As soon as this gorgeous Bride saw Beaulieu Garden, she thought, “This is a fairytale place.” And having seen all the beautiful photos from Lori Paladino Photography, I feel confident saying her wedding was a fairytale, too. With vendors like Bliss Events, Valley Flora, Paula LeDuc Fine Catering and Got Light? acting as fairy godparents, this Napa Valley affair is one beautiful beginning to happily ever after. Fall in love with it all in The Vault!
From The Bride…When my husband, Jon, proposed to me, his first question after “will you marry me?” was “Do you want to have a big wedding in Napa?” Although Jon was from Berkeley, we lived in New York City and I had only been to Napa once about a decade earlier, but having always wanted to get married somewhere beautiful outdoors, I immediately said yes. As the planning unfolded, I quickly understood why Jon had suggested Napa. We both envisioned a whole weekend-long celebration filled with a variety of activities and events so that we could spend quality time with our guests. We wanted our wedding to be just as special and memorable for our guests as it was for us, especially because the majority of our almost 200 guests were flying from the East Coast or Europe. From the stunning scenery and perfect weather to the extraordinary venues, and of course, the world-class wine and cuisine, Napa Valley was truly the perfect place for our wedding weekend.
As we began the planning process, the pieces of our weekend quickly started to come together – a kickoff bike ride through Calistoga and its vineyards, followed by a welcome dinner at a local St. Helena winery, and a farewell croquet brunch at Meadowood. However, finding the right venue for our wedding proved more challenging: we wanted a place that fit our style vision of natural elegance and was large enough to accommodate all of our guests, while still feeling intimate. Beaulieu Garden, with its manicured French and Italian gardens, fountains, pools and vines fit the bill perfectly. I remember the first time I saw it and thinking, “This is a fairy tale place.” We hoped our guests would feel the same way about our wedding.
Our ceremony was held in the breathtaking sunken garden, followed by cocktails in the Italian garden, dinner under the vines, and dancing by the reflecting pool. Getting to use all of these different spaces made each part of our wedding feel extra special and provided more opportunities for guests to mingle and meet one another. To keep the party going when the wedding concluded at 10 o’clock, our guests were whisked up the road for an after-party in the historic, candle-lit cask room at Merryvale Winery where my younger brother Daniel DJ’ed and everyone danced late into the night.
Our design inspiration was the exquisite, natural beauty of our venue. We wanted our color palette and decor to accentuate, rather than compete with, the grounds so we used a lot of light pinks, peach, greens and white in the flowers, programs, champagne and other details. We placed classic chandeliers above the tables and numerous candles everywhere – on the tables, around the pool, and on the fireplace mantle. Everything was designed to feel very soft and ethereal, punctuated with pops of brightness like the guava bridesmaids’ dresses, strawberry welcome drinks and pashminas for guests. We had a lot of fun working not only with our vendors but also our family members (my mother and aunt made the ceremony chair signs, and Jon’s sister made our Wall of Fame) to create little details that pulled our vision together.
We knew that the biggest challenge of a large wedding was to create an experience that was highly personal for our guests; we wanted the wedding to be a celebration of how important they were to us in addition to a celebration of our marriage. One thing we did was create what we called our ten-foot long “Wall of Fame” where we included a picture of each guest and note from us about what we loved about them. This was a fun way for our guests to feel welcomed and also get to know one another. My mother also surprised us with personalized M&Ms in our wedding colors with our faces and names on them for each of the guests.
A highlight of our wedding for both of us was the ceremony. I remember walking down the aisle with my grandfather and seeing Jon with the biggest smile ever staring straight at me, and me stealing looks at my mother in the front row with an equally big smile on her face. Jon and I wrote the ceremony script together for Judge Kozinski who married us, and separately wrote our own vows, so every word of our ceremony had special meaning to us. Reciting our vows in front of our favorite people as the sun shone down on us was simply magical. Lori Paladino was fantastic at capturing it all, including the moment when Jon prematurely went in for a kiss before the judge said “you may kiss your bride,” which got everyone laughing.
We had also arranged for aunts and uncles from both sides of our families to sing and play a song during our ceremony from my great grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Having both of our families – who had previously met only over email – come together for that was very meaningful. Another highlight of our wedding was the final dip in our first dance. Jon and I embarrassingly had over 10 dance lessons to nail those 2-3 minutes, and it was all worth it!
Having our wedding in Napa and both being foodies, we knew we would have great food at our wedding. Jon cooked for me on our second date, and we love to bring friends together over meals. Paula LeDuc was incredible at tailoring our menu with the farm-to-table and local foods we love, using fresh vegetables from the venue’s garden, and even making our entire menu gluten-free since I have Celiac disease (our guests never knew what they were missing!). We also had two gluten-free cakes – a tiered wedding cake with blackberry conserve filling created by Forget-Me-Not cakes, and a Norwegian wedding cake (kransekake) made by Jon’s mother, complete with Norwegian, Irish and American flags to represent our heritage.
My husband and I had a great time designing our invitation suite, escort cards, table numbers and ceremony program with Lisa Kasch of Egg Farm Lane. She captured our style – which she dubbed “wine country prep” – and vision from the get-go and helped us hone our color palette for the wedding. We wanted our guests to open our invitations and feel like they were about to embark on a very special and action-packed weekend. Our favorite insert was the personalized map of Napa Valley that highlighted our weekend venues and some of our favorite wine country sites.
• What is one piece of advice that you could give brides-to-be?
I would advise brides-to-be to take advantage of the opportunities in the planning process to collaborate with, learn more about and have fun with their spouse-to-be. Planning the ultimate party of your life with your best friend should be fun so don’t let the details – important as they may seem at any given time – wear you down. As for those details, take the time to build a stellar team of expert vendors with whom you connect. Being able to trust them to get the planning and execution just right allows you to focus on more important things.
Photography: Lori Paladino Photography | Cinematography: Aaron Lee Films | Event Planning: Bliss Events | Floral Design: Valley Flora | Wedding Dress: Anna Maier | Cake: Forget-Me-Not Cakes | Invitations: Egg Farm Lane | Bridesmaids' Dresses: Amsale | Catering: Paula LeDuc Fine Catering | Lighting: Got Light | Band: Keith Johnson All Stars | Groom's Attire: Ralph Lauren | Officiant: Judge Alex Kozinski | Ceremony Music: Synchronicity Strings | Transportation: Royal Coach Limousine | Venue: Beaulieu Garden | After-party: Merryvale Vineyards | Norwegian Cake: Groom's mother | Wedding Photographers: Lori Paladino Photography