Work hard – Play hard at “Bespoke!”

The SF Bay Area and especially Silicon Valley are famous for their “Work hard/play hard” attitude – and we all got the perfect venue for that lifestyle delivered to our doorstep!

My friend Fernando Ciurlizza of La Bonne Cuisine got me one of the coveted invitations to opening night at Bespoke (Mille merci, Fernando!) and there I was, in the middle of ONE. IMPRESSIVE. SPACE. But I am definitely getting ahead of myself… a few more explanations!

Bespoke is an entirely new concept, bringing together cutting-edge, high-tech work space for 250 and (equally high-tech) party space for up to 1200 (!!) in a super-central, convenient location: the upscale Westfield Shopping Mall in the heart of San Francisco:

Mall entrance

Easy to reach, and – while unexpected as a location – just so convenient to shops…

cupola 2

Bespoke occupies a good part of the 4th floor, alongside a collection of restaurants, right under the impressive cupola.

entrance 2Work spaces at Bespoke offer each and every technical highlight one might require…

workspacefrom single work stations to small conference rooms – and the design is impeccable. To me, that makes working a lot more enjoyable!

Speaking of which – here’s the party space, tricked out with all the bells and whistles of A/V, lighting and data connectivity:

catwalk chairs

catwalkFashion show, anyone? Projection? Conference setup? Or rather dining?

dining table



And after dining – the party’s kicking loose for good! Look at these light effects…

blue tiles

green digitalIsn’t that fun? Throw in some music… and people will refuse to leave. I guarantee it!

While I assume that Bespoke will be the biggest hit with the “hi-tech crowd,” I can well imagine a “techie” couple throwing a wild dance party here for their nuptials… the design and entertainment possibilities are pretty endless at Bespoke!

Whirlwind Planning for a Beautiful Wedding: Catherine and Jithun

Last December, Catherine and Jithun enlisted my company, A Day Like No Other, to help them plan their wedding in August of this year, complete with traditional elements from Jithun’s native India – a Sangeet (dance party) a day before, for example… and of course a big Western style wedding. The even bigger Indian wedding would then follow shortly after, organized and hosted by the groom’s family in India. We were already right in the middle of all this planning … when the unexpected happened. A serious illness in the family forced Catherine and Jithun to move their wedding date up: to the following Sunday! Suddenly, we did not have another four months for planning, but a mere four DAYS.

Definitely a challenge! And definitely time to call in favors within my network of fantastic vendors – many of whom have become my friends over the years. I started making phone calls, and what happened was nothing short of a little miracle- everyone was immediately on board, and everyone agreed: we will make sure that these two wonderful young people will get more than an “emergency affair.” No, we would give them a joyful, memorable wedding celebration with all the bells and whistles we’d be able to muster!

First order of the day: find a new venue! On our first day of emergency planning, I received three offers, and Catherine chose the elegant Casa Madrona Hotel in Sausalito …

IMG_20150412_143440~2… just across the Golden Gate Bridge …

IMG_20150412_142412~2… and overlooking the San Francisco Bay and the Sausalito Yacht Harbor:


Catering would be provided by Poggio Trattoria next door – they cater all of Casa Madrona’s special events, and their food is simply stellar.

Catherine’s childhood Rabbi made himself available for an evening wedding ceremony, and florist Deidre Rastelli of Tutti Fiori provided a beautiful antique chuppah which she decorated over and over with the flowers of the bride’s choice.

IMG_20150412_175013~2And of course she made a bridal bouquet exactly as Catherine had envisioned it, in a saturated maroon color (her second accent color, together with an aquamarine blue). And boutonnieres. And bridesmaids’ bouquets. And centerpieces. Everything!

Jira of Wowpretty Salon sent two senior stylists…

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and a wedding dress (the original one won’t get ready until May…) and pretty sandals were rush-ordered; the bride would wear her own stunning aquamarine jewelry…  here we go! Catherine, more beautiful and radiant than ever…

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And what a dapper groom she has!

Preview_CatherineJithun_Sausalito Wedding_SHHIVIKACHAUHANPHOTOGRAPHY Page 5My assistant Kelsey jumped in at the last minute and accompanied bride and groom and their families and guests throughout the day, from setup and hair/makeup session to ceremony, dinner and dancing – and provided our first photos of the day, until we get all the “real” ones from our photographer, Shhivika Chauhan. (We got a few from her already as a little preview – you see how fantastic they are!). Shhivika was already booked by another couple until early afternoon of that same day, but for her there was no question whatsoever: she headed over directly from her morning job to shoot Catherine’s wedding!

The Casa Madrona staff under the guidance of catering manager Stacey Turner did a beautiful job setting up the ceremony with a view of the yacht harbor, with the chuppah outside and the guest seating sheltered, inside.

Preview_CatherineJithun_Sausalito Wedding_SHHIVIKACHAUHANPHOTOGRAPHY Page 4Cellist Suellen Primost gathered her Espiritu Ensemble for elegant ceremony music, and then the great moment had come…

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Thomas Hughes Films live-streamed the ceremony for all those who hadn’t been able to attend at such short notice (and of course, they covered the festivities following the ceremony as well…)

Just married!

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Aren’t they a handsome couple?!

Cocktails were served on the adjacent patio, with guests watching the golden light of the sunset.



Meanwhile, my assistant Kelsey, catering manager Stacey and her team set up the dining room…

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complete with Catherine’s dream cake by Cake Coquette and favor boxes with French macarons from Chantal Guillon, all in her favorite wedding colors!

flipped and 2right

DJ Paul Burchfield of BigFunDJs got his equipment ready first for soft background music during dinner and then exuberant dance music, ranging from Frank Sinatra to Bollywood hits (yes!) and, of course, the Hora Dance:

Preview_CatherineJithun_Sausalito Wedding_SHHIVIKACHAUHANPHOTOGRAPHY Page 10It was a magical night…

IMG_20150412_202352~2Thank you to all who made it possible, and congratulations and many happy years together to Catherine and Jithun!


A Midsummernight’s Dream for Katherine and David

When Katherine and David, then just engaged …


… chose my company, A Day Like No Other, for their wedding coordination and design more than a year back, Katherine’s guideline was, “a Midsummernight’s Dream celebration.”

I loved that idea! Just a few stumbling blocks on the way… among others, that the wedding wouldn’t happen in summer, rather – in late spring. And that the venue needed to hold 200 guests, the original number envisioned by the couple. And that their first choice venue didn’t work out. So… I had a chance to jump into action right away! I happened to know a venue that was quite similar in ambiance, just a little further away, but in a geographic area with a very stable, warm climate, as our guarantee for the “midsummer” weather: Holman Ranch in Carmel Valley! This romantic, beautiful property amid rolling hills and vineyards was love at first sight for Katherine and David.


stone terrace 2

ceremony lawn

Once that was in place, the hard work started in earnest. First off: choose catering! The two wanted a relaxed dinner with food stations, “honest, yummy food” and free seating, and they found Paradise Catering, providing them with a BBQ station, salad station, and grilled cheese and tomato soup station (my total favorite!!), delicious hors d’oeuvres and a full bar, of course. The seating – wooden benches and coffee tables along with traditional dining tables – came from Chic Event Rentals (as did the professional lighting). diningWedding cakes and cookies on a beautifully decorated buffet were provided by Nga.Che ([email protected]).


Speaking of decor… here we tapped into the couple’s shared profession! They are both pharmacists, so table decor consisted of a variety of apothecary jars serving as terrariums as well as antique medicine bottles…

dining tbl… and for wedding favors, guests received miniature mortars and pestles, the tools of the pharmaceutical trade!

favorsKatherine chose stylist/florist Natasha Kolenko for her flowers to complement the lush greenery and blooming rose hedges on property and to evoke a feminine, romantic feel in muted colors of apricot, silvery green, and ivory.

Bridal bouquet

swtht tbl

And here is our bride, in full hair and make-up by Hanh Nguyen of Beauteme ([email protected])…

bride… and a dramatic dream wedding dress by Galia Lahav. Time to meet her groom: First Look!

first look

Guests were meanwhile arriving at the ceremony lawn, welcomed by a refreshment station, guestbook and gift table.

gift tbl

guest bk tble

Finally the great moment had come: the bride was escorted to the ceremony by both her parents.

to the altarAfter their “I Do’s,” the couple went off for photos with acclaimed photographer Clane Gessel and videographer Doug Davis (DPWeddings) who captured the whole day from start to finish. Just wait until you see their photos and video!!

Guests  meanwhile enjoyed cocktails under a beautiful arbor and lawn games…

cocktl hr

cocktail tbl

… music by DJ Darion Bonnet and entertainment at the Photo Booth with Nick Napoli (both: DNA Entertainment). Meanwhile all the little ones (a lot of them!) had fun in the game room playing and doing craft projects with babysitter Rachelle Parrs ([email protected]).

With dusk and then night falling, the atmosphere turned downright magical, and after dinner everyone was in the mood for dancing in the historic Carriage House! They were directed there by the signage I had designed in exactly the same style as the wedding invitations…


First, of course, went our couple:

First Dance

… opening the dance floor to everyone. The rest of the evening went by way too fast with dancing, cake cutting…

Cake cutting

… bouquet and garter tosses, a Grand Exit with glow sticks and a decorated getaway car … “a true whirlwind,” as Katherine put it. Exactly the “Midsummernight’s Dream” she had wished for!

lights 2

Many happy years together, Katherine and David, and our best wishes on your way!


Spring Awakening at the Bently Reserve

One of the most prestigious San Francisco event venues, the venerable Bently Reserve, and the go-to event entertainment company in SF – Entire Productions –  had both something to celebrate (their new look!), and they joined forces and did it together… beautifully so, as was to be expected!



Yesterday night, their “Spring Awakening” party drew a prestigious crowd, a true “Who’s Who” of the top Bay Area event professionals. (Wasn’t I lucky to be invited?!). Just in the first hour I met hostess Natasha Miller of Entire Productions, who had brought a whole army of her entertainers –

IMG_3331starting with a violinist on the mezzanine, looking down on the Great Room…

IMG_3330… where the “415s” kept the crowd going.

Who else was there? My friends and fellow wedding planners Duncan Reyes of Events by Design, Fred Sullivan and Jaime Botello of Sullivan & Botello Events; caterers John Silva of Culinary Eye and Fernando Ciurlizza of La Bonne Cuisine, while Ranjan Dey’s New Delhi Restaurant was busy serving delicious paneer bites, as were Janet Weisberg of  Ladies Who Lunch and 49Square:

IMG_3336To wash it all down, guests could help themselves to a glass of champagne from the strolling “Champagne Skirt”, again provided by Entire Productions:

IMG_3332Guests might go on watching the stunning contortionist performance courtesy of Entire Productions…

IMG_3338… from a comfortable lounge area provided by Blueprint Studios and decorated with floral arrangements from Michael Daigian Design and Amy Burke Designs:

IMG_3333Susan Sheinkopf’s Party Staff made sure all guests were perfectly taken care of, and I and all my other friends that I met – catering managers Mariell Rahmani of the Fairmont SF, Chrissy Wolfman of the Intercontinental Mark Hopkins, Helen Wu of the Presidio Trust; photographers Misti Layne and Clane Gessel, florist Pat Gibbons and videographer extraordinaire Thomas Hughes – we helped ourselves to all the delicacies including yummy mini cupcakes from The Whole Cake.

IMG_3337Photographer Colson Griffith and cameraman Patrick Sedillo captured it all, while wedding media queen Cristine Thomas of Today’s Bride certainly found a lot of news and eye candy to report on! And what’s so great about events like this – not only do they give us the pleasure of coming together with our longtime friends and colleagues outside of our work environment, not only are we being pampered to no end (as described!) – every time I  make new discoveries! There is always a business I haven’t worked with yet at my wedding events but that’s so fantastic it immediately lands on my “radar,” and, of course, new contacts and friends. Last night, for example, I was introduced to Bailey Nakano of the Regency Center, and we immediately hatched a plan to do an event there together. Such is the vibrancy of the SF Bay Area wedding pro’s community! I love it…. Thanks again, Natasha, for having us all, and for having me last night!