Stepping into the foyer of Frances Lane in Novato, CA is the answer for every couple that’s searching for unique vintage items for their wedding, but there’s more to it than that. It feels like coming home, to a place that previously existed only in your imagination, a place where comfy antique settees sit in pleasant arrangements, just begging for people to relax and converse. A place where your neighbors always have time to sit and chat on the porch, and they’ll serve you tea and cookies while they’re at it.
Here you’ll receive a huge welcome from Cherry Levin herself. Equal parts warm, friendly, Southerner and creative, get-things-done businesswoman, Cherry became a tablescape designer and wedding planner in 2000, after she found herself new to the area, and unable to find work teaching folklore at the university level. At that time her cousin died, and Cherry serendipitously became the owner of 400 pieces of yellow Depression Glass the cousin left to her, and the idea for Frances Lane surfaced.
“I’d written my dissertation on antebellum women,” Cherry says. “As a part of that project I did fieldwork planning two weddings at five different plantations, including Oak Alley, the most photographed plantation ever. Each of those weddings had to be credentialed, so I had experience,” she says. “I also had a collection of furniture, including a gorgeous set of raspberry-colored sofas. I thought I could create something unique using my collection of vintage pieces and my planning background.”
If you are searching for unique vintage items for your wedding, look no further. Cherry has an extensive collection of vintage table settings, glassware, furniture, linens and more. Spend a few minutes poking around her warehouse and you’ll find any number of gorgeous vintage pieces in every imaginable color.
What are your favorite parts about what you do?
When everything comes together on a wedding day–the linens, the flowers, the settings, and the decor–it’s an expression of the couple. You take a plain, white apace and make something elegant that expresses the couple’s interests and vision. I love to see how the bride reacts the first time she sees it all! It’s all about beauty, really–tactile, eye-candy beauty–weddings are sensory overload! The flowers, the dress, the feasting…with a special community of people you’ll never get all together again. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.
What advice do you have for couples who are planning a wedding?
First, dream! Think about the romance…think about what you want. Is it to honor your families? Rock out with friends? Is it a spiritual declaration?
Second, Be realistic about where the money comes from. Be creative and don’t give up on your dreams. Wedding planning can bring up family tension; your mom may want something she didn’t have for her wedding, but you don’t want that. While you might be tempted to flatly refuse her ideas, why not say, “Let’s have a conversation, and let’s negotiate.” After all, your family is on display during your wedding day. It’s about the couple, yes, and it’s also about the family and cultural expectations.
Last, prioritize and make decisions. Think about what’s important. Is it the couture gown? The band? The Verve Cliquot champagne? Maybe you can live with a $99 dress from David’s Bridal and put more of your budget towards a great band and photographer. Lots of planners try to “sell brides” on lots of extras, like a limo, but you have to ask yourself if you really need a limo or if you can live without it. You’ll find the perfect balance of keeping your dream and being realistic.
What makes a wedding unique or memorable?
Weddings are one of our greatest beauties; they encapsulate everything we want to believe in: hope, trust, family. Every time I’m part of any wedding I’m hopeful for our future. But what makes any wedding special is incorporating everything the couple wants, everything that’s important to them.
I also feel it’s essential that everything runs smoothly. On Carla’s wedding day, everyone is on “Team Carla.” All of us (wedding vendors) work together, juggling, and rewriting the schedule as things come up. Every wedding is created out of building blocks; some are moveable (like the cake), while others aren’t (like the vows). Everyone is onboard, ready to be fluid and make changes, if necessary.
I also believe in leaving everything neat and tidy behind us. There have been times when I’ve bussed tables to make sure that happened. Always leave on a good note!
Top reasons couples need a planner?
When I hear couples say they’re planning their own weddings, I think, “Yikes! You’re going to do all this by yourself?” Planners know how to get things done. They have the experience, they have the contacts, and they make sure everything flows smoothly. If something happens, the planner is there to step in, to communicate, and deal with it.
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