Making Magic

With ingenuity and attention to detail, event pros help couples create the weddings of their dreams, no matter the venue

By Sara Perez Webber

They say love is blind. Weddings, however, often bring to life visions that go far beyond what the eye can see. Helping couples create their dream events are caterers, event planners and other pros, who help brides and grooms personalize their unions and navigate venue challenges—as profiled in the following four weddings.

Backyard Boho Bash

Paramount Events •

Last July, Chicago-based Paramount Events helped bring a boho-chic wedding to life for couple Emma and Solus in the backyard of a private lakeside property in Dowagiac, Mich. The Paramount team was on site from Friday, for the all-vegan rehearsal dinner, to the post-wedding brunch on Sunday morning.

“The groom is from South Africa and the couple is vegan, so incorporating vegan South African food was incredibly important to them,” says Jodi Fyfe, owner of Paramount Events. “When they came in for the tasting, they were blown away by our culinary team in how the food was represented and tasted. We knew we had a lot of pressure on us, considering Solus was the main arbiter on how the South African food tasted—and he was so pleased.”

The vegan family-style dinner menu included heirloom tomato and corn salad; focaccia basket; chakalaka; curried pasta salad; chickpea panisse with braised black kale and smoked paprika; curried cauliflower with blistered French beans, golden raisins, crispy capers, cashews, pickled thyme and zaatar; and crispy olive oil smashed potatoes. Guests could also choose two non-vegan entrees—grilled marinated bistro steak with red chimichurri and haricots verts; or boneless brick chicken with summer herb pesto, romesco and heirloom baby carrots. A full bar was served out of an onsite camper trailer, including garden martinis.

The ’70s, boho-chic vibe extended from the bride’s Spell & The Gypsy dress and flower crown, to the wicker chandeliers hanging from the tent, to the vintage rugs serving as runners for the ceremony aisle. Papayas, figs and grapefruits lined the tables, creating a mod, orangey color palette, accompanied by gold votives and silverware, and crystal-cut vintage water goblets. Cafe lights lit up the dance floor, where guests grooved to tunes from the ’60s and ’70s.

A challenge with any outdoor event, “there was a lot of back and forth about the type of tent we would use because the weather was unknown so far out from the wedding date,” says Fyfe. The bright and airy tent selected “made it feel like you weren’t even in a tent,” she adds.

Paramount rented a coach to transport its 20-plus team to the event site, about two hours from its headquarters, and two team members drove up with a refrigerated truck—packing extra food to make sure they had enough for the 110 guests.

The careful planning paid off. “The couple and their parents, who were very involved in the planning process, could not have been happier that night,” says Fyfe. “The guests raved about the food, and most of them didn’t even realize that most of the menu was vegan. There were a lot of ‘what-ifs’ leading up to the wedding, considering it was a backyard wedding—what if it rains, what if it’s 100 degrees, etc. But the night could not have been more beautiful. The weather was perfect, the sunset over the lake was incredible, and everyone’s worries seemed so minuscule by the end of the night.”

Additional vendors:

Blue Peak Tents •

Marquee Event Rentals •

Splendor of Eden •

Josh Newton and Christianne Taylor

Photo by Christianne Taylor

Photo by Josh Newton

Glamming It Up

Blue Elephant Events and Catering •

When a new venue wasn’t ready for clients who had booked it more than a year in advance, Blue Elephant Events and Catering, based in Saco, Maine, worked with area event pros to make sure the wedding came off without a hitch.

The destination-wedding clients, hailing from Georgia, fell in love with an antique warehouse complex on Casco Bay in Portland, Maine. Although the venue wasn’t open yet, it was due to be ready in plenty of time for their big day.

“From the first meeting we had with this client, they trusted us to bring their dream to life in this 27,000-square-foot space,” says Fausto Pifferrer, Blue Elephant’s co-founder and vice president. The plans included the creation of a ceremony space, dining room and reception area, all separated by hidden staff passages to allow the Blue Elephant team to travel from one end of the complex to the other without being seen. “This gave guests free reign of the space, and created individual experiences within the larger space,” notes Pifferrer.

As the wedding date drew nearer, however, “it became painfully evident that virtually nothing was going to be done except the floor,” says Pifferrer. Blue Elephant took on the task of creating everything promised, without bathrooms, a kitchen, heat or lighting.

“Fortunately, we were able to pull a team together that dove right in and was able to hide the building’s flaws and enhance its attributes in a dramatic and attractive way,” says Pifferrer. The Blue Elephant team brought in Laurie Andrews of Laurie Andrews Design to install lighting, draping and furniture; Headlight Audio/Visual to handle the rigging; and A Plus Party Rentals to supply all the event rentals—even providing a new convection oven when the first one failed. Pifferrer describes the décor as “Glam Meets Industrial” or “Atlanta Chic Meets Maine.”

The menu featured a mixed greens salad with caramelized apples and feta cheese; main course options of carved filet mignon with Maine lobster etouffee or ratatouille-stuffed portabella caps, with roasted rosemary fingerling potatoes and asparagus bundles tied with leeks; and a donut wall to accompany the wedding cake. Guests could also get a snack from a food truck serving hamburger sliders and fries. Although overbudget, the event ended with a very satisfied and grateful client, notes Pifferrer.

“That night I truly felt the team was like the Wizard of Oz, creating the illusion of a beautifully appointed venue that was really just a temporary bit of magic conjured up for one evening,” he says. “The guests had no idea of the work that had gone into this production, and that is how it should be.”

Additional vendors:

A Plus Party Rentals •

Event design:
Laurie Andrews Design •

Headlight Audio/Visual •

Nadra Photography •

Photo by Nadra Photography

Photo by Nadra Photography

Love on Lake Tahoe

Merrily Wed •

Last July, Merrily Wed helped a couple, Katey and Mario, transform a private lakeview estate perched high on a bluff in North Lake Tahoe, Calif., into their dream wedding locale.

“They knew they wanted a venue that displayed the beauty of the lake, but would also provide an opportunity for them to create a unique feel where they could showcase their personalities and creativity,” says Merrily Rocco, head designer and owner of Merrily Wed in Tahoe City, Calif. “Villa Bella was just the right place; it has a stunning view of the lake and a space that allowed Katey’s vision and Mario’s creativity to come to life.”

That vision included the bride’s desire to incorporate geometric shapes and patterns throughout the event, resulting in such details as wire-rimmed geometric glass lanterns and more than 25 hanging geometric figures, which had been welded by Mario and his cousin, Giovanni. The duo also crafted a circular arch that served as the backdrop for the vows, and a 15-foot open-air teepee, under which a poet sat during the reception, typing customized poems on a vintage typewriter.

The wedding motif of mixing shapes and patterns continued in the dining tent, where wooden farm tables alternated with round tables. A prairie-blue and white china pattern, selected by Katey for the round tables only, echoed the Mexican-inspired dinner menu—which was written on paper bags holding tortilla chips.

Passed appetizers included fresh seafood ceviche with tortilla chips and spicy whipped guacamole; artichoke heart, sun-dried tomato and onion tartlets with balsamic reduction; and quesadillas with mozzarella, pasilla chiles and black beans topped with cilantro cream. After a plated salad and tortilla chips served with salsas and guacamole, the 137 guests dined from a family-style buffet of steamed tortillas, tri-tip asada, chile-cumin marinated mahi mahi, peppers and onions, Mexican-style boiled corn and Yukon gold potato gratin. A lavish cookie bar featured such varieties as lavender tea, chocolate mudslide and gluten-free peanut butter, as well as a giant chocolate chip cookie cake.

To pull off the event, guests needed to be shuttled onto the 40-acre property, due to the long driveway. “We lined the guests’ pathway with a welcome sign and balloons,” says Rocco. “Another challenge was making sure we cleaned up at the end of the night and did not leave any scraps for the neighborhood bears! We even rented a locking dumpster to keep them out.”

The estate on the bluff proved to be the ideal canvas for the couple’s artistic touches. “Looking back, our wedding truly was a reflection of us and everything we could have ever imagined,” summed up Katey and Mario.

Additional vendors:

As You Wish Catering •

Twine & Dandy •

Cookie Bar/Dessert:
Sugar Pine Cakery •

Celebrations Party Rentals •

La Tavola Linen •

Katherine Nicole Photography •

Photo by Katherine Nicole Photography

Photo by Katherine Nicole Photography

Flying High

Culinary Creations by Metz •

A hot, empty airport hangar became a wedding venue for 300 guests, in an event spearheaded by Kathi Bankes of Metz Culinary Management, an onsite foodservice provider in Dallas, Pa. The event was so successful, it resulted in a new division for the company—Culinary Creations by Metz.

“The family runs the airport hangar and are pilots as well,” says Bankes, director of catering and special events for Culinary Creations. Transforming the hangar in Forty Fort, Pa., for the wedding “seemed like the perfect solution” for the venue, she adds. Appropriately, the bride and groom arrived by helicopter.

Working without a kitchen, the Metz team rented tents, ovens, warmers, grills, refrigerated trucks, dishes, silverware and linens to pull off the feat. The couple and their families also pitched in to add personalized touches. “The centerpieces were created by the bride, her mom and sisters, the lighting was the groom’s hard work, and the bar was refurbished by the groom’s dad,” notes Bankes.

For the cocktail hour, the culinary team presented a charcuterie display of imported and domestic cheeses, Italian meats, candied nuts, fruit, bruschetta, hummus and more for guests to graze on as they mingled. The buffet-style dinner featured chef-attended carved beef sirloin and pasta stations, as well as chicken breast in romesco sauce and oven-baked cod in lemon sauce, accompanied by grilled seasonal vegetables and roasted fingerling tomatoes.

The success of the June 2018 event prompted a steady stream of similar requests requiring creative solutions, leading to the launch of Culinary Creations in January 2019. The division has become a one-stop catering shop for events ranging from weddings to corporate breakfasts.

As for the wedding that started it all, the clients “loved every minute of the night and so did we,” says Bankes. “We walked into a completely bare facility and created a night to remember!”

Additional vendors:

Amanda Brooke Photography •

Photo by Amanda Brooke Photography

Photo by Amanda Brooke Photography