According to Jeanne Hoffman, the first time she and Chris Lynch met they hit it off instantly. But the timing wasn’t right for a relationship until several years later when Jeanne and Chris, both single, happened to re-connect at a mutual friend’s Fourth of July party. Not knowing the other was going to be there, “We were both pleasantly surprised,” she says, putting it mildly. The two began dating soon after.
Four years later, Chris surprised Jeanne by waking her very early in the morning and presenting her with a little black ring box. “As I am not necessarily a morning person, I like to say it woke me faster than a triple espresso,” says Jeanne. But Chris’ reasons for popping the question at sunrise were completely selfless. They were leaving that night for a vacation in Tuscany and “He wanted to give me the opportunity to call my friends and family before we flew to Europe,” says Jeanne.
Since Jeanne and Chris own a home in Southampton, their first thought was to have a beach wedding. “We were focused on picking a locale that was meaningful to us and that would foster a feeling of celebration,” not just in honor of their commitment, but to pay tribute to their close-knit relationships with family and friends. Desiring a spring wedding, they decided to forgo the beach for another spot that had become a part of their life together: Northern California’s wine country. With a shared love for wine and the region, Jeanne and Chris quickly decided upon the Kunde Estate Vineyards in Kenwood, California. The two thousand-acre property boasted a lush area called Boot Hill to accommodate the reception tent, as well as an area perforated by old stone ruins that was perfect for the ceremony.
But as the wedding day grew closer, rain threatened to derail the couple’s plans for an outdoor ceremony. Luckily, their wedding coordinator was able to secure a mission church in nearby Sonoma just days before the ceremony was set to begin. The “elegant garden style” décor was easily adapted to the new indoor space, and consisted of a predominantly white collection of peonies, roses, hydrangea, and fragrant lilac accented by touches of green and yellow. Classical music filled the ceremony, which included significant readings and a touching tribute during an Irish melody to Chris’ late stepmother and Jeanne’s late father. “One of my father’s heartfelt wishes was for the family to stay connected, cherish the ties that bind us, and to continue to expand the web of family. These values are shared by Chris’ family and provide the strong foundation for the most significant principles we share,” asserts Jeanne.
And this perspective continued to drive the decisions Jeanne and Chris made in planning their celebration. Guests were provided with a full wine country experience, from luxurious welcome baskets full of local delights to activities that celebrated the surroundings. Even the menu introduced guests to the best of what the region had to offer by utilizing seasonal California produce and innovative techniques such as serving heirloom tomato gazpacho in individual bowls made of handcarved ice. And, of course, local wines flowed throughout the event.
Guests enjoyed the rolling landscape as they rode in San Francisco-style trolleys from the ceremony to the reception. Set in the middle of a verdant paradise, the clear-sided tent made it feel as if there was nothing separating the party from the great outdoors. Tables were layered in different shades of green and topped with centerpieces in footed ceramic bowls. White flowers from the ceremony created the basis for the arrangements, while the addition of more greenery such as scented geranium foliage and branches of rosemary (to represent Jeanne’s close relationship with her cousin and aunt, Rosemary) were added for a real touch of spring. At the head of the dance floor, a lounge area complete with flip-flops allowed guests to rest their weary dancing feet. Guests could also assemble their own s’mores from a do-it-yourself station. And as the daytime sky turned to night, a custom lighting treatment illuminated the ceiling of the tent, giving everyone the feeling that the wedding was set beneath the stars.
In addition to the traditional honeydew-colored wedding cake, the groom was surprised with a cake of his own. Its design reflected Chris’ love of fishing and featured a completely edible basket containing hooks, bait, a fishing pole, and a rainbow trout. A small sign also said “Chris has caught the catch of his life.”
Just prior to the wedding, Jeanne and Chris sent each of their eighty guests a “friends and family” guide, which included a picture of every person attending the wedding, as well as a brief background on how they knew the bride and groom. It was a creative idea, and one that fostered a sense of intimacy among the group. “I think we tried very much to balance creating a special memory and celebration for our loved ones with not letting things rattle us too much,” explains Jeanne. This meant trying to do as many things in advance so that the precious days right before the wedding would be as free as possible to spend with their guests. “I think having some down-time puts you in a place where you can soak more of it in, particularly at a destination wedding.”