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La conmemoración de la celebración

Today marks the anniversary of one the best parties I’ve attended: our wedding reception.

I rarely post about personal things, but after the event happened I kept thinking of writing about our vendor experiences. So after a year of mulling it over, here it is. >:-)

Most notably, I recommend the photographer and florist we worked with, without reservation.

“Erm, all you can think about are the services, not the people, your guests?” Ah, please, read on.

Saratoga Foothill Club, interiorPhotograph copyright © 2006 Rhee Bevere.

Photography

Our photographer, Rhee Bevere (formerly texture&color), was the one who captured the memories of the reception so perfectly. The place, the food, and most especially, the people. Moreover, these images elicit fond feelings for folks who nowadays I rarely have a chance to see.

Rhee’s humor, warm and direct manner made her a joy to work with. We wanted a candid, journalistic tone to the photography, and her style matched perfectly with our wishes. If I try to recall specific moments from our reception, all I come up with is, admittedly, usually a blur. But my memory is refreshed and filled with delight whenever I look through the pictures, and see the expressions and gestures of our friends, family and ourselves. Her pictures are at my gallery, under the events section.

Floral decorations

Florist Carol Ralles of Design with Flowers captured our taste in gardens with her superb floral decorations. We wanted to focus on table arrangements, with an emphasis on a Mediterranean, English garden feel. Casual, natural, with a touch of elegance. Too many contradictory adjectives there, you think? Nope. Her work was an excellent combination of creativity and flexibility. Marvelous.

flowers for sweetheart tablePhotograph copyright © 2006 Rhee Bevere.

Music

Arranging the auditory environment for a Sunday afternoon tea was tricky. We wanted to avoid vocals (too disruptive to conversation), so a DJ was out of the question. There wasn’t enough room for dancing, and we had little interest in dancing at the event. (Good conversation and food have much higher priority than dance, IMHO). Friendly background music, like, I’ll confess, the music in the movie Amélie. O:-) Gentle, somewhat whimsical bistro music. Picky, hunh? Our caterers pleasantly surprised us, and found them: the Baguette Quartette.

Baguette Quartette, accordion playerPhotograph copyright © 2006 Rhee Bevere.

Ring-a-ding

Both Simon and I would like to thank Karen Parrish and Kathy Holm of the Jeweler’s Bench for helping us design and order our rings from James Binnion. Sadly, this jewelry shop is closed: a visit to downtown Los Gatos last month revealed another business at the location. They have run it for over three decades, and there was an article from 2002 about their mother’s impending retirement. So it looks like they finally shut their doors. Karen and Kathy were so easy to work with, amicable and able to comprehend our desire for elemental yet refined objets d’art.

Correction (10-Sept-2007): The Jeweler’s Bench is still open. (See comments.) Yay!

Cake

La Patisserie in Cupertino makes awesome cakes and pastries. While their baker does apply some amount of artistic license (e.g., he didn’t use a particular color we requested, a trivial yet noticeable thing), the cake turned out beautiful and tasty. Delicate génoise sponge, not a heavy, trite buttercake. (I do like buttercake in some applications, like a good poundcake, but not in a wedding cake.) Filled with luscious chocolate mousse in the bottom tier, and nummy lemon mousse in the middle one. They even made the top tier with mocha and chocolate mousse fillings, which Simon and I gobbled up gleefully days later. I’m also glad that they have a retail store from which to purchase delicacies six days a week.

wedding cake, with flowersPhotograph copyright © 2006 Rhee Bevere.

Minor minuses

Nothing is completely perfect, of course. While the food, waitstaff and decorations were excellent, we had a few issues with the caterer, Delectables. The caterer, after all, takes up the lion’s share of one’s budget for this type of event.

  • Our theme was afternoon tea. Unfortunately, they failed to prepare the tea properly. Even though they got the tea we wanted (a nice Assam from Peet’s —I hadn’t discovered Upton’s Tea Imports yet), we asked them if they knew how to make hot tea (to which they responded positively and confidently), the end result was disappointing. Somehow they managed to make incredibly bitter tea. I found it nearly undrinkable. They claimed they timed it and didn’t over-steep. But perhaps they put too much tea into each pot they made? It tasted as if they placed an entire tin of leaves per quart-sized pot. (A few tablespoons would’ve sufficed.) Perhaps we should’ve given them a tea brewing recipe (or demonstration?) during our meetings, just to be clear.
  • We weren’t told the name of the waitstaff captain (head waiter) before the party, who coordinated the event onsite from beginning to end. We had thought it would be the event coordinator herself. But she was present for only part of the time. She had given us her cellphone number, but it was out of service on the day of the reception. Things worked out in the end, but more upfront communication of who’d be where and when would’ve set our expectations more realistically, and lower the stress of a naturally stressful event.
  • They made a wonderful effort to find the Baguette Quartette for us. However, the event coordinator seemed quite cagey about giving us any info about the musicians, even avoiding telling us the band’s name after several inquiries. Were they afraid that they’d lose money? We would’ve still been willing to go through Delectables to have that band. Fortunately, we got a business card directly from the musicians at the party.
  • Delectables’ liquor policy was to purchase the wine themselves. Otherwise, they’d charge a corkage fee. Their wine advice wasn’t as helpful as I would’ve expected with that practice: the beer they provided was good (Hoegaarden Witbier), but the wine was mediocre (Banrock Station Chardonnay). I’m hardly a drink connoisseur, but I know when I like or dislike something. I would’ve preferred obtaining the wine and beer ourselves, without a corkage “penalty,” in order to get something we wanted.

Another awkward aspect of our reception adventure was the venue. The Saratoga Foothill Club is a lovely, Arts and Crafts building, designed by Julia Morgan. Being a historic monument, they have understandably strict rules in order to preserve it. However, both we and the caterer encountered confusion when trying to get clarification on some practical matters, like insurance. Sometimes communication with the site manager was unclear. For example, at one point Simon asked about some legal points in the contract, which the manager was unable to explain. In the end, though, all the i’s became properly dotted, and we enjoyed having our party at such a charming place.

Food

I want to reiterate that the food was fabulous, and Delectables did a great job at the presentation and preparation. They included gorgeous displays of carved fruit and molded pastries, at no additional cost. They very patiently and smoothly organized a highly fiddly menu of multiple phases: passed hors d’oeuvres with alcoholic drinks, a buffet consisting of amazing finger sandwiches and other savories, another buffet of scones and mini-sweets, readying for the toast stage, as well as serving the cake.

Mango-ginger salmon puff pastryPhotograph copyright © 2006 Rhee Bevere.

The waitstaff thoughtfully prepared plates of hors d’oeuvres, savories and cake, although sadly they didn’t manage to save us scones or mini-sweets. (We knew their scones would be good, though, as we had a test meal during the caterer selection process months earlier). Delectables also saved and packaged up leftovers and unopened bottles of drinks for us. We ate well for several days!

Oh how I love them tea sandwiches!Photograph copyright © 2006 Rhee Bevere.

Selecting a caterer or event coordinator for a big, complex party ain’t easy. We deliberated over Delectables and another organization. I don’t know if that other group would’ve fared better, to be honest. (The key point was that their estimate was 30% to 40% higher than Delectables. Everyone has their budget and limits.) The regrets were small in comparison to the fun we had, which is really what matters.

Perhaps my criticism of the caterer and venue seems harsh, but it’s here because they didn’t solicit feedback, compared with a couple of vendors who did. (Not that each and every vendor should actively seek out customer opinions, of course. But I feel that those who perform complicated, costly tasks should be open to review.) The lesson from this is to have the courage to discuss any aspect of an elaborate event which might encounter hitches. Even something as seemingly simple as making a pot of tea. 😉

4 comments

  1. Anita wrote:

    oh, thank you for posting this. I miss looking at other people’s wedding snaps, now that nearly everyone we know is married off 😀

    Wednesday, 11 April 2007 at 10:34 am | Permalink
  2. Jewelers Bench wrote:

    Hi,
    We enjoyed your web site but you have some misinformation about the Jewelers Bench! We are still here at the same address and going strong. We closed for a couple of days while they were laying carpet and painting, (we did a remodel 4 months ago). Our only reorgination happened in 2001 when our Mom, Mary, retired at 78! So it is Karen and Kathy, her daughters, who are still at the Jewelers Bench, same location and name. We still carry James Binnion’s Mokume Gane rings and they are very popular.
    Can you please make note on your website? We are still open and going strong.
    Best Regards,
    Kathy Holm

    Sunday, 9 September 2007 at 11:38 am | Permalink
  3. sairuh wrote:

    Kathy, my apologies for the incorrect information! Thanks for letting me know. I’m sure it was a simple mis-observation when driving by. But the strangest thing is how I have this memory from earlier this year of a big ad in the Sunnyvale Sun (a weekly local newspaper) which announced a big sale for what I somehow recall as a retirement or shutdown… Perhaps I just misread it. I’m really glad you and the Jeweler’s Bench remain available and open!

    Monday, 10 September 2007 at 8:43 am | Permalink
  4. Rebecca wrote:

    This is a lovely post! I am planning my wedding for next spring at the Saratoga Foothill Club, but I’m on the East Coast until then, so I’m trying to figure out as much as I can on the internet. One question – where did you get the chairs shown in the top photo? The Club now has a contract with a specific caterer, and they use plain folding chairs (with cloth covers if desired), but I love the look of yours. Also, about how many guests did you have, and how did they fill the space? We want to have about 150 guests (maybe a little less) and were told they can fit up to 180, but I just want to make sure we won’t be crowded. Any other tips you have will be greatly appreciated – Thanks!

    Tuesday, 28 April 2009 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

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