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C California Style

Jim McElroy strikes up the recessional.
Lights were strung over the pool and dance floor.
His-and-hers custom rings.
Julia designed the stationery suite.
The programs were printed on the back of found vintage wedding photos.
Most of the guests, including flower girls, went barefoot.
Julia and Christopher.
Parasols were distributed during the late-afternoon meal.
Pomegranate branches arranged over the bar.
Cones with dried flowers for the petal toss.

Grand Cru

by C California Style

Party planner Julia Esser weds Christopher Lake on a sun-drenched afternoon at her family’s Napa Valley winery.

Julia Esser had moved to Paris and was working for International Living when she received an Evite from a friend. A witty group response prompted an email from N.Y.-based Christopher Lake. “Essentially we were pen pals until we met in Union Square three months later. I came to NYC for one week to meet him and just never took my return flight back.” Christopher, who works for the startup VHX, and Julia, a professional party planner (Julia Lake Parties!), settled in Brooklyn, and it wasn’t long before Lake popped the question. “Chris took me up to our rooftop and gave me this weird flashlight. As I turned it on, I saw this elaborate mural on the wall that read: ‘Will you marry me?’ in UV luminescent invisible paint.”

The intimate wedding at Julia’s family winery (and childhood home)—a sprawling estate in St. Helena dotted with fruit trees, lavender gardens and acres of vines—was her time to shine. “Because I throw parties for a profession, my wedding day was like my tour de force,” says Julia. “People always tell you not to get lost in the details, but I ignored them and put all my focus into the details.” After save-the-dates were printed on Esser wine bottles and shipped out, she carefully selected pieces of family silver, antique china and old European linens. The invitations were screen-printed on vintage handkerchiefs. Julia arranged white, pink and green bouquets, centerpieces and flower crowns in the days leading up to the outdoor affair. The 50 guests were instructed to wear white to add to the ethereal feel. For the ceremony, Julia and Christopher walked from the house together to complete a circle with loved ones who found seats on hay bales covered with linens. The couple then led the recessional back to the porch, where they celebrated with Champagne and oysters from Tomales Bay before a seated dinner around the pool.

“It ended up looking like an outdoor garden party in a scene from ‘Downton Abbey.’” A masterpiece classic, indeed.

By Kelsey McKinnon.
Photographed by Lauren Ross.

VENUE Private home, Esser Winery MENU Oak Avenue Catering DRESS The Cotton Bride SUIT Band of Outsiders ENTERTAINMENT Gaucho Gypsy Jazz
SF/NYC PLANNER Julia Lake Parties! RENTALS Classic Party Rentals VIDEOGRAPHY Thomas Hughes Films HONEYMOON India.