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!


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 Very Wordy Wedding

This past wedding season I’ve worked with some very inventive couples.

The fabulous groom's cake by BethAnn of Studio Cake.

Yes, those are real game pieces on the place cards!

Christina and Burt met while serving in the Navy. As their relationship blossomed and they were stationed apart, one of the ways they stayed involved in each other's days was to play Scrabble on their mobile phones.

The actual scrabble board that Burt used when asking Christina to marry him!

This joint affection for the game lead to Burt’s very creative proposal, taking a portable scrabble game board and gluing the pieces down to spell out a beautiful sentiment, then dropping to one knee and popping the question.

I love that Christina & Burt drew inspiration from their proposal and shared something personal about their relationship with their guests.  Each escort card had the guest's initials and either a double or triple word score.  The handmade table "letters" represented an oversized scrabble tile.  The sweetest surprise was that Christina had a special groom's cake made for Burt that replicated the board he used to propose to her.

Be creative!


Florals by Ingela Floral Design.


Wedding 360: The Academy for Planners and Designers

Hello again, wedding-verse! I’ve been behind on my blogging duties lately, but for good reason. For the past two months, I’ve been a part of the behind-the-scenes planning team of Wedding 360’s inaugural The Academy for Planners and Designers, one of the most ambitious educational conferences for wedding planners and designers out there. This project is the brainchild of Jean Marks and Jubilee Lau (I like to call them the J's), who have been amazing friends and supports ever since I entered into this beautiful industry 8 years ago.  You can see a video of the Next Day Edit captured by Andrew of Studio MSV for a taste of the conference.

The J's vision was to produce a content rich program that would give experienced planners and designers the tools to take their businesses to the next level. They started by picking one of the most fabulous hotels in downtown San Francisco, the St Regis, as the conference home.

You know with my Ritz-Carlton background, I am not an easy person to please, but their staff was amazing, and I even recognized some familiar faces from my hotel days! The J's then recruited some of the most amazing industry elites, like David Beahm, Todd Fiscus, Rebecca Grinnals, Sean Low and Tara Guearerd (pronounced Taw-ra, not Ter-ra), whose portfolios and client lists, I have to say, are larger than life. Come on, meeting the wedding designer of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones? That’s only a tad bit intimidating. In real life though, they are all very humble, generous, gracious and, well, real.

Highlights: I got to meet some pretty amazing planners from all over the country, see one of my weddings presented in the photography forum by Catherine Hall, felt like a rock star at the Emerald Underworld and Museum of Petals parties designed by the uber-talented Gloria Wong, and was inspired by walking through the four designershowcases put together by Nancy Liu Chin, Jonathan and Linnae of Asiel Designs, Grant Rector and Tara Guerard.

Though I played just a small role in bringing this conference to life, I have to say, I feel like a proud mama! Everyone brought such great energy to the conference, and I overheard so many people saying the information they learned was crucial to catapulting their businesses forward. I’ll post more on content later, but for now, I’m going to reflect on what I learned, and how I can better serve my clients over the next year and beyond.  I'll leave you with this quote from the amazing David Beahm, "If you create good and you allow good, your business can only be good."


Wedding Traditions from Around the World

I have a confession: I’m a wedding geek.  I don’t watch all the cable shows, but I never tire of talking with engaged couples, hearing about other people’s weddings and learning about different traditions.  I just got back from visiting family in the Black Forest, Germany.  One of the things I love so much about my European family is learning about their wedding traditions.  I got to interview Anna from Sweden, Magdalena and Kerrin from Germany and Yazaret from Mexico about their wedding traditions.   Here are some highlights:

From Yazaret (Mexico): After the couples’ first dance, both sets of parents join the couple on the dance floor.  Instead of only the traditional father-daughter and mother-son dances, the bride also dances with the FOG, as does the FOB with the MOG and so on…I love the way it symbolizes not just the joining of two people, but honors where they came from and shows the bond between two families as well.

From Kerrin (Germany): In addition to a guest book, the maid of honor might set up a table with loads of notecards, envelopes & pens.  Guests are instructed to write advice to the couple with specific instructions on the envelope, i.e: “To open the day after your wedding” or “To open after your first big fight” or “To open upon the birth of your first child”.  How about a note to be opened on their 25th wedding anniversary?

Anna from Sweden

From Anna (Sweden): It’s a common Swedish tradition that if the bride ever leaves the reception room, the male guests rush up to her and give her a kiss on the cheek (and vice versa with the groom).  Spicy!

From Magdalena (Germany): Games are very popular in German weddings, with a close friend of the bride or groom’s organizing the guests in advance.  One game that any newlywed would love to play is this: In addition to the wedding gift, each guest writes down a gift they’d like to give the bride & groom on a paper heart.  It could be as simple as inviting them to a pizza dinner or as extravagant as taking them to see a concert or sending them to the spa.  The hearts are tacked onto a bulletin board and the bride and groom get a handful of darts.  If they hit your heart, they get your gift!

What cultural traditions are you incorporating into your wedding day?

Be Well,