Gina & Bret

When Bret Bustos of Alameda met Gina Hart the spark between them was instant. They began to date and as their love and friendship blossomed, it became clear to Bret that Gina was the one for him. This ultimately led Bret to pop the question to which Gina happily said yes. Now that Gina & Bret had officially declared their love for each other, it was time to start planning their dream wedding. As they began the process, there were two things they were certain of. First, the wedding would take place in Alameda, the town that Bret grew up in with his family having a rich history. Alameda is Gina’s new home that she has also grown to love as it has provided both of them so many great memories of family and friends. Second, the wedding would be a 1920’s themed wedding paying homage to the Art Deco era. With their vision clear, they had to assemble a team to help create and execute their wedding vision. Their first step was to hire a wedding planner. Their criteria for a planner was very clear. They wanted a planner who was creative, experienced and organized. In order for Gina and Bret to have the wedding day of their dreams, a few things had to happen. They had a venue to transform, a select team of vendors to hire and a budget to maintain. The right planner was critical in achieving this goal.

Wedding Planner
Gina and Bret decided to work with Sanford Marshall, Owner of The Wedding Coach. The Wedding Coach is a full service event planning company based in Alameda. Sanford Marshall has spent over 15 years producing weddings and events in the luxury category. The Wedding Coach has a philosophy that immediately resonated with Gina and Bret. The Wedding Coach believes the bride and groom deserves to enjoy the entire planning process from start to finish. “Don’t let the stress of planning your wedding spoil your enjoyment of this beautiful process.There are so many special moments in this journey to the altar, relish every one of them.” says Sanford Marshall.

Now with the planner on board equipped with a clear understanding of their vision, it was time to build the team of vendors who would all work together to provide Gina & Bret with their dream wedding. Little did any of them know their dream wedding would not only display their amazing love and affection, it would also serve as a day that brought together a host of local vendors and venues providing to be a showcase of some of the best that Alameda and Oakland has to offer.

The backdrop for this magical day would be at a private residence in Alameda. Gina and Bret wanted a unique space for this intimate gathering of family and friends. They wanted a space they could transform to achieve a certain look and feel. A space that would allow the vibe to feel like you were entertaining friends in your home, then retreating to a backyard celebration. This venue allowed just that.

Gina had one place in mind to try on wedding dresses – Lilac Dress Boutique of Alameda. The owner, Pilar Burlingham, has uniqueness all her own when it comes to giving spot-on advice on what style looks fantastic on you. In February 2009, she opened her own dress boutique–’Lilac’–named after her two children, Leila and Isaac. Lilac is a boutique specializing in special occasion dresses with an emphasis on contemporary and destination wedding gowns. They also carry a collection of dresses perfect for cocktail and engagement parties, prom, rehearsal dinners and that upcoming trip or honeymoon. In addition to this selection of dresses, they offer casual clothing and accessories, such as jeans, tee-shirts and sweaters. In 2012, Pilar has added a mens section to her store.

Gina chose an elegant evening gown in silver silk charmeuse by Maria Bianca Nero. It looked like the perfect vintage gown to celebrate in style.


For their ceremony the choice was clear. David Mann, owner of La Val’s Pizza in Alameda. Dave performed a beautiful ceremony in the backyard filled with love, humor and great advice based upon his many years of marriage.




Gina and Bret wanted a caterer that would showcase local, fresh California cuisine and Royal Raspberry Catering did just that! From the Prosciutto di Parma, perfectly wrapped around local asparagus spears, to the tender grilled Tri-Tip of Beef with their freshly harvested rosemary and oregano, every dish wowed the guests. Royal Raspberry Catering provided top notch service, as their professional, smiling staff made sure every guest was taken care of. The food and the service from Royal Raspberry was impeccable and guests gave rave reviews all night.

Susan Bell was Gina’s choice for her flowers. Susan Bell is a local Alameda florist specializing in personalizing her arrangements for every client no matter what occasion. On this day, Susan added a special crystal sparkle to Gina’s bouquet to give it a vintage Deco feel. . . and even went so far as to give Gina her own mother’s 20′s style Deco bracelet as a gift.

Mitch Aidelbaum from San Francisco, a personal friend of Gina and Bret, immediately knew that if Gina and Bret wanted images that would capture their theme, then the space must be at the Alameda Theatre.

When the Alameda Theatre opened in 1932, it was a glamorous Art Deco movie palace. Throughout the decades, it fell on hard times, but in 2000, the City of Alameda became formally involved in its restoration. A three-part $37.3 million restoration has restored it to its original glory. The lush textures and rich colors would allow Gina and Bret to go back in time and pay homage to the Art Deco era. Mitch’s amazing eye for detail and simple approach made the photographs come alive and allowed him to capture images that are simply stunning.

To ensure their guests would be able to dance the night away, they needed the perfect DJ. A DJ who brings the right energy and style to each and every event. The DJ who achieved this goal was Domingo Reynolds, a.k.a, DJ Hellagood. He has a great local following and reputation for spectacular showmanship and amazing sets that keeps the crowd moving.

The key to the transformation of the venue came down to lighting. Gina really wanted a certain look and feel that would round out the experience. Quantum Music Event Planners provided the perfect package that provided romance and drama utilizing market lights and other accents.


Gina wanted to add something a little different than just the cake at her wedding. The special touch would be accomplished by serving her guests Madeleines from a local Alameda vendor, Donsuemor. These are not your ordinary cookie, it’s a moist little cake with a fresh, unforgettable taste. Gina and Bret also wanted to experience the traditional cutting of the cake. This delightful cake was made from local pastry chef, Caty Kobe and allowed Gina and Bret to experience every magical moment they desired.



The centerpieces captured that vintage look perfectly with Gina’s DIY project of assorted vintage glass plates glued together with candlesticks, champagne glasses and other unique items that transformed them into cake plates. The madeleines topped the cake plates perfectly adding that sweet touch. The Art Deco candle on variety vintage plates added to the romantic ambiance and the gold framed table numbers in Art Deco font rounded off the display.




All of these individual elements when standing alone are already impressive, but on this day as they were all interwoven, they helped make a magical wedding day for this beautiful couple. It truly displayed why a wedding in Alameda can be a special place to have your dream wedding.

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Tips for Finding the Right Officiant

Here is a recent wedding I had the privilege of serving as the Officiant. It was a fabulous couple and their ceremony truly reflected the love they have for each other. This got me thinking about what advice  could be helpful to couples planning their wedding ceremonies.

First sit down separately and identify what you would like your ceremony to look and feel like.  Share your vision with your partner so you can both hear what the other is thinking. This allows you to prepare to collaborate.

Take your shared vision and start your search for an Officiant. Make sure to have a list of important elements you want in your ceremony and ask the Officiant if they are able to customize the ceremony you wish.

Meet with your Officiant and see if there is a nice chemistry between you all. This can make all the difference in the ceremony experience. You want there to be a sense of trust and comfort between you all.

Once you have booked your Officiant, have them create a sample ceremony so you can give feedback on what you liked and disliked. This process allows your ceremony to be customized to your exact wishes.

After the ceremony script has been approved. Relax and enjoy the ride! May all your dreams come true!

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The Wedding Coach – Our Latest Wedding

Please take a moment and watch our latest wedding film – A Timeless Classic. Mark Hopkins in San Francisco:

Calvo / Smith Wedding

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Personalizing Your Decor

Once you’ve pegged down all the big-ticket items for you event it’s time to get to the fun part – décor!Choosing the décor for your event is your chance to really let your imagination run wild and your personality shine.The basis for your décor will come from your colors and your theme.  To find inspiration look through blogs or head over to the Knot to peruse the receptions by color. When determining your décor, think of the event as a whole – the feeling and look you want to convey.  Then narrow in on thedetails, starting with your centerpieces.  The décor from your centerpieces can then carry over into the rest of your event.A major aspect of your décor will be flowers. What types of flowers speak to you?  Do you imagine lush centerpieces overflowing with peonies?  Or do you picture a row of vintage vases holding a single rose in each?  What else do you see on your tables?  Will you sprinkle flower petals, pearls or tea lights?photo by Rock the Imagephoto by Becker

Will you have chalkboards naming your tables, modern frames with the table numbers, or perhaps wine bottles with customized labels directing your guests to their seats?

Now move your mind’s eye to the rest of the tables in the room. What elements from your centerpieces will be placed on your cake, guest book and gift tables? Will you personalize the event through wedding pictures from your relatives, or will you highlight your engagement photos? Will you use a traditional guest book, a thumbprint tree ora photo-booth to capture your guests’ messages to you?Be sure to narrow in on the ambiance of the room, as well as the specific décor. Will the room be illuminated through candelabras or chandeliers? Will you line the rafters with paper lanterns or will you shine your colors against the walls with uplights? No matter what you decide to do, don’t limit yourself to traditional elements. If you’d rather decorate with oversized balloons than flowers – go for it!  Consider using barrels instead of smaller tables for a rustic event. Or for a more modern spin bring in lounge furniture in bold colors or black and white. Have fun and dream of all your options!photo by Krissy McCabe       

May All Your Dreams Come True!

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Budgeting: The blueprint for your event

Creating a budget is one of the first crucial steps in event planning. If done with great care, the budget will be a guide and a tool for the rest of the planning process. In many respects, your budget will be the blueprint for your event. You will use this to outline all aspects of the affair. Will you have a live band? Will you have an open bar? Will you mail save the dates? All of these questions must be answered when developing your budget. More so, each aspect of the event will be given a value and priority depending on the budget percentage you allot to that line item.There are many guides to determine the percentage of the budget you should apply to different aspects of your event. However, these are just suggestions and ultimately this will depend on your priorities. One guide recommends 8% of the budget to go to photography, while another recommends 12%, but if you found the perfect photographer and she is 15% of your budget go for it! Just make sure you subtract that additional percentage from another aspect of the event. If your estimated budget is over what you want to spend, your actual budget doesn’t have a chance to stay in check.When building your budget, be sure to take gratuity into account. Some vendors will include gratuity in their bills so review the contract or ask your contact. If you loved your makeup artist feel free to tip her 15-20% as you would at any salon. But factor this in to your estimated budget so if you would like to tip those who really made the day special, you are able to do so without blowing your budget out of the water.Also, consider areas you may be able to save. If you are having your reception in the garden of a small bed and breakfast, you will probably save on flowers. If you designed a signature cocktail, consider skipping champagne for your toasts and let your guests continue enjoying the drinks they have in hand. Look for a reception site that has tables, chairs and flatware to reduce your rental cost.Once you have a methodically plotted your budget, don’t shove it in a file to be buried under wedding magazines and proposals. Refer back to your budget when meeting with new vendors and update it with your actual costs. You’ll be thankful for the peace of mind when the big day arrives.May All Your Dreams Come True! 

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Finding the Right Theme for You

Your wedding will be the best day of your life. If you are like a lot of brides you are equally overwhelmed and excited by all of the possibilities for that one magical day. You need invitations, flowers, centerpieces and not to mention a dress! But all of those exquisite details need a common thread. Before you run off to your first bridal fair step back and picture your day. What will be the theme that captures not only your and your fiancés personalities, but the color of your future?When brainstorming themes let your imagination run wild! What time of year will your wedding be held? Do you want to highlight the freshness of spring with a natural theme bursting with fresh-picked daisies or baby’s breath? Or does the summer sun speak to you with a picnic theme complete with checkered napkins? For daring brides, the new black wedding dress trend would look superb in a Halloween wedding.The setting of your wedding can also steer your theme. Your beachside nuptials can embrace lighthouses in a nautical theme or your signature cocktail could don an umbrella for your luau reception. A vineyard wedding may embrace a classic theme with candelabras offsetting the lush vines, or  it could be rustic with chalkboards directing your guests.Wedding planning will creep into your mind constantly until the big day arrives. Be sure you love your theme and it’s something you can personalize over and over again in the coming months.Whether you want your day to exude vintage grace or modern awe, make it yours! May All Your Dreams Come True! 

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