Lush natural surroundings and ocean-inspired accents made for a modern, romantic celebration in Napa Valley.
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Caitlin Heising and Michael Menninger's relationship is a testament to modern romance. After connecting on a dating app in 2015, they met at Michael's favorite hole-in-the-wall sushi spot in San Francisco. "We didn't have any of the first date awkwardness. The conversation flowed and we talked about everything," says Caitlin, who works in philanthropy focused on human rights. After their successful date, the pair spent as much time together as possible. Four months into the relationship, they attended Michael sister's wedding in Big Sur together, and then they visited Norway with Caitlin's entire family. According to Caitlin, "We loved getting to know each other's families, and by that point, it was clear to them that we had something special. My mom pulled me aside one evening in Norway and said she thought Michael and I would get married. She was right!"
After 18 months together, Michael started working on his proposal plans and ordered a custom engagement ring. But when it arrived one day before a trip to Europe, he was unhappy with the finished product. "My sister and I left work and begged a few jewelers to put the main stone into a temporary, simple setting. Luckily one was able to do a rush, and I picked up the new ring the morning before Caitlin and I departed," says Michael, a professional sailor who is currently starting a new business creating accessories with sustainably-sourced remnant material. As soon as the couple walked into a restaurant called Azurmendi outside of Bilbao, Spain, Michael knew it was the perfect place to pop the question. According to Caitlin, "We were wrapping up an hours-long, incredible lunch when Michael suggested we explore the rooftop garden, which overlooked the property's vineyards, before dessert. I had no idea he was about to propose!" A passerby snapped a photo of the happy pair (luckily he was a good photographer), who then enjoyed celebratory champagne together.
About one year later, Caitlin and Michael were married on September 9, 2017, at Meadowood in St. Helena, California. Both the bride and groom wanted to wed in their home state and chose Napa for its convenience. They chose thier venue for its serenity, amazing food, and delicious wine. The modernly romantic outdoor celebration, attended by 187 guests, had a neutral color palette with indigo touches inspired by the ocean.
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The Stationery Suite
According to Chris Neubauer of Yonder Design, the inspiration for the stationery suite came from Michael's love of the ocean. The save-the-dates were boards wrapped with fabric dip-dyed in indigo (as a nod to the ocean and waves). The invitation vaguely resembled a leather travel journal. "Michael (who owns a small leather company) was really excited about the invitation process, so we went to a leather factory with him, and he helped to pick out the exact pieces to be used on the invitations," says Chris. They ended up with scrap pieces of Italian calfskin, which fit the design perfectly. Metallic accents, including a small brass plaque with the couple's monogram, added to the rustic design, and personal touches were also included.
"The graphics for their event were abstractions from sailing, with a knot used as one of the icons," says Chris. "On the back cover of the invitation is the couple's favorite quote, hidden in plain sight, which we laser engraved into each invitation. The booklets came housed in a linen sleeve, which helped to soften the overall design."
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All Dressed Up
"This was the biggest day of my life, so I was definitely going to wear a tuxedo," says Michael, who ended up with a custom J.Hilburn number in a dark navy color to suit the outdoor setting. The groom also wore an Eton shirt, black bow tie, black studs, and Salvatore Ferragamo patent leather slippers.
Caitlin went wedding dress shopping with her mom, future sister-in-law, and two best friends at Marina Morrison in San Francisco—and she refused to consider any strapless gowns. Then her best friend and maid-of-honor, Erika, insisted she try just one—an ivory nude dress with silk floral appliques by Mira Zwillinger. "I felt like I was playing dress up before finding this gown, which finally made me feel like a real bride," says Caitlin. "It was by far the most flattering, and I loved the classic silhouette and thin belt at the waist. I also loved the sheer fabric and shine from the silk floral appliques." On her wedding day, Caitlin paired the dress with Stuart Weitzman shoes, a Jennifer Behr comb, and her engagement ring and earrings by Ashley Morgan Designs. Ashley Morgan also helped the couple design Caitlin's custom necklace using the diamond from Michael's grandmother's engagement ring, which they set with rose gold and pink sapphires.
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Max Gill Design created Caitlin's bouquet with pale pink and ivory flowers and berries. "I loved his lush, botanically inspired style and gave him free rein to be creative with my bouquet and the flowers we used throughout the wedding," says the bride.
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The Wedding Party
Caitlin's best friend from college served as maid of honor; her other bridesmaids were Michael's two sisters and pals from college and childhood. The ladies wore three styles of Watters gowns in the color "Blue Harbor." Caitlin gifted the bridesmaids earrings from Ashley Morgan Designs (pink sapphire set in rose gold for the maid of honor, and white opal set in rose gold for the other bridesmaids).
The groomsmen were Michael's two brothers-in-law, Caitlin's brother, and Michael's best friends. "It was such a great group, and we had a blast hanging out while the ladies were getting ready. We did a brunch to begin the day, then a hike around Meadowood, then straight to the pool where we played cornhole and had a few beers before getting ready," says Michael. The men wore lighter navy suits from J. Hilburn.
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Caitlin and Michael did a first look right before the ceremony, and the bride calls it her favorite moment of the day. "Michael was already crying by the time I tapped him to turn around. I was so glad to see him, and he looked so handsome, but he couldn't stop crying. It made me laugh, it was so cute," says Caitlin. "Our photographer was trying to take our portraits with family and had to ask him to take a little walk so he could collect himself. He eventually did, and we have a great mix of photos with him teary-eyed and smiling."
Michael explains that the anticipation of seeing his future wife caused the waterworks. He also added, "I think watching Caitlin throughout the day made me fall in love with her even more. She was so beautiful, gracious, kind, and gentle all day. It made me very proud and happy to have her as my wife."
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The Ceremony Site
Caitlin and Michael traveled from their hometown of San Francisco to St. Helena, California, to tie the knot at Meadowood, a luxury resort. "We pegged the fall as our favorite time of year, and chose Napa Valley because it was close to our home in San Francisco, and easy for our family and friends to attend," say Michael of the destination. They were drawn to the venue's natural beauty, understated yet elegant aesthetic, serene atmosphere, and "incredible" food and wine selection.
The ceremony took place on Meadwood's golf course. Two large trees, accented by flowers climbing one of the trunks, anchored the site.
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Caitlin's cousin, who served as flower girl, wore a Janie and Jack dress. "She had been practicing her flower tossing skills for months but got a little nervous and hustled down the aisle pretty quickly," says Caitlin. "She was so cute, it didn't matter that the flowers were randomly distributed down the aisle."
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Caitlin's longtime yoga teacher, Pete Guinosso, officiated the personal ceremony. "Pete's warm smile, gentleness, sense of humor, and compassionate wisdom made everyone laugh, cry, and feel connected to us and our love," says the bride. The couple's siblings read poems, and the best man (Dan, Michael's brother-in-law) presented rings on the trunk of a tiny toy elephant that Michael gave Caitlin when they first started dating. The couple also decided to write their own vows—"and Michael was the sweetest ever reading them holding back tears!" says Caitlin, adding that the ceremony was a mix between spiritual and playful.
"Love Story" by Taylor Swift played during the recessional. "My dad loves Taylor Swift, so it was a special little surprise for him after seeing his only daughter get married," says Caitlin.
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After the ceremony, everyone wandered to cocktail hour on the golf course of Meadowood. The couple set up an "outdoor living room lounge" with furniture and a bar. "The lounge had a cool contrast because it looked like it belonged inside, but obviously we were outdoors," says Michael. Guests listened to a Spanish guitar duo while enjoying passed hors d'oeuvres and champagne.
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Meadowood catered various tray-passed appetizers: compressed watermelon with basil and toasted pistachio; snapper ceviche; sweet corn tortellini; and tempura shishito peppers with dungeness crab.
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Four signature drinks were served: Russian Hill Collins (cucumber vodka, lemon and yuzu juices, seltzer, cucumbers, and huckleberries); San Sebastian G&T (a gin-and-tonic with lime and grapefruit); Mr. Bad (bourbon, cinnamon, star anise, clove, and orange bitters), and Crazy Ms. (tequila, St-Germain Elderflower liqueur, lime, grapefruit, agave, seltzer, and grapefruit bitters).
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The reception took place on a grassy lawn amongst tall shady trees. Wooden farm tables displayed crisp navy linen runners, flower arrangements by Max Gill Design, and candles. Guests sat at upholstered wood and linen chairs. "The ocean is a huge part of Michael's life (he loves to surf and he sails professionally), and I also love a nice beach, so we wanted to bring some elements of the ocean into our wedding. This explains the indigos/blues and light neutral palette," says Caitlin. "The mood was romantic, modern, light, fun, and inspired by the natural setting."
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At each place setting was a patterned blue ceramic charger with a dark blue Heath Ceramics plate, as well as the menu. "We were able to use the exact leather from the invitations and laser engrave each guest's name on to small strips, which were secured to the letterpress-printed menu with brass screw rivets," says Chris Neubauer of Yonder Design, who created the menus. "These were designed for easy removal so guests could repurpose them as keychains after the event."
Meadowood catered a dinner of peaches with mâche, hazelnut, and burrata; roasted rack of lamb; and ora king salmon with bloomsdale spinach, wehani wild rice, and harissa tomato broth. The couple also offered cake, coffee, and tea in the lounge area after dinner.
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Jasmine Rae Cakes baked a chocolate cake with peanut butter and salted caramel, as well as a lighter citrus cake with lemon curd and cream cheese frosting. The design incorporated floral and oceanic elements in the day's neutral color palette.
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The First Dance
Caitlin and Michael danced to "You Are the Sunshine Of My Life" by Stevie Wonder; they practiced beforehand with dance classes in San Francisco. "Caitlin and I rehearsed it a bit before the wedding, as I'm not the most confident dancer, but I think we did a great job. It was very fun dancing with Caitlin." says Michael.
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The Parents' Dance
Caitlin and her dad danced to "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John, played by The Shrines. Michael and his mom joined them halfway through. "It was a fun, light-hearted dance, such a great moment with my mom. I won't forget her smile." says the groom.
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The night ended with a silent disco from Dart Collective; music went straight into guests' headphones. "I actually had some doubts about the silent disco when it was first mentioned," says Michael. "I felt that a lot of people weren't going to join in, but it ended up being one of the more memorable moments, with some epic dancing with all of our friends."
The next morning, the newlyweds hosted a farewell brunch on the croquet lawn at Meadowood. "Everyone wore all white and had Pimm's Cups while learning the basics from the on-site croquet professional. Michael and I snuck off afterward to Meadowood's amazing spa for much-needed massages and time to soak in all the joy from the weekend," says Caitlin.
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Photography, Meg Smith Photography
Location and catering, Meadowood
Event planning and design, Alison Events Planning + Design
Flowers, Max Gill Design
Videography, Elysium Productions
Stationery, Yonder Design
Cake, Jasmine Rae Cakes
Bride's gown, Mira Zwillinger
Hair and makeup, Artists by Sherrie Long
Bridesmaids' dresses, Watters
Flower Girl dress, Janie and Jack
Groom's suit and menswear, J.Hilburn
Transportation, California Wine Tours