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The Highlands Estates

Posted by on Jan 17, 2018 in Our Blog | Comments Off on The Highlands Estates

Photo credit: Nelson J Photography

Ready to say I do?

Our rustic wedding venue offers a wedding site with views of our vineyards as well as the Four Seasons Barn, a fully heated and air-conditioned barn for year-round celebrations. The Highlands Estate wedding venue was just given the 2018 Couple’s Choice Award by WeddingWire. The Estate is located in the Yorkville Highlands Valley and surrounded by the Alexander and Anderson Valleys and is easily accessible from anywhere in northern California including the Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa, Sacramento and San Francisco bay areas! Check out our Wedding Gallery to see just some of the locations and views around the property.

Whitney Cookson

Photo credit: A Tale Photography

Photo credit: Nick Kovak Photography

Photo Credit: Katch Silva Photography

Photo credit: Russie Denay Photography

Photo credit: The Highland Estates

Stunning Bride in Grace Loves Lace

Posted by on Jan 14, 2018 in Our Blog | Comments Off on Stunning Bride in Grace Loves Lace

The Vendors

Wedding Planning & Day of Coordination: Simple Country Weddings

DJ/Band Dj Eric Carido/The Rich Martini Band

Caterer: Chef Russ-The Hidden Table

Photographer Russie Denay

Venue: The Highlands Estate

Shuttle/transportation: MGM Transportation

Floral: Florals By Alana Marie

Gown: Grace Loves Lace

Shoes: Grace Loves Lace

Anklets: Salita Matthews for Grace Loves Lace



The Details

How did you meet? Bay To Breakers.  Bay to Breakers is an annual race across the City (from the Bay to the breakers aka: ocean beach).  Some people actually run the race.  Most people dress up and party along the course.  The race has a really long history and has changed a lot over time.  People used to build entire floats and roll beer kegs across the city.  It’s a pretty crazy day.  I was with a group of friends and we had all gone as the cast of ghostbusters.  Near the end of the race a lot of people end up in Golden Gate Park.  Chris was dressed as an astronaut at a BBQ with some of his friends in the park.  My girl friend went to high school with some people at the BBQ Chris was at and our two groups combined.  I pretty rarely gave out my phone number but I remember really hoping Chris would ask for it (he did).

Where was your first date? Our first date was at a little restaurant in my old neighborhood.  I made him take me there because they had fancy whisky drinks and nice lighting.  I remember telling him I didn’t want a boyfriend. LOL

Where did you get engaged? Camping in our favorite spot in Humboldt.  We go to this spot that’s really private and not technically part of a campground.  We have to get a code from the rangers to the lock on the gate that leads to the fire road.  Chris made me breakfast before I got out of our tent and greeted me with champagne that he had snuck into the truck while packing.  He was playing Al Green and had everything all prepared.  I was so surprised that instead of replying “yes,” I said, “RIGHT, NOW?!” as in, “you’re doing this right now?” I had just rolled out of a tent and felt ill prepared.  Obviously, I wasn’t mad about it. 

When did you start planning your special event? Not long after the engagement.  A lot of our friends have already gotten married so we were pretty aware of timelines, we got some of the best advice from our friends.  Chris is also really organized so he probably had a spreadsheet the week after we got back from camping.

What was the most fun detail in planning your wedding? One of our favorite parts was figuring out the seating chart.  Chris is very extroverted and I’m an introvert, we have lots of different ideas about social interaction and personalities, so it was fun figuring out which people should sit with whom.  I think we struck a good balance, no one got too rowdy 😉

How did you choose your style/theme? I tried to emulate our apartment’s neutral palate which is inspired by nature.  I wanted pretty minimal decor, but lots of greens and white flowers on the tables. 

What was the most difficult detail to agree on? Chris gave me free reign because he digs my style.  Initially, it was hard to agree on whether we wanted a “camping” wedding where all our guests would’ve camped on whatever property our venue was on or a situation where people have to stay in hotels nearby.  Some of our friends have done the camping weddings and it allows for the party to go all night, we liked that idea.  We couldn’t find a venue that could do this that also fit our other needs, so we figured out another way to keep the party going all night. 

What was the most unique detail about your ceremony? Reception? We didn’t have a bridal party because we have too many special people in our lives to choose from and we also decided to be kind of selfish and thought the ceremony/pictures/day should be about us.  Our close friends still planned things like bachelor/bachelorette parties, we just didn’t opt in for all of the traditional stuff.  Since we didn’t have a bridal party, we had our immediate family members walk down the aisle ahead of my dad and I.  We used the same song the entire time because I didn’t think I needed a special song just for me.  I also had a song in mind (The Build Up by The Kings of Convenience) that changed enough near the end when I walked down the aisle that it didn’t matter. 

What personal touches did you include in your ceremony? Reception? Chris’ best friend officiated our ceremony which is funny because Chris officiated his wedding 3 years prior.  It was nice to be up there with our friend and someone who could tell possibly embarrassing stories about both of us.  We also both wrote our vows which were pretty personal.  For our reception, we were mostly just concerned with good food, drinks, and music.  We chose food that wasn’t fussy and had lots of different options for everyone.  Chris’ brother is a wine and beer maker and he and Chris made the beer a few weekends before the wedding.  All the wine was made by Chris’ brother.  We also had the same jazz band that played at Chris’ parents’ wedding play during dinner.  Since Chris’ stepdad plays in that band he asked me for specific song requests.  They practiced one of my favorite Miles Davis songs just for me and played it during our reception.  We also knew our DJ which was really important.  We both love music as do our friends so we made sure we had a DJ who knew what we wanted. During the ceremony I wore Chris’ aunt’s (who passed away) necklace in my hair as a headpiece and Chris wore old San Francisco MUNI token cufflinks. 

What was the inspiration behind your flowers? I wanted a lot of eucalyptus because it reminds me of how some of my favorite places in the City smell.  We have a lot of Eucalyptus trees here and in the headlands where Chris and I hike often.  For flowers, I knew I just wanted some specific white flowers like queen annes lace, dahlias, and hydrangea.  My mom is an amazing Gardner, so I grew up with an affinity for some pretty specific plants.  It was easy to pick a few of my favorites that look good white and wouldn’t wilt in the sun.  I was actually pretty worried about wilting since it was predicted to be over 100 degrees the day of, but thankfully I had a very reassuring planner working with a florist that knows what she’s doing 😉

How did you choose your wedding colors?  Chris and I are in love with California, we both grew up here and we both love the outdoors, camping, long road trips across the state, and walks around the City.  Going with neutrals and green made us both really happy because it reminds us of our apartment which is generally inspired by nature and our hiking adventures.  We chose the venue because the surrounding palate is very California-lots of browns and green with a big blue sky for a backdrop.  When considering color and decor, I kept this in mind. 

What was the inspiration for the dress you chose? Who is the designer of your gown?  I didn’t have any inspiration other than I generally don’t like traditional wedding dresses.  I knew what I didn’t want.  I knew what I didn’t want so much that it was actually kind of hard to find something so simple and minimal that would qualify as something I DID want.  I need to be able to move around and be comfortable.  I saw Grace Loves Lace on Instagram and was initially sad because they didn’t have a showroom in the United States.  Lucky me though, the summer we got engaged they opened a showroom in LA where I scooped up my best friend and mom and made a weekend out of it.  I didn’t try on any other designers.  After putting on my dress at Grace Loves Lace it was a done deal.

In one paragraph, please describe your wedding day. Our wedding was beautiful, set in the scenic Anderson Valley in Sonoma.  With the setting off the barn and winery, it was the perfect location to welcome our family and friends. We wanted to keep the day low key but elegant. A time to have fun and let lose, not be too serious. We started our guests off with good drinks on arrival, live music before and during dinner with a DJ/dance party after. We wanted the day to be entirely our style and did everything our way, not caving to traditions and expectations others might have. After a very personal ceremony, great drinks, delicious dinner and dancing, we had a late night pool party to close the night out with family and friends.     

How did your wedding reflect the dream wedding you had as a child? I didn’t have a “dream,” wedding growing up, I had a dream career. Haha! I thought if I was lucky enough to find the right person that my wedding wouldn’t really matter.  I still think this is true and I’m still not a huge fan of weddings, it’s not that I’m not romantic.  It’s just that weddings can be a lot of different things to different people.  You do you, I’ll do me.   Chris and I wanted our wedding to be in a beautiful outdoor space where we could throw all of our friends and family a huge party, eat good food, drink good drinks, and dance.  Being able to add flowers and decor was a huge bonus.   

If you could go back and change one thing about your wedding day, what would that be? We wished our venue could’ve accommodated us for longer.  We like loud music and we like to party past 10, so that was initially a bummer.  Instead, we took a shuttle bus to Chris’ parent’s house and had a pool party with all our friends who wanted to continue celebrating with us.  Who knew I’d end up in a bikini on my wedding night?

How did you pick your first dance song? What song was it?  Baby by Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti is our song.  I’m not really sure how it happened other than I remember playing it a lot when we were first dating.  It was difficult to choose between the original late 70s Donnie and Joe Emerson version of the song and Ariel’s cover. 

What was the funniest OOPS moment of your wedding day? It wasn’t necessarily and OOPS but one of Chris’ friends commandeered the mic and made an unplanned speech and then forced/guilted another friend at the table into finishing her speech.  To be honest, speeches wouldn’t have been the same without this addition and I’d be a little surprised if it hadn’t happened.  Looking through the pictures and reliving this moment has been equally funny.


Pantone Color 2018

Posted by on Jan 9, 2018 in Our Blog | Comments Off on Pantone Color 2018

Every wedding season has its own trends whether it’s the theme of the event or the colors used throughout. The little touches that tie everything together are what make a wedding unique among others. We love to stay on trend so why not incorporate 2018 Pantone Color of the Year? Here is how we would incorporate Ultra Violet into 2018 winter weddings.

The attire: For women, why not have your bridesmaids dress in Ultra Violet? Purple looks great on everyone. It flatters all skin tones and hair colors. If you are more of a neutral fan, add Ultra Violet accents. This could be with a belt, hair accessory, makeup or even in the bouquets! Sometimes less is more.

For men, I don’t expect to see groomsmen dressed in a purple suit (if anyone has ever witnessed this please share photos) but this is an opportunity for accents of Ultra Violet to really make an appearance. Pocket squares, socks, boutonnieres or even ties! All shades of purple look fabulous with a grey suit or black tuxedo. We love the suits and tuxedos available over at The Black Tux. You really can’t go wrong with this wedding color.

The decor: Centerpieces are always the talk of the wedding, good or bad. This is an opportunity to really set the bar high. Terrariums filled with purple flowers, Ultra Violet ribbons wrapped around extravagant vases, table numbers or floating purple candles. The list goes on!

Of course there are many more decor elements aside from the centerpiece. Maybe purple bows around each chair or dangling lights in front of a photo wall. Anything is possible!

(Or something like this)

The cake: The cutting of the cake is a moment that everyone looks forward to. Either to laugh at the couple smooshing it into each other’s face or because they simply can’t wait to get their hands on a slice. The look of the cake is not only important for appetizing reasons but also to tie in the theme of a wedding. This is a perfect opportunity to bring in the Pantone Color of the Year. Add a purple floral design, whether it’s polka dots, flowers, ribbons or weaving. Have a purple ombre cake that highlights multiple shades of the gorgeous color. Or to really stay trendy, purple-colored cake pops.

(Or something like this)

How would you incorporate the 2018 Pantone Color of the Year?

Love at The Four Seasons Barn in Cloverdale, CA

Posted by on Jan 7, 2018 in Our Blog | Comments Off on Love at The Four Seasons Barn in Cloverdale, CA

Amanda + Peter


The Vendors

  • Wedding planner | Simple Country Weddings 916-271-6345
  • DJ/Band | Matthew Mason (nephew: mmasongraphics@gmail.com, 916-694-8535) and Dave Chelini (accordionist; 916-428-8764)
  • Caterer | Preferred Somona Caterers (Edie, edie@sonomacaterers.com)
  • Bakery/desserts | Giorgi’s Wedding Cakes (Judy), cakewhiz@aol.com
  • Photographer | Chloe Jackman Photography, photos@chloejackman.com, 415-699-2671
  • Venue | The Highlands Estate, Whitney & Gard Cookson,  707-894-9500
  • Floral | Accents by Sage, Cheryl Sage; 916-799-6242 


The Details

How did you meet? We met playing tennis.  Mutual friends of ours were practicing for a tournament and they brought us out to the courts for a little mixed doubles practice.

Where was your first date? Hmmmm, this can be disputed.  Peter thinks it was on the tennis court.  Amanda thinks it was at Mikuni’s.  Amanda can be convinced, though, that our first date was on the tennis court.

Where did you get engaged? It was Amanda’s 38th birthday, and we had just purchased a boat that we were cruising to our home port.  After a day on the boat, when it was finally just the two of us, we were hanging out in the galley and Peter said, “I have a present for you.” And he pulled out a small box with a fancy bow.  The rest is history.

What was you first impression of each other?I (Amanda) thought he was a good tennis player.  Peter was smitten.  😉

When did you start planning your special event?Within a couple of weeks of getting engaged.  First we selected a date.  Amanda is a little obsessive with numbers, so all of the numbers had to be even, and when we found a date with multiples of four, even better.  Once we found the date, Peter suggested The Highlands Estate for the venue.  We had stayed there a few months prior and adored the owners and loved the charm of the venue.

What was the most fun detail in planning your wedding? Peter playing Bella Notte on his accordion, and also Peter’s accordion instructor playing at our wedding.  It showcased Peter’s Italian heritage.

How did you choose your style/theme? The venue, The Highlands Estate, looks like it could be in Tuscany, so it was easy to choose a Tuscan/rustic/soft/elegant wedding theme.

What was the most difficult detail to agree on? There really wasn’t one.  The most important thing for both of us was that the people we loved were there to celebrate our day.

What was the most unique detail about your ceremony? Reception? My sister made my wedding gown, and she sewed our wedding date into the hem of the dress.  She also sewed a button from my grandmother’s wedding dress into the hem.

What personal touches did you include in your ceremony? Reception? Hmmmm . . .my nephew prepared chalk art signs for the bar, showcasing our “signature” drinks.

What was the inspiration behind your flowers? I love peonies and hellebores.  I hadn’t even told the florist that hellebores were my favorite, and she included them into the bouquets.  This was a HUGE surprise, as 1) hellebores aren’t in season in August, and 2) she and I hadn’t discussed it.  I loved them!

How did you choose your wedding colors? I was looking for something warm and elegant, and the fuchsia, pinks, whites, and greens were calling to me.

What was the inspiration for the dress you chose? Who is the designer of your gown? My sister made and designed my dress.  She saw pictures of gowns that I liked; different bodices, skirts, fullness, etc. and then she took a few patterns and made my dress especially for me.

In one paragraph, please describe your wedding day. We woke up to a beautifully sunny day; we had to get an early start because the ladies had hair and make-up, and the guys were planning a movie in the theater at the venue.  Once our hair and make-up was complete, we had some down time, as the vendors began to arrive.  And slowly guests began to arrive.  I was glad when guests began to arrive, because the night before the officiant had gotten lost getting to the venue, so I was hoping all of the guests would be able to find their way.  (We only had two guests that arrived after the ceremony because they got lost.) We wouldn’t have changed anything.  It was an absolutely perfect wedding.

How did your wedding reflect the dream wedding you had as a child? My Prince Charming was at the other end of the aisle.  That was the only detail that mattered to me.

If you could go back and change one thing about your wedding day, what would that be? Most newlyweds will probably agree, we would have liked more time with our guests, but we were often away taking photos.

How did you pick your first dance song? What song was it? We are both old souls, so we selected La Vie en Rose.  I don’t remember how we chose it, but Peter’s accordion instructor played it for us.

What was the funniest OOPS moment of your wedding day?Earlier in the week of our wedding, the venue had a little trouble with a wild boar digging up the lawn where the ceremony was to take place.  They replaced it, and kept it properly irrigated, but that meant heels would sink into the ground.  I made it down the aisle OK, but when I turned around to head back up the aisle with my new husband, my heels sank into the soil.  I could tell I wasn’t going to make it back up the aisle, so I quickly kicked off my shoes and went barefoot until I could reach solid ground.