Cliffside Wedding Overlooking Monterey Bay

Michaela and Robert

Photographed by: Gina Taro PhotographyLocation: Monterey, California, United States

Spending most of their time catering to the whims of their clients, catering manager Michaela Gledhill and food and beverage director Robert Weakely relished the opportunity to design a wedding with only themselves in mind. With the tools of their trade and top Northern California vendors as their arsenal, Michaela and Robert produced a wedding brimming with personal touches that introduced their guests to all that they adore about California living: the copious local cuisine, regionally produced wines and the spectacular setting of the Northern Big Sur coastline.

Simple, laid-back elegance was the vision for Michaela and Robert’s affair. It became a destination wedding for many of their 120 guests who turned a one-day event into an extended vacation. Guests began their weekend in the same way Michaela and Robert often do, at a beach barbecue hosted by the couple on Friday. It was the perfect way to enjoy the Indian Summer weather, and it allowed their guests to get to know one another beforehand, making the next day’s celebration even more enjoyable.

Michaela and Robert decided to hold their ceremony on August 23, 2003 in the historic San Carlos Cathedral located in picturesque downtown Monterey. In a meaningful tribute to her father who passed away only three years earlier, Michaela wore his wedding ring throughout the ceremony. She also chose to honor her father’s memory by walking unescorted down the aisle to meet Robert, with her brother and godfather close at hand in case she was unable to go it alone.

An outdoor reception followed at the only location the couple could consider for their event, breathtaking Abalone Cove, a twelve-acre private estate nestled on the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean. There, guests indulged in an exquisitely planned menu of the couple’s favorite dishes paired with the best of what the local wineries had to offer. As Michaela explained, since she and Robert are passionate about food and wine, “we wanted to share that with our guests but we didn’t want a stuffy, formal affair.” Adults were greeted with glasses of champagne, foie gras torchon and passed spoons of spicy tuna tartar while their younger guests played ball on the scenic lawn. Under a grand tent with tables accented by uncomplicated centerpiece of calla lilies and roses, a four-course dinner was presented. Offerings consisted of Heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad complemented by 1998 Talbott Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay, crab cakes and beef short ribs with white truffle mashed potatoes paired with 1999 Sherwin Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. Service was delightfully interrupted, however, by a pod of whales swimming by that beckoned partygoers from the tent to witness what can be a regular occurrence for that stretch of California’s coastline but an extraordinary treat for Michaela and Robert’s out of town guests.

The exuberance Michaela and Robert felt from their guests made it very easy to overlook the fact that somewhere along the way, the CD of their first dance song, “It Had to Be You” was forgotten. In keeping with the easygoing spirit of their evening, they danced instead to an instrumental ballad they never could place. Order was easily restored, however, when their two individualized wedding cakes were revealed, a bride’s cake of four, square tiers adorned with champagne grapes and marzipan ribbon and a groom’s carrot cake in the shape of a bottle of Dom Perignon. A dessert course of “make your own S’mores,” another well received stroke of creativity, reunited guests outside the tent as kids toasted marshmallows over a fire alongside adults relaxing with cigars and glasses of fine port around the in-ground fireplace that seats up to thirty.

Michaela and Robert rounded out their guests’ experience by bidding farewell to them with a true token of their weekend in Northern California, favors of locally produced wine. Mark Ayers, executive chef for the evening and a close friend of the couple, created custom labels for bottles of Robert Talbott Logan Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that told the story of Michaela and Robert’s relationship for guests to remember always.

Michaela and Robert believed that if they planned a wedding that reflected their personalities and focused on the details most important to them that their guests would reap the benefits. Remaining true to themselves and their passion for food certainly did not end with their wedding event, and the couple chose to honeymoon in culinary style, enjoying the decadence of Paris and its outlying regions of Champagne and Bordeaux as well as touring the grand city of Monte Carlo.

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