First things first – major kudos to Alison Event Planning + Design for pulling off a single 75-person dinner table where we’d probably all kill to snag a seat. In collaboration with amazing vendors like Bright Event Rentals, they brought the couple’s vision of an intimate vineyard-set gathering to life, with shades of berry thrown in for good measure. Sally Pinera photographed, and let’s just say we won’t be leaving The Vault any time soon.
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From The Bride.. .Nick and I got engaged in early April 2015 so we planned our September nuptials in a relatively short amount of time, six months. We both work in the theatre in New York City; Nick is an actor and I am a producer. We knew that we were going to be beginning rehearsal for our new shows – Nick for Stephen Karam’s “The Humans” and Ashley for Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews’ “Invisible Thread” – in late September 2015, so we decided to have the wedding before we went back into the intensity of a rehearsal process. We chose Northern California because it is one of our favorite places in the world. We love wine and the relaxed vibe, plus we knew it was unlikely to have rain out there! Because we first met on Martha’s Vineyard it was meaningful for us to get married on another vineyard.
We live on the East Coast so we decided we would need to engage the help of a planner. I chose Alison Events almost strictly off of their Instagram. I loved their relaxed California style, that was sophisticated but not fussy. We made an initial visit to the Napa and Sonoma area to scout out some venues. We looked at 5 or 6 properties but nothing came close to the beauty of Wallace Creek Vineyards, the first venue we looked at. It is private estate on an amazing property that has over 100 acres of Vineyards in the hills above Healdsburg. We fell in love with the endless possibilities for locations on the property to take advantage of at the wedding. We chose four locations for the day – the ceremony site under a stunning oak tree; the cocktail hour in the backyard of the main house overlooking the Sonoma Valley; the dinner, one long table in between the Cabernet Sauvignon vines; and the barn for dancing and late night festivities. It was most important for us to make the one long 75-person dinner table in the vines work; it was tricky to pull off but we knew the result would be absolutely magical.
Nick and I stayed at Wallace Creek the weekend of the wedding. Before everyone arrived that day, we went on an early morning run around the property, passing each of our locations before they were set up and filled with people. It was a very special moment to experience the quiet and stillness of the morning before a day we knew would be very eventful. We chose to get ready together, which calmed both of our nerves. Nick made both breakfast and lunch for me that day and made sure that I ate while I was getting hair and makeup done. He knew that otherwise I would have forgotten to eat! We took most of our photos, alone and with our families, before our ceremony so we didn’t have to miss any of the time with our guests, most of whom had flown in from places far and wide especially for our wedding.
Our friend Lauren was an amazing and powerful officiant. Three of our best friends did readings, my sister, Chelsea, sang two songs – Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’ and a song she wrote especially for our wedding, and we read our own vows to one another. Including our close friends and family in the ceremony made it extra special. The ceremony music included string quartet versions of some of our favorite songs by Radiohead, Arcade Fire, and Edward Sharpe.
The dinner was definitely my favorite part of the evening. We had a four course seated dinner, so everyone, including Nick and I really had the time to enjoy the food and the wine and the company of our friends and family. At one point during the dinner, Nick and I decided to have an impromptu first dance in between the vines. I love that we decided not to schedule a lot of those classic wedding moments and allowed them to happen organically. It allowed us to be in the moment every step of the way.
I was smiling from ear to ear throughout the entire day (with the exception of the tears during the ceremony). It was incredible to be surrounded by so much beauty and love all in one day. Nick and I took a lot of mental and physical “snapshots” throughout the day, to take in all of the details and ephemeral moments that made the day so special.
From Jesse of Alison Events… Ashley + Nick came to Alison Events with a vision of a laid back, elegant and authentic feeling wedding in a vineyard setting. They wanted to get married somewhere that felt remote, exclusive and off the beaten path with a major sense of arrival. This all was found at a private estate and vineyard in Healsdburg, California. They wanted to utilize lots of different areas of the property; under a hundred year old oak tree for the ceremony, by the pool for cocktail hour, in the vineyard for dinner and in the working barn for dancing. Given the large scale of the property, this was logistically challenging, but with a few golf carts and a lot of hard work, we were able to make the event feel effortless and seamless.
We wanted everything to feel as thought it had always been there. We rented simple birch wood benches from Bright Event Rentals and topped them with raw linen pillows in natural and slate tones from La Tavola Fine Linens. The floral designer, Natalie Bowen Designs provided small wooden bowls full of dried and fresh rose petals to toss at the bride and groom after they said I do. Ashley and Nick, both coming from an artistic background; hired students from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music to play contemporary music for guests as they arrived, they played a Radiohead song to walk down the aisle. Ashley’s sister, Chelsea also an actress, sang a Joni Mitchell song and a friend (spoken word artist and performer) took the role of officiant.
They wanted the food to be delicious, but casual, so we hired Sage Catering to produce the food and beverage portion of the event. Appetizers were passed by the pool and aperol sprits cocktails flowed from the bar with a breathtaking view of the valley.
The five course dinner was set a midst the vineyards on an old fire road in the heart of the property, with sweeping views of the vines and the valley below. As the sun set while guests enjoyed their meal, bistro lights, hung above the tables began to sparkle. Jesse Tombs, Managing Partner of Alison Events, who designed the event added eclectic bowls of nuts and seasonal fruits to the table. Natalie Bowen Designs produced fall inspired floral with local blooms in rich earthy tones and brass vessels. A fabulous Fete designed the water colored inspired menus that tied-in to the invitation suite and thank you notes.
The night continued in the properties working barn, where there were late night snacks, sweets, coffee and tea served by Sage Catering. We also hired The Buss Booth, a photo booth that is in the back seat of a mint condition vintage VW buss. The Water Cottage provided luxury portable restrooms and they were dressed up with candles and floral from Natalie Bowen Designs. As the property had a hard stop fro sound at 10:00pm, at 9:45pm we handed out headsets to all the guests and continued the party late into the night with a silent disco. Guests enjoyed outdoor lounge areas in the heat of the fall night.
It was great working with Ashley and Nick to plan their wedding because they were so creative and had so many fun ideas. I also love working at new venues and trying to figure out the best ways to utilize the space and make it feel authentic and not overly produced. I think you can see from the beautiful photographs by wedding photographer Sally Pinera, we accomplished just that.
Photography: Sally Pinera | Event Planning: Alison Events, LLC | Floral Design: Natalie Bowen Designs | Wedding Dress: Oscar De La Renta | Stationery: A Fabulous Fete | Rings: Kwait | Catering: SAGE | Makeup: Christina Aguayo | Hair: Jacqueline Duignan | DJ: DJ Funklor | Groom's Attire: J.Crew | Transportation: California Wine Tours | Venue: Wallace Creek Vineyards | Ceremony + Cocktail Music: Elizabeth Lowery | Jewlery: Tiffany | Linen Rentals: La Tavola Fine Linen Rental | Photo Booth: The Bus Booth | Reception Dress: Dolce & Gabbana | Rentals + Lighting: Bright Event Rentals