When the bride is a landscape architect, you can't blame her for massaging Mother Nature. Susan Holland, of the New York firm Susan Holland & Co., recalls one very special summertime farm wedding. To personalize the proceedings, the bride spent the spring constructing larger-than-life-size wire sculptures on location and planting morning glories at their feet. On the big day, guests were welcomed by a wondrous sight: a dozen giant "ladies-in-waiting," completely covered in blue flowers, beckoning everyone to the barn.
A huge tree in another bride's Falmouth, ME, backyard became the focal point of a wedding put together by Bryan Rafanelli of Rafanelli Events in Boston and Palm Beach, FL. The engaged couple had played in its shade as kids, then lost touch, but reconnected in college. For their backyard wedding, they commissioned a portrait of the tree and hung it on the trunk for the guests to sign; everyone received a matted print as a favor.
There weren't enough guest rooms to accommodate all of the out-of-towners at the Southampton, NY, mansion where one couple was marrying. So the bride decided to take matters into her own hands. In honor of her groom's Moroccan heritage, she wanted to create a North African village. David Stark of Avi Adler, a New York event-planning firm, designed a huge tent that encompassed a main path laid out like a street, and a common "marketplace" area filled with carved-wood furniture and 20 smaller guest tents. Each of the tents was swathed in white fabric, and sheltered a bed, a comforter of brilliant Moroccan fabrics, night tables, lanterns, and a sand-colored rug.
You could say that the businesswoman who traveled frequently from her California home to Indonesia was on a Bali high when planning her wedding. According to Niki Delacueva of R. Jack Balthazar Fêtes et Fleurs, in Pasadena, CA, the bride sent guests hand-sewn invitations featuring silks and a carved-bone symbol of happiness that she had bought in Bali. For the reception, Delacueva flew in 4,000 stems of rare orchids from Southeast Asia to construct "trees" that hovered like canopies over the 16 guest tables.
Name That Tune
They lived for music. The bride and groom had met at a party where she'd been the DJ, and the groom's grandfather had won an Academy Award in 1947 for cowriting "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah." So when the couple hired Dallas planner Todd Fiscus, he was charged with creating a wedding both noteworthy and note-filled. He transformed a grove inside the Dallas Museum of Art into a personal songbook, hanging 600 bright 12-inch Plexiglas squares engraved with the titles of the pair's favorite tunes—including "I Got You Babe" and "Boy Meets Girl"—from the branches.
Two music lovers who were passionate supporters of the performing arts enlisted musical stars from the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, and the cabaret world to provide their wedding entertainment. Elizabeth and Susan Allen of Elizabeth K. Allen, Inc., event planners in New York and Boston, said that guests were treated to four acts of Porter, pop, and Puccini, interspersed with dining and dancing. To help everyone keep track of the evening's talent, a Broadway-style playbill—complete with musicians' bios and photos—was left at each place setting.
You'd think a groom who's a percussionist and practitioner of world music would handpick the musicians playing at his ceremony. In a way, he did, says David Stark, who recalls that the drummer spent months hunting for bells from four continents to be placed on each guest's seat before the vows. When the newly married couple walked up the aisle, everyone rang in the new—and later toted the bells home as mementos of the day.
Central Park loomed large in the courtship of one New York couple, who spent almost every Saturday there. At their day-before-the-wedding lunch in the park's Loeb Boathouse, recalls Big Apple event planner Polly Onet, entertainment was provided by a team of the park's street performers and artisans—masseuses, puppeteers, musicians, and sketch artists hired by the bride.
Stanlee Gatti, of Stanlee R. Gatti Designs in San Francisco, remembers one couple who insisted on holding their reception at Fort Baker, a federal property within sight of the Golden Gate Bridge. Problem was, the place was about as accessible as Fort Knox. It took more than three months of letters and phone calls—and a final appeal to President Clinton—to secure the site. Fireworks provided the finale, bursting in front of the fabled span.
When the bride is the daughter of a former Texas governor and the groom grew up on a ranch, you just know the wedding will reek of the Lone Star State. Richard Flowers, a planner for The Events Company in Houston, says the bride made sure each rehearsal-dinner steak was seared with her fiancé's family brand. The couple also thanked all 180 guests with miniature branding irons for stamping their own sizzlers at home.
Lots of couples incorporate their favorite collectibles into their theme, but one bride went at it with particular zeal. Her obsession was antique china, says New York planner JoAnn Gregoli, of Elegant Occasions. One year before her wedding, she started combing flea markets, yard sales, and shops for the 100 cups and saucers that would provide a unique favor for each guest. To sweeten the deal, the dessert at the reception was chocolate mousse in hand-molded white-chocolate cups—edible china that featured a different hand-daubed design for each table.
Gregoli also cites the case of the groom who collected vintage autos. He was not about to transport the wedding party in standard limos, so Gregoli scoured the country for mint-condition sedans from the '20s and '30s. Model T Fords, a Packard, and a Nash were just some of the retro rides she located. Although shipping alone cost $1,000 per car, the effort made for happy trails to the groom.
One couple shared a passion for antique hourglasses, reports Sasha Souza, of Sasha Souza Events in Napa and Beverly Hills, CA. They commissioned 125 six-inch ice sculptures in the shape of their favorite timepiece, one for every guest's place setting. Inside the hollow top portion was the first course, gazpacho.
On the Menu
Sometimes in the face of fancy fare, the groom reveals himself to be a Golden Arches kind of guy. That's what planner Todd Fiscus discovered during a pre-wedding tasting. The groom was underwhelmed by the fab food and admitted that he'd be perfectly happy with cheeseburgers from McDonald's. After the sumptuous dinner at his reception, the ballroom doors burst open and in marched an army of waiters bearing silver trays loaded with burgers and fries. Fiscus had booked the only 24-hour McDonald's in town, hired a double crew, and rented vans with portable heaters to keep everything warm. "The groom was so happy he almost started crying," says Fiscus.
One couple loved lemonade so much, they served both spiked and virgin varieties at their reception, held in a lemon "grove" erected for the day. Stanlee Gatti built a wooden pergola over the outdoor tennis courts where the party was to be held, then decorated the roof with 40,000 lemons and enough lemon leaves to fill three tractor-trailers. It took Gatti's crew seven days to wire it all together.
Other Magnificent Obsessions
Colin Cowie, of Colin Cowie Lifestyle, in New York and Los Angeles, doesn't blink when asked to plan a multimillion-dollar wedding, so he jumped right in when a bride who knew Florence's Uffizi Gallery inside out asked him to copy a Renaissance fabric for the rehearsal-dinner tablecloths. With eight 42-foot-long tables to cover, Cowie scoured Italy for just the right linen, hired artisans in Belgium to recreate the hemstitch, and had the embroidery done in New York. Was the bride satisfied with the finished tablecloths, at $2,500 a pop? Not until Cowie found potters in Colombia to make terra-cotta plates to match.
Another bride kicked off her marriage by presenting her football-fanatic groom with a surprise: a personal appearance by his favorite Dallas Cowboy, famed running back Tony Dorsett. "The groom was so excited, he literally jumped on Dorsett and wrapped his legs around him like a little kid," says Judy Paulen of Judy Paulen Designs in New York. The partying really started when a ballroom wall slid open to reveal an elaborate sports bar, complete with pool tables, video games, and basketball hoops. The gregarious Super Bowl winner stayed on for photo ops, with each guest taking home a snapshot with the star player.
In the rarified world of Beverly Hills wedding planner Mindy Weiss, it's not surprising for a wine-loving bride and groom to marry in the hills of a Napa Valley vineyard. Even custom-blending a vintage from the estate to enjoy during the reception is common. But one pair of oenophiles took their love of the vine a step further by having their names and wedding date engraved into bottles for each guest to take home.
Weiss also recalls the couple who drove off after their "I dos" in a mint-condition 1947 fire truck decorated with flowers and ribbons. It was the bride's surprise tribute to her firefighter husband.
But a pair of New York dog breeders really made their 110 guests sit up and say "woof," as a pair of shih tzus—prized pooches of the couple—pranced down the aisle. The male sported a tux, and the female, a tutu. But according to JoAnn Gregoli, what had tongues wagging in earnest were the matching tiaras worn by the bride and her four-legged attendant. The crowns, custom-made in Paris of real gold and diamonds, featured tiny sculptured shih tzus; a pair of outstretched legs formed the peak. Bow-wow, for sure.