Vendor Spotlight: Photographer Elizabeth Messina

We are very honored to spotlight the über talented and insanely kind Elizabeth Messina. We are working with Elizabeth on two weddings in 2014. In February, Alison (our very own Creative Director) will marry her teenage sweetheart at Manka’s Boathouse in Inverness, California, and in April another lovely couple will marry in the south of France at the beautiful Hotel Du Cap Eden Roc. We are so happy she has taken the time out to share with you all.

Read on for a little Q&A with this amazing photographer and to see some of her beautiful work (including some images of Alison and Markus’s engagement shoot).


Where are you based?
Southern California

What you do/specialize in?
I am a film photographer. I photograph weddings all over the world and I also photograph portraits, boudoir and bambinos, and quite a bit of editorial work. I am an artist at heart and specialize in creating beautiful images with natural light.


How did you get started?
I got my first camera at the tender age of twelve, it was a gift from my mother. I loved it and photographed my friends and surroundings constantly—although I had no real understanding that I could be a “photographer”. It wasn’t until many years later that I truly embraced my dream and began creating images with purpose.

What inspires you/your work?
Life and my children. There is nothing more humbling than motherhood. It keeps me grounded and always on my toes. I love the way my children see and interpret the world. They are a source of constant inspiration to me.


What do you like to do in your free time?
Sometimes I feel like “free time” is something I left in my youth somewhere. My days are full — I am blessed to be a quite busy photographer, and when I am not on assignment, I am faced with a barrage of paperwork, editing, and deadlines. At home, our life is a beautiful mess of laundry and sneakers, basketball games and bedtime stories. If I truly have “nothing” to do, I think my happiest place on earth is snuggling somewhere with one of my children.

What’s a fun fact about you that your clients may not know?
I have a rather devoted obsession with Pinterest and Instagram and although I tend to be rather reluctant to embrace any form of social media, I have now not only embrace both of these but I really enjoy them. Pinterest is an endless source of inspiration (I am a collector of beautiful things, and this site allows me to collect without limits and yet leaves my home and office uncluttered). And Instagram is sublime. I love the way it connects me to the world with images and allows anyone who is interested to keep up with my daily life. I share images from my home life, editorial shoots, my travels, real weddings and boudoir…nothing is off limits and yet I am very thoughtful about what i share. I think of my feed (which is a mixture of iPhone and film images) as a curated body of work. And I can get lost for hours looking at other peoples images too.


What is one of your favorite destinations and why?
Last year I photographed a stunning wedding in Ireland (which I am so thrilled that Martha Stewart Weddings is publishing in November) and it literally took my breath away. From the rolling hills to the historic architecture, I was smitten. I’d love to go back someday. Sometimes I secretly think I was supposed to have been born in Europe!

What is one of your favorite venues to work on the West Coast and why?
I am quite taken with both the Villa at Sunstone Winery and the San Ysidro Ranch. The Villa is in the Santa Ynez mountains and sits amongst a stunning valley of grape vines and trees. It’s a stone estate, that feels like it could be in the middle of Tuscany. The ranch is nestled in the hills of Santa Barbara. It’s an intimate oasis that’s so beautiful and has a bit of modern history (JFK and Jackie Onasis honeymooned there).


What’s trending in the photography industry for weddings/events now?
I really think there is a surge in people seeking out film photography. Although digital is an incredible medium, when brides find out I am a film photographer, I can sometimes here audible delight in their response. Film is truly an art form and I think many people like to honor their wedding and have “art” created throughout their day. In fact, I am doing as many “love shoots” as “engagement shoots” these days (married couples who seek me out, because they were lacking something in their “wedding photos” that they want to have captured).

What trend are you tired of seeing?
Anything that feels inauthentic. I know that seems vague, yet in an age of sharing and over-sharing it seems sometimes images and ideas are re-used, especially in weddings. For instance, if you grew up on a farm and love mason jars, then by all means incorporate them into your wedding if you like, but if you are using them just because you saw it somewhere, maybe re-think it. The beauty in life and in love is our personal experiences, so bring some personal touches to your wedding. Being personal and authentic will never go out of style.


What’s your favorite photo to capture during a wedding?
Love, and expressions of tenderness between two people in love…there is nothing more beautiful.


Tell us the best way to reach you and check out your work:
Instagram // Kiss the Groom // Elizabeth Messina

I also am the author of The Luminous Portrait.

Glamorous Getaway Cars

Nothing says “we did it!” quite like racing down the road in a vintage Volkswagen beetle convertible or an immaculate cool blue Cadillac. Whether you opt for the “Just Married” aluminum can and ribbon deal or not, you’re going to want to make an exit with style and a little festivity. Your first ride off together should be nothing short of fabulous: a continuation of your spectacular wedding and the perfect escort into the future. Plus, think of the photo opportunities…

Bay area vintage car collector, Phil Toy is our go-to for the right ride: his crop of classic cars includes 1950’s finned Cadillacs, a classic Range Rover, and even a 1967 Airstream Carvel Trailer. The only hard part is choosing which one you want! Check out some of our recent weddings in some of Phil’s cars.



Natalie Bowen Designs

We are so lucky to get to work with some of the most talented floral designers around! We love the team at Natalie Bowen Designs and wanted to share some of the beautiful work they have done with us so far this year! brushcreek-styled-15_natalie bowen

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natalie bowen team
How adorable is this team!

Top two photos by the talented Mel Barlow

Alison Events & La Cocina Inaugural Gala

We had the honor of being asked to be on the committee for La Cocina’s Inaugural Gala. For those of you who aren’t familiar with La Cocina,  meaning “The Kitchen” in Spanish…they are San Francisco’s first incubator kitchen.

“The mission of La Cocina is to cultivate low income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses by providing affordable commercial kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance and access to market opportunities. We focus primarily on women from communities of color and immigrant communities. Our vision is that entrepreneurs gain financial security by doing what they love to do, creating an innovative, vibrant and inclusive economic landscape.” – La Cocina

The Bently Reserve was transformed into a warm and inviting space where honorary hosts, invited guests, and La Cocina program participants came together to celebrate the significant role women – and mothers – play within our food culture.

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 Lidia Sadoun of La Fleuriste was the master mind behind the “kitchen” inspired florals. The centerpieces were all in mixed kitchen vessels such as colanders, glass measuring bowls, and tea glasses with metal cuffs.  Cocktail hour felt alive and warm with beautiful patterned and textured linens from La Tavola and speciality mixed cocktails from Rye on the Road. However, dinner was the main attraction with a once in a lifetime meal for 250 guests by acclaimed New York chef and author of “Blood, Bones, and Butter” Gabrielle Hamilton. 

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Alison has being working pro bono with this amazing organization for a while now so we were delighted when we were asked to join the committee and design their first Gala.

Needless to say, it was truly an amazing night! Thank you La Cocina for including us and we look forward to many, many more together!

A very special thank you to Josh Gruetzmacher for the capturing the event beautifully on film!

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Caitlin + Brian Engagement shoot with Jesse Leake

We were floored when we saw these gorgeous shots of one of our favorite couples, Caitlin & Brian shot by Jesse Leake! Caitlin & Brian have known each other since they were toddlers when they got set up on a play date…flash forward all these years later and we are lucky enough to planning their nuptials this spring at Meadowood in Mountain View, California.

Here is a little bit from the couple about this engagement shoot in Squaw Valley, California.

“Brian and I both grew up with a love of skiing and a particular love of Squaw Valley (Brian spent winters skiing there and my Dad was on the National Ski Patrol and I was on the Squaw Valley Ski Team through high school).  When we saw an engagement photo shoot that Jesse did at Squaw we were blown away and wanted to honor our love of the sport but also thought the shoot would provide a nice juxtaposition to our summer wedding in Napa.  Little did we know what a contrast it would be!  While we were expecting a nice sunny photo shoot, Squaw Valley and the surrounding area was hit with 6.5 feet of snow within six days.  What is normally a 3 hour car ride took us about five hours but we arrived to a winter wonderland on December 22nd (exactly 6 months from our June wedding date).  Although gusting conditions on the mountain prohibited us from having an on-the-hill shoot, Jesse was patient and creative about options.  We started by taking pictures in and around the Squaw  Creek Resort and meadow, then ventured out of Squaw and around Lake Tahoe for some additional photo spots. Despite the freezing conditions and gusting winds, Jesse kept us smiling and laughing and we think the pictures represent that.”

Venue Spotlight: Brush Creek Ranch

We are still feeling the effects of cupid over at Alison Events! We wanted to share with you some style shoot pictures taken at The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming. Talk about an AMAZING VENUE! Brush Creek Ranch is 15,000 acres of stunning beauty situated between the towering peaks of the Sierra Madre and Snowy Mountain ranges in Saratoga Wyoming. This perfect destination wedding spot offers guests a true unique experience. It’s really is a place where it’s nearly impossible not to be to coupling up with someone you love by the fireplace, sharing a cocktail, or venturing out into the snow. The also offer fly fishing, horseback riding, and incredible spa treatments. From family-style feasts to sophisticated upscale dining, no culinary stone has been left unturned. We can’t wait to be apart of future events at this Rocky Mountain paradise.


We can’t wait to share more from this amazing shoot and check out Alison’s guest post on Brush Creek Ranch’s blog here.

Thank you Mel Barlow for the stunning pictures!

Visit Brush Creek Ranch here.

Facebook  & Blog

Vendor Spotlight: Kory Stewart + Americano Restaurant

Today we are elated to spotlight Kory Stewart, Executive Chef of Americano Restaurant in San Francisco. Kory got his first taste of restaurant life washing dishes in a small Italian restaurant at the tender age of 12 and later attended California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. He spent the next couple years developed his knife skills and working in such award-winning restaurants as Postrio, Town Hall, and Michael Minna before becoming the Executive Chef at Americano. From working with Kory and Hotel Vitale a handful of times, we can contest that this guy knows a thing or two about food and the art of dining!

AE: What is the difference between being a chef in San Francisco verses other metropolitan cities in the United States?

Kory Stewart: I don’t really know- I’m always hearing chefs from other places claim they moved here because all the boxes of produce they received in their native town/city were from California.  So I guess we probably have better produce here than most places- otherwise the nature of the work is the same regardless of where you are.

AE: What do you cook at home?

Kory Stewart: I’ve been duck hunting a bunch lately so I’ve been trying to figure out how to make wild bay ducks taste delicious. I’m making progress too, by the way. I like making meals from entirely grown/foraged/stolen food as well.

AE: How have your travels influenced how you look at food?

Kory Stewart: My wife and I traveled to Southeast Asia and the experience really opened my eyes to a whole new range of flavor & style of food. I still enjoy an authentic Thai meal more than about anything. I never try to “fuse” Southeast Asian food with Italian food, although I do draw upon the principals of flavor contrast etc. to make my food more exciting

AE: How do you take on the challenge of not being burnt out on Italian cuisine? Is that possible?

Kory Stewart: I’m surrounded by some of the cooks I respect the most.  My sous chefs and I push each other to be better at what we do- That is a great motivator for me. We don’t claim to be “authentic”. The food we cook at Americano is our interpretation of Italian cuisine, here is quite a bit of room to be creative within that frame.

AE: What are some current trends or ingredients you are loving right now?

Kory Stewart: Finger limes- the pulp of this citrus fruit is like caviar sized eggs filled with tart lime juice. Uni- makes everything taste like the ocean (when it’s fresh) and Candy cap mushrooms- I’m pretty sure this is a lifelong love affair.

AE: You’re invited to a dinner party, what do you bring?

Kory Stewart: Wild mushrooms and fireworks.

2. Corn fritter amuse with fresh uni and pickled chili

3. Finger Lime varieties (by Janet Durham)

4. Egg mafalde with bacon, Bloomsdale spinach and a slow egg

5. Americano Private Dinning Room 

6. Americano Signature dessert: Candy cap mushroom gelato sandwich with butterscotch pecan cookies 

7. Grilled Mt. Lassen rainbow trout with creamed Brussels sprouts, potatoes, crispy maitake mushrooms and salmoriglio

8. Americano Restaurant Interior

*Americano is also now taking reservations for their amazing Valentine’s Day Dinner.

Menu can be found here.

Swiss Chard Wrapped Lamb Loin
Crispy Shoulder “Hash Cake”Roasted Yellowfin Potatoes, Smoked Onion Soubise,
Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Green Harissa… um yum.



Vendor Spotlight: Kate Holt of Flowerwild

From peonies and gloriosa lilies to shooting stars and pom pom dahlias, floral designer Kate Holt of Flowerwild creates whimsical yet understated “fresh from the garden” arrangements that continue to leave us in awe. Based out of Los Angeles, Kate Holt is one of those rare human beings that appears to be doing what it is that she was meant to do, including her recent expansion into styling and creative direction consulting.


In addition, her website and blog is a magical place where beautiful images and ideas are realized by her thoughtful words and visual perspective.

“I’m a fine editor of things, materials, designs, strategies. Some people love to throw more stuff on top of more stuff hoping to eventually find the beauty in it all. But my approach is simpler. Peel back the layers, get to the core, repeat what is beautiful to you as a visual mantra, stay on course, too many distractions and ingredients dilute the intentions and are unnecessary. “ – Kate Holt

Kate is a self-taught designer but has always had flowers on the brain. Her childhood seems like a fantasy of learning and witnessing how beautiful things grow and a family whose mantra was “follow your bliss.” She also has had a career in photography as well as the film industry, which reflects in everything she touches. Her awe-inspiring blog also reflects her daily inspirations from her family and children.

“My vision of this life, this planet, it’s like a glassine web extending outwards, but wrapping around in layers, folding over on itself. Sleek and architecturally sound. One small footstep all the way on the other side, however faint, still sends echoes and ripples across to the other hemisphere.”  – Kate Holt from her blog

Doesn’t that just make you want to sit and smell the roses?

All photos by Elizabeth Messina

Our digital world: Apps we’re loving right now!

Wedding Party  is a photo sharing app that you can set up prior to your wedding or event that allows your guests to easily share their photos taken on their phones.

It’s completely customizable and you can start by uploading a picture of the couple getting married or a logo of your event. Also for the couples-to-be, it can even be linked to your mywedding website

You can let your guests in on the action at any time. You can send them an email linking them to the app, include it in your invitations, or print the free place cards and have them out at the wedding or event.
Your guests will have a place where they can upload their images in batches. Bad cellphone reception? No problem. Guests can upload at anytime and it will still be organized in a virtual timeline of the night. Your guests can also make comments, use the digital guestbook feature, and upload the whole album to Facebook.
Did we mention it’s free?!
Photos courtesy of Wedding Party

La Cocina

This holiday season, we’re feeling a little philanthropic and thought we’d share our favorite SF organization with you.  For those who haven’t heard of La Cocina, it’s an organization that supports local chefs, bakers, and those looking to get into the culinary industry.  Many food trucks and local treats got their start in the kitchen at La Cocina.  Check out their mission statement below to read more on what they do for the community.  You can also purchase some pretty epic gift boxes for the holidays!

“The mission of La Cocina is to cultivate low-income food entrepreneurs as they formalize and grow their businesses by providing affordable commercial kitchen space, industry-specific technical assistance and access to market  and capital opportunities. We focus primarily on women from communities of color and immigrant communities. Our vision is that entrepreneurs will become economically self-sufficient and contribute to a vibrant economy doing what they love to do.”