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Laura Hunt

A Family Wedding - Literally
Bare Feet and Spring Flowers

Johanna Kaestner

Where would one of the finest San Francisco caterers celebrate his wedding? Access to the best venues doesn't help, if the fianc├ęe has a different idea.

When Tiana reflects on her wedding day that took place almost exactly two years ago, she remembers a perfect spring day in Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Nature had decorated the rolling hills, still green from the winter rains, with an abundance of wild flowers.

She and her parents walked down the wooden stairs past the white, orange, and red rose pomanders, hanging from the protruding branches of the gnarled old trees. She smiled at David, who was waiting for her at the base of the stairs. Behind him, in a semi circle, were family and friends who had come to celebrate with them. The laughter started early, when her father and wedding officiant, a judge in the United States Superior Court in the District of Columbia, decided to make a grammatical correction in the vows

Tiana gracefully corrected her father on a wording change in the vows. It was a small change, but Tiana was determined to say the vows as they were written. The laughs and lightness continued throughout the day. There were lots of toasts, personal and funny, and Tiana enjoyed the warm feeling of seeing the two families merge, the families she loved most. During the dancing, she found herself relaxed enough to consider her aching feet and to abandon her shoes. After all, this was her wedding.

Tiana and David had met in the computer lab at UC Berkeley about three years earlier. They were both working on their graduate degrees in public service. After graduation David started to work at his mother's catering company, Betty Zlatchin Catering, of which he is now the co-owner. Tiana works for a San Francisco  public policy think tank that focuses on low-income families. When the time came to plan the wedding, David suggested the best venues in San Francisco. Tiana declined all the luxurious offers. She loved the outdoors, loved to hike with David in the regional parks. She leaned toward a more casual wedding, at a beach for example.

Betty, David and father Zlatchin

The often foggy spring days and the logistics of catering in the sand tipped the scale against the beach. Then Betty and David suggested the

, a part of Fort Barry. Built in the beginning of the last century, the former military property now serves as an arts community and retreat.

On a sunny autumn day the three of them went to Marin. Tiana was delighted to see the ocean so close, in fact, it was visible from underneath the old oak tree at the spot they had picked for the ceremony. They walked through the old funky building with the wooden floors and the plumbing visible on walls and ceilings. Tiana could see it had been remodeled a few years ago, but luckily the old charm was still there. All three decided to have the reception in the former mess hall, divided from the kitchen only by an island. The hall came with tables and an eclectic array of chairs, assembled over a century.

Tiana thought how appalled her parents would be, as they were used to only the traditional East Coast style weddings. She chuckled, imagining their reaction to the bathrooms. The stall doors were missing and opened to view the old pull lever basins above the toilet. She enjoyed herself taking it all in, while David and Betty already had started to plan how they could best decorate the large mess hall to cover up the flaws and make it presentable while maintaining its rustic feel. Tiana did not have any problem letting them handle the specifics; they were the professionals. She only needed to be in the loop and allowed to give her comments. It went pretty well, and she only had to put her foot down once: to veto a Sushi Bar during their barbecue rehearsal dinner.

Transforming the hall was a challenge for David and Betty. They wanted to create focal points to balance the bold look of the facility. Dressing up the banquet-style tables with butter cream and white checkerboard specialty linen brightened the room considerably. Each table was appointed with simple, white dishes and heavy, traditional silverware.


Bottles with French wine and San Pellegrino sparkling water, pepper mills, and ramequins with Sel de Guerande and Plugra butter were distributed on the tables, giving a distinct Mediterranean flavor to the settings. Chartreuse linen was used on the round tables as an accent. Kathleen Deery created the center-pieces in the form of garlands.


She combined seeded eucalyptus and herbs, such as bay leaves, rosemary, mint, oregano, and sage, and added kumquats, strawberries, and salmon-colored garden roses. Pomanders made from roses and sprays of geraniums were hanging from the stairwell, and buckwheat and geranium branches enhanced the kitchen and the main hall.

Another focal point was the wedding cake decorated with tiny clusters of buckwheat, backed by green satin ribbon; kumquats adorned the top layer. To mellow the stark appearance of the bathroom, Betty brought in a full length mirror and added one of the pomanders. The men got their own luxurious port-a-potties.

As in a modern restaurant, the kitchen was in full view of the guests. The proximity of the busy kitchen staff creating a family style Italian feast brought an energy to the room that added to the casual atmosphere of the event. "We didn't want a formal sit down wedding with each course served individually, and we did not want a buffet which, while definitely casual, was too busy with guests moving around; that did not create the sense of community we desired," David explained. "Family style was a perfect solution. It created the feel of community and family while it was not too stuffy or formal. Wait staff helped pass platters of food from guest to guest. As guests interacted over the food, this style helped break the ice at the tables and created a more familial and casual feel to the party."
See menu!

It was a wonderful reception. The food and wine led to animated conversation, interrupted by toasts, dancing, and several presentations. David's actor friends played sketches, and David himself performed a solo break dance for his new wife and his guests. In order to allow everyone to enjoy the good wine, David and Betty had organized a bus trip back to the city.

See also: Betty Zlatchin Catering

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