a glamorous evening wedding at one of San Francisco’s most prestigious venues: the Julia Morgan Ballroom in the Merchant’s Exchange Building, in the heart of the City’s Financial District. For their ceremony in the presence of 120 guests, the elegant couple, Jane and Greg, chose the impressive lobby, with neoclassical accents and a soaring barrel ceiling:

Cellist Suellen Primost set the festive mood before the ceremony, and the Golden Gate Boys Choir and Bellringers performed throughout – filling the immense space with truly glorious sound. Towering arrangements of white phalaenopsis orchids and branches (by Deidre Rastelli of  Tutti Fiori) adorned the ceremony site where a radiant bride and groom exchanged vows and rings.

Ceremony arrangements - photo by Jessica Stout

Ceremony arrangements – photo by Jessica Stout

Down the aisle - photo by Jessica Stout

Down the aisle – photo by Jessica Stout

The bride, in a stunning backless gown (by Jin Wang) walked the aisle accompanied by her two sisters.

"I do!" - photo by Jessica Stout

“I do!” – photo by Jessica Stout

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And here they are – Mr. and Mrs.!! The bride carried a precious bouquet of pink peonies and succulents….

… and the bridesmaids with their  rose-and-succulent bouquets…

Bride and bridesmaids - photo by Jessica Stout

Bride and bridesmaids – photo by Jessica Stout

dazzled in pale pink and silver flapper dresses, lending the evening a distinctive Art Deco touch.

Following the ceremony, the couple had their official wedding photos taken by photographer and personal friend Jessica Stout …

Mr. and Mrs. - photo by Jessica Stout

Mr. and Mrs. – photo by Jessica Stout

"The Streets of San Francisco" - photo by Jessica Stout

“The Streets of San Francisco” – photo by Jessica Stout

The bridal party - photo by Jessica Stout

The bridal party – photo by Jessica Stout

while guests enjoyed a cocktail hour in the lounge of the 15th floor where vibrant floral arrangements, again by Tutti Fiori, signaled the “fun part” of the evening:

Reception arrangements - photo by Jessica Stout

Reception arrangements – photo by Jessica Stout


Exotic flowers - photo by Jessica Stout

Exotic flowers – photo by Jessica Stout


Succulent centerpieces - photo by Jessica Stout

Succulent centerpieces – photo by Jessica Stout

And then the doors opened to the Grand Ballroom, outfitted with a central dance floor and surrounding seating areas of elegant lounge pieces and casual dining tables (by Hartmann Studios Rentals), inviting guests to dine, drink and dance all evening.

One of the highlights of this festive night was, hands down, the beautiful cake by Gerhard Michler of Creative International Pastries – decorated in keeping with the Art Deco design theme:

Wedding cake in Art Deco design - photo by Jessica Stout

Wedding cake in Art Deco design – photo by Jessica Stout

And this cake was not only beautiful, but also incredibly delicious!

Cutting the Cake - photo by Jessica Stout

Cutting the Cake – photo by Jessica Stout

DJ Brent Hall kept the dance floor going…

First Dance - photo by Jessica Stout

First Dance – photo by Jessica Stout

and guests took breaks only to stop by the bar and the Snap Fiesta photobooth which was a great hit – lots of funny props, big photos to take home and online photos to download later!

Dance party - photo by Jessica Stout

Dance party – photo by Jessica Stout

On the way home, guests were treated to gem-like chocolate favors by ChocoVogue

… and then sent off the newlyweds in style: under a cloud of bubbles they began their journey in a vintage silver Rolls Royce!

A happy send-off... - photo by Jessica Stout

A happy send-off… – photo by Jessica Stout

Congratulations, Jane and Greg – and a glamorous journey through married life!

Wedding of the Week: Cherice and Michael – Crafty, Creative and Charming!

“My” couple Cherice and Michael are doing things their way, and they are doing them all themselves! From the get-go, the two knew exactly what they wanted: a wedding that would bring together their families and closest friends; a charming, historic venue with a lot of character; DIY decor for their personal touch from the invitations to the favors; and a rustic, nostalgic atmosphere throughout.

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For their venue, they chose the century-old Forest Hill Clubhouse, a hidden gem in San Francisco, surrounded by lush greenery. Here is a peek into the Great Room, with wedding dress:

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The ceremony was held on the brick patio, centered on an arrangement of tree stumps and Cherice’s favorite flowers, Ranunculus in a rainbow of colors:

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Handmade signs (old windows, transformed with chalkboard paint…) directed guests throughout the festivities; offering programs and bubble bottles on the way to the ceremony:

Cherice had hand-crafted invitations, programs and escort cards from brown paper and red-and-white twine, a design theme used throughout the decor…

… for example for the escort cards – luggage tags hung from tree branches in a nostalgic tin tub:

The bride’s vibrant bouquet was handmade from – you guessed it! – ranunculus flowers:

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A longtime friend presided over the ceremony:

… which was short and sweet! And here is the official wedding photo:

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Guests were immediately treated to a well-stocked self-service bar inside:

… and, of course, a handwritten chalkboard explaining all the choices!

While the newlyweds were still busy with having their official wedding photos taken, guests were asked to write their good wishes on brown paper slips and place them in a mason jar in lieu of a conventional guest book:

… and then everyone had fun with a home-made Polaroid photo booth.

Soon enough, the newlyweds joined their guests for a delicious, rustic BBQ dinner at long tables, set with gray tablecloths, ranunculus flowers, and – of course! – red and white napkins as well as favor packets wrapped in brown paper and red-and-white twine:

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long tables resized

A collection of (self-emptied!) wine bottles served as water carafes, and one guest at each table found a special note on his or her escort card: “Congratulations! You have won the honor of opening the Champagne for your table!” – Very clever! No wait staff needed…

Michael’s Dad, Cherice’s brother, and a small army of their friends had hung string lights across the Great Room in the Clubhouse, casting a magical glow over the dinner party:

… and Cherice’s Mom had made the delicious wedding cake for her daughter herself:

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…supplemented by lots more of sheet cakes from the kitchen! The grand finale was, however, yet to come:

….and guests actually used up each and every single one!! Cherice and Michael were, indeed, sent off in style to their married life. I am so happy I could be part of their planning, preparation, design process – and ultimately their great day! And here is why I love what I am doing:

Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs.!! And many, many happy years together!