Angeleno Magazine Oct/Nov 2003



Island touches and attitudes make for a wedding paradise right here in town

by Audrey Davidow
photography by Miki and Sonja

Long before she ever walked down the aisle, Kari Isaaksen knew what most brides only learn in hindsight. As the manager of Embrey Papers, the Brentwood stationery store that caters to posh local brides, Kari had seen firsthand how overly ambitious plans and micro-managed minutiae could quickly strip the fun from the festivities. So when she got engaged last fall to Arthur Rasmussen, a real estate vice president she had met five years earlier on a blind date, she knew exactly how she wanted things to proceed. “I wanted to keep things simple and in perspective. It was always important for me to enjoy the planning process.”

Enter wedding coordinator Lisa Gorjestani, owner of Details Event Planning. “I had worked with Lisa through the store and I just knew she’d be perfect. She’s very creative, but doesn’t try to dominate the whole picture — she just gets it.” Together they set about designing the look of Kari’s dream wedding, which in this case meant skipping formal in favor of fun.

First things first: location: Kari and Art, who are both third generation Angelenos, toyed with the idea of tying the knot in Santa Barbara, but ultimately they decided to say close to home. They wanted a casual atmosphere and that meant picking a place with easy access for their friends and family. It didn’t take long for the couple to settle on having their reception at Trader Vic’s, a place that holds more than a few special memories from their courtship. Art had taken Kari there on several dates, and even chose it as the site for her surprise 25th birthday party.

The decision to hold the ceremony at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills was also a natural. Not only was it close to the reception site, its small size provided just the intimate backdrop the couple was looking for. The couple asked one of Art’s old teachers from Loyola High School, a Jesuit priest, to preside over the ceremony and had the St. Paul’s Choristers, a local childrens’ choir, provide the music.

Kari walked down the aisle, which was adorned with an ivory runner and ivory rose petals, in a stunning Vera Wang duchess satin gown. Topping off the ensemble was a flowing cathedral length veil, which she later replaced with a white orchid for the reception.

A lime green accent was carried throughout the ceremony, even extending to the clothing. Art and his groomsmen wore tuxedos with chartreuse ties while the bridesmaid’s bouquets, designed by Jennifer McGarigle of Floral Art, were fashioned with white roses and green parrot tulips.

After the ceremony, the 130 guests headed down the street for cocktails at Trader Vic’s. Instead of champagne, Kari and Art offered a menu of colorful Polynesian concoctions, including Mai Tais and the couple’s favorite, Fog Cutters, which Kari describes as “fruity, frothy and slightly dangerous rum drinks.” In lieu of fussy, pixie-sized hors d’oeuvres, Trader Vic’s tray-passed a never-ending procession of pupu platters. “The less predictable environment just made it that much more comfortable for the guests to enjoy themselves,” says Kari.

Dinner was a sit-down affair consisting of Trader Vic’s classic salad, Thai whipped potatos, Chinese-style asparagus, grilled sea bass and New York strip. But the real scene-stealers were the centerpieces. Intent on creating a Polynesian feel without going “too¬†Fantasy Island“, Kari and Art created an arrangement of cylindrical vases filled with white roses, gardenias and chartreuse cymbidium orchids, which sat on silver trays scattered with rose petals and coral. The seating cards, which were tied to small starfish, were also displayed on silver trays filled with sand. And at each place setting, napkins were wrapped with a thick band of chocolate brown satin ribbon and garnished with a single orchid. For a bejeweled fairyland effect, hundreds of glass votives were hung from the ceiling over the dance floor.

The one design dilemma? The invitations, of course. “It was the hardest thing for me to pick,” says Kari. “The pressure of finding something timeless and beautiful but at the same time special and less predictable than what I see every day was really tough.” She finally settled on a classic Crane invitation, beveled with chocolate brown ink and engraved with hand-calligraphied text to match.

Design details aside, fun remained the first priority for Art and Kari, who wasted no time hitting the dance floor for their first song, “Moonglow,” a Benny Goodman tune the couple discovered, and claimed as “theirs” on their second date. The final dance, however, was left for the ride home: guests drove away with a bobbing hula doll on their dashboards. The attached card read, “We saved the last hula for you.”

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