Sweet St. Helena Backyard Wedding
June 16, 2014
Classic WeddingsOutdoor WeddingsSummer Weddings
Of all the weddings I come across on a daily basis, it's weddings like this one that truly captivate me. Ones where I get so lost in the couples' description, I almost feel like I was there. So I encourage you to do the same. Their thoughtful words below describe a wedding that was not only beautiful (thanks toKate Siegel Fine Events and Poppy Stone), but filled with meaning and love, and thanks to Meg Messina's gorgeous images below, you can lost in their gorgeous day here.
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From the Bride...As with the most important of life’s passages, you often only fully appreciate their meaning by experiencing them. And so it is, we discovered, with getting hitched. Because you hear about weddings, and read about them, you see them in movies and you attend them, rejoicing all the while in the love and joy that abounds, and then one day you set off, without the proper training, to plan one yourselves. How quickly it is apparent what a monumental proposition a wedding really is.

First, as often, was the “where”. After looking in Kate’s hometown of San Diego and in Los Angeles, where we now live, we realized we aspired to a place that would be new to us, which we could meet first as a couple and always associate with as such. It so happened that soon after some dear friends of ours mentioned their family home in the town of St. Helena as a possibility. It was a generous gesture; we will always be grateful for it. Pulling into that town our first trip there, we were immediately smitten. St. Helena is one of those wonders where life seems beautifully blessed and yet remarkably low key. Outstanding restaurants proliferate, on every corner and in every alleyway; a handsome main street is forever postcard-ready; and, the surrounding landscape is a verdant shuffle of flats and hills, glades and valleys. Of course, too, there is all that wine.

More than anything, it was the house and back garden that captivated us, the house pure Arts and Crafts, an original Bernard Maybeck. It is not large, which is part of the appeal—the proportions just right. But it is magical, both simple and splendid, sun-splashed and serene, with a pair of giant redwoods watching in the back and wind chimes swaying on the porch.

Mostly, we planned from afar, with Kate’s mom Michele (our fearless leader) in San Diego, the two of us in Los Angeles, and our delightfully patient planner—one of Kate’s oldest friends—Kate Siegel of Kate Siegel Fine Events in San Francisco. There was a short trip to establish our basic plan and then, spread up and down the coast, we called and conversed, two steps forward, one back, slowly constructing the elements that would contribute to the day. Our intent, above all, was that it be effortless and easy for guests, an environment allowing them to feel immediately friendly with each other.

So we trusted what was already there, letting the simple charm of home and garden do their work. Our layout and plan, the added aesthetic elements, the tone and sequence of both ceremony and celebration were to complement—rather than supplant—the natural splendor. Expressed another way: we aimed to let the event breathe. (It’s also important to say, there was a practical consideration. On a constrained budget—who isn’t!—such focusing and drilling down was as much financial imperative as it was visually attractive.)

Our officiant was author and playwright Isaac Oliver, an old friend from New York, who, we are proud to say, stole the show. Whenever the wedding comes up in conversation, it is universally agreed he was quite possibly the best…ever. His combination of elegance and charm, wit, humor, and grace, his storytelling, his reflections, his beautiful yet plain language were magnificent. He was perfect.

The rest of our team proved similarly, generously flawless. We tapped Chef Patrick Clark of the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena for sustenance. Food that people love to eat, we said. He delivered organic buttermilk fried chicken and 5-Dot Ranch beef brisket in a dried cherry BBQ sauce, biscuits with maple butter, baby lettuces with plums, almonds, and local chevre, the list goes on, curating wines, as well. His collaborator Corrie Beelzey added custom ice cream sandwiches from her Farmers Market Pantry for dessert. Upon request, Clayton’s parents also hand-carried Berger’s Cookies, a Baltimore staple, across the country in less than accommodating heat. (St. Helena, it should be said, is also an especially friendly place. The night before the rehearsal dinner Patrick and Corrie invited us on a picnic, offering a number of wines they insisted we try along with cheeses, breads, and homemade spreads. It was above and beyond the traditional duties of a wedding caterer, we decided.) Hartmann Studios delivered a glowing yet unadorned atmosphere; Chris Fox of Boutique DJs got the music just right, even creating a special adaptation of Orbison’s Anything You Want for our first dance, which our amazing musician friends Beth Thornley and Rob Cairns sang and played. And Meg Messina, who’s wonderful work you are seeing, captured it all brilliantly. Most importantly, family and friends dove in head first to the festivities, laughing, dancing, and dining, and expressing a depth of love and support that made the day the greatest kind of gift.
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