I’m in Napa this week scouting for a beautiful summer wedding we’re designing and when I travel, I can’t help but reminisce about past weddings in the area. Especially ones that are as pretty as this one. Natalie and Pat married at the gorgeous Carneros Inn and with it’s cool blue tones, abundance of white on white and sleek ghost chairs, it’s easily one of our favorite weddings. The aesthetic, the food and the intimate group of 80, made for a modern yet comfortable day and one we were thrilled to have a hand in. If you want to read more about hop over to Style Me Pretty to read Abby’s take on it. She even called it a “Wedding That Set the Bar” in an article for Huff Post. Enjoy the images from the too talented for words, Jose Villa. And stay tuned for more Napa goodness!
If you’re just getting started with the planning of your destination wedding, you are already thinking of the obvious: Who will do my hair and makeup? Who is the best photographer? What will my bouquet look like? If you are like most destination brides, it isn’t until a little further in the planning process that you realize you have not only invited guests to your wedding but you have invited them on vacation. You have suddenly taken on the roles of fiancé, travel agent, concierge and event planner. This can be tons of fun but also a lot of pressure. Here are my top six tips to get you through hosting a destination wedding celebration:
1. Allow guests to enjoy their vacation. While they are there to celebrate your union, there is also a part of each guest that is looking forward to some down time. Because of this, don’t feel obligated to plan every minute for them. Let guests have enough time to relax and plan activities on their own.
2. Use the culture of your destination to shape events. Your guests will want to explore the activities that can only be done at the destination of your choice. Take your guests to a wine tour rather than a traditional rehearsal dinner when in Napa, or introduce them to the Caribbean with a welcome party consisting of Mojitos, steel drums and a sunset sail.
3. Create an itinerary and list of recommended activities. Outline for your guests the events they are invited to, as well as some additional activities that they may enjoy. The itinerary can go out with your invitations or they can be sent separately one month before traveling to allow your guests to plan their down time. Don’t forget to put another copy in their welcome bag along with a map of the area.
4. Don’t feel obligated to pay for everything. If hoping to extend your wedding celebration throughout the week with a welcome party, morning after brunch, etc. but have a limited budget, do not stress. Discuss with your families who will be hosting each event. Have one set of parents pay for the welcome party if your parents are hosting the wedding and reception. For other activities that you would like to arrange but can’t afford to host, put out an “optional” invite letting them know the expense affiliated should they decide to go. Not everyone will join, but if you arrange an activity that the guests were likely going to do on their own anyway, then you should have a good attendance rate.
5. Have all of your guests stay in the same area if possible. The beauty of a destination wedding is it allows you and your fiancé’s families to come together for an entire week. If everyone is staying all over the island or city you are in, your guests will not have as much opportunity to get to know each other. On the other hand, planning accommodations for all your guests can be a logistical nightmare. Solve this by providing accommodation information in your invitations or save-the-dates. Include information only on hotels and condos that will keep your guests near the party. After the wedding, if you and your fiancé want privacy, consider sneaking off to another city or even just another hotel.
6. Don’t take everything on yourself. Planning a destination wedding and reception alone can take a lot of time and research. Depend on the professionals within your reach like your wedding planner, travel agent or even the concierge at the hotel you will be staying at to organize events and activities for you and your guests.
Can’t have your day in Napa, but love the idea of a winery inspired menu? We tapped culinary expert, Brooke Bagliatto, of Carneros Inn, to share her top tips on creating a wedding menu straight from the wine valley.
Wine is one of the most important parts of the meal when created a winery inspired menu. Start with a lighter wine and move into heavier wines as the meal progresses. This sometimes means moving courses a lithe out of the “normal” order to accommodate. For instance, you may want to have your salad course before your starter course so you may pair the sale with a lighter, crisper wine than the starter course. Share the level of wine you are looking for with your chef and examples of wines you already enjoy. From there allow your chef & sommelier to make the suggested wine pairings based on the menu created. Make sure you list your pairings on the menu as well so guests can get the full experience.
LOCALITY, SEASONALITY & SUSTAINABILITY
It’s no secret that the best meals start with the freshest products. Food that is grown locally doesn’t have to travel far and therefore is harvested at its peak ripeness. Locally grown products are typically dictated by season, so let your chef guide you into what products are going to be the best and most abundant at the time of your wedding. Asparagus may look beautiful in the picture from your favorite magazine, but if you’re having an October wedding, a seasonal squash will probably taste much better.
GOOD FOOD HAS A STORY
Wedding guests really enjoy knowing where their food is coming from. Knowing that the figs featured on their salad are the same ones growing on the tress 20 feet away is a lot of fun and should be included on the menu when possible. Ask your chef to be descriptive in his menus sharing all the details about the food including the farms it came from.
Here are just a few design tips if you’re Napa bound for your wedding & celebration:
Go residential all the way with a touch of refined luxury. Think understated elegance with a wedding that feels more inspired by your favorite interior designer than any other wedding out there.
A baby grand overlooking the vineyards is the perfect juxtaposition of sophistication and nature. Pure bliss!
Farm to table ingredients, seasonal fare and course after course of the purest foods you will ever have. No matter what the menu consists of, go fresh and seasonal above all else.
Wine, of course! But don’t just choose your wine willy nilly. Talk to your chef who will be sure to pair your wine perfectly for each course.
Go effortless in your decor and to play on the natural environment, consider moments of rustic touches like favors packaged in natural kraft paper or escort cards from clothes pins.
Napa is the birthplace of Bouchon, the country’s best macarons, so give your day a french influence, by spoiling your guests with these wonderful and sweet treats.
Ahhh…Napa. There’s no place that makes you want to relax, eat and just be romantic more than this area. It’s seriously one of our favorite places on the planet and therefore one of the best spots to become newlyweds. Bring your family & friends here and you might have the best little destination wedding out there. Here are just a few of our favorite to dos when planning a weekend celebration in the wine country:
FOR THE LADIES
Take your best girls to Domaine Carneros to tour their facility including a French inspired Chateau followed by a tasting of some of the region’s best sparkling wine.
FOR THE GUYS
Send the guys off to Sonoma to visit John Ash & Co. for one of the area’s best culinary experiences and an atmosphere designed for the guy’s guy.
THE WELCOME PARTY
Set up a wine shuttle to give your guests both a tour of the area and as many tastings as they can handle. Explore both the history and the all around deliciousness that Napa is known for.
MORNING AFTER BRUNCH
Don’t let your guests leave the area without brunch at the famous Bouchon. The perfect way to thank them for spending the weekend with you.
JUST THE TWO OF YOU
After your guests leave, grab a simple picnic lunch and head over to V. Sattui for a peaceful tasting and lunch to reflect on the weekend.