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,



Real Wedding Spotlight: Chris and Jen’s Eco-Luxe Wedding by the Beach

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Both avid outdoorswomen, Chris and Jen came to me with a vision sketched out in their heads: to share their love of California scenery with their guests by creating a sustainable, kid friendly, salsa-dance, camping themed wedding.  Costanoa, an eco-lodge on the coast in Pescadero, was the perfect backdrop for a weekend away from the pace of their busy San Francisco life.

Most of the guests stayed the weekend, which allowed us to plan a wedding morning bike ride by the beach, a Southwestern welcome party complete with salsa dance lessons, and loads of activities for the many children who were a part of the celebration.  Chris and Jen's circle of friends brought great energy to the weekend.  Here are some of my favorite moments:

Two women with great love for each other and their families

A salsa dance themed rehearsal dinner to welcome their 150 friends

The energy of about 20 young nieces and nephews including “Flower Dudes” lining the aisle with petals for the brides

The tent replica centerpieces, which doubled as toys and take-aways for the little ones

Pies ala Mode from Mission Pie in lieu of wedding cake (Mission Pie is an excellent organization that supports at-risk San Francisco youth by providing jobs and training at their farm)

Mini Cupcakes delivered from the brides’ favorite bakery in San Francisco to tempt the patience of all the flower dudes and kids involved!

Chris and Jen’s wedding announcement was published in the New York Times and I got to be the papergirl the morning after the wedding!

Congrats Chris and Jen!



Photography by Lori Paladino

Beauty Services by Christina Felix

Rentals by Hartmann Studios

Flowers by Blumengarten

Music by Morgan Kalakosky

Salsa Dance Lessons by David y Rosa

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Eleanor & Yuki’s Wedding Trailer

I love living a seasonal life.  In nature, bears hibernate for the winter and birds head on a tropical vacation. In the wedding world, winter is when all us wedding pros have time to catch a breath and reminisce on our couples from the past year.  I started working with El and Yuki back in February to plan their multi-cultural wedding.  El's family hails from Korea and Yuki was born and raised in Japan.  They held their ceremony at the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens and partied down at the beautifully renovated Hotel Shattuck Plaza in Berkeley.

It was a sweet Thanksgiving treat to receive this sneak peek from Jordan of Event Horizon Pictures.  Enjoy!


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Nominated for Best Coordinated Wedding 2010

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What an honor to find out that one of my weddings is nominated for Best Coordinated Wedding on Style Unveiled.  Kristen and Sean were married back in February and were such a sweet couple, rallying together and supporting each other when Sean lost his dad just two weeks before the wedding.  Lots of emotions were on the surface that day, but the overall mood was very joyous, thanks to the fabulous family and friends they have.

Here are a few more of my favorite images of their big day, courtesy of Lori Paladino:

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Special Announcement: Certified by the Guide!

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Today I became a member of Here Comes the Guide, the best and most respected wedding resource in Northern California. HCTG members go through a rigorous screening process, and I can’t thank my colleagues and clients enough for their praise.  Merci, Muchas Gracias, Vielen Dank and Todah Rabah.   Read all about me here.  I had a really hard time only selecting 8 photos for my listing, so here are a just a few of my other tasty favorites...

(Click to enlarge.)

Sweet Dreams,


Photo Credits: Geoff White, Lori Paladino, Tim Sohn, and Cory Foster


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.


Hello again, wedding world!

It’s been far too long since my last post, but with good reason.  I had the honor of being the wedding planner for 14 amazing couples this season, one of them being my own baby

Yummy german chocolate cake from Jordan & Kevin's summer wedding. I nabbed the recipe from his mom for my Thanksgiving feast!

brother and his new wife.  There are far too many highlights to recount in one post, but I plan on getting back to the blog on a more regular basis to share some of my favorite moments and images of the year.

As 2010 winds down, I’m looking forward to my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving.  I think it has a lot in common with weddings: a chance to gather all the people you care deeply about and celebrate with a delicious feast!  I am certainly counting many blessings this year, including all the wonderful and unique couples I’ve worked with.

Till Next Time,



Wedding 360: The Academy for Planners & Designers Part 2

Hello again Friends!

I hope you're all enjoying a fabulous start to Spring.  The first roses are blooming in my backyard, and I am on a fruit binge - even though the strawberries and raspberries aren't quite in season yet, I'm getting an early start!

Before we hop too far into the season, I wanted to take a look back at the Fabulous Wedding 360 conference for wedding planners & designers that I was privileged enough to be on the planning team for.  My role focused on the closing party - entitled "The Museum of Petals".  With Gloria Wong at the helm, I led the design team in managing the complicated logistics in carrying out this stunning design - which took 143 planning hours and 128,000 petals!  Here is some eye candy from the fabulous event.  A heartfelt thanks for the countless hours of the talented sponsors: Nicole Ha Floral Design, Neil & Mircea from Blueprint Studios, John & Julio from Enhanced Lighting, Robert from Chisel It Ice Sculptures, Ron Grandia of A Different Kind of DJ, and Amy Hayson of both Snapshot and Peculiar Pair Press.  An oversized Merci, Danke, Thank You to Orange Photography for capturing all this delicious beauty!

Be Well, Elle

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