wedding planner laurie arons’ black book

Laurie Arons, the Bay Area’s most sought after wedding planner, opens up her black book (in this case, white book) and answers the juicy questions we’re dying to know..  But first, let me tell you about her.  Laurie has been the go-to wedding planner for 16 years– if I weren’t so persnickety, I would have used her too! She knows and works with the most talented vendors– she has seen it, done it– and knows what works.

Describe your most favorite wedding?
It’s hard to pick my favorite since every wedding is so unique and special in its own way. Of course, my own wedding is at the top of my list. It was held at a southern style mansion in Napa, complete with a southern style menu and tons of southern details. Guests sipped mint juleps and feasted on comfort food served family style under a beautiful sailcloth tent. We invited the children of our friends and family to the wedding and really wanted to make them feel special. (After all, I fell in love with weddings as a small child and always loved when I could attend a wedding with my parents.) We created a special round tent filled with miniature tables and big colorful pillows for the kids to hang out. After a magic show, they joined us for dancing with the Durell Coleman band. It was so much fun!

What is the most outrageous request you have ever had?
I planned one wedding for a family many years ago, then when they hired me to plan another wedding for a sibling they told me they wanted to create a “more spectacular” wedding than the first for less money – 6 years later!

Favorite top 3 Napa Valley wedding venues?
I love Villa Mille Rose, Black Swan Lake and Durham Ranch

Favorite wedding venue?
It changes but right now it is the Santa Lucia Preserve in the Carmel Valley.

Favorite caterers?
Paula le Duc Fine Catering or Elaine Bell for larger weddings and Daniel Ripley Catering for smaller affairs.

Favorite bakers?
Only one, Perfect Endings

Favorite bands?
I love Durell Coleman Band for dancing and Tim Hockenberry for cocktail/dinner music. Tim’s voice is sensational.

Favorite coiffeurs?
Locally I love Jim Avila and Wallett Luberich. Stuart Matthew is also a favorite based in Las Vegas.

Best way to get the party started?
Great libations, a beautiful comfortable environment, and great music.

Receiving line or no receiving line?
No thank you, no one really enjoys it. I always remind my clients that they need to make sure to thank each person for coming.

Other than love + guest list, what is the single most important ingredient/ expense for a FUN wedding?
For fun I would say band and drinks. Dancing after dinner once all of the formalities are done is when everyone relaxes and celebrates on the dance floor. Great beverages, like an amazing wine if you are in the Napa Valley, relaxes the crowd so they cut loose.

Your top 3 favorite touches?
At the wedding, I say nothing beats great lighting and unforgettable cake -it’s the last thing people eat and always remember. Beforehand, I love an amazing welcome amenity – it gets guests excited for what’s to come and expresses thoughtfulness that will (hopefully) be carried out throughout the wedding weekend.

Best advice you might give a bride?
Surround yourself with a team of vendors who you know has your best interest at heart and will deliver 100 percent on the wedding day. The “team” of vendors needs to work well together in order for the day to come together with ease. A good team will troubleshoot to solve anything that might come up.

Favorite time of day for a wedding?
I like late afternoon if you are in a scenic location. If possible I like to work back from sunset and time the sunset at the end of cocktails so the guests are going into the dinner area at twilight.

Favorite wedding cocktail?
I don’t think you can ever go wrong with a good champagne.

Favorite color combinations?
That changes all the time but right now I am loving anything with blush tones and an elegant charcoal gray with a pop of fun color like yellow or green.

Favorite kind of flower?
Peonies and white lilac, both only available for a short time in the spring.

Favorite music genre?
If I had to pick one for a wedding it would be Funk R & B for dancing. When it is done well, all ages will dance and have a great time.

Favorite party favor/ memento?
I like edible favors in line with the theme of the wedding. I just had a wedding where we gave away homemade jam made by the bride’s aunt. At my wedding, guests walked away with the most perfect miniature pecan pie from Perfect Endings.

What is your go-to newlywed gift?
Something that will last forever and is timeless, like a beautiful crystal vase or sterling frame.

Best advice for someone on a budget?
Keep your guest list down to the most important family and friends and focus on a venue that won’t require a lot of décor. Quality not quantity is one of my favorite rules to live by.

What type of decor gives lots-of-look without breaking the bank account?
Good lighting is so important if the event goes into evening. Local, in-season flowers help keep costs down a lot. Consider flowers with large blooms, like hydrangea and peonies which make a big statement and you don’t need as many. Candles also add lots of ambience for evening events and candlelight is always romantic.

What is a great menu, that won’t break the bank account?
I would do a 2-3 course dinner and do something a bit unexpected, but something that the bride and groom both love. Comfort food is always a hit. For my wedding the entrée was organic fried chicken with butternut squash puree and crispy onions. People loved it, They still talk about it.

What do you think every wedding ought to have?
Sincerity and of course love.

What is the biggest mistake people make?
Trying to please everyone.

Guest faux pas?
Not sending in the RSVP’s on time, asking to include a guest or child when one isn’t included on the invite.

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