Unplugged! When the World Isn't Watching...Behind the Scenes at A Luxe Las Vegas Wedding at Mandarin Oriental
Unplugged Wedding Update! Given how much I love giving moment by moment updates on social media (have you seen my Instagram account?) during a wedding, I have to say that the idea of going unplugged for Jess and Juan's breathtaking wedding at the Mandarin Oriental literally made me sweat! Because, after all, if it isn't on social media...did it ever really happen?!?!?
And the answer is...YES! It did. In the most beautiful and romantic and stunning of ways!
Jessica Valentin and Juan Graham have a love that is simply infectious! You cannot be around them and not be seduced by every look and every laugh they share. They are simply perfect together, and I wanted so badly to give them the world and more on their wedding day.
Our morning started with a visit from the beauty team of Make Up in the 702. I don't know why I love this photo of Jess as much as I do, but the golden highlights make me smile.
Alt F Photography was on hand in full force! With both John Michael Cooper and Dalisa Cooper on hand, we also had Danielle with us for part of the day, grabbing detail shots and making certain that we missed nothing!
I love watching John and Dalisa work. The mind of an artist is a mystery, and I try to learn as much as I can from them. When they set this shot up, I had to steal a snap for myself. The bright whiteness, the veil, the ring and the bustier were all so sexy and seductive, but still romantic and timeless.
Most weddings require the basic amount of install, set up, and tear down when it comes to tables, chairs, and decor. Other weddings are a full blown production. This was one of those weddings...And it yielded the most spectacular results.
Talking about what goes into wedding design and production is one thing. Seeing it is quite another.
To create the experience that Jess and Juan wanted to share with their guests, the Mandarin Oriental pool was closed early to guests and residents. It took 3 crews with over 30 people to completely transformed the pool deck, removing all of the lounge chairs and umbrellas, and replacing them not once but twice to give her both a ceremony and a reception.
At 4:00 PM the guests took their seats, and out bridal party took their places. It was truly a family affair, with both sets of parents taking an active role in the processional. Jess' step father served as the officiant, and her father walked her down the aisle towards the alter, where Juan was waiting not so patiently to finally marry the girl he loved from the moment he saw her!
It goes without saying that I love photography. Whenever possible, I recommend having two shooters at a wedding. What I love about working with JMC and Dalisa is that we get to look back at the wedding through two different, but complimentary, sets of eyes. There is a masculine, a feminine, a romantic, and a darkness and light feel to their photos that you rarely see in a lot of today's more popular wedding photography.
When the ceremony was complete, guests moved to the other side of the deck, where they retrieved their lavish escort cards from a rose petal filled table and were entertained by a band of Mariachi's from a local school. We have a taco station, passed hors d'oeuvres, music and photo opps....
I have been DYING to do a cheese wheel cheese cake. Juan and his love of food gave me the perfect opportunity, and the team at Mandarin Oriental as all too thrilled to put this together. Did all of the cheese get eaten?!?!? Of course not. But this isn't about eating - this is about making a statement and doing something super cool and different to delight your guests. It was a hit!
The cocktail hour was over the top for more reasons that one...Mainly, we needed a smoke and mirrors hat trick which would allow us time to bring the crew back to the deck for yet another transformation. The bride and groom asked for something that was timeless and romantic, with pops of color and lush florals. They wanted people to feel as if they were in a Midsummer Night's Dream, a fairytale, and a love story. To that end, we brought in long banquet tables and dressed them with blush linens. Vases overflowing with roses, hydrangea, and orchids were everywhere. We sough out surfaces and materials such as wood, plexiglass, crystals and mirrors that would convey both old world charm and modern romance. Stadium seating allowed us to use all sides of the pool, and the different elevations made sure that everyone had the best seat in the house with a view of our showpiece - a mirrored, glass top bridge that floated over the pool, set there to provide Jess and Juan with an island of their own for their first dance as husband and wife.
The set up wasn't the only change taking place! As guests mingled and the crew took to the deck, Jess and Juan headed back up to the suite, which she transformed from the picture perfect blushing bride into the sexiest version of herself! She shed the demure illusion neckline, replacing it with a hand made custom piece from Tesserella House in Australian. Make Up in the 702 took down her hair, giving her dramatic curls and a deep side part with a stunning piece of head jewelry. Her make up got darker, with a deep lip and smokey eye. And before she and Juan were introduced to their guests, we finally got a shot of her to die for shoes by Manolo Blahnik!
They say that music is a language all it's own. And while I don't speak Spanish and don't know the words to their first song, I can tell you that watching them dance above the pool was a magical moment for every person on that deck, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house!
Family members toasted the new Mr. & Mrs. Graham, and I snuck around the back to steal a pic while they stole a kiss!
One of my favorite things about this wedding from a design standpoint was that each and every element was strong enough to stand up to the others. When you have such a magnificent venue, such beautiful flowers, and such an epicurean experience with your meal, you simply cannot afford not to go all out with your cake! I wanted to come up with something that was personal to them and specific to this wedding. I was sketching at home after out tasting in July, and decided to try my hand at a cake. below is the sketch that I submitted, along with my serial killer hieroglyphics, and below it is the chef's interpretation come to life! It was more than I could have ever asked for, and Jess and Juan loved it!
Jess and Juan decided to forgo the tossing of the bouquet and the garter toss, taking to the dance floor instead! The danced the night away to DJ Mike Fox and our percussionist, Pepe, provided by Classical Entertainment.
But before the night was over, Alt F decided to steal them away one last time. The deck and the sky line gave JMC the perfect back drop for a dramatic bridal party portrait lit beautiful by Dalisa.
And in the end, when the last bite of cake had been eaten and the last few guests were lingering about, we found Jess...my darling, adorable, bride turned friend...taking a private moment with the other man in her life, her twin brother and man of honor, Justin. He was helping her with her shoes and she was about to dip her feet in the pool when she saw me and gave me that mega watt smile.
Soon I will be featuring the professional photos by Alt F and the video by Lighten Films, but for now you can catch a preview on the Alt F Blog!
I hope that my behind the scenes series helps you get to know my couples better, and gives you an idea of what goes into being an event designer, a wedding producer, a creative partner, and a lover of all things wedding! I love doing what I do, and I am the luckiest woman in the world to get to do it for couples like Jess and Juan!
Wedding Planner: Andrea Eppolito
Ceremony and Reception Venue: Mandarin Oriental
Floral and Decor: Naakiti Floral
Rentals: Sit On This, Inc.
Video: Lighten Films
DJ/Music: DJ Mike Fox
Percussionist: Classical Entertainment
Hair and Make up: Make Up in the 702
Bridal Gown: Martina Liana
Bridal Shoes: Manolo Blahnik
Custom Jewelry: Tessarella House
Bridesmaids Dresses: Alfred Angelo
Grooms Tux: Ermenegildo Zegna