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Reception

Top Tips From Northern California Wedding Planners

Northern California's top wedding planners share their juiciest insider info for planning a wedding in Northern California.

Photo: Courtesy of The Standford Court Hotel

The Planner

Kim Oliff, Always r.s.v.p., San Francisco, (650) 854-6399
Years in the biz
15 years -- "I got started by walking in the door of this company as a helper. I grew to love it, became an event coordinator, and now I'm a partner."
Secret Weapon
"I come up with plan B, plan C and plan D before the day of the event. My wedding emergency kit is the size of a suitcase." It really is -- she keeps an iron in there!

The Planner

Michelle Barrionuevo-Mazzini, MB Wedding Design & Events, San Francisco, (415) 706-1677
Years in the biz
She moved from corporate to weddings seven years ago.
Secret Weapon
She'll really get to know you. "I develop not just a working relationship, but a friendship with my clients to ensure that every bit of ground is covered."

The Planner

Elsa Vera, Elsa Vera Productions, Sonoma/Napa Wine Country, (707) 568-5125
Years in the biz
13 as a planner; Elsa definitely knows weddings -- she's dabbled in catering, taught ballroom dancing and did bridal makeup as a licensed cosmetologist.
Secret Weapon
Stamina. "I dot those i's, reread those contracts, and I don't sit down once during a wedding so it's seamless and beautiful."

Brand-new venue

"Pavilion by the Bay on Treasure Island (415-274-2013) just opened. There are amazing views of the San Francisco skyline in a contemporary, permanent tent–type structure with soaring glass walls and a flexible floor plan." -- Kim

Weather watch

"Although July is gorgeous in most of the Bay Area, it's usually foggy in San Francisco. The city gets the best weather in September and October. Even then, there's an occasional heat wave, so check that your venue has air conditioning." -- Kim

Dates to avoid

"Don't book a wedding at any of the Treasure Island event spaces during Labor Day Weekend (the Bay Bridge sometimes closes for construction) or the music festival there, which generally takes place in the middle of October." -- Michelle

Modern hotel ballroom

"The Stanford Court, a Renaissance Hotel in San Francisco (415-989-3500), just had a major renovation. Its ballroom can seat 400 and has a contemporary, boutique feel, especially compared to other large spaces in the city. I've heard the hotel is very green too." -- Michelle

Local late-night

"A fun thing to do at the end of your Sonoma County reception is to have a taco truck come by. It's perfect if guests have spent a lot of time dancing since dinner and need a snack. Several in the area, like Franco Foncesca (707-620-3098), are willing to swing by your reception." -- Elsa

Movie matrimony

"How about marrying at St. Teresa's in Bodega where The Birds was filmed? You can take photos at the Santa Rosa Depot, which is featured in Dial M for Murder, stay at the Flamingo, used in Bandits, and drive off in a car from American Graffiti (rent it from Peggy Sue's Cruise, 707-575-3267)!" -- Elsa

-- Alison Goldman