Monday, January 31, 2011

Cicada Wedding: Sarah & Gino

I know I describe many of my clients as being funny, but Sarah and Gino are truly, truly hilarious people. Sarah’s dry wit was/is part of my favorite thing about them. Well, that and the fact that they were having a wedding at one of my favorite art-deco buildings in Los Angeles—Cicada Restaurant at the Oviatt Building. Cicada was once a men’s haberdashery: a store that sold ties, hats, and other male accoutrement back in the day when men dressed elegantly. The carved wood drawers that line the walls, the elaborately painted ceiling, and of course that insane chandelier in the middle of the room take you back to a different time—a time where all the men were handsome, all the women good looking, and the children above average (that’s a shout out to Garrison Keillor for any Prairie Home Companion fans out there)

Their ceremony was held at the bottom of the stairs with the bridal party lined up on the stairs above them and officiated by one of their friends. During cocktail hour, guests were taken upstairs to the smaller bar while the staff flipped the entire first floor for the reception. Random fact: a cocktail hour flip is a tricky logistical feat. Another random fact: we completed it perfectly in 54 minutes.

The reception was everything they hoped it would be: their guests danced and drank, Laughed and toasted, left messages on the video photobooth, and even won money with the lottery ticket favors they were given.

The team who made the magic:

Amber Events - wedding planning and coordination (with thanks to my assistants that day Sacha, Neusha, and Michelle!)
Cicada - venue
Callaway Gable - photography
Isabel Gonzalez - videography
Paul. F. Tompkins - officiant
DJ THC Electra - DJ 
Designs by David - floral
Fiore Beauty - bridal beauty
Vanilla Bake Shop - cake and cupcakes
Biltmore Hotel - wedding night and family photo location

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Post Wedding Survey: Rachel and Jimmy

Rachel took a few moments to fill out my post wedding survey and the answers made me smile--since I was hired a mere three weeks prior to her wedding we accomplished a LOT in just a short amount of time. I didn't doctor these answers to make them so "Amber-centric", I promise!

photography by Lin and Jirsa

Q. What was the best part of your wedding day?
A. How seamless the execution of events went. Could not have happened without Amber and her staff!

Q. What do you feel was totally unnecessary?
A. Family drama 

Q. What would you change, if anything?
A. We should have hired a coordinator earlier in planning, Amber helped make different view points move along smoothly and in an unbiased way

Q. What was unexpected that you loved?
A. I think the entire event. It was beyond my expectations.

Q. What are your fondest memories of your wedding day?
A. The end of the ceremony!

Q. Is there anything you wish you had spent more time or money on?
A. Hiring Amber earlier

Q. Is there anything you wish you had spent less time or money on?
A. Dressing up the stage

Q. Were there any unexpected surprises or issues?
A.  No

Q. What's your number #1 tip for future engaged couples?  
A. Hire a coordinator, Amber preferably.

Q. How did you feel after the wedding? 
A. Amazing! Best day of my life.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Park Plaza Wedding: Rachel and Jimmy

I met Rachel and Jimmy exactly three weeks before their wedding when their florist, David Mark of Designs by David, told them about me. They realized that they needed some help pulling together the final details for their formal Jewish wedding for 200 guests and someone to send the 25 people in the processional down the aisle. Side note: this wedding is probably the closest thing that I have done in terms of "day of" coordinating (of which there is truly no such thing, in my opinion), and just as a glimpse of how much work goes into "just a day of" there are 280 emails in the in-box folder for this wedding.

Anyway, their wedding was being held on the 4th day of Chanukah at the Legendary Park Plaza and their ceremony was set up to be held "in the round" in the lobby at the foot of the grand staircase. By in the round I mean that all guests are seated around the ceremony spot and the bride and groom stand in the middle. I describe getting married like this as receiving a big hug from all of your guests at the same time. When guests arrived they were greeted with champagne and latkes, the potato pancakes traditionally served during Chanukah. When it was time for the ceremony to begin, a Shofar (rams horn) was blown, then a clip from the great Exodus from The Ten Commandments was played as the family members walked down in the professional. When Rachel's parents walked out in the professional I'm sure the guests were wondering where the bride was.

Her parents walked to the foot of the staircase and the Shofar blew again as a light came on at the top of the stairs. I had goose bumps as Rachel came down the stairs to the song  "I am that I am", also from the Ten Commandments played. The ceremony was gorgeous, sacred, joyous, and romantic and the live music performed by Dale Schatz and his musicians for the processional started the air of celebration that would continue for the rest of the evening.

 To say that the rest of the evening was a celebration would  be an understatement. Of all of different types of clients that I have, I have to say that the Jewish receptions are my favorite as no other group dances as much as the Jews do. When I walked into the ballroom the afternoon during set up I had my assistants push the tables as tight against the wall as possible in order to make a larger dance floor. For any other wedding it would have been sufficient, but not a Jewish wedding reception. They truly dance like there is no tomorrow.  Everyone young and old tore up the dance floor that night!

Venue – Park Plaza
Coordination – Amber Events (special thanks to my assistants that day Nira, Neusha, and Hae)
Rabbi – Rabbi Sherre Hirsch
Photographer – Lin and Jirsa Photography
Videographer – Tom Buckley
Catering – Summit Event Catering
Floral Design – Designs by David
Entertainment – Dale Schatz Music
Hair Stylist – Aline Cholakian
Makeup Artist – Rebecca Netzel
Cupcakes and Brownies – Babycakes
Transportation – CCC Tours
Guest Gifts – Poppies Dough

Monday, January 10, 2011

a colorful, multi-cultural affair: Angela and Ashvind's wedding

I’d never heard of the Hsi Lai Temple until I was contacted by Angela and Ashvind. Immediately, I googled it and my jaw hit my desk. I was not looking at a Buddhist Temple in China, but a Buddhist Temple here in Southern California set in the hills in Hacienda Heights. As it turns out, it is the largest Buddhist Temple in the Western Hemisphere and this is where they were going to wed. AMAZING.
  sidenote: how gorgeous is Angela in her red sari? Rooooowwrr!
 Angela and Ashvind did not want a traditional reception. They wanted more of a comfortable, cocktail party atmosphere where their guests could mingle and enjoy the evening. Instead of a sit down dinner or a regular buffet at the Pacific Palms Resort, we had multiple food stations throughout the tent where the reception was held with international flavors such as Sushi, Thai food, Mediterranean food, southern comfort food, a spicy chili bar, a martini bar, a dessert buffet, and a coffee and tea bar.

Instead of standard sized tables for all of the guests I brought in a mixture of 60” rounds, 36” rounds, stand-up cocktail tables, and sofas configured in lounges. For entertainment we had the flamenco fusion band Cale perform, a photobooth with a scrapbook station, a kid’s corner with activities, and the highlight of the evening: the NDM Bollywood dance troupe that performed an exciting 10 minute performance. If you ever want to bring some major excitement to a party, bring in some sparkly Bollywood dancers!

The team who made the magic:

Amber Events - planning & coordination (thanks to my assistants Nira, Michelle, Mahogany, and Annie!)
Next Exit Photography - photography
Hsi Lai Temple - ceremony venue
Pacific Palms Resort - reception venue
Redshoe - DJ
Buckley Videography - videoraphy 
Cale - cocktail hour entertainment
Peony and Plum - floral
Aspect Lighting -lighting
Town and Country - rentals
Susie Chhuor - bridal beauty
Red Cheese - photobooth
Elegant Event Sitters - kid's corner activities
NDM Dance Productions - Bollywood Troupe

Friday, January 7, 2011

Post Wedding Survey: Erin and Jeff

My sweet bride Erin took some time to fill out my post wedding questionnaire. Enjoy!

Q. What was the best part of your wedding day?
A. Oh my gosh, the whole thing! I almost got teary-eyed just now thinking about it…

Q. What do you feel was totally unnecessary?
A. Hmm, I guess the groom…?  Haha!
Seriously though, I think everything we went with ended up being just fabulous.  We decided not to have any official hired transportation on the day which ended up being just fine. Our hotel was so close to the venue so we just hitched a ride with someone.  I’m glad we didn’t spend extra money on that.

Q. What would you change, if anything?
A. I wouldn’t change a thing. The whole day was so MAGICAL, that’s the only word I have to describe how it felt.

Q. What was unexpected that you loved?
A. I wasn’t expecting to receive a card from my husband-to-be while I was getting ready. It made me cry!  I loved the speeches from my Dad and the bridal party – they were all really touching!  I also loved how at the end of the reception, everyone suddenly got together in a circle and started singing. So fun!

Q. What are your fondest memories of your wedding day?
A. I have fond memories of the whole day… getting to wear my dress at last, our first look, the ceremony, the dance with my Dad… but I think the most magical moment was walking down the aisle with my Dad.  I saw that he was tearing up; I thought I would cry, but instead I was just trembling with excitement and the magic I felt in the air. I saw everyone stand up as we came toward the aisle and suddenly I thought, “oh my gosh, there is nearly everyone I love in the world, and they’re all here!” 

I will also always treasure the memories of our ceremony, which we wrote together, except for our vows that we wrote separately and kept secret from each other until the wedding day. I’m glad we surprised each other as it was really special and emotional to hear what we had written for each other.

Q. Is there anything you wish you had spent more time or money on?
A. Nope – everything was perfect the way it was! 

Q. Is there anything you wish you had spent less time or money on?
A. If we had actually been in Los Angeles for the planning of the wedding I might have managed to save money on a few things (for one thing, shipping charges for a few items to Australia), but oh well!  We did splurge on a few more things than we first anticipated we would, but in the end it was all so perfect!

Q. Were there any unexpected surprises or issues?
A. Nope, the whole day was flawless!

Q. What's your number #1 tip for future engaged couples?
A. Figure out your guest list first before you do anything else.  Consult both families and make sure they’ve given you a complete list of everyone they want to invite.  Maybe your family is very supportive and has told you, “oh, invite whoever you want!” However, don’t accept this as an answer!  It’s very likely there are some important people on both sides (whom you might not have even met or know about).  Make your families tell you who these important people are from the start, so you can book the right size venue and avoid any potential surprises or misunderstandings later on.

Q. How did you feel after the wedding?
A. Glowing from the magic of the day!  I felt so blessed that we have so many amazing friends and such wonderful, accepting, generous families, and so, so happy to have my partner of 10 years as my husband for life.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Marvimon Wedding: Erin and Jeff

Jeff and Erin introduced me to Skype the day that I received an inquiry from them. They are Americans living in Australia who were planning a wedding in Los Angeles. I created a Skype account and they hired me. God bless technology!
They infused their humor and their personality into every part of their wedding. From the production of their EPIC and famous save-the-date video, to the bilingual invitation hand painted by Erin's mom, to the fusion menu chosen to reflect their Chinese/Vietnamese and Greek heritage, to the to die for Claire Pettibone wedding gown, the funky venue of Marvimonhouse, the English/Vietnamese wedding ceremony complete with a tea ceremony, to the kung-fu movie played on the screen as Jeff's parents danced a Paso Doble then transitioned into a Greek social dance, I have to say, this wedding was truly epic.

Erin and Jeff's wedding was also featured on Junebug Weddings yesterday! To read more about their day, visit the Junebug BLOG

The Team who made it happen:
Photographer: The Youngrens
Event Planner: Amber Gustafson of Amber Events  (thanks to my assistants Sacha & Nira)
Ceremony and Reception Venue: Marvimon
Officiant: friend of groom
Invitation Designer: Graphic design done by bride and groom; watercolor artwork done by Louisa Martin (the bride’s mother), paper products ordered from
Catering: Thank Goodness It's Sofia Gourmet Catering
Florist: Peony & Plum Floral Design
Cake: A Sweet Design
Wedding dress: “Madame Butterfly” 2010 collection by Claire Pettibone
Bridal accessories: Christian Louboutin, hair accessory from Design Visage
Bridesmaid’s apparel and accessories: dress by “ABS” from Neiman Marcus
Groom and groomsmen apparel and accessories: design and tailoring by Wilson Mui (the Best Man)
Hair and make-up: Design Visage
DJ: Dash Entertainment
Transportation: Tact Event Management
Dance instruction: Arthur Murray
Favors: Koufeta (A Greek tradition, sugar-coated almonds, made by mother of the bride)

And for those of who you don't remember Erin & Jeff's EPIC Save-the-Date video, enjoy!