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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The 2011 San Francisco Omni Hotel Wedding Showcase

Sometimes I surprise myself. Let me explain. I have walked and driven down California Street on numerous occasions. Recently I realized that in the past few years I've literally walked past the San Francisco Omni Hotel at least a dozen times... AND NEVER NOTICED IT!
Um, it's not as if it's a small building that's easy to overlook.

Had I just looked across the street I would have noticed their name above the door. This is a lesson for me to not be so focused. I need to slow down a bit and take a look around. I thought I did. I would have sworn I do! But overlooking this huge building may be proof that I need to do a better job of being aware of my surroundings!

I was invited to attend the Omni's annual wedding showcase.

Needless to say I'd never been inside the hotel before and found it to be beautifully appointed. This is the lobby taken from the west staircase that leads to the mezzanine. The light from the chandeliers bouncing off the marble staircase and rich color of the wood walls was really beautiful.

The showcase was advertised as:

"A day filled with advice, fun and fashion with the best and brightest of San Francisco’s bridal community."

Your day will include:
10:00am Registration and Refreshments
10:30am Panel Discussion with three of SF’s top Wedding Planners
12:00pm Mingle with the Experts
1:30pm Beauty Presentation and Bridal Fashion Show
3:00pm Mix with our Presenters and Experts

Onstage for the panel discussion were Wendy Coale Director of Catering and Convention Services at the San Francisco Omni, and Event Designers Duncan Reyes, Joannie Liss and Kathryn Kalabokes. They hosted an informative and lively discussion about why hiring a Professional Wedding Coordinator and/or Designer will help to make your planning process less stressful, can save you money and will make your wedding day run smoothly.

Following their discussion we sampled food on the Mezzanine and in the North Beach Room. I ended up taking this photo at the end of the event because earlier there were so many people you couldn't see the room!

On the Mezzanine there food choices for everyone, meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans! The first food station I spotted was the Mediterranean Station with Hummus, Baba Ghanoush and Tabbouleh served with Pita Bread, Cucumber Wedges, Celery and Red Cabbage.

It was so crowded around the Macaroni n' Cheese Station I couldn't get close enough for a photo and had to swing by a bit later when the throngs had dissipated! A sign on the table said "Please Choose Your Three Favorites" and with topping choices like Dungeness Crab, Bay Shrimp, Grilled Chicken, Bacon, Roasted Red Pepper, Mushrooms, Olives, Spring Onions and Goat and Blue Cheese Crumbles, it's easy to understand why Macaroni and Cheese was so popular that day!

Tomato and Basil Shots

Ooooooh I took pictures of the Nora's Patisserie booth but didn't sample the dessert before I had lunch. Owner and Chef Nora Tong was there in person and encouraged me to sample some of her creations... I assured her I would be back soon. You know how I love my desserts :P

Just down the hall from the Mezzanine was the North Beach Room. It's an intimate space for ceremonies of 120 people or less. I really liked it because so many of the downtown SF venues are designed for large weddings of 200 to 300 guests or more.

It was set up with chiavari chairs and a small arch to give guests an idea of how the room looks when set up for a wedding.

Right next door is the Union Square Room which is a corner room that's windowed on two sides and can host larger ceremonies of up to 160 guests. I would have photographed it for you but couldn't because it had been booked for a private event that day.

In the North Beach Room were three food stations. First was a Slider Station offering Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil and Chilled, Barbecue Beef, Tri Tip sliders.

There was also a Lettuce Wrap Station. You could pick and choose which fillings and sauce you wanted in your wrap.

Choices included Noodles, Black Beans, Chicken Breast, Carrots, Cucumbers and Bean Sprouts.

And there was an extensive Fresh Fruit Buffet...

So this is what I sampled, the Lettuce Wrap with everything but the chicken and because I couldn't make up my mind, I had both sauces. It was soooooo gooooood!

And one Mozzarella, Tomato and Fresh Basil Slider. Here's the coolest thing about the sliders, because I gave up eating beef years ago, this was the first slider I've ever had! And it was delicious. The fresh mozzarella was so soft and creamy but not too rich. The tomato slice was ripe and just the right size. And the fresh basil leaves and basil aioli added a refreshing burst of flavor. So yay! I've now had a slider. Took me long enough right?

After my Lettuce Wrap and Vegetarian Slider I headed back to the Mezzanine to sample Nora's cake. There were two choices, chocolate or this white cake with layers of lemon and berry filling. Because I'd just finished eating all of the chocolate panna cotta from last month's Daring Bakers Challenge (almost entirely by myself) I was chocolated out. So I chose the white cake with fruit fillings, and ate the whole thing. It was really good. The cake was soft and moist and I loved the lemon flavor.

Priscilla of Boston was there showcasing several gowns on the Mezzanine and featuring their gowns later in a runway fashion show.

Seti Designs had two really beautiful bouquets that caught my eye. Above is a white flowers and feathers boutquet with a fancy silver handle. The feathers were so pretty and are continuing as a bridal trend in 2011.

And this I couldn't resist. Parrot Tulips are one of my most favorite flowers and these were beautiful and plentiful. The soft pinks and peaches with stripes of green were gorgeous. To me, Tulips are the quintessential spring flower and the weather that day was very spring like even though it's technically still winter.

After perusing many of the vendor booths in the showcase I headed back up to the Grand Ballroom where a discussion about wedding gowns with Karis Johnston from Priscilla of Boston was underway.

For wedding receptions the Grand Ballroom can seat a maximum of 160 guests with a dance floor. It's beautiful without being ostentatious. Fit's really perfect for weddings as it's spacious, has a neutral gold color palette and down the center of the room is a row of sparkling chandeliers. What's not to love?

I'm not sure how I did it but somehow I managed to confuse the start time of the fashion show so I missed it. :( I'm sure it was great with gowns by Priscilla of Boston and hair and make up by Blow Salon. So I took this picture form the Priscilla of Boston website to give you an idea of what one of their gowns would have looked like on the runway.

After the show I hung out for a bit and stayed to chat with my friend and extraordinarily talented Event Designer Duncan Reyes.

So now that you know about it, here's how to find the Omni Hotel. It's located right along the famous, San Francisco cable car route at the intersection of California and Montgomery. I took this photo at the stop right across the street from the hotel's main entrance.

The Omni is on a hill and, at a glance, looks like this :) Even if you don't look up, look over when you're walking down California Street between Kearny and Montgomery Streets and you'll see it!

And a yummy surprise when I got home! In my show goodie bag I found this package of the most incredible tea cookies from Nora's Patisserie. Located in Daly City, I'm going to have to make a point to stop by her retail shop some day soon. Judging by the photos on her website, it's definitely somewhere I could be very happy.

The Omni is a wonderful wedding resource and a great place to recommend to your weddng guests as a centrally located place to stay in the city. It's within easy walking distance of Chinatown, North Beach and the Financial District (aka FiDi). If your guests wear comfortable shoes and they're up for a bit more of a stroll, they can easily walk to Union Square if they head southwest, the Embarcadero Center and Ferry Building if they head east and the Moscone Center if they head south.

They're also just a few blocks from the Bart line that runs down Market Street making it easy to travel around the city and the East Bay without a car or the need for taxis.

My thanks to Wendy Coale for inviting me to attend the Wedding Fair. It was a pleasure and I truly felt as if I'd discovered a hidden gem. The day was fun, informative and the food was really delicious.

Here are a few more tips for brides and grooms to be from the our guest panelists that day: Professional Event Designers Duncan Reyes, Kathryn Kalabokes and Joannie Liss:

Duncan Reyes:
  1. 2011 Wedding Trends: Floral arrangements that incorporate feathers, event lighting and reception snack bars in case guests get hungry again while dancing the night away.
  2. Random Tip: Don't forget videography!
  3. Contract Advice: Make sure a complimentary suite is included or if it's not, book a room the day before (not just the day of your wedding if one isn't included) to guarantee you'll have space available to "prep" onsite, on your wedding day.

Kathryn Kalabokes:
  1. 2011 Wedding Trends: Handmade is in! More couples are incorporating elements that reflect their families and/or heritage.
  2. Random Tip: Make sure your vendors are licensed!
  3. Contract Advice: Know that you will be taxed on products but you shouldn't be charged sales tax for services.

Joannie Liss:
  1. 2011 Wedding Trends: Creating a "club lounge" for your guests to relax in, event lighting and the late night snacks for guests.
  2. Random Tip: Your Event Coordinator can call guests who are late to RSVP to confirm your headcount too your caterer.
  3. Contract Advice: For a less stressful set up and teardown make sure it's written in your contract that you have your ceremony and reception rooms for the full day and not just an hour before and after your event.

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