How to Translate Fantasy to Reality at your Event

October 25, 2017
Words by Jennifer Stein
Photos courtesy of

Images by Viera Photographics

Wedding stories tend to have a bit of a predictable arc: the bride and groom did this, ate that, wore that, and shazam – off they go to their honeymoon. This story is about Dawn and Chad Tamashiro, a very hip San Francisco bride and groom who were able to translate their distinct and otherworld design aesthetic into a magical, vintage and vaudevillian fantasy. Enter, Melissa Comito-Aakare, of, an ambiance expert, blogger, 50’s hot rod driving florist, Vargas-worthy pin-up girl, friend of the couple.

Melissa was no stranger to understanding the design challenge, taking Dawn and Chad’s dream and working with them to craft one of the most creative and visually stimulating weddings I have ever attended. For those of you wondering how the pros download what’s inside your head in order to implement your dream, read on…

A few of the influences:
Mexican Wrestling
40’s Pin Up Girl
1940’s Hawaii
1930’s Vaudeville

It takes design know-how, an eye on the sublime, an astute sense of detail, and a little bit of witchery. We interviewed Melissa on how she brought on the magic.

DID: How did you begin the design process, the brainstorming, the vetting of concepts?

MCA: I have known Dawn and Chad for five years, so I had a good idea of what her taste and style would be; she’s one of the most stylish and hip women around. After a 2-hour meeting I captured all the influences and desires for their wedding. I let it simmer for a few days to allow them to filter out the noise, and met again. The images consistent at both meetings became my focus.

Dawn wanted the wedding to be 1930’s vaudeville, but not tacky. Dawn is an avid vintage collector, so she let me “shop in her home,” which was a blast.

DID: Give us a hit list of standout design elements that you incorporated to evoke old world ambiance:


• Sketchy Favors: A caricaturist sketched wedding guests as a gift and displayed them on a clothesline between two topiaries with hand glued rhinestones on the clips to hold the pictures. (Authors Note: This was the most participatory and wildly successful party favor I have ever seen).

• Raising the Bar: Cocktail bar floral arrangement containers were hollowed coconuts, and the centerpiece containers were hollowed date tree trunks which held orchids and feathers.

• Hats Off: Half of the centerpieces for the wedding were vintage hatboxes with a photo of a family member, and small items that represented the interest of this person – I used ticking instead of ribbon to edge the boxes.

• Love is the Drug: Using dark brown vintage medicine bottles as mix and match bud vases for orchids in the centerpiece vignettes.

• Divine and Disheveled: Dawn sought an “abandoned lab look.” In front of large stained glass windows, I put an ornate table with stacks of vintage books, pillar candles, and antique birdcages with orchids spilling out.

• Guest Book Glam: Guest signed the “reception book” by typing into an old typewriter in a moody candlelit room festooned with tapestries.

• Games People Play: In the bar/lounge area we put vintage Chinese fortune telling games at every table – so much fun to play.

DID: Give us the details behind the glamour girl and guy styling.


• Hair Dare: Dawn and I worked on the hair pieces together. I suggested she use an heirloom shoe clip for the rhinestone on her hairpiece with the same feathers we used in the bouquet.

• Bouquet Dawns Way: Dawn wanted a vintage style bouquet for herself and the bridesmaids – a glomelia – where you hand glue each petal of a flower (imported red roses), to create a more substantial bouquet. Vintage black polka dot ribbon and feathers made it retro-glam.

• Groom with a View: Chad is Hawaiian, so I incorporated vintage elements of exotic travel: such as mini-pineapples into the boutonnieres and accented them with festive feathers.

DID: How would you encapsulate your design process and point of view?

MCA: I think that you can marry different influences and still be true to your theme – by doing this, you come up with new directions that evoke another time. Telling the story and creating new stories is the goal, but presentation is everything. By transporting the couple and their guests into a world of fantasy and fascination, you aren’t just designing an event; you are creating a lingering memory for everyone.

Wyndham Alltra

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