When we announced to some of our closest friends that we just got married in a secret destination elopement to Santa Fe, New Mexico, one text came back immediately from a long-time friend:  “We want to host a reception for you when you return to celebrate.”  Seeing as this text was from one of the area’s leading event partners and her daughter, a professional wedding and event planner who had been my Associate for so many years, we knew we were in for something special.  But just how special, we did not know until we arrived at the private home of our hosts Heidi and Mike Whitcomb, owners of Ventura Rental Party Center for a grand celebration in style.  Event planners extraordinaire Heidi and Ashley  of Events by Ashley W. produced a night we – and our family and friends- will never forget.  My husband and I did not do one bit of the planning nor were we involved at all.  We provided them with a guest list and literally just showed up and stepped into our reception.  In fact, being on the other side of planning a wedding was almost overwhelming. I remember staring at our wedding cake for cake-cutting not quite sure how to tackle it, despite the fact I’ve counseled hundreds of couples for over 15 years on this exact act.

In addition to the special touches throughout the celebration, I was particularly impressed with a concept that full service caterer Catering Connection did:  they produced what I call a “Mobile Dinner Feast” , and the concept is one I will recommend to others who want a similar event style.  We had family and friends  coming from all over and just a few hours to enjoy everyone.  Some of this family had not seen each other for many years, so engaging and spending time together was the priority, not the often expected/required staged “mini events” and being separated from guests with a formal dining time.  With the meal service style Catering Connection did, guests were able to sit/stand/dance where they were and be passed a full multi-course sumptuous feast, all while continuing their conversations and engaging.  This was not just passed heavy appetizers -we are talking actual passed first courses, and meat entrées.   It was perfection, and guests could not stop raving about the quality of the food- hot, fresh, mouth-watering, elegant, plentiful, sumptuous.  Just when we thought the main dinner had been served, more came out.  With Catering Connection Event Manager Philippe Berger overseeing every detail and the usual exceptional service staff for which Catering Connection is known, some guests actually thought they’d been invited to a private event venue/restaurant who did this regularly and wanted to “book” their next event and reservation here.

Upon arrival, guests were greeted out front with the wonderfully polished and professional Blue Star Valet team (who always sets the tone for incredible events to come), and as they made their way inside, with the upbeat sounds of a lively Jarocho ensemble band playing,  they were greeted with a stationary appetizer masterpiece of a display of domestic and imported cheeses, crackers, fruits, meats, stuffed grape leaves, passed appetizers to die for, a decadent served dinner in courses, (see menu below), and full bar.  With sweeping vistas from the terrace of their beautiful home, italian heatlamps, fire bowls and gorgeous floral arrangements everywhere, these event planners created the perfect backdrop for love and celebration and enjoyment.  We couldn’t have asked for anything more.

We are so grateful to have been given the soirée of a lifetime with our closest family, friends and colleagues.

Special Touches:  Custom bar with our names on it (absolutely love PJ Kuipers of Liquid Cult!);   our wedding photos from Santa Fe were in frames all over the house and were all gifted to us after the wedding for our home; our First Dance was spontaneous and “on request”, so we chose the romantic bolero “Sabor a mi” and danced to a 100 year old version of it that the band had learned from their grandfather;  a whole room dedicated to a dessert buffet and a wedding cake;  being loaded up at the end of the evening (thank you, Blue Star for helping our family and guests into their cars so graciously at evening’s end, especially our elderly family members) with leftover cake, presents, floral arrangements and left-over short ribs and salmon to savor the next day was sublime.

The Menu:  Stationary Hors d’oeuvres: Artisan Cheese Board with Seasonal Fruits, Walnuts, Fig Preserve, Local Honey Served with Crusty Breads & Lavosh Crackers;  Antipasti Platter Italian Hand Sliced Salamis, Fresh Mozzarella, Cubed Feta Cheese, Assortments of Local & Imported Olives, Marinated Mushrooms, Cocktail Onions and Large Stuffed Grape Leaves;  Freshly-Baked Artisan BreadsPassed Hors d’oeuvresJumbo Cajun Shrimp;  Warm Brie and Dried Apricot Filo Tartlet with Toasted Almonds;  Pork Belly with Cherry Compote |    Tomato Bisque & Grilled Cheese Triangles | Passed Mobile Dinner Feast:  First Course:  Spinach Salad with Carrots, Pomegranates, Dates, Oranges, Red Onion and Pine nuts, Champagne Dressing | Main Courses:  Mouth-Watering Beef Short Ribs Braised in Cabernet Reduction Creamy Mashed Potatoes;  Citrus Glazed Salmon Fillet, served with Orange Relish on a Bed of Jicama Slaw

The Event Partners:  Location:  Private Home  |  Catering:  Catering Connection |  Rentals:  Ventura Rental Party Center |  Florals:  Knot Just Flowers |  Jarocho Band:  Xoco Moraza |   Valet:  Blue Star Parking and Valet |  Bartending Service: Liquid Cult   |  Photography:  Ashley Warner, Heidi Whitcomb & Brandon Holcombe |  Event Planning:  Heidi Whitcomb, CEO/Owner Ventura Rental Party Center and Ashley Whitcomb Warner, Events by Ashley W.