Mad Men in Napa: The Wedding

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The Elegant Chuppa; Flowers by Fleurs de France

This past Labor Day Weekend, my husband and I were invited to the most exquisite wedding celebration we have ever attended.  My friend Paul married his partner Eliav, at the Calistoga Ranch in California’s Napa Valley, in a ‘Mad Men In Napa’, 1960s- themed wedding.

Friends and family participated in three days of wedding festivities which included lots of wine and food, love and laughter, and renewed friendships.

This is, by far, the most elegant, generous, and thoughtful wedding I have ever attended!

I will give you all of the fun and fancy details in a bit, but let’s begin with love and friendship which is what Mad Men in Napa was really all about.

img_1789Let’s Talk About The Love…

Paul and Eliav have been together for over 22 years, after Paul answered an ad in The Chicago Reader newspaper.  Eliav knew before Paul that they were meant to be together, but it didn’t take Paul that much longer to figure this out!  Both partners love traveling, fine dining, collecting wine, and taking in cultural events.  They also love spending time with family and friends and, from the speeches given, these treasured relationships have only grown deeper over time.

Paul and Eliav’s wedding was even more special not only because we know how long-lasting and solid their love is after more than 20 years together, but because it was a celebration of life yesterday, today, and tomorrow, coincident with the landmark Obergefell vs Hodges case legalizing same-sex marriage in every state.  As such, the grooms’ marriage is symbolic of the natural progression of rights over time as well as a blending of the grooms’ families, cultures, and religions.

IMG_1821…Let’s Talk About The Friendships…

I met Paul in London a long, long time ago.  We were on a Junior Year Abroad program at the London School of Economics where we lived in a flat at 37 Nottingham Place, with about 25 other students from various American colleges.  We had a group of friends that traveled together to places like Scotland, Wales, Spain, and the then Soviet Union.  We explored London neighborhoods and attended the theater on Tuesdays when it was student discount day.  And, of course, we spent many many nights at the local pub, talking about Ronald Reagan and politics!  Although we were only in London for about 3 months, the friendships and bonds we made would last for a long time and attending Paul and Eliav’s wedding confirmed this.

Paul has been the one who has kept us all connected over the years.  He has been the hub of our friendship network, spending time with me when he would come to Toronto on business.  On a couple of these trips, Eliav joined Paul, and our families met.  When Paul and I saw each other in Toronto, we would visit an art exhibit or a local antique store. Paul would always send me an email in advance with lists and links to the best new restaurants in my own city!  Yes, if you know Paul and Eliav, you know what I’m talking about.

Paul would also fill me in on our ‘LSE friends’ that he would see over the years. Sometimes I would just get a quick email saying that he had been in Chicago or New York over the weekend and that he had seen one of our friends.  So, bringing us together after all of these years seemed like the most natural of things.  Meeting each other’s spouses and significant others was a real treat.  And, by extension, meeting and getting to know invited friends and family of the grooms was easy because of the close connections with the couple that we all share.

img_2055…And Now, Let’s Talk About All Of The Fun!

As you’ve read, this is no ordinary love…and the celebrations were no ordinary celebrations!

The planning for Mad Men In Napa was a year in the making, the wedding lasted for three days, and the memories are forever.  Here’s the journey we experienced as guests.

In January, we received a ‘Save the Date’ in the form of a boarding pass, with the wedding dates and a pin indicating Napa Valley as the destination.  In other words, consider your Labor Day Weekend 2016 plans made.  We also received a website address to keep us informed of up-to-date wedding details.  Did I mention that a Mad Men in Napa logo had been developed with the silhouette of two men holding wine looking out at vineyards?  The grooms are fanatics of the 1960s and Mad Men (the TV show depicting the lives of advertising executives on Madison Avenue in the 60s) and even own pieces of furniture from the set like Don Draper’s office couch and Roger Sterling’s cocktail table. You already know they love wine, hence…a Mad Men in Napa wedding it would be!

In June, guests received another box full of wine corks (the Save the Date also came in a box with wine corks and a corkscrew), a Mad Men in Napa Game, and more wedding details.  My daughter commented “They must like wine” to which I answered “How did you guess?”  (By the way, Ceci New York designed each part of the amazing custom invitations that you see below).  I planned my 1960s outfits and asked Paul to approve my Day One outfit.  He asked me if I had the Jackie O glasses to match.  I told him I would try to find some…

img_2063In July, we received a tube with some parchment paper: in lieu of gifts, all 180 guests were asked to fill a scrapbook page with a message, a memory, advice, something meaningful, for the grooms.  We had homework, but I knew what I would send in right away.  I had made a scrapbook from our London days and so I copied and submitted the page with all of the theater stubs.  My husband submitted his favorite poem.

And so, on September 2nd, we arrived in Calistoga to begin Day One of Mad Men in Napa. The first activity was a wine-blending competition held at the Franciscan Estate in St. Helena.  Guests were put into Mad Men character teams like Team Roger, Don, and Megan. Each team had a variety of red wines, pipettes, funnels, and colored pencils.  We had to come up with a blend, bottle it, and label it with a name.  Our team came up with Lucky Strike ‘The Perfect Blend’ and we won the smoothest wine category.  As each team pitched their ‘wine and reason’ to the grooms, guests enjoyed a cheese board and wine.

The second activity was an appetizer cooking class and a cocktail making class at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone.  This time we were Team Fleishmann’s, as in the mayonnaise. Chefs taught us how to make 1960s appetizers like onion dip, deviled eggs, ambrosia salad, and pigs-in-a-blanket.  We all wore aprons and Mad Men chef’s hats.  Then guests had a cocktail making class where we learned how to make Manhattans and Old Fashioneds.  An elegant dinner and family speeches followed in the wine cellar of the Culinary Institute with Baked Alaska (what else) for dessert.

The wedding ceremony took place on Day Two, at the Calistoga Ranch as the sun was setting.  The chuppa was elegantly decorated (by Fleurs de France) with white flowers and stood against the vineyard. Naturally, the grooms walked in down the aisle between the vineyard rows!  A reading about Obergefell vs Hodges and the history of rights in America set the stage for family and friends to read poems and share memories before the vows were made.  Paul’s niece beautifully sang Etta James’ very fitting ‘At Last’. The ceremony ended with the breaking of a glass and the grooms blending Israeli and Greek wine to symbolically represent their union, in a cup presented to them by Eliav’s family. And, they took their first selfie together under the chuppa, as a married couple!

After the ceremony, guests posed for photos and enjoyed champagne at the reception. The grooms drove a 1965 Pontiac LeMans Convertible to the elegant wedding dinner site on the lawn next to Lommel Lake.  We all ogled over the wedding cake, which was layers of cheese wheels with a 3D printed cake topper of the grooms, created at doob‘s digital studios in New York City.  The likeness was uncanny.

We found our seats at one of two long tables set for 90 guests each.  The tables were exquisitely decorated with purple, green, and white floral arrangements and succulents. Each guest had a menu indicating the salad, starters, main entrees, and dessert, with accompanying wines for each course.  As the sun set, we enjoyed the most delicious food, wine, impeccable service, and company, with candles lighting up the night and the milky way visible above us.

When dinner was over, we walked the short distance to the Wine Cave where dessert, coffee, a Whisky Bar, and dancing awaited.  After the grooms’ first dance to ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You’, we danced to ‘Thriller’, ‘I’ve Got a Feeling’, ‘It’s Raining Men’, and ended with ‘Last Dance’.  What a magical night!

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Day Three, we had to return home, but the remaining guests were treated to a champagne tour and brunch at Domain Chandon which included a doughnut machine, a crepe table, fresh prosciutto, seafood and sushi tables,  and frozen whipped nutmeg puffs in liquid nitrogen as coffee toppings.

You should also know that the grooms, along with their wedding planners Cole Drake Events, thought of everything: buses took guests from their hotels to all of the wedding venues and brought them back.  Every part of each meal had an accompanying wine. Open bars served whatever you ordered.  Multiple photographers and videographers recorded each event.  A drone took a group photo at the Culinary Institute.  All programs, menus, napkins and bottled water had the Mad Men in Napa logo on them.  The caterers perfectly attended to allergies and food preferences.  Golf carts shuttled guests as required. Pashmina shawls, heel protectors, and flip-flops were provided for the outdoor dinner and for after dancing. Every need and want was met and it all seemed effortless.  Guests were treated like royalty.

We felt very very special to be invited to this celebration of long-lasting love, this blending of cultures and friends.  And, we wish the grooms a continued lifetime of love, laughter, and adventures together…Mazel Tov!

(Photo of the LSE friends, grooms in the car and the brunch buffet were taken by other wedding guests and used with permission)

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10 thoughts on “Mad Men in Napa: The Wedding

  1. My favourite post from you so far, Mary! Sounds like it was the wedding of a lifetime and it would be pretty hard to beat that. Thanks for sharing.

  2. We LOVED working with Eliav and Paul to create such a lovely event. They were and are dream clients – they were so open and receptive to so many ideas! Thank you for such a lovely blog!

    1. Thanks, Stephanie! I’m so glad you liked the blog post. I’m amending the post to mention Cole Drake. It was the best wedding we have ever attended. You did a fabulous job!!

    1. Thanks, Jessica! The flowers you made were so beautiful. The ones on the chuppa were my favorite, so simple yet elegant!! I will amend the post to include Fleurs de France as I wasn’t sure you had done all of the flowers. Just gorgeous!

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