I had several meetings with Christine Wheat regarding the day before I actually sat with Emily and her mom Libby. The first meeting with all of us was a Blast. I had the pleasure of working at the Executive Mansion for all of the events hosted by Governor George Pataki and the former First Lady while in office. It was like chatting with old friends but instead of political and social events this was about family . It became very clear within minutes Emily wanted the feel of her wedding to be like the Avenue of the Pines (the drive into the state park in Saratoga Springs) romantic, wonderful, and warm.
I started by designing a curved aisle; the first of its kind at the HOS. I wanted guests to feel like they were in a secret little space in the woods. Through the trees, guest would watch the bride and her father make their way down a path to a small pocket of light where the vows would be exchanged. Emily and Libby loved the idea! I drew it out on paper, then it was time to make it happen. We made a curved, hand-painted runner for the aisle, which looked like a gently worn path. At the end of the path, a large stone step was created to look like a rock at the base of the alter in the ceremony area. The cross and podium were created out of driftwood from the Hudson River by local artist Danny Killion.
Building a forest
Trees, seventy-three in total. Each hand selected over a period of three months. A combination of hemlock, spruce, willow, hydrangea, stewartia, horn beam, birch, river birch, dogwood, weeping birch, and three types of maple, ranging from 4′ to 30′ tall. All the trees were delivered two days before the event for the balls to be rewrapped and soaked well enough to just be damp on the day of the wedding avoiding muddy mess. We started the day at 3:00 am with many hands and much care to get the huge trees through the narrow doors of the Hall. Then we placed trees in every nook and cranny of the space to build our forest. We had the room almost finished, but I felt we needed more height. I sent a crew to the nursery to grab five more giant maples. I enlisted the help of my landscaper, Bradley Bovin, of Cascade Landscaping. along with his entire crew. Starting weeks in advance, we had 26 employees and skilled friends in action.
Dappled light, sunset, and dancing with the moon
The lighting on this event was another huge challenge. I wanted to create the feeling of being in the woods during the ceremony with light dappling over the guests as if filtered by moving branches overhead while the vows were exchanged. Guests left the ceremony as the light was beginning to fade. The couple’s friends and family enjoyed cocktails on the great lawn of the Hall of Springs, then re-enter the room during sunset. As the sky started to darken, stars began to appear and guests enjoyed dancing in the moonlight. Hundreds of candles created a warm glow on the tables and springs in the center of the room. Each tables arrangement of blooms was highlighted with a pin spot from above to ensure the perfect mood for every guest. Four niches in the room looked as though moonlight was reflecting off pools of water against the massive stone walls. Sounds pretty right? To make this happen, lighting started going in on Wednesday before the event and it took an entire team three days to build the detailed program… it was perfect!
I honestly feel I can do anything … but I worried about the flip for this event to the point of losing sleep. The “flip” is when we change the room from ceremony space to dining room. As guests left the ceremony and enjoyed cocktail hour, they had no idea what kind of madness was taking place inside. The List: remove aisle, stage, cross, podium; move trees off dance floor; move DJ into position; remove 900′ of 16′ drape; light 926 candles; build dress and set the head table; move 28 dining tables into position; place chairs from ceremony around guest tables; reset every pinspot from 25′ towers to have the perfect halo of light on each arrangement on every table; sweep the floors; set the stage for dinner … Oh, and the acre of trees had to be adjusted and re-secured not once like we had hoped, but twice. I was in charge of the design move and Kevin Sykes of the Hall of Springs was in charge of making sure every table was in perfect position. Basically, I was at Kevin’s beckon call for the move! He must have said, “David, this tree has to move!” 100 times! Oh my god! It was a blast! I have known Kevin longer than any person in the room and he is such a gem! Over 60 people were cranking and in 59 minutes the room was done … DONE!!!
First and foremost, I’d like to thank Christine Wheat for bringing me to the party and for her trust that I would make sure everything was perfect for this very special couple. Clifton Park Rental … My Boys … You did me right on this one. Brad Bovin, the Cascade Landscaping crew and Troy’s Landscaping Supply for putting up with all my requests and helping me get the trees from points A to B to C. Cora and the team at Paper Dolls for the beautiful stationary. Alaine from Make Me Fabulous for being “Fabulous”. JP and Joe Elario for capturing the moments with perfection and archiving what has to be one of the most amazing events of my career. My linen people at home, in California and in Miami for doing it my way. The staff of Hall of Springs for long meetings and great organization. Total Events for customizing the lounge furniture. My personal video crew, John Tegan and Will Beyer of Nuvue Cinema, for 48 hours of insanity … Can’t wait to see the outtakes, film and insanity that you two logged of what is sure to be pure entertainment for all those involved!
Congratulations, Emily and Michael, what a wonderful way to start on your path.