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Julie Ann was my doula for my son's May 2013 birth at Stanford.
i cannot rave enough about a) having a doula and b) having Julie Ann be that doula!
1) Knowledge & Experience: Julie Ann was extremely knowledgeable about every detail - small or large - regarding birth either in a regular hospital like Stanford or if you choose to do it at home. Julie Ann's advice led me to take measures to encourage my contractions to start after my water had broken, which saved me from needing Pitocin. My OB said if I'd had Pitocin & Epidural, I would not have had the strength to push at the end and would likely have had a c-section.
2) Empathy: Julie Ann has a very empathetic interpersonal style. It's so important you're comfortable with the person helping you deliver. She somehow telepathically knew when I wanted guidance in labor, and when I needed to be left alone to focus on the effort of labor. She also tactfully handled my relatives who were dying to know what was going on.
3) Communication: Julie Ann is really easy to get a hold of (pretty important for a doula!) and overall very responsive over email/phone/text.
Thank you Julie Ann for making my birth such a positive, wonderful, dare I say transcendant experience! :)
Chris and Brent are the.most.welcoming.hosts.ever!
We were their first wedding couple, and they made our special weekend so much more special with their graciousness and downright kindness. We are part of the Luxe family, as is our bridal party who stayed in the Luxe. By booking the whole place, the Luxe became our chalet for our wedding with Chris and Brent as our hosts. If you're getting married and considering staying in the Luxe, it's great to have the whole place to yourself.
****They went so far above-and-beyond that I only have room for a subset of examples:****
- They let us invite all our friends from the wedding over to have a catered brunch on their porch
- They made all our guests feel welcome and part of the extended Luxe family
- They let us make print outs for the wedding at the last minute
- They were so supportive and helpful when thrown with some challenges.. like when a friend wanted to leave a dog in the room during the ceremony, they pulled out a spare dog crate they just happened to have-
- so many more ways - they just have an awesome "can-do" attitude that makes you put all your faith in them.
Breakfast is on par with good places for brunch in SF (and we're foodies).
The decor is modern yet cosy and warm - lots of light tones and warm colors decorate the rooms. They have some amazing pieces of furniture... our friends actually bought the same chandelier they had because they liked it so much. Chris and Brent are redefining warm and comfortable B&B design.
Nothing but props for the two sweetest innkeepers we've ever met. We look forward to coming back on future anniversaries.
Beth Welch Snellings played cello at our wedding in July 2011 in Calistoga. She's easy to work with, is reasonably priced and the cello sounded beautiful during our outdoor ceremony. I'd highly recommend her music to others -- she's very talented!
She doesn't only do event music as a solo cellist, she is also a cello teacher, a string orchestra director and a chamber music coach.
She came to me highly recommended.
My experience with Papers and Petals was the only stressful part about wedding planning.
If you are a prospective customer, MAKE SURE you find out how much everything will cost before you put down a deposit or buy a dress.
I had an AMAZING experience trying on dresses at Papers and Petals. Nicole was truly wonderful -- she asked me what my preferences were (did I want simple or princessy?), what my budget was ($1000 and under) and what type of venue it was (church or beach)? Then she sat me and my maid of honor down on the comfy couch and pulled out about 8 dresses for me to try. I could've walked away with about 5 that all fit me off the rack. There was especially one that fit me well, Maggie Sottero Vivien, that I nearly bought right then and there.
I ended up coming back a second time and buying a $750 Maggie Sottero dress. One of the reasons that I chose the dress was because when I tried it on, it fit great off the rack! I was excited by the fact that I'd probably only need a hem alteration. Moreover, I was excited that I was going to spend under $1000 for my dress (savings which justified getting the more expensive venue and fancy caterers :) I never understood why women spend several thousand dollars on a dress for one night only to spray it with preservatives and hang it up in a closet for a lifetime. That said, these dresses made me glow.
Anyway, after ordering the dress and getting it 5 months later, it was HUGE. It didn't fit a single part of my body -- it had to be taken in EVERYWHERE.. the bust, the waist, the hips, the hem.... in no way did it resemble the dress I tried on. When I was suddenly faced with $650 in alteration fees (plus the initial $150 rush fee since I was getting married in 6 months....fine), I started choking up at the counter. When Georgette saw how upset I was, she discounted $125 off the alterations cost and gave me a veil for free ($60 on sale). I felt a bit better, but a few days later after digesting my thoughts, I called Georgette to explain how I felt that I hadn't been dealt with in an upfront manner. I told her that I really wish someone had walked me through expected costs if I went with Dress A or Dress B, or even just prepared me for the anticipated costs of alterations. I, like most people, are accustomed to buying clothes off the rack, so my expectations may have been misguided and its their role to set me straight. She said that most brides know that you need alterations and they're going to be expensive, and she was very polite in hearing my side of the story, and it was cathartic to just be able to tell her why I was so crestfallen.
So my words of advice to Papers and Petals are that they could really make their business stellar if they were clear about ALL costs up front, even at the risk of scaring prosepective customers off. With the two dress choices I had, I would have bought the sample that fit me off the rack and still given them business instead of buying the dress that needed all the alterations.
Words of advice to prospective customers is to make sure you know what the total cost is going to be BEFORE paying anything for a dress. Don't let yourself get surprised. Ask "Is there anything else I need to know?" before making any decisions. My final impression is that I would still go there because of the great initial experience with Nicole, but if I went again I'd go with a lot more caution and knowledge than the first time around.
Sara did the floral design for our July 2011 wedding. I should preface this review by saying that one of the reasons I chose the particular venue was because it was a beautiful garden, and I thought we could afford a little higher priced venue if we saved on flowers.
Despite my inability to decide on a floral style until a couple of weeks before the date, she created numerous masterpieces for us. I can't wait to see the wedding photos to remember every lovely little detail she concocted.
To prepare, I met Sara in San Anselmo and she showed me pictures of what previous brides had selected to try and get an idea of my style. I wasn't looking for "traditional American bride" -- rather, I wanted flowers that were beautiful, expressive, and a little funky, a little edgy. We came up with a pie-in-the-sky floral design that was really fun, but a bit over my budget once everything was priced out. So I gave Sara a more realistic figure and she was able to incorporate some of the funky flower ideas (like monkey tails) into the designs while still in keeping with our budget.
On the day of the wedding, when I walked out of the bridal salon and happened upon my bouquet and the bridesmaid bouquets sitting on the table, my jaw dropped. They were so beautiful. White peonies, chocolate cosmos, vivid spring green hydrangea, and those wonderful little monkey tails.
The main two centerpieces were a work of art as well.
Sara was able to balance my budget with my desire to make a unique design that I couldn't really articulate well without knowing all the names of the flowers and make last-minute adjustments the week leading up to the wedding (and even the night before the wedding).
I would strongly recommend her to other brides.
Elaine Bell Catering was on our wedding venue's list of preferred caterers, along with 9 or so other catering companies. After narrowing down the list to about 5 caterers, we went and did tastings. 4 out of 5 had something missing.... either the food was uninspiring or the staff made us wary. Then we went to Elaine Bell. Initially what attracted me to them over the other caterers was that their food is mostly locally sourced and sustainably caught or harvested. This was really important to us, because we feel if you want to lower your environmental footprint, a great opportunity to make wise choices is when you're making choices for a large group of people, like at a wedding. Most importantly, their food was the most creative of the group and simply tasted the best.
During the tasting, Emily, who was our contact at EBC, described the philosophy of Elaine Bell Catering and walked us through each of the meals. The 3 courses for the tasting were exquisitely prepared and presented. EBC was hands-down the best catering company for 3 reasons: 1) the food was creative and well executed, 2) the staff was always friendly, professional, communicative and clearly love what they do, and 3) their catering contract was clear and easy to understand, unlike a lot of other contracts we saw. No hidden costs buried in the depths. That said, they were about 10% more expensive than the other caterers we looked at, but we felt due to the reasons above, the extra money was well spent.
WE MADE THE RIGHT CHOICE. On the day of our wedding, EBC was taking charge of everything. Sandy was on staff just to attend to the bride and groom (bringing me champagne and St. Germain up to the bridal room beforehand, which was sooooo nice!). All the servers were friendly and looked like they were having fun. The food was just as it was at our tasting. Our guests raved about the presentation and taste (and they had high expectations of us, knowing that we love food and good SF restaurants).
Our menu was:
Fresh Vegetarian Rice Wrapper Spring Rolls
Sonoma Figs, Vella White Cheddar, Crispy Arborio Risotto Cakes
Oak Hill Farm Red and Yellow Cherry Tomatoes
Salad of Baby Organic Greens
Balsamic Roasted Black Grapes, St. George White Cheddar
Spiced Black Walnuts, Shaved Fuji Apples and Balsamic Apple Cider Vinaigrette
Choice of Main Course
Black Angus Skirt Steak
with Balsamic Black Fig Thyme Reduction
Fresh Brentwood Corn, Young Leek and Yukon Gold Potato Ragout
Poached Campari Tomatoes
Micro Basil Salad
Crispy Seared Salmon with Creamy Leek Fondutta
Multi-Colored Roasted Marble Potatoes
Sunburst Squash, Baby Carrots and
Caramelized Pearl Onions
Ten Vegetable Terrine
of Potatoes and Summer Vegetables
Served with Red and Yellow Bell Pepper Coulis
and Fresh Garden Vegetables
The only suggestions for improvement I'd have are:
- Initially EBC was a little hard to get a hold of. They had a system malfunction around the time that we were deciding to go with them and were hard to get in contact with, either by phone or email. Their calendaring/scheduling software and email had apparently gone down, so maybe it's time to switch to web-based email (and maybe that's what they did!). However, this vastly improved as the wedding date neared.
Jasmine came to us recommended by our neighbors and my brother, who had had one of Jasmine's cakes for his wedding one year before ours. We looked around at other cakemakers in SF, but found that no one matched the creativity and artistic expression of the FLAVORS of cake that Jasmine will do. You can go with her expert recommendations, or you can come up with whatever wild and crazy flavor you can think of and she'll encourage you onward and steer you in the direction of something yummy! She has a genuine passion for cakemaking, she's professional and she's easy to work with.
Here were our cake flavor finalists for a 3 tier cake for 100-110 people:
1. Champagne cake with passionfruit curd and mascarpone cream
2. Chocolate cake with salted caramel and Bulleit bourbon
3. Sesame-ginger cake with green tea matcha cream
Yes, she's creative!! We decided on the top 2 flavors only due to the size and shape of our cake, but she said she'd make us a sesame cake with seaweed and wasabe if we wanted! It's also wonderful that she doesn't charge by the numbers of different flavors you choose, rather by size. Our cake was $9/slice. She'll do sheet cake with the same flavors at $3/slice if you need more cake.
I wish I had some of the cake in front of me now. It was absolutely divine.
She was also flexible and creative on the design of the cake. We showed her the invitations of the wedding and she was able to model the cake after them. It was beautiful.
My fiance and I researched over 75+ wedding venues in the Bay Area that could cater to a wedding with 100 - 120 guests. We live in San Francisco, so we were looking for a venue that our friends and family could either make a weekend of our wedding and stay at or still drive home from our wedding if they had commitments they couldn't escape from. We were also looking for a place that lets us stay until 11pm in the evening, and somewhere that made us feel connected to nature. Hans Fahden, after all the research, was the first place we looked at on Dec. 31 2010. It was dreary and wet, yet the beauty of this winery shone through. We looked at several other places and a week later decided on Hans Fahden (since they only had 4 Saturday dates left for 2011 at that point!). They book up pretty fast, and it's understandable why.
We had our wedding in July 2011.
Here's a summary of our experience:
- Hands down the most beautiful place you can have your wedding. From the ponds, to the loving care that Antone puts into his gardens, to the great room and the wine cave, the venue is elegant and classy while at the same time being close to nature. It's also a place you can really have a great party in (and not just quietly admire).
- Having the ceremony and the reception at the same location is great. The different 'layers of the onion' that Hans Fahden offers, from the ceremony by the pond to the great room to the wine cave keeps guests interested and moving around the site.
- Their wedding packet that they give you when you visit gives you a lot of information that helps you in the wedding planning process, like a list of all the hotels in the region. Also, during our initial visit, they walked us around the usual flow of the events, and it helped us visualize how the day would go. It's a small thing, but we really missed that when looking at other comparable venues.
- The fact that they provide a day-of coordinator is a HUGE plus.
- You have the whole place to yourself, so you really feel like it's YOUR event. You're not squeezed in alongside other things going on.
- If Hilke Weston is your wedding coordinator, you're in for a treat. I relaxed as soon as Hilke was in command. She's one of those people that can just handle anything that comes her way. She's very professional, and at the same time, really a joy to work with. She'll put you at ease.
- Initially I felt a little restricted by their required caterer list. We're foodies, so the food was hugely important to us. However, their recommended caterer list offers really all the good caterers in the Napa Valley -- I didn't feel like I missed out at all. Better yet, after you've already researched venues ad nauseum, a little narrowing down of the options is a boon, and we ended up with caterers who knew the event space and prepared excellent food.
Our guests were raving at the beauty of Hans Fahden. Everyone had such a great time. I hope I get invited to a Hans Fahden wedding in the future!!
Suggestions that would make it better (every review needs a 'could be improved' section, but I'm grasping at straws a bit):
- Perhaps updating the vendor list on the website (beyond the caterers) would be a good idea. I found some great vendors off the list that belong on there, such as Calistoga 360 Salon for hair.
- Related to the above, it would be great to have the hotel list sectioned off into categories for price range and 1 or 2 night minimum. Probably the biggest downside of having your wedding in Calistoga is the shortage of hotels that allow 1-night only stays. Most have a 2-night minimum, and guests who want 1-night only either have to stay in really simple hotels or have to stay in Santa Rosa. Hotels are also really pricey in Calistoga (avg. $250-$300/nt). If you're thinking of having your wedding in Calistoga, try and do the hotel research beforehand
(this isn't any criticism of Hans Fahden, rather Calistoga hotel options).
- Liquor options: if you want to have hard liquor, Hans Fahden requires you to go through Best Beverage Company, which we found expensive and unaccommodating. All we really wanted to do was to add a few mixed drinks the wine and beer we were providing, but this was going to cost us several thousands of dollars more. We went with just beer and wine instead.
- Bands have to be 6-pieces or fewer (probably due to noise levels more than space). This eliminated our first choice band for our wedding (but we found a fantastic band nonetheless).
I had Calistoga 360 booked for my July wedding on location. My hair was done EXACTLY as I had hoped for.. half up with long loose spirals with some silk flowers in it and Swarovski pearl embellishments (which I provided). Everything held in place beautifully despite a lot of dancing (and I found out why after I took it out... so many bobby pins!). My maid-of-honor was able to easily remove the veil and my hair held together wonderfully. I would definitely recommend Kyla to other brides. Plus, their prices are AMAZING - very reasonable compared to what some other places charge for wedding hairdos.
Additionally, Kyla was able to fit in my bridesmaid for some simple styling on the day of without any advance notice. She looked beautiful, too.
Why only four stars and not five? I booked Calistoga360Salon a couple months ahead of my wedding date, and on the day-of at our appointment time, there was no one there yet.... so once I called they rushed over and apologized a million times over. They have recently switched appointment systems to prevent something like this from happening again, but it was a little worrisome at the time! After that slightly stressful moment, I ended up with amazing, unbelievable hair.
Due to the delays with the Stripping Workshop, my project was delayed FOUR MONTHS. It was one simple door, nothing too complicated.
Between my boyfriend and I, we left about a dozen messages and finally when I was right about to call the Better Business Bureau, they called and I got the door back. The day I got the door back, I stayed home from work so I could be there even if they didn't call before dropping it off, and after 3 desperate messages they finally came by in the evening at 7:30pm
Do they have a monopoly on paint stripping in the Bay Area?
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