A Sophisticated Fall Wedding in California Wine Country
Cristina Fotieo and Chris Leon were introduced by a mutual friend over email. The matchmaker insisted that the pair had to meet, since they shared the same nickname and birthday. They hit it off on what Cristina describes today as an "amazing first date;" the two met up for a second date just two days later. By incredible coincidence, the pair found themselves on the same flight to Chicago the very next day, and soon after they officially became a couple. "I knew right away that this was real and he was important," the bride says.
Two blissful years later, Cristina said "yes" when Chris popped the question. After a ten-month-long engagement, the New York City couple wed on October 6, 2018, in a gorgeous wedding at Calistoga Ranch in Calistoga, California. The partners in business—the two run Brooklyn's Leon & Son Wine (wine director and buyer Chris runs the store, while Cristina oversees marketing and ecommerce)—became partners in life before 100 of their closest family and friends in a dreamy vineyard wedding. The bride says the California venue felt like a natural choice for the wine-loving couple: "Wine is such a big part of our lives, especially domestic wine, which is what Leon & Son is known for," she says. "Chris used to work in Sonoma and his parents live there now, so it was a no brainer for us to look there."
Since most guests traveled in from out of town for the Saturday ceremony, planning a weekend of wedding festivities was essential to the couple. The celebration kicked of with a Thursday wine tasting, a welcome party at Calistoga Motor Lodge on Friday, and, of course, a "group recovery" bagel brunch on Sunday, post-wedding.
As for the big day itself? With an outdoor ceremony that paid homage to their Greek and Cuban heritages and a party complete with the best drink menu (of course!), Cristina and Chris made their sophisticated "Great Gatsby meets elegant Mediterranean alfresco" nuptials totally their own—and, best of all, playfully remembered how their love story began. "Our friend did a reading of those early emails at our rehearsal dinner which had everyone laughing so hard we cried," Cristina says.
"We wanted a space that felt intimate, that we could make personal, and that takes food and beverage seriously, because it was important to us," Cristina says of selecting Calistoga Ranch, a venue located in California's wine country. "It felt luxurious in a really understated and natural way. We wanted our guests to experience it with us."
The swanky stationery suite by Tina Smith Design featured shades of plum, taupe, and light blue aubergine with gold foil and butcher twine details. "Tina designed a suite of elegant lettered typography alongside whimsical drawings that gave the invitations a sense of place—and set the right tone for a destination wine weekend in the mountains," says the bride. Flourish calligraphed the envelopes; the invites themselves were hand-assembled by the couple and some friends at home, around a bottle of wine.
Welcome to the Weekend
Merrymakers were welcomed to the weekend with pretty and practical welcome bags. "We filled them with a half bottle of wine, water, locally-made cookies and popcorn, vitamins and Advil, and a welcome note," Cristina says.
Glam Pajama Party
Cristina gifted her bridesmaids personalized Sleepy Jones pajamas—the bride's favorite—which they wore on the morning of the wedding. Her getting-ready outfit, also from Sleepy Jones, was just as special—she splurged on an on-sale pink silk pair and embroidered Chris' name on the top. "They ended up being one of my favorite touches, plus I get to wear them all the time now," she says.
The bride looked beautiful in a silk bias-cut Lela Rose dress, purchased at Mark Ingram Atelier in New York City, which she found thanks to the help of a fashionable bridesmaid. With a "more focused" approach, the bride quickly found the one, which she loved for its "elegant simplicity and dramatic back," as well as its delicate design and vine-like lace detailing.
Cristina's bridal hair and makeup was completed by the glam squad at Blush Beauty.
Pearls and Pink Heels
Cristina found her romantic veil—a raw-edged creation—at Mark Ingram. For jewelry, she sported an all-pearl ensemble to mark her and Chris' shared birthstone. "My Meadowlark raw pearl earrings were a wedding gift from Chris. The bracelet was made by my cousin for the wedding by repurposing a necklace of hers," the bride says.
She polished off the look with a pair of pale pink closed-toe heels from Aquazzura.
The bride carried a sophisticated bouquet, featuring a dusty-hued mix of flowers in shades of muted pink, warm creams, and soft whites accented with rich aubergines and plums; the blooms paired well with the olive, bay, and thyme elements. The Golden State was well represented in the arrangement, too: "I think it's important to give destination brides, grooms, and guests a sense of the local environmental texture, so we used a lot of quintessentially Californian ingredients—grape vine leaves and fruiting olive branches and local garden roses—to cement that connection," says their florist Sammy of Lambert Floral Studio.
A Sentimental Charm
The bride's bouquet was fastened with an emotional family heirloom: Her late grandmother's engagement ring. "She passed last year and she was such a force in our family. I asked Sammy to attach it to the bouquet along with a prayer pillow she gave me, so she'd be there," Cristina says.
Cristina wanted her bridesmaids (the group was comprised of her little sister, the maid of honor, two childhood best friends, and two college best friends) to "look like themselves," so she didn't feel strongly about having matching dresses or styles. She gave them a color palette to guide their individual choices and loved the final result.
The First Look
The bride and groom—they'd last seen each other the night before—opted for a first look, which was a highlight of the day. "I thought Chris would lose it during the first look, but he was totally calm instead and it made me feel really centered too," the bride says. "I think we both just took a huge deep breath and hugged. It felt really joyous and emotional, but not out of body at all. I was ready, I know he was, too. We were so excited."
The sleek wedding programs were designed by Tina Smith to match the invitation suite. They featured a tribute to the couple's grandmothers, who couldn't travel for the wedding. A Jose Marti poem, a nod to Chris' Cuban heritage, also appeared on the back.
The evening ceremony was officiated by Chris' uncle, a federal judge, and took place in the vineyard, in front of a floral semi-circle by Lambert Florals. Cristina's father walked her down the aisle to the pas de deux melody from Swan Lake, courtesy of Garuda Blue Band. "I grew up dancing ballet and Swan Lake is one of my all-time favorites. It turns out my dad's speech was largely about my dancing so it came full circle," she says.
The groom's two sisters delivered two uplifting readings—one about the power of love, the other about the practicality of marriage, after which Cristina and Chris exchanged handwritten vows. "We read our own vows to each other which was my favorite moment and brought us both to tears. A huge gust of wind blew up during our vows and blew my veil all over the place and Chris' hair was a mess," the bride says. "It felt sort of magical and powerful. And it's the ceremony moment people still talk to us about."
Cristina, who is Greek Orthodox, and Chris took part in the Greek stefana ceremony tradition, which involves an exchange of marital crowns by a koumbado, or sponsor, of the marriage (the bride chose her brother). These crowns are now displayed in the couple's home, in a wooden shadow box that once belonged to Cristina's late grandmother.
After saying "I do," the couple recessed back up the aisle to one of the groom's favorite tunes. "Chris is a sucker for Love Actually and watches it a million times every Christmas. So the band played 'All You Need Is Love' from the wedding scene," Cristina recalls. "They even hid a trombone player who jumped up as we walked out!"
Cocktail hour commenced on the lawn after the ceremony. The Garuda Blue Band played a mix of jazz tunes, inspired by Chet Baker. Catering for the event was coordinated by Calistoga Ranch; canapés served included spanakopita (based on one of the bride's family recipes), tostone with ceviche (a nod to Chris' Cuban heritage), foie gras fig cookies, and heirloom tomatoes with goat cheese. Naturally, Leon & Son provided the spirits, which included Champagne, wines, and cocktails.
Escort Cards on a Vineyard Trellis
A Reception in the Vineyard
Held in a section of the vineyard clearing tucked at the bottom of the mountain, the reception had quite the dramatic entrance. Guests walked through the hotel entryway and past a glowing pool to get to the winding vineyard path that opened up to the clearing—which they found decorated with string lights. A five-piece jazz band serenaded the group throughout dinner.
The tablescapes featured a mix of long king and round tables, topped with ivory linens, simple place settings, floral centerpieces, potted herbs, and candles. As a reference to their line of work, Christina and Chris provided four empty wine glasses at each setting, so guests could properly sample all four wines poured at dinner. A festive evil eye charm also earned its place at the table—tied around each napkin—to honor the couple's respective Greek and Cuban heritages. Today, the couple and many of their guests still wear the charm around their wrists.
Glitzy Indoor Bar
Both event planner Callista and the couple loved the idea of a double-sided bar filled with perfectly placed glassware—so they brought the look to life on the big day. "Cristina and Chris envisioned tree-like installations showcasing the bar, which Sammy designed in an organic way, almost as if vines were crawling up the back bar shelving," Callista says. "The specialty cocktails were featured on a vellum menu within a brass-rimmed shadowbox."
The First Dance
The newlyweds hit the dance floor to "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis, performed by Garuda Blue Band, for their first married spin.
A Rockin' After-Party
After dinner and dancing in the vineyard, merrymakers migrated to Callistoga Ranch's wine cave, located at the top of the hill, for the DJ-fueled dance party. Guests were served mini shots of Metaxa (Greek brandy) as they entered the space. "It's another one of the moments our guests talk about a lot," Cristina recalls.
Photography, Rebecca Yale Photography
Location, Calistoga Ranch
Event planning, Callista & Company
Catering, Calistoga Ranch
Wine, Leon & Son
Flowers, Lambert Floral Studio
Stationery, Tina Smith Design
Desserts, Glyka Sweets
Music, Garuda Blue Band
DJ and lighting, All Ears DJ
Bride's gown, Lela Rose
Hair and makeup, Blush Beauty
Bridal party pajamas, Sleepy Jones
Transportation, Napa Valley Tours & Transportation