A Bride's Best Friend - wedding coaching and consulting

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The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe

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It's always a delight to visit a new Ritz-Carlton hotel, and back in October, I was among a handful of wedding planners invited to The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe FAM trip. FAM is short for "familiarization", and it’s an opportunity for us to experience the resort to its fullest potential, to form relationships with the event staff there and to understand the logistics of planning an event in their unique spaces.  It's also a great way to spend time with good friends and colleagues, and meet new ones.  Since all of us have such crazy schedules, it's pretty rare that we can all be in the same place at the same time!  One thing I've always enjoyed about the wedding planner community is how friendly, open and supportive we all are of each other.

My relationship with The Ritz-Carlton brand goes back to 2006, when I worked for their Half Moon Bay property managing weddings in their Special Events department.  I love the Ritz-Carlton ideals: surprise and delight every client as if they were your only one.

The three day trip began on Sunday, when my assistant, Amanda and I drove up together.   The towering trees and cool crisp air greeted us as we approached the resort, and the friendly staff made sure we were comfortable in our room.  After taking a few minutes to admire the beautiful details of our room and thoughtful welcome bag, we headed to the Club Lounge, our "home base" for the trip, for an informal welcome reception, where we met the lovely Andrea Daly and Clodagh Larkin, our hosts for the trip.

The afternoon started out with a tour of downtown Truckee, complete with a wine and cheese reception at The Carmel Gallery.  It's a good thing we didn't linger too long, since there are so many cute shops and boutiques!  From there we headed to Northstar-at-Tahoe, the ski resort located just 10 down the mountain from The Ritz-Carlton.  Northstar offers several tiers of accommodations and lots of fun event venues, making it really convenient for Ritz-Carlton brides to utilize multiple resorts for their celebration weekend.  The two properties are connected via gondola and Northstar boasts an ice skating rink and a beautiful permanent tent.  After starting a conversation with Brett Lynley Sneed, the Special Events Manager for Northstar, we realized we went to middle school together.  Small world indeed!

Our first day ended with a fantastic "rehearsal dinner" at The Ritz-Carlton's "Manzanita" restaurant. We feasted on a five course, wine paired menu in the Private Dining Room.  Manzanita is a true sophisticated mountain resort refuge, and the locally sourced menu under the direction of Chef Traci Des Jardins was no short of spectacular.

Stay tuned for more details on the rest of this fantastic trip soon!


A Veteran’s Day Wedding

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The day before Veteran's day was the day A Bride’s Best Friend’s best friend got married.

Did you get all that?  I just sent my BFF from High School down the aisle a couple of days ago.   Erica is my opposite in almost every way (she = minimalist, me = pack rat) so I wasn’t surprised when she said she wanted a small civil ceremony at City Hall.  Her sweetheart, Tukana is an active duty Marine, and he picked November 10th, the day before Veteran’s Day to tie the knot.

Even though Erica didn’t have a bridal party, I got to spend some quality pre-wedding time with her on wedding morning.  I delivered breakfast for the two of them, helped her with her hair & makeup, and we got dressed together in her apartment before I shuttled them over to City Hall where we met her immediate family.  I also volunteered my Mr. Wonderful to take all the wedding photos of the two of them.  (Thanks, honey!)

Erica is the biggest goofball I know, which doesn’t stop just because a camera is pointed at her.  It was actually hard to pick my favorite goofy photo, since there were so many!

I couldn’t let her get married without a bouquet, so I enlisted the help of one of my favorite florists, Amy Burke, to create her bouquet.  Even though her dress is quite soft, Erica is really quirky, so I wanted a mix of soft and bright colors that would both compliment and pop against her creamy, antique pink dress.

Even though there was no processional, I ordered a few “Here Comes the Bride” music boxes, and enlisted her sisters to “play” her down the aisle.  Erica’s face glowed as they exchanged vows and I couldn’t help tear up!  I had Celebration by Kool & the Gang cued up on my phone to lighten the mood during their kiss.  We cheered them on, and went off to take a few more pictures.  We finished the day with an intimate dinner at the Beach Chalet, with a special surprise cake from Gaby over at Cake Coquette.  Since Erica met Tukana in his native Fiji on a scuba diving trip, I had their cake made as a replica of the island, which they loved!

Tukana deploys to Afghanistan at the end of the month, so the time they have together now is quite precious.  I’m thrilled and honored to witness their celebration, and can not wait to see the joy they create together.

All choked up,



Revisiting the Royal Wedding

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Like a lot people the world over, I spent a few weeks in April wrapped up in Royal Wedding Anticipation.  As a child, I'd heard loads of Princess Diana stories from my mom, but didn't really understand the magnitude of her impact as a Princess and humanitarian.  Now that I'm (mostly) grown up, it was nice to be swept up into the fairy tale, and I look forward to following Kate and seeing how she progresses in her life as a Royal.  My favorite moment of the day was a small one: when William and Kate rode back to Buckingham Palace after the ceremony, just as they entered the Palace gates and there was no one left to wave to, there was a shot were you could see the Prince lovingly place his hand on hers and caress her palm.  Sigh.

It was lots of fun getting caught up in the pre-wedding excitement, so like the Brits, I declared April 29th to be a "bank holiday" at ABBF HQ, and invited a few other wedding obsessed friends over to watch the festivities with me.  As a wedding planner, I inevitably focus most of my entertaining talents on my clients, but it was fun (and exhausting!) to plan the details out just the way I wanted.

I welcomed guests with a Mimosa and Bellini station.  We munched on freshly baked scones with homemade strawberry and apricot marmalades, and popped champagne flute and crown shaped tea sandwiches in our mouths while waiting for the first glimpse of the soon to be princess.

In honor of the Duke and Duchess' first official visit to California this weekend, here are a few of my favorite snaps of the day.

Wishing Kate and Wills a lifetime of health and happiness!



A Bride’s Best Friend’s First Wedding Timelapse Video

Over here at ABBF HQ, you'll always find about a dozen ideas being kicked around. Mostly, I like to think about ways my clients can fully enjoy their big days and the months leading up to it.  I also like to think about new ways to visualize experiences and capture memories.

I'm a lucky wedding planner whose husband is always there to dream big along side me. For a while, I've wanted to showcase some of the behind the scenes action that goes into a typical 15 hour wedding day.  Mr. Wonderful had the fabulous idea to capture Tamar and Venkat's wedding in a series of stills and string them together in time lapse form to create a video memento for them and their families. As a first attempt, I think it's a fun glimpse into the action of the day.

If you read last weeks post, you know that Tamar and Venkat met ballroom dancing, and even incorporated a swing dance lesson for their guests into their wedding reception. The ABBF team “swung” into action as well (at double time speed!) to flip their ceremony space over for dinner in just an hour.

I hope you enjoy this little snippet of their day. I’d love it if you’d chime in and let me know what you think about the time lapse concept for weddings.

Happy Planning!

Be well,



A Winter Wedding in Red and White

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Working in the melting pot of cultures that is the Bay Area, I have the pleasure of working with diverse couples. Tamar and Venkat hired me to plan their American wedding, while at the same time preparing for two other weddings in India and Israel.  (Wow!)

The days started out with Tamar and her bridesmaids getting ready at her parent's home on the Stanford campus:

I love it when couples make time in their day for a few moments to themselves.  Here a few of my favorite snaps from their first look:

Tamar is a graduate student at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where both her parents are professors. With the Cardinal blood coursing through Tamar’s veins, the Stanford Faculty Club was the perfect venue choice.

Because of the size of the wedding and the season (they married in December), we had to flip the room from the ceremony set up to the dinner seating plan while guests enjoyed cocktails and a collage of videos of Tamar & Venkat at different dance competitions in another room.

Whenever a room flip is involved, careful planning and a well-staffed event is key.  We repurposed the chuppah from the Jewish ceremony and used it as a canopy to showcase their cupcake tower at their reception. The ABBF team, the amazing staff at the faculty club, our lighting designers and floral team worked double time to transform the ballroom in 60 minutes!

Tamar and Venkat met ballroom dancing, so it was a no brainer that they would choreograph an amazing first dance. But they also wanted their guests to experience their love for dance firsthand, so we hired one of their teachers, Jen, to give a swing dance lesson after dinner and spread the love around to everyone.  Having Jen there to teach the lesson and having Ron Grandia as our emcee was a perfect fit.  We got double the music libraries, and the smoothest flow from each part of the evening to the next.  The cupcakes were a big hit, as was their wedding albums which we displayed from their India wedding (which had just taken place a few short weeks before!)

Congratulations and Mazel Tov to Tamar, Venkat, and their wonderful families!


P.S. I couldn't resist throwing in my fave goofy shot of the bridal party.  Love that they took the rain with good humor!

The Wedding Team:

Venue : Stanford Faculty Club

Photography:  Teresa Halton Photography

Lighting & Draping:  Enhanced Lighting & Sound

Emcee & DJ:  Ron Grandia, A Different Kind of DJ

Dance Instructor & DJ:  Hep Jen

Videographer:  Andy Hirsch, Blue Moon Productions

Hair & Makeup:  Christina Felix, Christina Hair Artistry

Cupcakes:  Sibby’s Cupcakery

Flowers:  Shawna Futagaki, Flower Divas

Linens:  Classic Party Rentals


This time, it’s Personal: Jonthan and Dione’s Wedding Day

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As a wedding planner, I get invited into very intimate moments in my client’s lives.  I always feel honored to be there, especially when I end up getting “adopted” by them and their families even after the wedding day.

How does a wedding planner prepare for her baby brother's big day?  With many planning hours, loads of helps from her "friendors" and lots of laughs!

A year ago, I was very wrapped up in my own family, as I prepared to get my little brother and his fiancé down the aisle.  It’s such a different experience planning a family wedding, and it gave me a window into what my clients and their families feel and experience as they approach their big day.

As the Big Sister of the Groom, I was careful not to overstep by offering too much help.  I was honored though, when they came to me and asked for my full involvement, since secretly, I really did want to help them plan their wedding!  As the day approached, I pulled in a good friend and fellow wedding planner, Tony White of Extreme Elegance, to take us to the finish line.  We recruited some of our favorites in the industry, and it was great to work with good friends on such a personal level.

Having Tony to nearby to handle all the details and emotions was a godsend – he allowed me to be fully present at their wedding, which is a priceless gift!

In honor of Jonathan & Dione’s one year anniversary, here are some of my favorite pics taken by and showcasing some of my favorite people.


Looking at these photographs remind me to be present in every moment, love and appreciate your family, and celebrate every ocassion possible!

Be Well,


Photographer- Tim Sohn Studios

DJ- Ron Grandia

Florist- Amy Burke Designs

Planning Team- A Bride’s Best Friend and Extreme Elegance Events by Tony

Cake- Cake Expressions

Linens and Lighting- Classic Party Rentals-San Francisco

Venue and Catering- Sheraton Sunnyvale Hotel


Sam’s Glitter & Glam Birthday Bash

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One of the sweetest memories I have of my clients Sam and Greg is when they pulled me aside on the night of their party as guests were arriving to personally thank me for creating their dream party. I had first heard from them five weeks prior, when Greg left me a quirky voice mail late on a Friday afternoon. It was early November and he said that he wanted to put together an amazing 40th birthday celebration for his wife Sam at their home. He described her in detailed admiration: what an amazing mom she is, how she is a project managing whiz, and how overly lucky he was to have married her five years ago. When I asked when his wife’s birthday was, he told me that it was December 9, a short five weeks away!

I met with Sam and Greg early the next week as she described her vision of a music & food centered black tie celebration. Sam also selected the sophisticated purple & platinum color palette.  We quickly decided the only way to celebrate her birthday in style in December was to tent the backyard. (Click each picture to enlarge)

To make sure things go off without a hitch on such short notice, it’s a must to invest in the industry’s best pros. This amazing team included lighting and draping from Enhanced Lighting and Sound, a clear topped tent from Classic Party Rentals and lounge furniture from Blueprint Studios.  Sam and Greg welcomed about 40 of their friends for delicious tapas provided by Le Papillion, addicting cake pops from Sweet Tooth Confections, and danceable tunes by Elite Entertainment.

We chose a few focal points: a pool treatment that included light up orbs and a lace light pattern, a cigar and brandy station and a white dance floor topped by a crystal chandelier. One of the most special parts of the night was when Greg debuted a special slide show he had prepared for Sam set to Bruno Mars' "Just the Way You Are". The eagle eye of Lori Paladino captured the spirit of the evening.

An at home party always requires twice the "manpower".   Luckily, I have a crack team of the best wedding pros:

L-R: Jordan, Elle, Amanda, Tony. Not pictured: Jean Marks & Mr. Wonderful. It takes a village!

Thanks to everyone on Sam's Glitter & Glam team for making it an unforgettable night!




Jon & Joy’s Video Highlights

I feel so lucky to have been a part of Jon and Joy's wedding.  The best thing about these two?  They define the phrase "young at heart".  Having been a couple since middle school, they've already weathered a lot of life together.  What I admire the most about them is their ability to remain in love, be silly and appreciate each other's best qualities.  You can see it all here in their highlight video, filmed by the talented Raphael of Mayad Studios:

If you fall in love with Jon and Joy like I did, check out their Love Story video where they talk about their courtship and their how their love for each other grows.  We screened this mini-film at the wedding reception with all their guests.  Here is a snap of them while watching it.  They weren't the only ones in the room reaching for tissues!

Jon and Joy viewing their Love Story film for the first time

Wishing you all a little more love in your life today,



Photo: Geoff White Photographers


Real Wedding Spotlight: Melissa and Mikey’s Red & Black Ritz-Carlton Celebration

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I can’t think back on Melissa and Mikey’s wedding without grinning ear to ear.  They were both just brimming with excitement to become husband and wife, and reveled in every single detail of their big day.  You can read Melissa’s account of her big day here.  We had been planning their Labor Day celebration at the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay for over a year, and decided to incorporate a bold color palette of red, black and silver.   Here are some of my favorite moments of their weekend:

Melissa and Mikey even made their rehearsal a party, dressing up to begin the festivities early.  The day before the wedding was also Mikey’s birthday, so at the rehearsal lunch, Melissa surprised him with a birthday cake from Just Cake to be an exact replica of the cruise ship they met on!

We started the day by creating a beauty lounge for the ladies with the bride's favorite breakfast foods, her soundtrack playing and fave show, "Say Yes to the Dress" playing on the big screen.

It had been foggy and cold in Half Moon Bay the day before, but the sun came out for our ceremony.  We had pashminas with custom labels for the ladies, just in case, and paper cones with white rose petals for guests to sprinkle as the happy couple recessed down the aisle.  Love the kiss!

Some of my favorite details of the day...

For the reception, we incorporated loads of crystals and candlelight into the décor, including an uplit ice luge at the bar.

We ended the night with a candy bar (complete with toothbrushes and a reminder from Dr. Melissa, who is a dentist along with her father and sister.)  The terrace is all set for our tres fab late night S’mores and cigar party.

Wishing you a lifetime of health and happiness!



Photography: Geoff White Photography

Floral Designer: Amy Burke Designs

Lighting & Dancing: Enhanced Lighting & Sound

Hair & Make Up: Bloom Bridal Boutique

Video: Justin Fone Productions

DJ: Ron Grandia, A Different Kind of DJ

Reception: Ritz Carlton, Half Moon Bay


7 Wedding Day Beauty Tips for Brides (Bridesmaids too!)

Ready for some tips from the pros on how to look and photograph your best on your big day?  I interviewed some of my favorite bridal beauty experts and here is what they had to say...

About Radiant Skin

Maria beautifies everything!

Taylor covers up a tiny tattoo ;)

The stylist's palette.

If you are planning on getting a facial for the first time, make sure it is not the week of your wedding. Facials often give the opportunity for the icky things beneath the skin to surface.  I find that my brides that enroll in a 6 month series of facials always have the most radiant skin, thus giving me a cleaner/smoother canvas to work with.

-Armando Sarabia of Get Your Do Up!

The best way to moisturize?  Hydrate yourself the week and especially the day of your wedding.  That 8 glasses of water per day rule is tough to achieve, but don’t ignore it the week of your wedding.  It makes a difference!

-Taylor & Mimi of Thi Cosmetics Studio

Wearing a strapless, off the shoulder or spaghetti strap dress?  The back and shoulders are one of the areas often forgotten.   A spa service that I suggest a bride should include to enroll in is a 6 month back facial service. A back facial will ensure that your shoulders look their most radiant. If you are wearing a off the shoulder dress do keep in mind that your back is facing your guests for the first part of the ceremony then your back becomes the most caressed and photographed while on the dance floor.  Tip: Assign a Bridesmaid to help you moisturize.

-Armando Sarabia of Get Your Do Up!

Your Lovely Locks

A neatly pinned half updo looks good at all angles.

Incorporate heirloom jewelry in your 'do like Mandi did.

A beautiful chignon by Taylor.

Do not condition your hair the day of the wedding. (The night before is fine, but use a detangler spray instead of conditioner). Unless you have extremely curly hair, then condition as usual to prevent frizziness. Do not have any hair products in your hair.

-Maria Chang of Professional Makeup Artistry

Keeping your hair healthy means you have to keep it trimmed. Keeping the split ends at bay is an important part of healthy looking hair. Keeping it trimmed every 6-8 weeks will keep the hair from fraying. Don’t let your hair fall out of style on the road to your wedding day.

-Armando Sarabia of Get Your Do Up!

Wedding Day Calm

Mandi relaxes before dressing in her gown.

Taylor giving Joan a final touch up.

Dress in clothes that are easy to remove and will not have to go over your head. If you are wearing a low back or strapless dress, do not wear a bra the morning of the wedding. The strap and back clasp of your bra will make a mark on your skin, which can take several hours to disappear.

-Maria Chang of Professional Makeup Artistry

Place all of your jewelry and accessories in an easy to see box (a shoebox is perfect). A box is convenient because the photographer may ask for these items and a box is easy to grab.  Also the photographer will know to put them back in the box and not leave them scattered. Remove any tags attached. Move your engagement ring to your right hand. You are not in charge of the timeline, so NO Watches!

-Maria Chang of Professional Makeup Artistry

Bonus Tips from Me:

Opening a gift from her groom, Joy has a blast on wedding day morning!

Bridesmaids admire Kristen & Sean's wedding rings while Kristen's hair is set.

Arrange to have water, soft drinks and your favorite healthy snacks available while you are getting ready. It is very important that you and your bridal party eat and not get dehydrated.  Hang your dress in a low traffic area, where no part of it is touching the floor.

Joy's radiant smile that lasted all day. Thanks Maria!

Plan to have your bridesmaids “camera ready” 15-30 minutes before your photographer and videographer is scheduled to arrive.  Hang your dress in a low traffic area, where no part of it is touching the floor.  Assign one of them to tidy up the area where you are getting ready so that your photographer has a clean backdrop to shoot.

Be Prepared and Be Beautiful!


Stay tuned for my next post: How to budget for beauty services.

Photo Credits:

Geoff White Photographers: Photos 1, 10, 11

Catherine Hall Studios: Photos 6, 7, 8

Lori Paladino: Photos 4, 9

Jay Kelly: Photos 2, 3, 5