Emily & Michael

Posted by Christine Wheat on June 01, 2015
Category: Weddings


pataki elario photography 042 608x405 Emily & MichaelSaturday, June 30
Saratoga Springs
Hall of Springs

I am so proud to share this amazing wedding with all of you today. Emily & Michael’s wedding was not only an honor to be a part of but also a highlight of my career.

My journey with Emily and Michael began when I received an email from Emily last January, right after the holidays, inquiring about our planning services for a summer 2012 wedding at the Hall of Springs.

I soon learned that Emily came from a very prominent and well respected family when I was asked to come and interview at 30 Rockefeller Center (aka 30 Rock) in New York City at her father’s office – the office of former Governor George Pataki.

5865462605 e46f878f8e z 608x405 Emily & MichaelI was thrilled to have been given the opportunity to meet with the former Governor and Emily and was extremely excited at the thought of working with them to plan the Saratoga Springs wedding.

Emily, her family and I hit it off right away and I left that meeting in New York City feeling energized and inspired to begin planning..

We started working together the following week – setting up bi-weekly appointments to review the tremendous pile of details in planning this beautiful affair. Every two weeks we met at the Yale Club in New York City to conceptualize, coordinate and organize every detail of the unbelievable event.

YaleClub Emily & MichaelEmily adored the Avenue of the Pines in Saratoga Springs  – a well loved road lined with stately pine trees that leads you into the beautiful state park in Saratoga.

6304031080 6b71c58801 z 608x456 Emily & MichaelSo we decided that the entire theme of the wedding would be the Avenue of the Pines…

We first worked with Paperdolls of Saratoga to start creating the wedding stationary concept with a Save the Date. The Save the Date would set the tone for this outdoor inspired affair.

std Emily & Michael

From there, we knew we needed to book hotel accommodations for Emily and Michael’s guests – all who would be traveling from out to town for their wedding day. We quickly reserved rooms at five Saratoga based hotels to accommodate 350 guests.

Once I met with Emily and her family, I knew just the right team of vendors to pull this event together – and I was able to check off our entertainment, photography and event designer right away.

For reception entertainment we locked in Chris Sealey, who was named by Gen Art as the 2011 DJ of the Year. He’s spun for tons of A-list clients including  Conde Nast, Mick Jagger and Prince. We knew he’d be perfect for this event!

For photos, we knew Joe Elario Photography would be the right fit for the job – and boy did they capture some amazing images (you’ll see what I mean later)

To bring the outdoors inside, there was only one man for the job – David Michael Schmidt from Renaissance Floral Design. David and I had met many times before Emily and her family came to meet him to make sure we were on the same page with the concept and how we were going to present the design to the client. We had concepts for the lighting, rentals, chairs, linens, flowers, trees and forest pathways…our bride and her family absolutely LOVED our ideas. We were ready the get the design plan into motion….

That meant pulling together a team of professionals that could actually produce this magical forest inside the very formal ballroom – David and I would be working closely with lighting experts, rental companies and landscapers to bring this vision to life.

Meanwhile, I continued to work with the bride and groom on their invitation design. Paperdolls of Saratoga blew us away with this beautiful one-of-a-kind custom Avenue with the Pines piece. It gave guests a great idea of what they could expect at the wedding venue.

pataki elario photography 002 608x405 Emily & MichaelThe invitation had many parts – it needed to include details about rehearsal dinner, welcome cocktails, wedding day festivities and post wedding brunch. There was a lot of information to include and Paperdolls did a flawless job of compiling it into a beautiful little package.

While we got the vendors in place, Emily, her mom and sister started eagerly planning the bridesmaid attire and looking for the perfect wedding dress which she found at Mark Ingram Bridal Atelier – a timeless Rivini gown.

Once the bride had her gown, it was time to set up her hair and makeup trial with Make Me Fabulous led by Alayne. If you want perfection, professionalism and a trustworthy team – you go with the girls at Make Me Fabulous. They are always on time and never disappoint when it comes to making the entire bridal party look…well,…fabulous!

The menu tasting was the same weekend as the beauty trial. Angelo Mazzone, Kevin Sykes and their entire team at Mazzone Hospitality outdid themselves. As we tweaked the menu over the three hour tasting — the bride kept giggling to the groom saying “I can’t wait for the wedding day…I can’t wait for the wedding day” and for a wedding planner that is music to my ears!

484149 10151173912739867 765503551 n Emily & Michael

Meeting with Kevin from the Hall of Springs to plan the menu for Emily & Mike

This family wanted special wine and champagne which was selected at a private wine and champagne tasting. For any client that is a huge connoisseur of wine, I highly suggest having one of these with your caterer!

BOW RIBBON HORZ1 120x1201 Emily & MichaelQuick planning tip- it’s always lovely to list the wine you’ve selected to serve with each course of the meal – guests appreciate an understanding of the wine and food pairing and it adds a level of sophistication to your reception. The in-house sommelier from your caterer can advise you on this.

Here was Emily and Michael’s final menu, thanks to Paperdolls of Saratoga

3 261x608 Emily & Michael

With menu complete, invites out, and beauty done – it was finally time for our final floral review meeting and our day of stationary planning session.

At the floral review meeting, David brought out samples of dozens of flowers and multiple linens and we played all afternoon to find the perfect tablescape for the reception in the enchanted Forest. David is a stickler for detail and won’t settle until things are perfect! We love that!

photo361 Emily & Michael

Reviewing florals with David

Paperdolls of Saratoga created and printed created wedding day stationary including: Itineraries for the welcome boxes, ceremony programs, seating cards, escort cards, petal cones, menu cards, table names, specialty drink menus, table names

All with a navy and blush, Avenue with the Pines motif

1 482x608 Emily & Michael

Specialty drink menu…how yummy and refreshing does this sound??


Capture3 Emily & Michael

Escort Card…wait until you see how we displayed these!


41 608x435 Emily & Michael

The table numbers…all named after famous legal cases

For the welcome boxes that would be left for guests at each of the hotels, ideas started to come together with a Saratoga theme: Saratoga blue bottled water, Saratoga potato chips, cookies from Bethany’s Kitchen, wedding itineraries, local maps and much much more…

photo38 608x456 Emily & Michael

And soon enough, wedding day was right around the corner and the coordination itinerary was perfectly aligned to have the best day possible.

The bride and groom and I went over every single minute of how the wedding day would flow – this schedule is known as my Minute to Minute schedule. Creating this schedule is an imperative part in the planning process since you need to make sure everything you’ve planned is actually going to be produced on the wedding day.

To ensure everything went seamlessly on wedding day, my team of seven met with the catering team, rental team, floral design team and lighting team to go over, in painstaking detail, all the logistics of how and when we would layer the production and the build of this amazing space in the Hall of Springs.

When you are hosting a ceremony and reception in the same space, with numerous rentals, exquisite lighting, and elaborate floral decor – it is imperative that you have a flawless plan to execute “the flip” – the flip is when you change the ceremony space over to the reception. It is a major undertaking, especially in this instance since so many elements were at play.

The final step before wedding day was to have the family arrive in town and to have the bride’s dress steamed, the groom’s suits pressed and the welcome boxes delivered to all the guests.

photo34 Emily & Michael

Stuffing the welcome boxes

Festivities began on the Thursday before the wedding when all the ladies came in for the bachelorette party.

Meanwhile, at the Hall of Springs – live, 300-pound trees were being delivered and the lighting design team was installing the intricate lighting system. That night, we coordinated a trial run of the lighting design to ensure it was exactly how we wanted it.

photo30 Emily & Michaelphoto313 Emily & Michael







As the trees were delivered to the space they were watered thoroughly to make sure each looked vibrant and healthy for the forest that would come to life in the Hall.

On Friday, the ceremony rehearsal came together perfectly. We rehearsed each person’s role in the ceremony program. We practiced the logistics of how the ceremony would unfold – reminding each person where they would talk, stand and perform their readings.

From there, it was off to dinner at Sperry’s (with the talented master chef Dale Miller) and then to welcome cocktails at the Parting Glass.

While the bride, groom and their families enjoyed rehearsal dinner, I picked up the DJ, who had come in from NYC and delivered him to his hotel. I also checked in with the video team, Films by Francesco (who are best known as the filmographers for Chelsea Clinton’s wedding), to ensure they arrived into Saratoga and got settled and rested in their hotel.

Wedding morning came fast and furious for most of our team – the floral design team started loading in trees at 3am! By 7am, we had private security on site ensuring the venue stayed confidential for this private family.

Then, our team of seven coordinators gathered for our staff debriefing before we began implementing our itinerary.

photo241 Emily & Michael

After the staff meeting our coordinators broke up into teams and were assigned to specifics tasks:

  • Two coordinators at the Batcheller Mansion coordinating bridal party beauty, dressing and photos
  • Two coordinators managing the ceremony and reception set up at the Hall of Springs
  • Two coordinators overseeing transportation of guests
  • And me! I floated between each of the venues at multiple points during the day

We had many balls in the air that day and lots of logistics to implement, but the team was well prepared to execute the plan exactly as we had discussed.

At the Batcheller Mansion Inn, where the bride and her family were staying, Emily had classical music playing as everyone had breakfast together in the morning and then started to get ready with the Make Me Fabulous team.

pataki elario photography 0061 Emily & Michael

The day seemed to be perfect – the photographer arrived right on time and started working on the detail shots. The bride was feeling excited and happy and the flowers began to arrive right on schedule.

Before I go any further, I want to take a moment to emphasize how important wedding photography is – I cannot stress enough to brides that they should try to make as much of an investment as possible in photography. In the end, all you have are the photos and the memories and when you have photographers as good as the Elarios, you don’t even need a memory, they won’t miss a single detail! When they arrive on wedding day, I immediately feel relaxed because I know they are going to hit a home run for my bride and groom.

pataki elario photography 003 608x405 Emily & MichaelThe ladies got their finishing touches and then started to get dressed. Emily also got into her gorgeous wedding gown with the help of her mom and sister.

pataki elario photography 004 608x405 Emily & MichaelEmily looked perfect…a classic, elegant bride. And her bouquet was a perfect match for this outdoor inspired event.

pataki elario photography 007 608x405 Emily & MichaelNext was coordinating the first of two “first looks” – Governor Pataki seeing his daughter as a bride for the first time.

The maids lined up down the stunning stairs of the Batcheller Mansion to watch as dad got to see his daughter…and I gave one last tightening of dad’s bowtie.

pataki elario photography 010 608x405 Emily & MichaelAnd then we sent Emily down the stairs. I love this little series of images…you can feel the emotion.

pataki elario photography 011 608x405 Emily & Michael

pataki elario photography 013 608x405 Emily & MichaelEmily’s next “first look” would give her even more nervous butterflies she was about to see Michael, her groom for the first time.

We staged this first look outside with the Mansion as the backdrop, it was perfection.

photo161 Emily & Michael

Going out for the first look with Michael

Staging the bride and groom…

pataki elario photography 0141 608x405 Emily & Michael

When Michael turns to see his bride…(this was our view!)

photo151 Emily & MichaelHere is the shot the Elario’s got!

pataki elario photography 015 608x405 Emily & Michael

pataki elario photography 017 608x405 Emily & MichaelTo move out of the hot, humid sun, we decided that family portraits would be shot inside the Batcheller Mansion parlor and the Elario’s did it like a shoot for Vanity Fair – regal, classy and elegant.

pataki elario photography 022 608x405 Emily & MichaelWhile all of these festivities were taking place at the mansion, some of our other coordination team was managing the ceremony and reception venue – working with all the design and decor vendors for the build of the forest.

I have to say, I have never had a wedding where all of the vendors worked so seamlessly, politely and creatively together – it was absolutely perfect.

IMG 0380 608x456 Emily & Michael

IMG 0385 608x456 Emily & MichaelMeanwhile, two of our other coordinators were managing the transportation of guests – in total we had 5 transportation vehicles roaming between 6 venues and we needed to keep the transportation schedule perfectly on track.

photo14 Emily & Michael

Our transportation team meeting before the trolleys started their day…

Then, right on time…the trolleys, full of excited guests arrived at the Hall of Springs where they were greeted with champagne and this lovely ceremony program stand – a one of a kind piece by David Michael Schmidt

pataki elario photography 032 608x405 Emily & Michael

They then made their way down the forest pathway to their seats surrounded by trees.

pataki elario photography 031 608x405 Emily & Michael

Some other fabulous ceremony details…

pataki elario photography 033 608x405 Emily & Michael

pataki elario photography 034 608x405 Emily & Michael

As guests took their seats, the bridal party had a quick touch up in the bridal party suite – a room of refreshments and relaxation that Mazzone Hospitality always puts together for the bride, groom and bridal party.

And then we brought them into the front parlor of the Hall of Springs to line them up to begin processional – which was set to beautiful pieces of music picked out by our bride.

And Governor Pataki proudly walked his daughter down the aisle under the sunset lighting that dabbled the forest landscape below.

pataki elario photography 035 608x405 Emily & Michael

pataki elario photography 036 608x405 Emily & MichaelAnd Emily and Mike exchanged vows in this beautiful space…known affectionately as “the grotto” which featured a custom cross made from wood from the Hudson River.

pataki elario photography 038 608x405 Emily & MichaelAll of a sudden it was time to seal their vows with a kiss and rose petals were tossed upon the bride and groom as they recessed down the aisle out to the receiving line as Mr. & Mrs.

pataki elario photography 039 608x405 Emily & MichaelAfter ceremony, we coordinated a receiving line on the portico of the Hall of Springs, right where cocktail hour began. Guests eagerly awaited an opportunity to congratulate the bride, groom and their families on their way into the pretty cocktail hour outside along the reflecting pool.

pataki elario photography 040 456x608 Emily & MichaelDuring cocktail hour, guests were also invited to pluck their escort cards as they walked under a beautiful willow tree that looked gorgeous gently blowing in the summer breeze.

pataki elario photography 041 608x405 Emily & MichaelJohn Charles Cook played guitar and Mazzone Hospitality knocked it out of the park with cocktail food  – they even had a corn station for our Nebraska born groom!

During cocktail hour, the bride’s dress was bustled, her veil removed, and she and Michael were able to take a few last-minute sunset shots with the Elario team.

pataki elario photography 0421 608x405 Emily & MichaelIn the ballroom, we were in the midst of “the flip” – the transformation from ceremony to reception happened in a record 50 minutes!  Hats off to everyone involved – this was a major feat and it was done flawlessly.

IMG 0400 608x456 Emily & Michael

The flip in progress

IMG 0399 608x456 Emily & Michael

More flipping…

As always, we ran through our final checklist of reception items…

  • DJ sound check
  • Menus tucked in napkins
  • Seating cards appropriately place at each place setting
  • Champagne poured
  • Lighting check

Then it was time to invite the bride and groom into the reception space for the reveal…they were in love with David’s amazing design work.

pataki elario photography 047 608x405 Emily & Michael

The scent of the first course lingered in the air, it was time to invite guests into the transformed Hall of Springs to find their seats.

Guests walked into the ballroom to a lighting effect on the ceiling that illustrated clouds and enjoyed  sunset lighting that kissed the dance floor.

pataki elario photography 048 608x256 Emily & Michael

pataki elario photography 051 608x405 Emily & Michael

pataki elario photography 049 456x608 Emily & MichaelAfter introducing the bride and groom into the Hall, we rolled right into the first dance…

pataki elario photography 056 608x405 Emily & MichaelFollowed by an amazing toast by the Governor

pataki elario photography 057 608x608 Emily & MichaelThe DJ, tucked away in his entertainment lair, was ready to get everyone up and dancing…but first, we had to cut the cake!

pataki elario photography 059 608x405 Emily & MichaelAnd then it was time to party! And the lighting in the entire room changed to “night” – take a look at the night sky scene on the ceiling!

pataki elario photography 054 608x405 Emily & MichaelTold you the DJ had his own little “cubby” where he had tunes pumping all night!

photo37 Emily & Michael

pataki elario photography 061 608x405 Emily & MichaelAfter guests worked up a second appetite on the dance floor, some late-night fare came out to re-energize the crowd.  Late night eats were one of the things Emily, Michael and I had discussed from the very beginning…people always love a snack after coming off the dance floor!

Around 11pm, our transportation coordinators begin arranging shuttle transportation back to the guest hotels – slowly the crowd on the dance floor began to dwindle, but there were close family and friends who danced until the last song played celebrating with the happy bride and groom.

At the end of the night, we got hugs and thank yous from everybody involved – which is always means so much to me and my team – it means we have done our job! We got the family safely tucked into their rides back to the hotel and made sure our bridal party hopped the last ride on the trolley. And, of course, we had a town car whisk away our bride and groom to their wedding night suite.

After the wedding, we got this AMAZING testimonial from Governor and Mrs. Pataki:

“Christine Wheat demonstrated the utmost professionalism over the year and a half that our family worked with her. We especially enjoyed her ability to bring in the most talented vendors in the area, which allowed us to enjoy Saratoga and all of the beauty that already exists there, and also develop our own vision for the wedding weekend. Her taste and judgment made a huge difference and eased stress and concern of the bride every step of the way. Along with her very focused and talented team, she made this weekend one of the best in our lives. Since the wedding, so many friends and family members have told us it was the most spectacular wedding or event they’d ever been to. We know this is because of the efforts and love of the bride and groom, and how well they worked with such a fantastic event planner as Christine.” George and Libby Pataki

It was an absolute honor and privilege to work with the Governor’s family on this amazing day.  I simply adore Emily and Michael and their families and wish them many many years of happiness and love. Thank you so much for allowing me to be part of this extraordinary event.

578937 10151258712789867 1106043785 n 608x405 Emily & Michael

Thank you to JP Elario for capturing this great shot of me and my team at the end of the night. These ladies were amazing!

Special thanks to the professional team of vendors who made this entire day possible – it was absolutely a team effort and it would not have been possible without each and every one of you. Thank you for your tireless effort and energy – you are all amazing!