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See Where This Travel-Loving Couple Set Their Engagement

For the couple that’s traveled to 16 countries on 6 different continents, where in the world do you choose to shoot your engagement session? For these two, it was the beaches of Malibu with Ashley Sawtelle by their side. It’s not hard to see why the beautiful coastline caught their eye, and truth be told, we’re now itching to book a little Malibu trip for ourselves.

From Ashley SawtelleSarah and Tony met sophomore year, in the last row of finance class, at the University of Pennsylvania. It wasn’t until 10 years later during a trip to Mykonos that their friendship turned into something more. Since then they have traveled to 16 countries and 6 continents together. Currently, they live in Los Angeles, where we shot their engagement session on the beautiful coastline of Malibu. In October, they will have their wedding celebration in Wyoming at Brush Creek Ranch, coordinated by Table 6 Productions.

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Photography: Ashley Sawtelle | Location: Malibu Beach

You’d Never Believe This Gorgeous Day Was Their Backup Rain Plan

No Bride dreams of rain on her wedding day, even if it is supposed to be a sign of good luck. And, unfortunately, as David Pressman Events LLC says “wedding designers and planners can’t control weather.” So, when the forecast called for rain, this amazing team of vendors (including Bob Gail Special Events, Premiere Party Rents, Images by LightingLilla Bellocopper willow paper studioContemporary Catering and Event Production and The Butter End Cakery) came together to make sure Plan B was as spectacular as could be. See it all from Next Exit Photography and Film Foto Fusion in The Vault!

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From David Pressman Events… The last several shots (in the Vault gallery) are from my iPhone during the set-up which happened during those freak thunderstorms last May and are great fun because they show the blank canvas of the Garden lawn at Saddlerock and the various stages of the main tent going up as the weather turned against us.

The chances of rain in Southern California in mid-May average about 9% as the month starts and taper off to about 5% by the end of the month, so it’s pretty safe to plan an outdoor wedding without much worry. But any good Wedding Planner will be checking weather reports at least a month before an outdoor wedding after already having studied rain averages for previous years months and months before the actual wedding date. So regardless of what month your client wants their outdoor wedding & depending on where in the greater LA area (because it can be raining in West Hollywood and blue skies in Malibu), communicating with them regularly about the chances of rain is so important. Since Wedding Designers and Planners can’t control weather – despite what some clients may expect – a rain plan is always something to have in your back pocket, especially with the kooky weather here in SoCA. And even then, we can’t really get a handle on what is forecast until ten days out and then, like most of my colleagues, I will check as many different weather forecasts as possible literally every hour and more the closer we are to the actual start of installing a wedding.

No client wants to hear that rain is forecast the week of their wedding. And no Wedding Planner wants to tell them, but managing expectations is a huge part of our job along with being completely honest about what the options are so that months of design work and planning aren’t tossed aside at the last minute. Hence the rain plan. And this wedding had many moving parts, from shuttling the guests on arrival at the Vineyard to the ceremony site at the beautiful Chateau Le Dome (accessible only via a windy and bumpy gravel road) with Million Dollar views, to then shuttling all 150 guests to Camp Cabernet, about a 5 minute drive away on the property and equally difficult to access by any vehicle larger than the Vineyard shuttle, especially if the roads and grounds were going to be wet.

So with a smile on my face I went to see my clients at their home in West Hollywood, where they have a home in addition to their primary residence in Hong Kong, where they had arrived from just days before. And with family and guests already arriving from around the world, they really didn’t want to believe that it would rain on their wedding day and I couldn’t blame them one bit. I had worked closely with the owner of Premiere Party Rents – a trusted colleague who was suppling not just the tables, chairs, china, glassware and a variety of furniture and other items, but also building an onsite kitchen for our caterer, Contemporary Catering, to prepare the food for Cocktail Hour and a sit-down multi-course dinner for 150 guests – to prepare a rain plan for both locations that wouldn’t send the budget into the stratosphere. And I was also prepared with a suggestion to move Cocktail Hour and everything else to a different location at the Vineyard, the beautiful Garden area immediately adjacent to the home of Saddlerock’s owner, Ron Semler. In fact I had already negotiated a heavily discounted rate for this last minute switch, with his blessing, because he knew it was going to rain and that the rain, anytime during the week of the wedding, would be potentially dangerous for not just the wedding guests but also for his employees and all of the vendors who were involved with helping to create the magical wedding the bride had trusted me to design. The new location was easier for everything involved and also on a flatter and far more majestic setting that also boasted the presence of Stanley, Saddlerock’s resident giraffe.

I also had lined up two new vendors that would be instrumental in making all of this happen, Images by Lighting to install over a thousand feet of string lighting for inside the 50’ x 135’ clear top tent, along with pathway lighting for multiple areas outside the tent, and Mike Shauger and his Designing Life team to drape & swag the interior of the tent along with creating a fabric wall that would be drawn back to reveal the dinner and dancing area after guests finished Cocktail Hour.

All of this was happening on Tuesday with guests prepared to arrive at Saddlerock that Friday afternoon come rain or shine. My clients had lots of questions, as well they should have, as we talked about the options of not implementing the rain plan, staying with their original location for everything after the ceremony, or moving everything, including the ceremony to the sprawling lawns by the Main House. Chateau Le Dome is truly a beautiful spot for a ceremony and my clients had fallen in love with it the year before and decided that even if it rained on that Friday, they didn’t want to give up the intimate setting and incredible views that their guests would enjoy. With a short ceremony planned, the thought of a little rain (and lots of umbrella’s if needed) was perfectly acceptable and for many a sign of good luck. Understanding how much easier it would be to move to the new site, they gave me the go ahead to make the changes needed and put the rain plan into effect.

I found a wonderful vendor in Denver, Splendor For Your Guests, who was able to overnight boxes of white 16-panel umbrella’s to have on hand for the wedding party (many of whom had relocated to a rented home in Malibu where other events were planned), the wedding rehearsal and of course the guests on the wedding day. Tents were loaded onto Premiere’s trucks almost immediately (Sandy, Premiere’s owner, was literally got ten phone calls that day from Planners with weddings scheduled for that weekend) for installation to begin Wednesday morning, Mike from Designing Life went to downtown LA to purchase fabric for the tent interior. By Wednesday morning, after speaking with the Photographer, the Caterer and the company supplying a String Trio for the ceremony, a Jazz Quintet for cocktails and a full band for dancing, I was able to reach out to all of the vendors with a new layout that took into account how I wanted to divide the tent, where the stage & dance floor would go and how the bar would help divide the area along with a new timeline for installation and delivery of everything from flowers and furniture to candles and the custom made cake that incorporated the clients’ pets, Bernard the bunny and their dog Indy, with a few added surprises.

As the tents began to go up Wednesday morning it started to rain lightly, and fortunately the rain held off long enough for Premiere Party Rents to get the 50’ x 135’ tent up moments before the skies just opened and it began to pour for hours.

To their credit, the clients were calm and trusted me completely that I would deliver on my promise that everything they wanted and had planned for would be perfect inside the tent. And on Thursday, as it rained on and off, we were able to get the kitchen set up, the lighting installed and the tent draping completed as tables and chairs were put in place as the entire team worked well into the night.

And while the wedding rehearsal was a bit wet, the bridal party was in high spirits and didn’t let the rain dampen any of the celebratory activities that were planned before the wedding day.

Friday morning greeted us with grey skies and the threat of more rain. But as the bridesmaids were getting their hair and makeup done, the sky slowly began to change colors. And just a few hours before guests were to arrive at Saddlerock, we were able to remove the plastic sheets that had been covering the ceremony chairs at Chateau Le Dome and the Lilla Bello team was able to complete the installation of florals for the ceremony while Contemporary Catering was able to set up for pre-ceremony beverages and added tray passed hors d’oeuvre’s for post-ceremony to keep guests occupied while the shuttles would transport them in groups to the Main House area for Cocktail Hour and the rest of the evening.

As the Bride and her father made their way from the Chateau to the rose bush lined ceremony site for the ceremony, the final clouds mixed with a picture perfect beautiful blue sky and the groom was heard to say that it was his beautiful wife-to-be that had brought the sun out for their wedding day…

Not a drop of rain fell after morning, and as the afternoon turned into magic hour and then to night, this beautifully lit and decorated tent – with string lights above, pillar candles on the tables & bars and fabric fluttering in the breeze – looked as if it had always been planned. With everyone dancing the night away no one ever remembered the rain that had stopped falling that very morning.

Without clients who understood the importance of implementing the rain plan and a truly great team to make it all happen, this story would have had a far different ending.

Rain or Shine, It’s the Vendors That Make the Magic Happen

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Photography: Next Exit Photography | Cinematography: Film Foto Fusion | Floral Design: Lilla Bello | Wedding Dress: Vera Wang, Beverly Hills | Cake: The Butter End Cakery | Invitations: copper willow paper studio | Catering: Contemporary Catering and Event Production | Hair + Makeup: Makeup Therapy | Lighting: Images by Lighting | Entertainment: Bob Gail Special Events | Transportation: Roadrunner Shuttle & Limousine Service | Venue: Saddlerock Ranch | Beverage Services: Liquid Catering | Event Planning, Design + Production: David Pressman Events LLC | Linen Rentals: La Tavola Fine Linen Rental | Photo Booth: Viral Booth | Rentals + Tent Rentals: Premiere Party Rents | Tent Draping: Designing Life | Tents + Many Decor Elements : Premiere Party Rents | Umbrellas: Splendor for Your Guests

These Vendors are members of our Little Black Book.
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These Featured Designers are members of our Look Book.
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A Stunning Mountaintop Wedding With a Meaningful Details

After the tragic loss of the bride’s father just months before the wedding, it was this couple’s number one priority to honor his memory on the big day.  They included beautiful moments like a candle lighting at the welcome table and a locket tied around the bridal bouquet. Peony & Plum and CCL Weddings helped make it a day to remember and The Great Romance and FonD Productions captured every bit.

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From The Bride…Roy and I met in college and started dating 5 years ago, and it has been a whirlwind of an adventure since! Upon beginning our careers, our professional endeavors took us all over the East Coast – starting in Boston, then to Philadelphia, and now New York City. But when it came time to decide on the location for the wedding, we knew right away that we wanted to get married where our roots were planted and where our hearts collided: California. With general geography out of the way, we began the venue hunt. Roy and I are fortunate to have very similar preferences in style, but with it came the almost-unattainable specificity in the vision of what we wanted. After months of a seemingly endless search, we came to the realization that to materialize that vision and truly reflect us as a couple, we needed a blank-slate where we could customize and build our wedding from the ground-up.

We found that perfect blank slate in Malibu Rocky Oaks. From the moment we stepped onto the venue, we fell in love with its Tuscan architecture and design that exuded elegance. The private estate provided the right amount of intimacy, while the sweeping vineyard landscape painted the perfect romantic atmosphere. The raw setting was all that we could ask for, and enabled us to put in our personal touches to bring everything together.

In keeping with the Tuscan theme, we incorporated olive branches and Italian-inspired greenery throughout our floral décor. We opted for a fairly neutral color scheme consisting of ivory, nude, blush, peach, and pops of gold to tie in all of the details. Our aim was to produce a timeless, romantic, and elegant affair. Luxurious, but in an understated way. In addition to having a private space to celebrate, we also felt strongly about having an outdoor dining area. Building upon the breathtaking views of the mountains and vineyards, the use of bistro lights, crystal chandeliers, and gold candelabras came together to create the perfect al fresco dining experience that we dreamed. The overall theme for the wedding was “Let Everything Be Done in Love” – the phrase by which we choose to live for one another. And we infused these phrases into various elements of the wedding.

One of our key focuses was on catering to our guests and their experience from beginning to the end. Starting with a chauffeured ride into the venue, we welcomed them with tasty refreshment drinks, and surprised them following the ceremony with cold eucalyptus towels and popsicle-infused champagne to cool them on a warm Malibu day. We certainly wanted to account for the diverse sweets palates of our guests, so multiple dessert stations were a must, although the macaron ice cream sandwiches were the biggest hit.

I recall a moment during the reception as Roy and I marveled at the sight of our loved ones enjoying their meals, and we gazed at one another with pure joy in our eyes, the biggest smiles, and overflowing hearts, truly thankful that everything, and most especially that everyone, had come together for our special day…it was a perfect celebration to honor our love and union. The only thing that would have made this day even more perfect was having my father by my side. The wedding was already a roller coaster of emotions for obvious reasons, but it was an especially emotional day for me as I had lost my father just months before the big day. To overcome the anxiety and heartache on the day-of, we found small ways to honor and remember him throughout the wedding. On the welcome table, we laid out rows of candles that our guests could light in his memory. At the ceremony, we reserved a seat with his name and picture, and had an acoustic guitarist to commemorate his love for the guitar. And as I walked down the aisle alongside my brother, I carried a gold locket of his picture around my bouquet.

Losing my father was the single most tragic event of my life, and to marry Roy was the single happiest moment of my life. I consider having these two juxtapose one another as a symbolic representation of life and our matrimony. It is in the toughest times that we vowed to lean on each other, and to breathe new hope and bring laughter when life seems devoid of either. It shows us what we can overcome and endure, as long as we have each other by our side. And it highlights the fragility and ethereal nature of life, but the beauty that can always be found within it. Our wedding was remarkable to us for so many reasons, but it is the discovery of a true ‘soul mate’ within each other that really makes this love extraordinary.

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Photography: The Great Romance Photo | Cinematography: FonD Productions | Event Planning: Christina Lee | Floral Design: Peony & Plum | Wedding Dress: La Sposa By Pronovias | Cake: Merely Sweets | Catering: Hungry Bear | Hair + Makeup: Kelly Zhang Makeup Team | DJ: All of the above Events | Officiant: Deidra Gray-Breijo | Venue: Malibu Rocky Oaks | Beverage Services: Cocktail Academy | Desserts: Snow Monster | Linen Rentals: La Tavola Fine Linen Rental | Photo Booth: Photo Booth Supply Co | Rentals: Town And Country | Specialty Rentals: Etablir

These Vendors are members of our Little Black Book.
For membership information, click here