the wedding files

How an Event Planner Gets Married

An intimate backyard ceremony among the wildflowers followed by lunch at Chez Panisse.

Photo: Jillian Mitchell
Photo: Jillian Mitchell

When we ask newlyweds to think back on what they wanted most for their big day — and we’ve interviewed hundreds of them over the years — the most common response is “for it not to feel like a wedding!” Gathering with old friends and eating mini grilled cheeses in formalwear to celebrate love feels more special these days than ever, even downright miraculous. And the betrothed have never been less attached to the old wedding handbook — or the need to please their great-aunt. So in a flurry of pampas grass and perfectly mismatched-to-match bridesmaid dresses, how do you pull off a non-cookie-cutter affair? For the answers, we decided to interrogate the cool couples whose weddings we would actually want to steal, right down to the tiger-shaped cake toppers.

Here, we spoke with Lilli Sherman, the founder of Oma, an events and marketing studio, and Patch Troffer, the culinary director at Row 7 Seed Co. (which was co-founded by chef Dan Barber to develop new varieties of plants, fruits, and grains). Being an event planner, Sherman felt the weight of other people’s expectations, so when the pandemic forced a delay and their May 2020 nuptials were rescheduled for April 2023, and the guest list cut in half to 60, it was a welcome relief. The couple ultimately decided to elope, and then took three months to plan a more relaxed affair centered around the best of the Bay Area: the bride’s parents’ wildflower-filled backyard in Oakland, followed by a late lunch starring spring asparagus and strawberries at the legendary Chez Panisse, and finally, tequila and dancing at a woman- and queer-owned cocktail bar.

Patch: Two separate groups of friends wanted us to meet. I was living in L.A. and visiting friends in New York in December 2016. I went to a party really late and waited outside forever in 30-degree weather, terribly underdressed, because I knew she’d be there.

Lilli: I was not aware that all of this was being fed to him.

Patch: I just remember a huge group coming out of the doors and them separating around me, like Moses and the Red Sea or something. She was at the very back.

Lilli: It felt like the rivers parted. I’d never felt anything like this. I don’t believe in love at first sight, but there was this weird sensation when we saw each other’s faces.

Patch: I don’t know that it was love at first sight, but the crush was very hard. I followed her around like a puppy dog all night. It’s so cheesy, but I knew from the beginning.

Lilli: He was a hot mess, going through a breakup. We talked and I was very respectful and we had a friendship for many months that slowly became romantic, long distance.

Patch: I knew all along that I wanted to be with her. We spoke first on text and then on the phone and then FaceTime. Whenever she would visit, it was like, yes.

Lilli: I just felt my nervous system at ease from the moment I was with him. It wasn’t complicated. It wasn’t even something I needed to talk to my friends about — it didn’t need any more analyzing! I felt alert but peaceful. It always felt like a continual yes.

Patch: I moved to New York in August 2017 under the guise of pursuing new career opportunities, but it was really just to be with her. It was late summer 2019 when we decided to make it a competition, “Let’s see who can propose to the other before the end of the year.” I proposed on the morning of her favorite holiday, which is Thanksgiving.

Lilli: We were at my parents’ house in Oakland, just snuggling in bed, and he asked, “Will you marry me?” And actually, we went to Chez Panisse for lunch to celebrate! Which will tie in later.

Patch: Well, we planned two weddings.

Lilli: We were supposed to get married in May 2020. Within a few days of the pandemic, it was a Spidey sense — “Yeah, this is not happening. We need to call it.”

Patch: She had been toying with starting her own company, and then I got laid off from my job completely. It was so many scary things that [postponing] was just another. It was really hard to get behind planning it again, because we were all watching waves happen.

Lilli: As an event producer, it’s very hard for me, even at my friends’ weddings, to turn off that work brain. Is the music right? How is the lighting? At one friend’s wedding, I saw that the bar was too slow and literally started opening and pouring bottles of wine because I just couldn’t stand it. I was worried about doing that with this.

Patch: We knew we didn’t want to do virtually anything. We basically felt married, so it was always about getting together with everyone we love. So we were like, “We’re just going to wait because who cares?”

Lilli: It took a very long journey, quite honestly, and the pandemic gave me time and therapy to get out of my head, and stop being so concerned about other people’s experiences other than my own.

Patch: We just kept saying, “No, not yet. Not yet.”

Lilli: The long delay was really because of my neuroses. Work started picking up again and I wanted to focus on getting my business back in a good place. The work I was doing in therapy was around everyone’s perception of a thing versus what would really make me happy. I needed to do some deep personal work before getting married.

Patch: We were on a trip to Mexico in January 2023 and I said, “Fuck it, why don’t we just elope?” I saw her smile, and for the first time in a long time there was this lightness around planning. We eloped two weeks later in L.A., and after that, putting the wedding together was so easy. We did it in three months.

Lilli: We were like, “Okay, where are we the most happy?” I didn’t expect Chez Panisse to say yes. They do weddings very seldom.

Patch: It took no convincing. The whole time, we were just pinching ourselves. Our friend Varun manages the restaurant and has worked with Alice [Waters] a long time. I think it helped that it was a Sunday and they’re frequently closed on Sunday. This is just the way that the food community shows love to each other.

Lilli: We created a whole weekend around that lunch.

Patch: Lilli grew up going to Chez Panisse. And my very first cooking job — I was such a stupid dirtbag, I didn’t know anything about anything — was as a barista at this insanely amazing café and catering company, and the two women owners were both Chez Panisse alums.

Lilli: I wanted to do the ceremony in my parents’ backyard because [the house] is an old Craftsman that I love. I think it has good energy. A lot of love and beautiful celebrations have happened there over the years.

Patch: Lilli learned hosting from her mom and her mom’s mom. They love to throw parties.

Lilli: My parents had Patch and me make selections of all these different California wildflowers, and they actually planted them in the backyard.

Patch: They timed them to bloom around our wedding, and her mom handmade all these garlands. My father, who’s a woodworker, made our chuppah, which we assembled in the yard.

Lilli: Every week, my dad would be sending me photos of the status of the garden. It was very sweet. And my mom surprised us with ceramic sake cups she made for everyone as the take-home gift.

Patch: It was so intimate and sweet getting ready upstairs in this house. I wore a custom suit by Bindle and Keep. Years ago, at a wedding, I’d told Lilli, “I really want a mushroom boutonniere.” This isn’t some masculine thing where I will not wear a flower. I love flowers! But I also love mushrooms.

Lilli: He wanted to have a mushroom crown, and I was like, “Easy, there.” My dear friend Yasmine Mei is an incredible florist, but I knew that if she were the sole florist she wouldn’t be able to enjoy herself and be present. So she created my bouquet, and then brought a lot of flowers from Bloomtown Flower Co., her favorite farm in L.A.

Patch: Yasmine made multiple boutonnieres; I got one, Lilli’s dad, my dad, and a couple of others. It was the cutest thing.

Lilli: I wore a very simple, clean dress from Lela Rose for the wedding, and then I had a vintage Lilli Diamond white fringe dress that was fun to dance in for the party. There was no real styling to my hair, other than I wanted a sleek blowout that made me feel like myself. I didn’t want a veil — it’s this cheesy, weird thing — but my friend Chelsea brought me hers and three minutes before we went downstairs, she’s like, “Let’s try it on.” We put it on and I said, “Oh. Oh, I want the veil.”

Patch: We knew we wanted the ceremony to incorporate some amount of Jewish tradition without being overtly religious. I grew up Catholic. We knew we didn’t want that. A family friend of Lilli’s who she’s known since she was a baby, Joy, officiated.

Lilli: She, to me, is such a representation of deep connectedness and intuition and spirituality, all things I wanted for our ceremony. Before Patch and I came out, she led everybody in a meditation.

Patch: We had a lot of families not from Berkeley, so it was kind of new to them, but they came up afterward to say how much they appreciated it. She just had everybody sit and feel their feet on the ground and close their eyes and be here and centered. We did a version of the Seven Blessings, which is a Jewish tradition. We changed them quite a bit to be less about God and more about the themes of the universe and earth in humankind, the past and the future, and the unknown. We had family and friends choose a reading or write something based upon [their assigned] theme. And we wanted to incorporate my Japanese heritage — my grandma’s Japanese — and both the Japanese and Jewish have a tradition of sharing a drink during the wedding.

Lilli: It was my great-grandmother’s Seder cup. Usually the man goes first and I was like, “We’re going to flip it.” I say the prayer and go to drink, and I see both Joy and Patch lean toward me, and I look and there’s a hole in the bottom of this fucking silver cup. Red wine all down the dress.

Patch: So tragic, but also so just like us. Of course.

Lilli: I said, “It’s okay. I was only going to wear it once.” In the Jewish tradition, you have 15 minutes together after the ceremony where you’re supposed to connect. I was like, “Patch, I’m really sorry, but we have to try to get this out of my dress.” Amazingly, it all came out!

Patch: Then there was about an hour or so in the backyard for everybody to mingle and talk, take photos.

Lilli: We’d had fresh lemonade and Champagne and silver bowls of potato chips and little Snacky things when people arrived. Following the ceremony, there was more Champagne and the first thing Patch ever made for me — not to be eye roll-y, but we call it “love toast,” a toast with kumquats, feta, herbs, and coriander. Then we got on some party buses and took everyone to Chez, where there were more snacks before the sit-down meal.

Patch: They were totally open to having us create the menu. Within reason, of course; Chez has very strict parameters around sourcing and seasonality. We both love the foods that happen in late spring in the Bay Area, so tons of asparagus, the last of the citrus, the king salmon and halibut are running.

Lilli: The menu was definitely “the bounty of spring.” We basically told them the vegetables that we love the most and some of the flavor profiles, and they would come back to us with some menu ideas.

Patch: There were grilled shrimps with asparagus and aïoli. Pizzas, bowls of peas and fava beans, carrots. Lilli’s favorite dish in the whole world is their classic baked goat cheese in the garden lettuce salad.

Lilli: It’s the first thing I ever actually cooked growing up. I wanted everyone to get to have their own plate of that.

Patch: The main was northern halibut in a beurre blanc they made with Meyer lemons, so delicate and simple and perfect. We knew we wanted mini chocolate éclairs, because Lilli and I make them together every year for our anniversary, and bowls of strawberries. Chef Beth couldn’t guarantee them because it was the beginning of the season, but she was sending us weekly updates: “Still no strawberries at the market, still no strawberries at the market.”

Lilli: It was real touch and go. And then four days before, they’re like, “We got the first strawberries and they’re perfect.” There were speeches at lunch; Madeline was a book I always loved growing up, and my mom did a rhyme changing all the words at the beginning to fit me and Patch, which was very sweet.

Patch: Dinner was early — it was still light out — and the party buses took us from Chez to Friends and Family, a bar in Oakland, around 7 or 8. We worked with them to do custom cocktails. And then we just danced for hours. We had these gorgeous cakes from Tartine Bakery, where I worked ages ago.

Lilli: We had a larger passion-fruit lime Bavarian cake, which is incredibly light and delicious, as well as some smaller cakes. The team was like, “Okay, do you guys want to cut the cake now?”

Patch: We just decided not to stop because we were having too much fun. Somebody put some away for us, which was great.

Lilli: It was a long day, and there was a point where I could feel that we all needed a little bit of extra energy. This is where the event planner came out; I was like, “We need tequila shots.” Basically everybody took one.

Patch: My mom rallying was a big standout for me. We got a shot for my mom, and within minutes she was on her feet and then danced till the end of the night.

Lilli: It really did kick things up a notch. The whole wedding weekend was this crazy love letter to Northern California. I joked that it felt like it should have been sponsored by the tourism board.

The groom wore a mushroom boutonniere. “This isn’t some masculine thing where I will not wear a flower,” Patch says. “I love flowers! But I also love mushrooms.” Photo: Jillian Mitchell
Lilli wore an understated dress by Lela Rose and decided to add a veil at the last minute. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
Photo: Jillian Mitchell
Lilli’s mother strung up floral garlands and hand-made ceramic sake cups for guest favors. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
Patch’s father constructed the chuppah, under which they held a loosely Jewish ceremony. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
Joy, a family friend of Lilli’s, officiated. “She, to me, is such a representation of deep connectedness and intuition and spirituality, all things I wanted for our ceremony,” the bride says. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
“I knew that it would be a labor of love,” Lilli says of the wedding. “So many friends and family came together to make this something very loving and true to us.” Photo: Jillian Mitchell
“You Sexy Thing” was queued up as soon as the couple had their kiss. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
The minutes of post-ceremony privacy were meant to be a time of reflection, “but instead we cleaned off her dress and just kind of smiled and stared at each other,” Patch says. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
Champagne, lemonade, and Patch’s “love toast” were served in the yard. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
“The pandemic gave me time and therapy to get out of my head, and stop being so concerned about other people’s experiences other than my own,” says Lilli of wedding planning. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
Party buses took the guests to a late lunch at the famed restaurant Chez Panisse. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
The Berkeley institution had played a part in both their lives — Lilli grew up in the area, and Patch worked with its former chefs. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
The newlyweds likened their meeting to love at first sight. “It’s so cheesy, but I knew from the beginning,” says Patch. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
The menu included a baked-goat-cheese salad, an asparagus and beet salad, shrimp with gremolata and aïoli, and braised chicken with caper salsa verde. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
“We basically told them the vegetables that we love the most and some of the flavor profiles, and they would come back to us with some menu ideas,” Lilli says. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
The couple kept their fingers crossed for in-season strawberries, not a guarantee given the April wedding date. Just four days before the wedding, they appeared at the market. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
A dance party followed at the Oakland bar Friends and Family. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
Lilli changed into a white fringe dress by Lilli Diamond, which was more fun for dancing. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
Ever the event planner, the bride requested a round of tequila shots when she felt the energy flagging. Photo: Jillian Mitchell
“It always felt like a continual yes,” Lilli says of their relationship. Photo: Jillian Mitchell

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