Stylish Story Telling with Raw Emotion
All eyes were on the the San Francisco Giants as they were fighting off the Kansas City Royals in game three of the World Series just across the bay. Meanwhile, in the sleepy town of Tiburon, a much more restrained excitement was in the air. Michelle and David have both been married before but tonight marked and celebrated a new beginning. The couple had planned to just elope and keep it completely simple, but it was so important for Michelle to have her son Joey there to properly welcome Dave into their family that their plans changed…and change is good. We met Dave and Michelle at their hotel in Tiburon and proceeded up the road to Old St. Hilary’s church, a landmark so iconic that it’s the town of Tiburon’s banner image. It really was a gorgeous afternoon and a good first introduction to the historic site. We spent some time taking photos and chatting about everything under the sun before heading down the hill to the waterfront for a walk by the bay and on to Servino, where the ceremony and subsequent dinner reception were to take place. The original plan was for about 20-30 guests, but I think Michelle and Dave underestimated their supporters, and it ended up being about twice that – and standing room only for the ceremony. Officiated by Reverend Peadar Dalton, the ceremony was timeless and inclusive, and welcomed guests and each partner’s children into this new union as loved supporters of the couple. As the ceremony concluded, the sun was all but a memory, the temperature dipped, and the new extended family all headed inside for another legendary Servino meal…together.
If I had only one word to describe Sam and Heather’s elopement in Big Sur, it would be: Quiet.
Everything about the day was so tranquil and as I recount the events, I struggle to recall any sound. Chateau Noel, a manor-style estate, stood stoic and silent nestled among Italian Stone Pine and Olive trees as I approached the main piazza where I saw Sam standing. Sharply dressed and looking like Humphrey Bogart ready for a night out at the Pump Room, Sam couldn’t have looked any cooler standing there in his black tuxedo.
Inside the Chateau, Heather was nearly ready with only minor nerves. I have to believe it would be easier when you have friends or siblings there to pronounce that you’re “ready to do this” but when you’re on your own, it’s on you to feel absolutely ready and to take that leap and leave the room. Just outside in their private garden courtyard, Sam was alone with his thoughts, awaiting the arrival of this woman who’d first captured his heart when they met in grade school so many years back in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Back then, they were just kids figuring out life and new emotions like Kevin and Winnie. Ten years pass and Heather and Sam, now adults reconnect and picked right back up from where they’d left off; Is this not the embodiment of true love?
Heather is ready and has left the room and is remembering to breathe as she approaches Sam who is waiting around the corner. They look at each other with giddy smiles, then hold each other as if for the first time in their lives, and they don’t ever seem to want to let go.
I drove with Sam and Heather to meet our officiant Ken Robbins at a point along the Pacific Coast Highway north of Big Sur for the ceremony. We found a spot that was just accessible enough for us to make it down the cliffs a bit and it was breathtaking. Quick note here, it was a pretty dangerous trek down in my hiking boots so three gold stars and double high-fives to Heather who wore heels; Ken was thoroughly impressed!
Heather and Sam’s love and intensity was mesmerizing as they stood there in a nook in the bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. I don’t mind admitting that Sam and Heather’s outward expression of their love for each other was amongst the greatest I’ve ever experienced and that’s possibly why the day felt so quiet; they truly were the center of the universe that afternoon so it was hard not to be transfixed.
We spent some time along the coast letting the sunlight and salt air wash over the remnants of the afternoon before making our way back to Stone Pine. We had just enough time and twilight to tiki-tour around the grounds of the Chateau and cut their cake before we said goodbye. Looking back through the photos and recalling the events of the day, there were so many times that they looked at each other with that look of undeniable pure love and there was this stillness as they held each other so tightly you thought they would never let go. Happily, I’m sure they never will.
Just a few days before their intimate wedding at Auberge Du Soleil in Napa Valley, we’d met high school sweethearts Lacey and Charlton in San Francisco. It was quite obvious, straight-away that they really, really dug each other and had the kind of love that develops out of an incredible friendship. We also knew from much earlier how caring these two people were; the morning after the September 4th, American Canyon earthquake that affected Napa and Vallejo, we got an email asking if we were okay – how thoughtful is that?
The wedding day dawned and the first storm of the season in wine country came and went. The afternoon sky cleared, and guests congregated on the balcony at Auberge Du Soleil as Charles and Lacey began the ceremony. Any preconceptions I may have formed about Charles as being a bit shy, perhaps a man of few words, vanished like the morning rains when he emotionally delivered his vows.
I vow to be new; not new as any novelty is new, but new as the rain is new; and the sun is new afterwards,
That’s just a brief excerpt, there was a lot more… and all of it poignant. I was completely taken aback by the ease and poetry with which he was able convey these deepest of emotions, as the woman standing in front of him strained through her tears to maintain his gaze. I love every aspect of a wedding day, but on the more intimate weddings, I find a heavier weighted concentration of emotion during the exchanging of vows; It’s very hard at times staying focused and not getting caught up in it all but that is one of the most rewarding parts of what we do.
Anyone who knows Chelsey and Charles will have their own collection of memories from the long history of epic gatherings and festive celebrations in the South Oceanside village of St. Malo. From the early days of their relationship, the couple made regular visits to the family beach home here, and their visits were almost always accompanied by an artfully inspired fiesta. These parties, with themes such as “Bastille Day”, “Alien”, “Neon”, and “Roulette”, brought people together, cemented lifelong friendships, and left in their wake a sea of great memories and cherished photo albums (yes, actual albums!). With such a deeply rooted history of great times spent with fantastic people over more than a decade, it was only a matter of time before the tribes would again converge upon the beachside enclave for the ultimate reunion – the wedding of Chelsey and Charles.
Charles welcomed us in his incredible fuscia and serpentine Moods of Norway suit and we knew immediately that the day was going to be a memorable one. Down the road, Chelsey was preparing with her friends and looked like a fairytale ballerina. We couldn’t wait for them to see each other.
Their first look was excitement crossed with intense wonderment topped off with pure joy; I think they were in awe of the reality settling in that this day had finally arrived…and they looked awesome!
The day continued with incredible amounts of personality and thoughtful DIY touches around every corner. The groomsmen surprised everyone with their eclectic suits which reflected their individual styles and the brides dress was handmade by Chelsey and friends. Leading up to the ceremony, the groom stood at the head of the aisle playing the ukulele for the pre-processional accompanied by longtime friend and musician. As Chelsey met Charles, the two exchanged vows and proclaimed their love for each other – and for each other’s “weirdness”. Despite the best efforts to keep the tone of the ceremony light, the outpouring of love and anecdotal musings by their officiant, and longtime friend Hank brought the gathering onto the brink of tears more than once. As the ceremony drew to a close, the couple faced the crowd and everyone joined together in singing the Ronette’s Be My Baby and tucked somewhere amongst one of the final verses, they kissed and were pronounced husband and wife.
Long before the wedding day, Chelsey had described her expectations of the day in saying “(that I) take seriously the commitment that I’m making, but also have so much fun, communally celebrating with the people I love most.” When we followed up after the wedding to see what stood out as most memorable, she said most of the events surrounding the ceremony – the vows, the song, and the walking back down the aisle feeling the tremendous wave of love from everyone. The night continued on with much more celebration but for every wedding, one particular time stands out as the apex of the event and for us, we couldn’t agree more that the ceremony tied together all the love and history of that place and beautifully (and colorfully), created a new chapter in their story.
Lacey and Charles were high-school sweethearts and met sophomore year when, as Lacey recounts, “He caught my eye in the hallway and within a day we were inseparable.” I don’t want to give away too much about their wedding but let’s just say that it’s easy to see why they were and how they still seem inseparable and the perfect companions for each other. A few days before their intimate Napa Valley wedding, we met up with Lacey and Charles in San Francisco to embark on another exhilarating tiki-tour of the city. For those unfamiliar with our frequent use of the phrase Tiki Tour, here’s some clarification from the Urban Dictionary: