On a warm and sunny Saturday I headed up to Willow Heights Mansion in Morgan Hill, California for Israel and Laura Ochoa's wedding. Guests were to arrive at 4:30 PM, I was there at 1:00 PM and Christina arrived even earlier than that. She originally began working with Laura and Israel when the Laura's mother contacted her 8 months earlier in February. They needed someone to help plan the wedding and oversee all of the details on the wedding day itself.
As soon as I met with Christina at the venue we hopped in her car to deliver the bridal and bridesmaid's bouquets to the wedding party at Laura's relative's house where she was having her hair and make up done and putting on her wedding gown.
While we were there the photographer arrived to take photos of the gown, the bride and her bridesmaids before the ceremony. We picked up the champagne, some assorted other beverages and a bag of small glass pebbles to be used during the ceremony (more on them later). While we were there Christina received a call that Israel, the groom, was now at the venue and needed cuff links! She hopped online and contacted the Men's Warehouse who told her she could go to their nearest location, not the one the tuxedos had been rented from, to pick up a pair to bring to him.
This is one of the reasons why it's great to have a wedding coordinator. Instead of sending out the groom or a member of the wedding party or family, you'll have someone there to tie up the loose ends.
It only took a minute and we were on our way!
When we arrived back at the mansion the reception chairs were being adorned with sheer organza bows. Look at the difference!
And the chocolate brown, satin napkins were neatly folded and ready to go with these really beautiful rhinestone crystal napkin rings.
Christina and I helped to put the napkins on the chargers. The florist added her floral centerpieces and the venue supplied several votive candle holders for each table. The tables looked really pretty!
The Bride and Groom's Sweetheart's Table
While we were helping to set up the reception area, Christina's assistant was setting up the name cards and programs. The picture frame was a copy of their wedding invitation that Christina had matted and framed as a special, surprise gift!
We then took a quick run downstairs to make sure the tables were in place and the table cloths had been placed on the cake and cocktail tables.
A quick peek outside to see the ceremony gazebo which was pretty on its own but even prettier once the floral arrangements had been added by the florists.
I cannot tell you how much running Christina did that day. It was a lot. I know because I was shadowing her almost the entire time. I wish I'd worn my pedometer so I could tell you exactly how far she walked by the end of the evening. It had to be miles. She was back and forth to set things up and check and recheck on things. Here she heads out to the gazebo to set up those glass pebbles I mentioned earlier.
What is going on here? The bride and groom wanted there to be a row of pebbles, set in a circle to stand in during their ceremony along with the officiant. Their "Circle of Life" was something symbolic and significant to them. Without a tape measure handy, Christina's assistant helped her to create a 6 foot wide circle by laying down on the ground. We knew his height so she laid one pebble at the top of his head and visually added the additional inches at the bottom of his feet to set the dimensions of the circle.
And here is the complete circle. If you click directly on the photo it will enlarge and you'll more easily be able to see the clear and rose colored pebbles on the terracotta surface.
Done! Now off to check on the groom and his groomsmen to get them set up for some formal photos. First she made sure everyone was there, then put their boutonnieres on each of them for the pictures.
At that point she wanted to go back downstairs to the dance floor area. On our second trip down it was to check on the cake which had been delivered during the photo session.
I thought it was really pretty but when Christina saw it she said "Oh, no! Where are the cake toppers?"
Christina had delivered them to the baker weeks earlier so she knew they had them. We discovered them sitting in a plastic bag, still boxed, on a nearby table. The bride loves fairies and had selected this bride and groom to be placed on top of the cake. And here comes my nitty gritty advice:
When hiring a baker to create a wedding cake (or any other cake where you will be using a topper) make sure they understand the dimensions and weight of the topper so that the top tier of the cake will be of adequate size and substance. This was a bit concerning because once we took the sculptures out of their boxes it was apparent that the top tier might be too narrow to hold both sculptures.
There was also the issue of the large, fresh daisies that that had been placed on top of the cake. They had marred the frosting finish so we had to make sure the toppers would hide this damage. I can say we were equally relieved when we got the toppers onto the cake and figured out a way to make the flowers smaller, by tearing off the petals and using only the centers to fill in the back behind the sculptures and hide the damage to the frosting. A quick call to the baker and an associate was sent back out to the venue to make sure the cake toppers were in place and the cake in good condition.
We headed back upstairs feeling like everything with the cake was now under control.
Everything Christina did that day was on the run. Here she refreshes and checks her time line. The bride was due to arrive any minute so she headed back out to the front of the mansion to await her arrival.
A Wedding Coordinator's best friends to help keep things running smoothly on the big day!
As Christina prepped the bride and her attendants the guests were arriving and the groomsmen were in place to help seat them. The weather was beautiful. It really couldn't have been more perfect for an outdoor ceremony. Sunny but not too hot or windy.
The officiant had arrived so Christina escorted him to the gazebo filling him in on last minute details along the way and answering any questions he had.
It was time to begin. Accompanied by her attendants, the bride left the mansion and began heading over to the ceremony site.
The ceremony was held beneath a towering willow tree at Willow Heights Mansion.
When I asked Christina what her favorite moment from the day was she quickly replied that it's the same favorite moment she's experienced at every other wedding she has helped to coordinate: The moment when the bride and groom turn and face their guests after the ceremony concludes.
She said it is their expressions, and the joy on their faces that mean the most and described it this way when I asked her:
My couples are an extension of my existing family so watching them exchange their vows, turn around and they are glowing and on cloud 9, that's my favorite part.
She was there to meet Laura and Israel giving each of them a quick hug before escorting them back into the mansion. She then took them back to the ceremony area for more formal pictures while the guests enjoyed an indoor cocktail hour.
More details to oversee like the signing of the marriage certificate, making sure the DJ had the correct names and order for the grand introductions and seeing that the guests were all enjoying dinner.
A buffet was beautifully prepared and the food was delicious. I know because as one of Christina's assistants that day we enjoyed the same meal the guests were offered which is a real treat as often couples opt for a less expensive "brown bag" meal for their vendors. After being assistant on more than a few weddings now I have to say that when you have a vendor on their feet for 8 hours or more at your wedding it's a nice gesture to serve them a hot meal if it fits into your budget. Some stay and work 10 or more hours (often carrying heavy equipment) so imagine working that hard on a standard sandwich with an apple. Of course vendors can and sometimes do have to bring their own meals and eat in a back room but you honestly want them out with you as much as possible as spontaneous moments constantly occur at weddings so your photographer or videographer may miss capturing a special moment or your MC/DJ may be nowhere in sight when you need them to make an impromptu announcement.
As the guests were invited to go downstairs for the cake cutting and dancing we arrived first to discover part of the top tier of the cake had collapsed beneath the weight of the groom topper. The groom sculpture had fallen down along one side of the cake damaging the frosting on each tier along the way! His head was covered in frosting and we did our best to clean him off, which wasn't possible because the frosting was thick and heavy, and to smooth the cake with a butter knife all in about 60 seconds.
There wasn't much that could do done but Christina did her best. As Laura and Israel approached their cake her face went from an expression of delight to puzzlement as she realized something had happened. While Christina explained I have to admit I was dreading the disappointment that I was certain would wash over Laura's face... Instead she threw her head back and laughed. "Of course something had to go wrong" she exclaimed. "This whole day was too perfect!" As Laura and Israel continued to laugh over the misfortune of their cake topper they filled my heart with joy. They got it. A wedding isn't about creating a day based upon perfection, it's about being together, having fun and not getting caught up in small details that are great when they go perfectly but aren't always worth tears and anger when they don't. "Let's dance," Laura exclaimed and they walked away with huge smiles on their faces.
Later we found out part of the reason the cake collapsed was because the top tier was a layer of tiramisu and not a dense layer of heavier cake. So, had the tier been more dense or just two inches wider I think it would have held up just fine. These are reasons to be certain that your cake maker understands the width, height and weight of your decoration(s) if you are using anything out of the ordinary as a cake topper. I speak from experience since I've made many custom cake toppers for clients in the past. I always made sure to find out the dimensions of the entire cake (to determine the scale the topper height should be), and the width of the top tier (to determine the topper width) precisely so that this problem could be avoided.
The cake cutting was followed by the first dance (song at the ready), the money dance (pins at the ready), the bouquet toss and the garter toss (chair in place) which all took place according to schedule. Christina had some time to relax as the guests danced the night away though I saw her pulled out onto the dance floor more than once by her happy couple. Following the end of the reception there was still the tear down and clean up before she could go home.
As you can see, a Wedding Coordinator's day is a full one indeed. There are so many details to oversee and keeping to the time line is imperative if you want your day to run smoothly. Yes, these are things you can ask a friend or family member to do but then they aren't able to be both guest and coordinator at the same time so they aren't able to fully relax and enjoy the wedding. I know not every couple is able to budget for a coordinator but if you are able to afford one, the time, energy and peace of mind they will save you are well worth the investment.
As I left that evening I took this parting shot of the reception still in progress. And this is special and a great testimonial to a job well done: Next year Christina will be coordinating another wedding for the same family!
To learn more about Christina Romero and her company Elegant Occasions you can:
CLICK HERE to visit her website at www.ElegantOccasions.us