After nine years of dating, Gina Mondello insisted she knew Brad McCarthy too well for him to ever pull off a surprise proposal. Yet, when she ordered room service during a romantic weekend at the Calistoga Ranch Inn & Spa, she didn't suspect a thing. As she lifted the lid on one of her breakfast dishes, she was stunned to find the words, "Will you marry me?" written in chocolate alongside a display of chocolate-covered strawberries. "The look on her face when I proposed was one of absolute shock, happiness, and amazement!" remembers Brad. "I'll never forget that as long as I live."
Gina and Brad knew that they wanted to wed in San Francisco, and tapped coordinator Maxine Andrew to help them plan a spectacular celebration. Gina began to pull inspiration from many sources, and finally settled on a color scheme of lush lime green with accents of classic gold and cream. As for their venue, the couple decided on the Bently Reserve because it held all of the qualities they were looking for: a spectacular setting, sophistication, elegance, and a little bit of whimsy. "The minute we stepped foot into the gorgeous space, we instantly knew that was it," recalls Gina. "It took our breath away." Built by renowned architect George W. Kelham in the 1920s, the magnificent building serves as a monument to San Francisco's celebrated architectural history. The vast and glamorous space had the perfect composition for a ceremony in the round, so guest seating was placed in a circular pattern instead of the conventional rows.
The couple also wanted to include special touches from their Italian heritage, so they opted for beautiful opera music for the ceremony processional. Bridesmaids carrying lively bouquets of lime green dendrobium orchids with splashes of magenta blossoms walked gracefully down the aisle to "Nessun Dorma." Gina looked stunning in her Elizabeth Fillmore gown as she joined hands with her intended at a candlelit altar in the center of their guests. "We were truly surrounded by our family and friends," describes Gina. "It was magical." Brad only had eyes for his bride, however. "I just couldn't stop thinking to myself how beautiful she was," he says.
A breathtaking "wish tree" made of golden manzanita branches strung with thousands of shimmering crystals invited guests to write special wishes to the couple; messages were then suspended from the tree to serve as a unique twist on the traditional guest book. Once attendees located their seats, they found either a diamond-shaped paperweight or a box containing two Joseph Schmidt truffles as favors at their place settings. Dazzling candelabra centerpieces held striking white phalaenopsis orchids in place of candles, while crystal and china rimmed in gold coordinated perfectly with gilded chiavari chairs.
While guests settled in, Gina and her dad prepared for their very special father-daughter dance. "It was very emotional for me," explains Gina, whose father underwent quadruple bypass surgery shortly after her engagement. "Having him healthy and singing Frank Sinatra to me was a moment I'll keep close to my heart forever."
After feasting on a choice of prosciutto-wrapped halibut or grilled tenderloin of beef, guests were treated to a sweet surprise. As the first strains of "O Sole Mio" began to play, a white-gloved waiter found the bride and groom on the dance floor and handed each a cannoli -- the couple's non-traditional version of wedding cake. "We fed each other the first bite, and then a slew of waiters came out with trays of cannoli [for everyone]. It was a delicious spectacle!" Gina exclaims.
Gina and Brad danced and laughed throughout the evening, delighted that they were able to capture their personalities and love for each other in a sophisticated celebration for their loved ones to enjoy. "It was the best day of my life," shares Brad. "I wouldn't change a thing."