Stephanie and Michele share the story of their Los Angeles County wedding—all about good friends, good food and making memories to last a lifetime.
Location: Saddle Peak Lodge in Calabasas, California
The Venue: Nestled in the stunning and world-famous Malibu Canyon, Saddle Peak Lodge offers a rich history and old-time setting that many venues in Los Angeles can’t come close to. At one time, the building served as a Pony Express station; there are incredible historical photos of the location, giving off a feeling of the palpable narrative within the actual space. The inside is cavernous and spacious, with interesting decor—including antique books, lamps and taxidermy, resulting in an incredibly unique style. Outside, the patio extends offering a gorgeous backdrop.
The selling point for us, however, was the food and food service. We both agreed: It had to be stellar. The Saddle Peak Lodge is a four-star Michelin-rated venue with an out-of-this-world menu, we knew we were in good hands.
Theme & Decor: Well, we aren’t typical brides. We’re not into themes, centerpieces and knickknacks—we didn’t even have a bridal party. We wanted the venue to speak for itself, while we concentrated on ourselves, the quality of the day and our guests. We opted for a light, early Jazz “mood” versus theming to the nines. Our colors (classic black, white and tan/neutral) were used on our invitations, menu and program, which included the details for the day and naturally, the after-party.
Michele’s sisters, Kerry and Nadine, came out a week early to get our butts in order. They offered to create baskets of useful items for the restrooms. In both baskets, we offered combs/brushes, hairspray, deodorant, breath mints—but the real hit for the ladies ended up being a gag: plastic rings sporting 2-carat fake diamonds. The girls gobbled those up, taking photos and really adding to the light, fun atmosphere. Neither of us were interested in taking ourselves—or the day—too seriously.
The Cake: Instead of wedding cake, we opted for a cupcake spread. Our favorite local shop, SusieCakes, provided the cupcakes and our best friend Lenny set it up beautifully. “Cake toppers” for the cupcake tier were edible sculptures of our two Airedale Terriers and our Maltese. They were just adorable and totally made it personal without being tacky. We even had a designated cupcake usher, who told folks when it was time for the grand presentation.
Our guestbook was also nontraditional. We ordered a handmade sign, with our initials in a heart. Designed to be a wall piece, we now have it in our entryway. The elegance offered by the venue, plus these unique personal touches, made it easy for us to move past the pressure of decorating every last detail.
Our band, well, I don’t know where to begin. Part of an ensemble called the Lucky Devils, we chose a seven-piece arrangement touting two lead singers, Malynda Hale and Michael Cartwright. Malynda’s voice and range rivals classic jazz veterans, snd she possesses the ability to seamlessly transition to contemporary hits (Etta James to Amy Winehouse). While Michael adds his Stevie Wonder-to-Prince flair, and keeps the dance floor rocking. They are both truly remarkable performers—we are still receiving comments on how fun the band was.
Special Moments: (Stephanie) When I think back on the entire day a few things instantly come to mind—which says a lot, since the whole day was made up entirely of amazing, memorable moments. The first is the minute or so waiting to walk down the aisle while Michele made her way down (we both walked down the aisle, one at a time.) Knowing there were 135 people just around the corner but it being so, so, so quiet was nerve-wracking. I had nothing to hold me up, and my heart was pounding so hard. I am surprised more brides don’t pass out, to be honest.
I also immediately think about dancing with my uncle David. Both of my parents are deceased, so he’s the closest thing to a patriarch for me. I’ve always had a great time with my uncle, and dancing to “Stand By Me” with him while Michele danced with her father was really a special moment for me—and a lot of fun because we both had had more than a few drinks by that point and, in the style of our day, neither me nor my uncle were taking anything too seriously.
There’s something to be said for having every single person you really care about in this world show up for you, wearing real dress pants, arriving on time, to celebrate with you. Months later it still makes me feel warm.
The Dress(es): (Stephanie) I picked the third dress I tried on. My process took five minutes. Haley at Nordstrom Topanga instinctively “got it” when I said I wanted something classic but modern with no frills. Boom. Done. I was incredibly happy with my dress, which was the Caroline DeVillo ‘Abigail’, and Haley was an absolute rock star with fittings, fussings and all of the nonsense brides say in the Wedding Suite at Nordstrom. We loved her so much, she was even invited to the wedding—we still look for her when we go to Nordies to shop. We love her.
(Michele) So… I had a slightly different experience than Stephanie, in that even at my third bridal appointment, I was not set on a certain gown. After all the appointments, all the free Perriers and many talks with Haley (the most patient woman in the world), she found me the perfect gown. Literally. She went in the back, got a gown that I hadn’t yet seen, and put it on me, without me even looking at it … and it was the one. I wore a Hayley Paige ‘Cricket’ gown and could not have been happier with the fit and quality. A word of advice to brides: Let your Nordstrom Bridal Suite stylist help you find the fit for your body. Everyone is different, and magazine photos do no one any good. People still mention how the lace of my gown blew them away, and even bring up the beauty of seeing two fantastic gowns together.
The morning of our wedding, I remembered I have my mother’s veil. She passed away when I was young, and I had it for this very reason. my best friend Kate went and plucked a white satin flower from it, and our hair stylist, Martine, helped affix it to my hair. Together with the gown, I felt complete.
Advice for other brides to be: (Stephanie) Most people planning a wedding have never planned or managed large-scale events, so they are overwhelmed and frustrated as the wedding approaches and it tends to cause friction with your soon-to-be spouse. I’ve planned several large-scale events and knew what to expect and it was *still* overwhelming. My advice is to be conscious, in advance, that you will need an extra 15% of patience beyond what you think you are capable of. Plan as much as you can ahead of time and let go of what’s not done the day of the wedding and concentrate on having fun. Don’t please anyone else, don’t listen to your mother-in-law; it’s not her wedding, it’s yours. Have fun, take a ton of pictures (hire a great photographer like ours, Josh Reiss) and go for it. All eyes will be on you that day, and if you’re not having fun, your guests won’t either.
(Michele) I got a great piece of advice from my best friend, Kate, when we were in the thick of planning. She knew I was stressed and struggling with setting aside time to plan. She told me: “Look, you have to make it fun. Get a bottle of wine and book it in your calendar for a Sunday afternoon. Make it a meeting, and stick to it.” Stephanie and I took her advice, and it worked! We got a lot done at these 2-3 afternoon meetings, and it helped mediate the seriousness of it all when it seemed like a date night (even that one time I cried).
Last Thoughts: (Stephanie) Our wedding day was meant to feel like one in the sense that there would, in fact, be a wedding at some point. There was little structure beyond “eat, drink and be married”—emphasis on the eating and drinking. And dancing. We strategized about the best way to present the day, and came up with a reversed format. Our wedding-day programming was reversed in that the brunch was first and the ceremony and reception were back to back, following the meal. This was advantageous in that it we all ate immediately, and had a couple glasses of Mumm to boot. Everyone was relaxed, fed and maybe a little sauced going into the ceremony, which, let’s be honest, is the whole point of the day, but definitely never the highlight for your guests.
(Michele) I got to have champagne too! The journey was just that: a journey. I didn’t know what a same-sex wedding would look like. I’ve been to one, but it was when I was a teenager. We should all realize that a wedding is a wedding. And ours was beautiful. I didn’t know we could do it all, and with the help of our coordinator and family and friends, we did. I get to look back on it fondly. We made a perfect day—start to finish. Is it weird that I still wear my gown to dinners and around the house?
(Stephanie) Also, we hired a photographer who excels at event photography rather than just traditional portrait/stuffy style. We wanted a more candid but unique and professional approach to the wedding, and he nailed it.
Where’s the Honeymoon: In the words of Austin Powers, “Yeah baby, yeah!” … Alaska 2016!
Photography by: Josh Reiss
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