They Did It Their Way – Beautifully! Lauren’s and Francisco’s Great Day

For Halloween of 2013, a young couple decides to take their two little boys to a different neighborhood for trick’n treating. No big deal, right? Wrong. Much bigger deal than anyone would’ve thought. Just wait.

While they are there, they come upon a storybook house, truly magical, under mature trees, right out of “Harry Potter,” with a  warm and inviting glow on that cold winter evening.

CH They did not know what it was – but they knew one thing instantaneously: that’s where they wanted to get married! They had been toying with the idea of a Spring wedding for quite some time, but had not gotten into planning anything – until that momentous Halloween evening. They could not get the memory of this mysterious house out of their heads. Was it perhaps somebody’s home? Could it at all be rented? Lauren started her detective work and found out – to her great joy – that, indeed, their dream house could be rented! It turned out to be the historic Forest Hill Clubhouse, not only the beloved gathering place for the neighborhood, but also a hidden gem of an event venue that has seen many a birthday party, anniversary celebration, and, of course, many a wedding in its 93-year old history. The two came visit and fell in love even more with the story book charm of the Clubhouse, inside and out. They rented it on the spot, and from that moment on, Lauren’s and Francisco’s wedding plans took on a life of their own. 


Soon enough the two realized what a huge task they had taken on – to be completed in less than three months! As a busy professional couple with two kids plus Lauren’s musical pursuits (she is a violinist in an amateur orchestra) there was simply not enough time to get it all done by themselves. Enter A Day Like No Other, my wedding planning company! The two entrusted the planning to me, and off we went, all three of us, on a brainstorming, designing and planning “blitz!” So much fun… First of all: nothing conventional, please! Just a short ceremony in the romantic courtyard, only with family in attendance, no bridesmaids, no groomsmen, and then a fun dance party with all their friends. Okay!

Colors? Natural, please – ivory and brown and the delicate blu-ish hues of ivory hydrangeas tinged with a little blue and green. Flowers? Oh yes. Lauren knew exactly what she wanted, and Annette Shulman of Petals Flower Studio translated the bride’s vision into charming reality, including a beautiful arch for the ceremony, ivory rose petals on the aisle… and a gorgeous bridal bouquet and matching centerpieces.

Have a look:



arch bouquet

With all the meticulous planning done and all the details in place, my assistant, Kelli DeSeelhorst ([email protected]), orchestrated the Great Day from start to finish.

The bride was meanwhile getting ready in the romantic Bridal Preparation Room, well hidden from curious eyes…

Bridal prep room

… and getting into her etherial vintage lace dress…


… complemented by an oh-so-feminine bouquet of white “Vendela” roses and wispy, sky-blue Tweedia…


flower girl

Finally, the great moment had come… I do!



“You may now kiss the bride!”


The new husband and wife, together with their families, went off for photos (with photographer Mark Thackery of pier 23 photography) right afterward,



and at 5 pm they joined their guests at the Clubhouse for music, dancing and hors d’oeuvres by Chez Fayala.

The Great Room of the Clubhouse had been magically transformed with twinkle lights (a whole workforce of friends and family members had descended on the Clubhouse in the early morning to make it happen)

dining tables

Great room from aboveand dining tables were resplendent in linens, china and stemware by Unica Party Rentals, elegant centerpieces by Petals Flower Studio, and  glass gems glittering in the light of votive candles.



To top it off, chairs had gotten the royal treatment with copper organza sashes…


… and a garland in the style of the invitations (that the groom had designed himself!) announced the joyous occasion:


What’s still missing? Right – the cake! It came from Sunset Bakery, and look what a stunner that was…


One more dance…


At the end of the evening, husband and wife – again! – “did it their way:” not a getaway car, no… In the glow of sparklers waved by their guests, the two took off on Francisco’s vintage Vespa. That’s what I call individual style!


Congratulations on a wonderful wedding celebration, and many happy years “your way” together!

Tara and Michael: Elegance Choreographed to Perfection

“Come Dance With Us!” was the motto of Tara’s and Michael’s exquisitely elegant wedding in Carmel-by-the-Sea, last weekend. And their celebration was, in fact, a perfectly choreographed affair – in every sense.

Tara and Michael have so much in common, their love of dancing only one among many things. As Michael said, “Tara and I – we are of the same feather…” And what “feather” is that? To start with, each of them is a Math wiz. They love the perfection of numbers. They are super smart. They are both perfectionists. They are extremely organized, analytical and detail-oriented. Small wonder they expected their wedding day to be just as perfect and organized! I feel really honored that they entrusted that all-important “project” to my company, A Day Like No Other, as their wedding planner.


The two met only in February this year, but they both knew right away that they had met their perfect mates (unbeknownst to each other, that’s what they told their best friends that same evening!). A true whirlwind romance ensued. Following time-honored tradition, Michael formally asked Tara’s father for her hand in marriage – and got it! After that, nothing held them back to set their wedding date. As Tara put it so aptly (on her sign explaining her puzzle piece “guest book”), “It may have taken us a while, but we finally found the perfect fit.” Just 9 months from their first date, the two got married last Saturday in one of the most romantic places I know – Carmel-by-the-Sea. After the bride’s mandatory Hair and Makeup session (Caitlin at Spa on the Plaza),

Getting ready

… both bride and groom were busy getting ready…

Dress back


… at Quail Lodge Resort in Carmel Valley…

Quail groundsIt was a glorious, golden late Autumn day, and the pond full of the namesake quail was glittering in the sun…

Pond 2


The two had their “First Look” moment on a bridge crossing the pond… it could have been right out of an Impressionist painting, Monet perhaps, and it was most definitely the pinnacle of romance. Photographer Ken Kato and videographer James Ferrandini of Thomas Hughes Films captured all those special moments throughout the day – First Look:


… and a stroll through Carmel-by-the-Sea with storybook charm:


Carmel walk

Then it was time for a stretch limo transfer to their wedding mass in the historic Church of the Wayfarer in Carmel-by-the-Sea…

Church of the Wayfarer



… The bride carried a breathtaking bouquet (by Swenson and Silacci) in her wedding colors – purple hues from pale mauve to lavender and a deep eggplant color.


The Bride had chosen ceremony music with very special meaning and memories attached, all flawlessly performed by BellaQuattro Strings and rounded out by a soprano solo – sung by bridesmaid Landra.

married couple

It is official:

Rings 2

Following the wedding mass, a couple “official wedding photos” were in order:


While the new Mr. and Mrs. had their photos taken, an elegant cocktail reception was awaiting Tara’s and Michael’s more than 100 guests at Quail Lodge…

Cocktail decor 2… on the patio overlooking the extensive park and golf course surrounding the venue.

Center tableGuests enjoyed browsing a veritable photo gallery of the couple from babyhood to engagement photos (see above) along with three signature cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.

Tara and Michael were meanwhile rehearsing one more time the intricate steps of their First Dance – as a surprise for their guests, they had prepared and practiced over and over a choreographed dance performance on a medley of songs, accompanied by DJ John of DNA Entertainment

First Dance

… which was literally jaw-dropping proof that these two are, indeed, a perfect match AND professional-grade dancers!

The ensuing elegant sit-down dinner took place around the central dance floor – with tables dominated by tall centerpieces of large mauve roses, white orchids and hydrangea, purple lisianthus and and… just have a look for yourself:


Table numbers

In lieu of conventional table numbers, tables were named after the couple’s favorite dances.



In accordance with her purple wedding colors and the elegance of her whole celebration, Tara had designed a suite of classic wedding stationery – from invitations to programs, menu and escort cards to favor wrappers and various signage – in purple and ivory colors, and she had accented every single piece with a hand-stamped border of romantic scrollwork.

Place settingAnd after dinner? More dancing, of course! And cutting the cake (by Patisserie Bechler), too…


Cake cutting 2Guests enjoyed creamy, berry-studded cheesecake and coffee, more dancing, and finally – a whimsical sendoff of the couple! During the reception, groomsmen and bridesmaids had sneaked away to secretly decorate the couple’s car with paper flower garlands, purple tulle ribbon and “Just Married” signs, not to forget dozens of empty soda cans tied to the rear bumper… So the whole merry party sent the two off right into their Honeymoon – “down under!”

And here is why I love my job so much…


Congratulations, Tara and Michael, and keep dancing together for many, many happy years to come!


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!


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.

rings resized

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:

dress resized

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:

ceremony setup 3 resized

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:

bridal bouquet resized

A longtime friend presided over the ceremony:

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

barn door resized

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:

long table 2 resized



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:

cake resized

…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!

DIY: Another Crowd Pleaser for Your Wedding Dinner: Quiche Lorraine!

Finally something for my DIY brides again: a versatile, super-easy crowd-pleasing dish that 1.) can be prepared and frozen; 2.) can be served warm or cold AND 3.) is equally good as an appetizer and a first entree course! So, what’s this miracle dish? Quiche Lorraine, a staple of French cuisine, but an exception in that it is NOT at all difficult. Accompany with mixed greens or heirloom tomato salad – perfect!

Here we go:

1 unbaked 9 inch pie crust (home-made or store-bought)

12 slices bacon, 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese, 1/3 cup minced onion, 4 eggs, 2 cups heavy cream, salt (ca. 3/4 teaspoon) and cayenne (ca. 1/8 teaspoon) to taste; pinch of sugar.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Render bacon and chop. Cook onion in a little bit of the bacon fat until softened; sprinkle in bottom of pie crust together with bacon and cheese. Beat eggs, mix with cream and seasonings. Brush rim of crust with egg mixture, then pour mixture in crust (will be very full!). Set on rimmed baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 15 min; reduce temperature to 300 degrees and bake until center is just firm, at least 30 min and up to 50 min (every oven is different, so check frequently – if rim becomes too dark, cover with strips of aluminum foil). Let sit at least 10 min before serving (or let cool, or freeze…), cut into wedges, and enjoy!

Yield: 6 dinner servings or 8 to 10 appetizer servings.


Posted in DIY

Another Winner for your Wedding Dessert Buffet!

Here comes the next installment in our DIY series: another super-tasty AND super-easy cake for your wedding dessert buffet. By the way: this cake can be prepared ahead of time and frozen for a week or two. Less stress!

The recipe yields 12 servings.


New York Cheesecake (with a Secret Trick)


Mix 9 finely ground whole graham crackers, 1 tbsp sugar, tiny pinch of salt, and 5 tbsp melted unsalted butter. Spray 9 in springform pan with nonstick spray, press crumb mixture firmly in bottom of pan, bake at 325 degrees until fragrant and beginning to brown, 10-15 min. Put springform pan in fridge until room temperature.


Increase oven temperature to 5oo degrees (yes!). Beat 2.5 lb cream cheese, 1.5 cups sugar, 1/8 tsp salt and 1/3 cup sour cream until silky smooth and no lumps remain. Add 2 tsp (or more to taste) fresh lemon juice, 2 tsp vanilla extract, 2 large egg yolks and 6 large eggs. Beat until fully incorporated and smooth. Pour filling over crust, smooth surface, set pan on rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 min. Then lower oven temperature to 200 degrees without opening oven door (this high-low temperature sequence is the secret trick!) and bake until instant-read thermometer shows 150 degrees in middle of cake, ca. 1.5 hours. Rotate pan halfway through bake time.

Transfer pan to wire rack, run paring knife around edge every hour, letting cool for 3 hours. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, refrigerate at least 3 hours, better overnight.

Serve with warmed-up Dulce de Leche (Spanish Milk Caramel Sauce, from a jar) and slightly sweetened whipped cream.

DIY Star for your Wedding Dessert Buffet

As promised – here comes the next installment of my DIY series!

This time it’s a super-delicious chocolate cake that’s not too hard to make and that can easily be the superstar of your dessert buffet! It’s incredibly rich and moist, and you can dress it up for your wedding with edible gold powder (from and a cake topper – done! One cake yields 16 slices – best with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream.

Make ahead: up to 2 weeks (wrap and freeze); fresh fruit decorations must go on shortly before serving; edible gold can be applied before freezing.

Here is the recipe:


8 oz top-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (e.g. Ghirardelli, Valrhona)

12 tbsp unsalted butter in 1/2 inch pieces

2 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp instant espresso powder

7 oz sliced almonds, lightly toasted (or, if using gold decor instead of chopped almonds for the sides, only 4 oz)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

5 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup fresh raspberries (plus 16 berries for decoration if using)

1/4 cup seedless best-quality raspberry jam


5 oz top-quality bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped

1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp. heavy whipping cream

Heat oven to 325 F; rack in middle position. Line two 9-inch round cake pans (at least 2 inch high) with parchment paper. Melt chocolate and butter in double boiler until smooth, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, let cool to room temperature, add vanilla and espresso powder. If using chopped almonds for garnish of cake sides, process 3/4 cups almonds in food processor until coarsely chopped; set aside. (Skip this step if using something else for garnish of cake sides). Grind 1 cup almonds finely, add flour and salt and continue processing until combined; transfer to medium bowl. Process eggs in food processor until light and doubled in volume, adding sugar. With whisk, fold egg mix into chocolate mix until only few streaks remain; sprinkle almond mix over by and by, gently whisking, until just combined. Divide batter between prepared pans, smooth top, bake until center is firm and toothpick comes out with few crumbs attached, ca. 14-16 min. Let cool in pans; loosen sides and invert cakes on cardboard rounds, then re-invert ONE cake so that its top is facing up again. For filling, coarsely mash 1/2 cup raspberries and stir in jam until just combined. Spread onto cake layer with the top side up; top with second cake, bottom side up. Transfer whole cake to wire rack set over baking sheet or big sheet of aluminum foil. For glaze, melt chocolate and cream in double boiler and whisk until very smooth. Pour glaze onto center of assembled cake, spreading evenly with offset spatula on top and sides. Decorate as desired (for look as photo shows: chopped almonds on the sides, 16 individual raspberries on top; for wedding-themed look: edible gold powder or flakes and cake topper). Refrigerate until glaze is set, at least one hour.