Scholarship Entry: Yelena Johnson, The Stylish Soiree

Thursday, December 3, 2009

This submission is from Yelena Johnson of The Stylish Soiree

The Concept

The design concept for this wedding is best described with the phrase “simple luxury.” Since his lifestyle is all about the simple pleasures of the country and hers is all about style, glamour and luxury, I felt that ‘simple luxury’ encompasses both of their passions while still giving me a cohesive design framework for their wedding. For the venue, I chose a spot that would appeal to both a luxury-loving socialite and a nature-loving farmer: the gorgeous Napa Valley. Since the socialite bride has undoubtedly spent years attending events in New York’s best venues, I thought that creating a luxury destination wedding in a region renowned for its farm-fresh food and world-class wines would be a unique, perfect setting for the couple to entertain guests of all backgrounds.

The Venue

The venue pictured is the romantic Beltane Ranch in Sonoma, which is an ideal canvas for the ‘simple luxury’ design concept. The Beltane Ranch was awarded the Travel & Leisure World’s Best Award for ‘Best Kept Secret’, boasting tennis courts, gardens and vineyards for the socialite set as well as a working ranch that keeps horses, cattle, dogs and hens - just the kind of setting to make a farmer feel at home. For the color palette I used granite, mocha, and cream. I picked these hues because they give the design a muted, sophisticated feel but are all earthy colors commonly found in nature as well.

The Bride & Groom’s Styling

Being a socialite, the bride naturally would want a spectacular gown that hasn’t been seen on other brides. Since The Stylish Soiree specializes in bridal styling as well, I would help the bride choose the gorgeous ivory and gray/blue J. Mendel couture gown that is pictured, crafted from airy silk tulle. Dove gray Guiseppe Zanotti peep toe pumps adorned with an architectural bow (almost inspired by the Chrysler building, a nod to the bride’s New York roots) and an ethereal silk tulle garter handcrafted by Florrie Mitton (we added a sterling silver horseshoe charm to the center as a special surprise for the horse-crazy groom). The groom is outfitted in a pinstripe gray suit (which he would feel more comfortable in than an ultra-formal tux), with a boutonnière fashioned from wild-picked thistle - much better suited to his style than a calla lily or rose.

The Design Elements

The design elements for the event include a mixture of upscale items, textures and designs with those that are more rustic and homey. I would incorporate wood, crystal, silk, metal and burlap elements into the design to create a richly textured feel to the wedding that is as warm and inviting as it is sophisticated. In the cocktail hour and reception area, ample candlelight would bathe the entire evening in a warm happy glow.

The Ceremony

Distressed wooden pews strewn with the numbered silk pillows (shown in the design board) would be set up in rows facing a large, gnarled oak tree where the couple would exchange their vows. Hanging from the tree’s branches behind the couple and officiant would be a row of three antique window panes with select words from their vows calligraphied onto the glass panes as a backdrop, with views of the rolling vineyards and hills behind the window panes. Large cream dinner plate dahlias are attached to the tree’s branches so it looks as if it is flowering the dahlias, creating a soft, romantic feel for the ceremony.

The Cocktail Hour

A specialty cocktail catering staff would be hired (like Cuff & Buttons), who will mix up all-organic, natural cocktails from scratch for guests and garnish them with fresh fruit from Beltane Ranch. The food catering is by none other than Thomas Keller’s Bouchon restaurant, which focuses on the gourmet simplicity of French bistro style food. For cocktail hour the waiters tray pass mini truffled croque monsieur sandwiches and farm fresh vegetable soup (two of the groom‘s favorites), alongside oysters on the half shell with mignonette and caviar with crème fraiche on mini toasted brioche (two of the bride‘s favorites).

While sipping organic, freshly made cocktails and nibbling on appetizers next to the paddocks, guests lounge on country French style loveseats and chairs strewn with burlap pillows that have farm product names stamped across them (as in the design board). Deep gray cashmere throws are draped over the arms of the furniture so guests can cozy up if they begin to get chilly. Each cocktail table contains a rustic basket filled with Beltane Ranch carrots, each tied with a hand-dyed silk bow and a calligraphied card inviting guests to give the horses a little treat - integrating the farm life into the guest’s experience of the event.

The Reception

While moving from the cocktail hour to the reception area, guests come across a low-hanging, massive branch of an oak tree. From the branch hangs over a hundred mini crystal bottles filled with olive oil from Beltane Ranch that serve both as place cards for dinner as well as a unique favor specific to the venue. Each olive oil bottle has an antique looking label calligraphied with the guest’s name, table number and a thank you message from the bride and groom.

Guests would be seated at three long rows of gray linen-covered long tables to enjoy a menu of white wine and Dijon mussels followed by a succulent roast chicken paired with green beans and crispy French fries perfect for mopping up the juices. The long tables are decorated with a wide, distressed wooden plank that runs down the middle to bring a rustic, natural element to the décor and to serve as a unique table runner. On top of the distressed wood are beautiful mix and match sizes of clear crystal antique perfume bottles filled with a few anemone blooms, gray berries, thistle and dusty miller. Larger arrangements in organic silhouettes are interspersed down the tables as well (in the style of the one in the design board) for bigger visual impact.

To light the evening, tall, ornate candelabras cast a warm glow on the guests as they enjoy their meal and catch up with friends old and new. The final element of design that makes the dinner table décor unique is a collection of mismatched French country style chairs all painted an antiqued mocha to add visual interest to the table while still keeping the look cohesive.

After dinner, the couple invites all the guests back to the cocktail area where a dance floor has been set up, along with a gourmet s’mores bar. Guests can choose from tiered, elegantly patterned dessert plates stacked high and labeled with the bride’s favorite chocolates from around the world, and melt them over open fire spits that have been brought in, along with custom cut-out marshmallows in the shape of lucky horseshoes. The guests then mingle and dance the night away to a mix of music (everything from classic standards to rousing country) played by a live band.

Photo Credits:

Top row: Wedding cake and windows, Jason McGrew; Numbered Silk Pillows, The Beautiful Life, Champagne and fruit-topped cocktails, dolcissima events

Second row: Mocha and gray invitation suite, Hammersmith Press; The Beltane Ranch via their website
Third row: Vintage perfume bottles, Fine Art America; silk tulle garter, Florrie Mitton; floral arrangement, Dandelion Ranch; Dress & model from J. Mendel Spring 2010 show
Fourth row: Groom's gray suit and thistle boutonniere, Adrienne Page; French country style sofa and burlap pillows, unknown; shoes, Guiseppe Zanotti (not sure of photographer, I've had this one in my files for a loooong time!)
Fifth row: Candlelit outdoor area, Josh McMurtrie; S'more, Anna Williams; Stable wall, country living; Candlelit long tables, Fete NY


Catherine Hall Studios said...

What a unique and inspirational concept. I love reading about every extraordinary detail. Well done :)!

Samantha said...

Fabulous! A city girl would want luxury!!

george a said...

success in wedding planning is in mastering the detail and crafting a setting that is unique yet taylored to the bride and groom Yelena you have mastered it again !!!

Janece Shellooe at Every Elegant Detail said...

Wow! Great job with all the details. I would love to be a guest at this wedding! Fabulous!

Julia said...

Stunning! Impeccable attention to detail – I love how everything from bundling carrots for the guests to feed to the horses to the small perfume bottle decorations has been addressed.

This event is an effortless combination of comfort (colors, food and textures) and sophistication (Bridal couture and Napa Valley). It’s warm and inviting but also inspiring and classy.

Can I please be a guest at this wedding??

Breanne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Breanne said...

I love how this wedding incorporated the natural, rustic elements of Napa, but doesn't lose the sophistication and class. Everything from the food to the color scheme feels SO luxurious and romantic!

I thought the carrots for the Horses and the olive oil were both fabulous touches!

Amy said...

Wow, wow, wow. This wedding concept is gorge from beginning to end. Reading the descriptions of the details of the ceremony, cocktail hour and reception I was truly blown away by the high-level attention to detail and obvious love of all things luxurious that the Stylish Soiree displayed.

We’d all be lucky to be a bride with a J Mendel gown, cashmere throws, olive oil favors and antique window panes bedecking our own special days. For now I'll just dream of Napa and this concept's rustic class (and file away stylish soiree's name for when the day comes). I feel as though this is truly a wedding that would be imprinted forever in the minds of the happy couple and their guests. Well done!

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