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This Summer Ceremony at Fioli Historic House Was Inspired by European Gardens

By Cathleen Freedman | Photography by 

Norman & Blake of The Wedding Artists Co.

|Planning by 

Stefanie Cove and Co.

When Katherine Bleich met Chris Kemp at a party in Half Moon Bay, they became fast friends—and stayed that way for several years. Once they finally began dating, however, it didn’t take long for them to know they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together. After ten months, they took a romantic trip to Bora Bora. They sailed on a Polynesian boat while a ukulele strummed and Chris popped the question. The newly engaged couple then journeyed to a private island for a sunset-lit dinner.

Wedding plans were underway for nuptials in Italy when COVID struck. Katherine and Chris modified their plans and recreated a European garden closer to their Bay Area home. Katherine adds, “Filoli had the perfect aesthetic for us to do so, and we trusted Stefanie Cove & Company to make it magical, warm, transportive, and romantic.”

When Katherine couldn’t find her dream Mira Zwillinger dress, she turned to Over The Moon’s styling service with founder Alexandra Macon and head stylist Anny Choi. Together, they sourced a sample and a complementary veil. Katherine paired the ensemble with vintage diamond and pearl earrings—she knew the bridal look didn’t need much more. Michal Cohen applied Katherine’s makeup and Karina Vega styled her hair. Katherine trusted them implicitly, “I felt like I was in such good hands with my team.”

The groom wore a Stefano Ricci tuxedo with a Tom Ford tie and a small floral pin.

Instead of having a wedding party, the couple incorporated their 48 guests throughout the entire event. “We wanted it to feel personal and for everyone to feel comfortable,” Katherine explains. “We had a mood board for the guests, but everyone was welcome to choose their own outfits. It made for a beautiful aesthetic.”

On August 7, 2021, guests arrived at the Filoli estate and were welcomed by cocktails with floral ice cubes and papers to jot down wishes for Chris and Katherine to read later. They strolled through the Garden House and found their seats on the ceremony lawn. All of the florals by Waterlily Pond that were placed along the aisle and by the altar assimilated so naturally into the garden. “We designed the ceremony to feel like we were in a European garden,” Katherine says. “With the natural backdrop of Filoli and the gorgeous floral aisle runner…It did just that.”

Synchronicity Strings performed the ceremony music, which included Elton John’s “Rocket Man” and Vivaldi’s “Spring.” Katherine descended the aisle with her father next to her, as the musicians played. “We incorporated our friends in different elements,” Katherine shares and lists the ways. “Katie Hanson and Rose Uzunova walked together to lay petals in the aisles; Robbie Schingler officiated our ceremony, and Christiana Musk shared a meaningful reading that she had composed just for us.”

The ceremony felt truly intimate and personal to the couple. They each read their own vows. They even wove moments into the service that paid homage to Chris’s father, George, and to Katherine’s Jewish heritage. Friends still say the purposefully brief, beautiful, and honest service was very “them.” After Chris and Katherine were officially declared Mr. and Mrs. Kemp, Synchronicity Strings serenaded the crowd with “All You Need is Love.”

Everyone adjourned for a cocktail reception in the gardens, before guests meandered to the enchanting lawns for dinner. “It was a dreamscape,” Katherine reminisces. Two long tables with string lights lined the lawn and glowed with candlelights. The tabletops were covered with velvet tablecloths and adorned with lush flora. Daniel Ripley Catering served Sonoma lamb, California king salmon, and cauliflower steaks, while Ever Music Group and Luca Ellis played under the moonlight.

“Our friends David Rodriguez, Will Marshall, Kate Brierley Swiader, and my father gave wonderful, heartfelt, and funny toasts,” Katherine remembers. Before the first dance to “Fly Me to the Moon” began, Chris dazzled the crowd and sabered a champagne bottle. “It was elegant and beyond my dreams.”

When Katherine thinks back to her wedding, she can’t help but gush. “Having so many people we love together in one place after so long…I will always remember how amazing this felt. The setting was perfect, and I am grateful to Stef Cove’s flawless attention to detail and for allowing us to just enjoy the day.”

And her dream just kept getting better. “After our dinner, we surprised our guests with a performance of synchronized swimmers, Las Vegas’s glamorous Aqualillies, in the Filoli pool,” Katherine shares. “It was whimsical and a wonderful segue to the after-party with GALLiVANTER, our dear friend Bryan, DJ-ing the night away.” Between tunes, the couple sliced into their celestial-themed cake by Flour and Bloom Cakes. Katherine adds, “Before the night ended, I surprised Chris with a breakdance performance…by an astronaut!”