Manka's Boathouse Wedding With a Bowtie Bar
February 17, 2014
ModernEvent VenueOutdoor Weddings
You read that right - a bowtie bar. I'm obsessed and I insist on having one at every party I throw from here on out. Aside from that brilliant idea, Larissa Cleveland Photography has left me breathless with this beautiful wedding. It doesn't get any more gorgeous, I  promise, and I'm betting if you ask the plate-throwing, giant Jenga playing guests, it doesn't get anymore fun either.
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From the beautiful bride... Hendrik and I fell in love with the untouched beauty and bounty of the area early on in our relationship and sharing the place that we love so dearly with those that are such an important part in our life was our top priority. Luckily, when it comes to Tomales Bay, less is more. We created a few "wow" moments as focal points and then let the location speak for itself. Our venue was set in stone from day one. For our second anniversary, Hendrik surprised me with a weekend at Mankas, a place I had always wanted to stay. Once we arrived, he realized he had stayed here as a teenager with his family when they moved to California from Germany. As a place that meant so much to us both for many reasons, it became clear that it would be the only suitable venue.

Wedding inspiration came from Hendrik’s profession and heritage. As the founder of the online men’s retailer,, I knew bow ties would have to play a prominent part. As an interior designer, I approached the event design as I would one of my projects. By focusing in on a few key elements and creating a clear concept, the process became less daunting. I used a few "designer tricks" like creating drama via scale to create a statement piece such as with the over-sized candelabras and a few key florals. I reflected on what represented us as a couple and tried to stay away from things that were overtly trendy or I had seen a million times to create a truly unique atmosphere. Tomales Bay has this otherworldly, end of the Earth, farm-to-table vibe. It became apparent very quickly that creating a juxtaposition of "rustic chic" or "ball gowns and barnyards" to highlight that would set the stage for a fabulous event.

With that ethos in mind, the abandoned barn at Pierce Pt. Ranch became the perfect backdrop for the ceremony. It was so marvelous seeing everyone in ballgowns and tuxedos traipsing through a field. After the nuptials, guests retreated to a rustic boathouse on the bay for the main event. Once the party began, German traditions popped up throughout the night from breaking plates for good luck for the couple during cocktail hour to sawing a log to represent solving the trials of marriage during the reception. Guests received bow ties and heart shaped, German gingerbread cookies as favors. Customized napkins revealed fun facts explaining the traditions throughout the night.

A traditional sit down dinner was replaced by a small plate progressive dinner that was hand passed by waitstaff. Each course was an interpretation of a favorite food or recipe from childhood. The night became a choreographed dance of events that gathered guests together and then let them disperse and mingle. After the event, I can't tell you how many guests said it was one of the best weddings they had attended. It was a ton of work but in the end was worth all the blood, sweat and tears!

What I loved most about the day:

A few weeks before our wedding, I realized that I hadn't really planned out our ceremony. Insert panic here! The only part that had been solidified from the beginning was that my dear family friend that I lovingly refer to as my faux godfather would officiate us. Craig did an outstanding job and always having that connection with him means so much to me, but at the time, it was definitely a crash course for all of us in officiating 101. Hendrik wanted us to write our own vows; I felt too much pressure to make that happen and it seemed like everything I came across online was super cheesy and decidedly not us. Then I happened upon a blog posting that really felt right. We asked nine family members and friends whose marriages we admire and are in different life stages to act as readers, giving us their best marriage advice. That advice was then repeated back to us in the form of a question and became our vows. It was so much more meaningful to vow to concrete ideas that our friends and family shared with us. Our readers were not only very honored to play such an integral role in the wedding, but actually told us that it was a great exercise for reflecting on their own marriages that they really enjoyed as well, a completely unexpected consequence! Having a ceremony that was so personal and out of the box made it all the more meaningful. Just about anything that could go wrong went wrong before our wedding but what we knew we could always count on was that there would be a ceremony, a spectacular ceremony, and in the end, that's all that really matters. It really put things in perspective during the most stressful planning moments.

Favorite moment:

As the night came to a close and “I’ve got a feeling” got every last guest on the dance floor, I remember looking around, seeing everyone jumping up and down and catching my father and stepmother’s eye as they sang in my direction, “ I’ve got a feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night; Tonight’s gonna be a good good night” and, indeed, it was. It was a perfect moment that encapsulated the joy that we felt from everyone around us. Having all of your loved ones around you, supporting you, and basically jumping for joy was a feeling that can only be described truly by experiencing it. Of course I expected Hendrik and I would be overjoyed on the big day, but I wasn't expecting just how happy everyone around us would be as well. It was magical.