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Laura Hunt

Remembering Italy

A Celebration in Downtown San Francisco
Text: Ali Palmer
Martina Konietzny

"We seldom had so much fun planning a wedding with a bride, my friend Linda Hylen, Director of Events, at the Merchants Exchange, told me. "Instead of her mother Ali asked her best friend, Tia, for help. They did an amazing job. There was a firework of ideas during our meetings. Alexandra and Tia also trusted our expertise  and gave us freedom to be creative. It was such a great party that the guests continued to celebrate at Tosca's, a famous downtown restaurant, after they left the ballroom of the Merchant's Exchange."

During the summer of 1997, Bob and I met at UC Berkeley. Although we knew each other from our freshman year, we started dating after "chemistry struck" one night at Henry's, a local bar. After just a few months I traveled to Florence, Italy for my semester abroad, leaving Bob behind for the next six months.

He and his family had been to Italy before, even rented a house in Tuscany, so they prepared me for the trip with stories and travel books. It was hard to leave, but we never stopped writing, and after my  return, we continued dating for seven more years.

Last Christmas Eve at his family home in Mill Valley, in front of 14 of our closes relatives, Bob proposed. We had returned from the 6 o'clock Mass and were sitting in the formal dinning room to enjoy the gorgeous meal his mother had made.

After grace, we were just about to dig in, Bob stood up at the head of the table and said: "Before we eat I have an announcement to make. But first..., (and he turned to my dad) George, I would like to ask you for Ali's hand in marriage." My dad, being my dad, boasted, "How about absolutely?!!" Then Bob turned to me, got down on one knee, and said, "Will you marry me?" I said something along the lines: "Of course, I will!" and I could not stop hugging and kissing him... The whole table was crying, and I could not touch my food; I was so excited. To say the very least, it was the best holiday ever, not only because of the engagement but because our families were together, and we had so much fun.

On October 9, 2005 we were married at Saint Dominic's Catholic Church in San Francisco. The church boasting a gorgeous, hand-carved Italian marble altar makes one reminisce about being in Italy.

Going out together to enjoy a nice meal is one of our greatest pleasures. Italian food is our favorite. So it was just fitting to plan a San Francisco-style wedding with an Italian theme, focusing on family, food, and eating.

For the reception we had picked the Julia Morgan Ballroom at the Merchants Exchange Club. The elegant ballroom in a grand old San Francisco setting had the feel of a medieval castle in Tuscany: refined yet rustic at the same time. The Italian food was served family style.

The three long kings tables were covered with the most lush and elegant wine-colored linens, enhanced by gold floral accents. Each table had tall, silver candelabras with long tapered candles. It was beautiful!

Each kings table was named after a region in Italy: one Sicilia, one Lazio, and one Toscana. Within each region, there were 3-4 Italian restaurants named for different sections of the table. It was absolutely fitting; all of the restaurants we had picked were close to our hearts.




Bob and I sat at the table "Sicilia" in the section of "Trattoria La Siciliana," our favorite restaurant in Berkeley. All other restaurants were ones we had visited together in Berkeley and San Francisco or that I had eaten at in Florence and Rome. The escort cards read, "Alexandra and Robert Palmer, Visiting Sicilia, Dining at Pretoria La Siciliana... Buon Appetito!"
See: Table Chart

It was beyond elegant, candles lit everywhere and rose petals strewn across the tables.
First we had Italian appetizers. Our dinner started with antipasto: prosciutto, salami, caprese, and breadsticks. Then we had a salad of organic greens, gorgonzola, toasted walnuts, and pears. The entree consisted of vegetable ravioli and the most sumptuous chicken with mushroom sauce. Throughout dinner, only Italian red and white wines were served, along with Prosecco. The dessert had to be tiramisu in order to end our feast in true Italian style.

The music at the reception was 40's and Big Band: We danced to Benny Goodman and his band, "It had to be you." It just added to the old-school Italian and SF feel.

The Event Professionals:
Photography: Martina Konietzny
Venue: Linda Hylen, Jula Morgan Ballroom at the Merchants Exchange
Catering: Teri Menchini, La Bocca Fina
Flowers: Leighsa Smyser, Branch Out


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