Teri turns onto
the driveway of Ralston Hall. She looks at her watch: 2:30
p.m.! Afternoon sun filters through the tall eucalyptus
trees along the road. She navigates carefully over the
speed bumps so the wine and liquor bottles she has picked
up for her client will arrive safely. She loves Ralston
Hall, the modified Italian villa, the summer home of the
Ralston family with its elegant ballroom and spacious,
comfortably furnished family quarters. She loves its
lightness, the many different styles that flow so
effortlessly together, the white painted wood work, and
the etched designs on windows and mirrors.
A few minutes
later Teri pulls her SUV into a parking lot behind the
mansion. As soon as she turns off the ignition her
catering staff surrounds the car. Doors and trunks are
opened, and in an instant wine, crushed ice, gourmet
coffee, and designer breads disappear into the mansion.
Teri follows; her white sneakers contrast with her
sage-colored dress. She doesn't have to be at her finest
today, Lisa from Ralston Hall, will take care of the
wedding party today giving Teri more time to pull the
strings behind the scene. Her catering staff alone
consists of 20 people; then there is the florist with his
three designers, the baker, two photographers, and ten
band members. Teri has to coordinate their work, time the
sumptuous dinner, feed the vendors, and oversee the
thousands of little details that personalize a wedding.
The white van that followed the SUV stops right next to
the back entrance. Jeff, Teri's chef and Drew, his
assistant, open the doors. A delicious smell of the garlic
mashed potatoes emanates from the car and lingers in the air
while the two men unload; then they unfold the prep table,
assemble the long, professional grill, and start the fire
for barbecuing the filet of beef and marinated halibut.
Cooking outside is the only way to provide the guests with
freshly prepared fare because Ralston Hall doesn't allow
open flames in the mansion.
Food and gadgets are piling up on the kitchen counter.
As in most mansions caterers have to bring their own
cooking utensils. Here at Ralston only a refrigerator, a
warming box, and plenty of counter space are provided. The
crew knows the chores, and a few minutes later everything
is stowed away, leaving the counter free for prep work.
Teri tapes the menus on the refrigerator door and
discusses the sequence, preparation, and timing of the
five different appetizers before she makes her round
through the mansion.
The bar area is still a jumble; half opened boxes are
everywhere. Craig, Michele, Parker, and Patrick unpack
liquor, wine, mineral water, and glassware; they professionally
stock the shelves, and bring the old oak bar back to life.
White wine bottles need to be chilled first; they go into
the big tubs already filled with crushed ice.
Teri finds Stephen, the owner of Floramor, in the ballroom.
He examines the placement of the aisle decoration, white
pedestals wrapped in tulle, carrying cylinders with floating
gardenias. Their tropical fragrance intermingles with the
scents of the lilies and garden roses from the two gorgeous
bouquets that mark the ceremony area. Stephen's three assistants
assemble the centerpieces They are replicas of the glass
cylinders on the pedestals with clusters of white calla
lilies in the center. Blue hydrangea florets and battery-powered
votives will complete the clean, sophisticated simplicity
of the design. After the ceremony calla lilies will change
the pew decoration to additional centerpieces, and the
altar pieces will be moved to frame the bandstand.
The scent of the
gardenias is incredible. It reaches from the Ballroom
to the adjacent Cipriani Room; hidden by screens from
view it is used as the staging area. Teri demonstrates
how the tables have to look today while the wait staff
folds napkins and polishes silverware and crystal before
they are placed on the dinner tables. Tiffany sets the "sweet
heart table," a small separate table for bride and
groom. Favors, place cards, and table numbers are added
last. "Just remember," Teri tells them, "the
first name is at 12 o'clock on each table and make sure
that the parents of bride and groom have the sweet heart
table in view."