Framing the Event: An Artistic Viewpoint

Tahoe Engaged recently had the pleasure of speaking with Emily Williams, Owner of Manzanita Glow, a company that rents natural arches, trees, centerpieces and other visually pleasing structures for weddings in the Lake Tahoe area. 

Emily had the best of both worlds growing up, as she was raised on both the West Coast and East Coast.  In fact, she attributes her interpersonal skills to being a “military brat.”  Being thrown into new environments and having to make friends each time, those frequent moves helped Emily to develop a more outgoing personality, which has helped her to create wonderful relationships with her clients and other wedding industry colleagues.

She began her professional career as a hair stylist after receiving her cosmetology license.  Following many successful years in that field, Emily wanted to transfer her artist talents into the great outdoors.  But she wasn’t quite sure how to make that happen, so she enrolled in an entrepreneurship class at the University of Nevada Reno.  At about the same time, her daughter became engaged to be married.  So entrepreneurial Emily decided to design the centerpieces for her daughter’s wedding, using manzanita branches.  Emily discovered that she not only loved this work, but she realized that it could be a unique service to help other couples elevate their special day.

Emily decided to name her company Manzanita Glow, which refers not only to the kinds of branches and lights she uses in her designs, but also the exceptional service she brings to each and every client she serves.  Emily cares deeply about the sound structure of her finished artistic creations.  Of course, Emily has trade secrets and couldn’t share everything with us. But you can rest assured that every branch engineered so that even if you were on the highest peak in Lake Tahoe with high winds, “it’s not going to fly off the mountain!” says Emily.

 

In addition to manzanita branches, Emily also loves to work with birch and aspen branches.  Because she works with branches, people often assume that she is also a florist, which is not the case!  Instead, Emily partners with many florists to create the gorgeous finished products of both branches and florals.

 

There are three expressive words that Emily uses to describe her work:  Natural, Ambiance and Anywhere.  She explains, “Natural, because we strive to surround events with the beauty of nature by using natural products that are sustainable.  I love Ambiance – the lights, the whole theater that is created to transform the space, it speaks to my soul.  Anywhere – because I can set up my creations anywhere – lakefront, mountains, you name it!  Those three words really define my creativity!”

When we asked Emily about her sources of inspiration or influences on her work, she replied, “I’m a very visual and tactile person. I love complementing and contrasting textures, lines, shapes, and colors. I find it immensely important to listen to the client, understand what their vision is, and match that to my own styles.”

 

We wrapped up our interview by asking Emily what advice she had for couples planning their wedding:  “The best advice I’ve given is to not work with any vendors who you wouldn’t like as guests.  Planning your wedding should be as enjoyable as the day itself, so don’t invite anyone into the process who would change that.”

The Countess of Cakes – A Sweet Tastemaker

As the owner of I Do’s by Deb, acclaimed wedding cake designer Debbie Jensen is always on the go.  But having recently joined the Tahoe Wedding Industry Group (TWIG), Debbie was kind enough to sit down long enough to answer a few questions for us.

How did you get your start as a Cake Designer?
It all began in Paris, floating through the city like an ethereal creampuff after watching a Croquembouche (the traditional French wedding cake) demonstration at the famed Maxim’s restaurant. I had trained as a classical chef, then spent 10 years in pursuit of pastry, including many trips to Europe for training. My cake decoration skills developed as an offshoot of being a Pastry Chef. My creative instincts and fashion background naturally transferred into this edible art form.

Describe your style of work in 3 words.
Cutting-Edge, Eclectic, Updated

Geode Wedding Cake

Geode Wedding Cake

What are some of your most memorable cake creations?
The largest cake I’ve ever made served 3000 people, for the opening of the new San Francisco Library in the early 1990’s. It was an open book in Tiramisu with cocoa paintings and flying winged books, like the mural in their stairwell. It took two moving trucks to carry each half and was put together on site.

For Warren Buffet’s 70th birthday, I made a birthday cake for an intimate restaurant celebration that included Bill Gates among the invited guests. Afterwards, feedback was that other diners were so impressed by the cake that they didn’t even notice the two celebrities! Later, I had the honor to make a wedding cake for Mr. Buffet, which included an Elmer J. Fudd and Petunia cake top and old fashioned copper glasses like Warren’s.

The largest wedding cake I’ve ever designed was for Neal Schon of the band Journey and Michaele Salahi, a reality T.V. star. The theme of their Pay Per View, Palace of Fine Arts wedding was “Winter Wonderland”. The cake was over 6’ tall and was birch inspired with thousands of white sugar flowers.

What’s trending right now for wedding cakes and or wedding desserts?
Lots of fun things are trendy!

  • Natural stone elements in marbled fondant, sugar geodes and geometric figures
  • Semi-Naked cakes, dripping glazes and multiple toppings such as macaroons, flowers, meringues, etc.
  • Hand-Painted Cake designs, and abstract modern art color stripping.
  • Vintage Swirl buttercream patterns, other interesting buttercream textures without piped edges, straight clean minimalist designs, the return of buttercream flowers in realistic shaded colors.
  • Interesting use of metallic gold and silver-leaf as well as other luster metallics.
  • Focal florals that don’t “top” the cake
  • Greenery only: ferns to air plants, succulents, olive, eucalyptus and shades of brighter Pantone “greenery”
  • Watercolor design and rice-paper prints
  • Galaxy glazed cakes and airbrushed designs
  • Boho, the modern gypsy!
  • Focal Cutting cakes or “Sweetheart cakes” with a styled dessert display of mini fun pastries to doughnuts
  • Cake tables can be anything: Vintage furniture, wine barrels, suitcases, or suspended in mid air!
metallic gold and silver-leaf wedding cake

Gold and Silver-Leaf Wedding Cake

Why should someone hire you to design their wedding cake?
I strive to make each wedding unique. I am very eclectic in my skillset and style sensibilities and have years of experience listening and extracting the key elements from my clients to create not just a cake but a delicious memory!

What is your source of inspiration for your wedding cake designs?
Inspiration is everywhere; first, I try to learn the personalities of the couple and then learn about the venue and time of year. From there, particular elements pertaining to the wedding such as themes, invitations, wedding gown style, etc. can play in. Instagram, Pinterest and other social media aid in this and have revolutionized the cake industry worldwide. I am constantly pushing the boundaries of style and stay conscious of certain trends, but the real gift is in striking a balance of several elements to get the right design. Sometimes couples get engaged and rush into tasting cake before they spend time to formulate enough elements to concentrate on the design. Possibilities are endless, so it is nice to have a starting out point.

What design of cake would you recommend for a Lake Tahoe wedding couple?
It depends on the time of year and the unique setting. A winter white theme could go Boho with geodes, feathers and antlers while a spring/ summer could feature greenery, ferns, floral and woodsy notes. A lakeside view can go Coastal with hints of slivery blues! That’s the fun of a Tahoe based location…. So many possibilities!

When you’re not designing wedding cakes, we’ll find you…
…dancing Salsa with my lovely husband, working on my home and garden, traveling and wine tasting, or entertaining friends and family around my large and well used farm table!