Explore The North Bay & Beyond 2022

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2023 the north bay & beyond PUBLISHED BY THE BOHEMIAN AND PACIFIC SUN Catering Confidential • Romance Meets Finance • Gay Matrimony
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Come & pick up some of Carol’s World Famous Award Winning Clam Chowder It’s made fresh daily. BEWARE! It is addicting! © COPYRIGHT 2018 JOHN HERSHEY PHOTOGRAPHY. All RIGHTS RESERVED | .jhersheyphoto.com There is only “One” SPUD POINT CRAB CO. We are open 7 days a week from 9–5 for takeout and dining at our outdoor tables 1910 Westshore Road, Bodega Bay, CA Let us know if you have any questions! 707.875.9472 | spudpointcrabco.com 3 2023 EXPLORE THE NORTH BAY the north bay & beyond 2023 CEO & EXECUTIVE EDITOR Dan Pulcrano PUBLISHER Rosemary Olson EDITOR Daedalus Howell COPY EDITOR Suzanne Michel CONTRIBUTORS Isabella Cook Michael Giotis Daedalus Howell Nikki Silverstein PRODUCTION OPERATIONS MANAGER Sean George PRODUCTION MANAGER Phaedra Strecher SENIOR DESIGNER Jackie Mujica ADVERTISING DIRECTOR Lisa Marie Santos OFFICE MANAGER Liz Alber ADVERTISING ACCOUNT MANAGERS Sue Lamothe, Danielle McCoy, Mercedes Murolo, Lynda Rael, Catherine Sant 445 Center Street, 4C Healdsburg, CA 95448 Phone: 707.527.1200 bohemian.com 1020 B Street San Rafael, CA 94901 Phone: 415.485.6700 pacificsun.com PUBLISHED BY THE BOHEMIAN AND PACIFIC SUN DEARLY BELOVED Matrimonial words from our editor 4 SAME SEX CEREMONIES Steampunk for the win 14 TASTING TIBURON Local landmark The Caprice delights 18 CATERING CONFIDENTIAL The inside line on wedding eats 22 BANKING ON MARRIAGE Where finance and romance meet 34


What to do when saying ‘I do’

Comedian George Carlin was famous for many reasons, but not perhaps for his marriage advice.

Typical of his semantic finesses, he once observed, “‘I am’ is supposedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that ‘I do’ is the longest sentence?”

Cute. Leaning into the old trope that marriage is a prison sentence commuted by “until death do us part" or, perhaps worse, “divorce,” is at its best hackneyed and at its worst, true.

The fact is marriage is what one makes of it. Some, like the one enjoyed by my wife and me (who share four marriages between us when counting this, our latest joint effort) prove that practice makes perfect. Or rather, to invoke the cliché, we’ve learned not to let perfect be the enemy of good.

Because there are no perfect marriages by dint of the fact that there are no perfect people. Instead, couples make do, make mistakes, make up, make love and make believe they got it made in the marriage department until they do. And in those

moments, when the stars align and “marital bliss” is more a reality than an ambition, there are few shared experiences between people that are better. And then, of course, real life comes crashing back in and the whole cycle begins again.

Before all of this, naturally, comes a wedding. Big, small, epic or intimate, some sort of ceremony generally precedes the state recognized as being wedded. My wife and I “eloped” to my brother’s backyard during the peak of the pandemic with only a single guest present, apart from a representative selection of our immediate family. I’ve since attended weddings with all of the expected pomp and circumstance (and beyond) and have found every version of nuptial nuance delightful. Every wedding is as wonderfully idiosyncratic as the people getting wedded. If there’s any advice I could impart, it would be, “You do you when saying ‘I do.’”

To that end, I sincerely hope that this edition of Explore proves a handy and helpful guide for those looking forward to their own weddings. And remember, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

A new contributor to our pages, Isabella Cook writes about arts and other areas of interest for the Pacific Sun.

Michael Giotis writes for the North Bay Bohemian and the East Bay Express. His most recent book of poetry is Daybreak.

Daedalus Howell is the editor of the Pacific Sun and North Bay Bohemian, the writer-director of Pill Head and author of the novel Quantum Deadline

Nikki Silverstein is a multiple award-winning journalist and writerat-large for the Pacific Sun

PHOTO BY DEBORAH WILSON I DID Editor Daedalus Howell and Kary Hess.


Local newlyweds share their love stories with ‘Explore’



How did you meet?

In traditional new-age fashion, we both utilized our digital resources at hand and “swiped right.” I know it may not have been the most serendipitous of meetings, but it certainly wasn't one that didn’t succeed for lack of effort.

Opening lines:

Kim: You have pretty eyelashes.

Mike: Thanks. I grew them myself.

When and how did you know each other was the “One?”

Believe it or not, I knew Kim and I were destined for something on the first date.

I didn’t know what it was at first, but one thing I knew is that I immediately got caught up in her gaze. At a glance, I saw a

person slightly guarded and modest. But as we talked throughout the night, we started sharing stories, successes, hardships, and we both slowly became more open, honest and optimistic. At that moment, I knew I had met a kindred spirit, and from them on, I was hooked.

Please describe the process/proposal that led to “Yes.”

I had our proposal planned for months.


We both love the ocean and plan day trips to the beach any chance we can. One of our favorite go-to destinations is Timber Cove in Jenner; it's such a beautiful destination, with a mid-century motif, great food and incredible views.

One of our first dates was at the restaurant there, and I always wanted to make this spot a part of our story. The inn has this very special little spot that if you

hike a little ways on the coastal trail, you come to a bench that seemingly appears out of nowhere. It took a little convincing at first because we had planned for lunch, but I insisted that the view “over there” had to be incredible, and sure enough it was.

We approached the bench, and my heart was out of my chest. It was fraught with emotions, but soon became grounded by the stillness of the water and the weight of cascading coastline boulders. We sat down in silence, which appeared endless. I took a deep breath and reached into my pocket for the ring, grabbed onto the box then dropped it. I dropped the ring box on the ground!

Clearly I was a bit nervous and now embarrassed. But as I was picking up the mess, I looked up, she started crying and I knew everything was going to be ok. I kneeled, we cried, she said yes and that ended one of the proudest days of my life.

What was your vision for your wedding? Was there a theme or a particular vibe you wanted to create?

We didn’t really have a particular theme in mind, but we did want a setting that reflected our own personal style. Kim’s Filipino and I’m Italian, so our home and garden is a bit eclectic, with a blend of Asian and mid-century stylings. We looked for the right venue for months until we settled on a local winery in Healdsburg, Simi.

The first time we visited their grounds, we instantly knew; this was the spot. One of the biggest draws was the atmosphere. Surrounded by towering redwoods, we felt incredibly humbled by the magnitude of their beauty. Also, they have such sophisticated and well maintained grounds, the staff were incredible, and the fact they had pizza ovens (which we used for the event) sealed the deal.

How did it go? Nerve-wracking, easypeasy? Spill some tea…

Good food, dancing, heavy emotions and loving families set the stage for an

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incredible night full of memories and joy—I guess it was everything you’d expect from a Sonoma wedding.

One thing did particularly stand out— having been a part of so many weddings in the past—is that I had no idea the gravity the event has on the couple themselves. A revelation Kim and I both had during the reception is that we, us, brought these people together in celebration, to share in a specific memory of our lives, of our own creation.

I think at that moment the event wasn’t just about us, but just as important, about the people that we brought together to witness and share in the collective experience. There are simply no words to describe it.

Any shoutouts to vendors that went above and beyond?

Yes, Simi Winery (simiwinery.com) for

being detail oriented and accommodating and just wonderful to us. Proj.story for photographing all the right moments (projstory.com), and Timber Cove for providing the backdrop to our beginnings (timbercoveresort.com).

How has life changed post-wedding?

Through the years, Kim and I have shown each other a way towards growth and self reflection. Since marriage, we have found that both of us are focusing more on the needs of each other, our goals, intimacy and attitudes. I think it's the union that ultimately forces this expectation within each other. It challenges the mind and spirit to grow and evolve into a single entity, an osmosis of faith that hinges on support without hesitation to adapt or dissolve. It is quite a profound leap, and I know we both can’t wait to see how far we’ve come in the coming years. Love you, Kim.



How did you meet?

We met in senior year at Montgomery High School when I was 18 and Shauna was 17. We were partners in business class, and thought we wouldn’t see each other again once we graduated. One year later, after high school we reconnected at a mutual friend's house. I made the first move and asked Shauna if she wanted to carpool to a party. We put on some music on the way to the party, which happened to be Green Day, which is Shauna’s favorite band. We geeked out over our love of Green Day and rock music in general, and the rest is history!

When and how did you know each other was the “One?”

Early in our relationship, Shauna took a deck of cards and hand decorated each card and made a flip book of 52 things she loves about me for my birthday. It was the most thoughtful and creative gift I have ever received. It was a crazy realization in that moment where everything just clicked and I knew she would be the one I was going to marry.

Please describe the process/proposal that led to “Yes.”

We had always said we wanted to have a 2022 or 2023 wedding. When the pandemic happened, it made us realize that life can go sideways at any moment, so we mutually agreed to start planning a November 2022 wedding. Especially since so many weddings were postponed, we wanted to make sure we got a date secured. We actually went venue hunting and booked a wedding venue before we even had rings! It was definitely a non-conventional way to officially plan a wedding, but sometimes that’s life!

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What was your vision for your wedding? Was there a theme or a particular vibe you wanted to create?

We wanted to stay local and represent our home in Wine Country, so Napa was a perfect option! It is also very close by, so a lot of our friends and family could attend, which was very important. We wanted a wedding that was family fun, including a big dance floor and a photo booth, but still had touches of us, including a Star Wars wedding-cake topper and Shauna walking down the aisle to a beautiful Blink-182 cover. We also wanted to be as sustainable as possible, from a compostable seating chart to Shauna renting her wedding dress for the evening instead of buying.

How did it go? Nerve-wracking, easy-peasy? Spill some tea, ha ha. The planning process had its ups and downs. No one tells you that you will obsessively

check the weather app on your phone five times a day for the day of your event and that the seating chart of who will sit where would have so many opinions! We also experienced everything from discovering some vendors had the wrong date booked the whole time, to extra guests crashing the wedding, to being super sick all the way up to the day before. It was stressful at times, but had some wonderful moments as well.

Any shoutouts to vendors that went above and beyond?

Our videographer and photographer were top-notch! Opal Gaines from Sweetbay Photography was so organized, professional and easy going. She made being in front of a camera so easy and organic. Jerry Tran from Toast Wedding Films was amazing and went above and beyond. My wedding shoe broke the day of the wedding, and Jerry not only fixed the shoe but helped me lace up

my heels as well. He also helped me with my thank you toast.

How has life changed post-wedding?

Wedding planning and the actual event is very stressful! We feel 100 pounds lighter and feel like we just came out of a wedding planning daze. We are slowly returning to everyday life and certainly loving not having to answer multiple vendor phone calls and emails. We have already gone back to working on new home projects and updates and catching up on our Netflix shows.

Travis and Shauna have been together 12 years. They recently bought their first home in Sonoma County and are dog parents to their pup, Freya (named after Travis’ love of Marvel comic books). They love to travel, listen to music, play video games and hang with family and friends.

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I DO Johnny Nolen, right, and Roberto Faller freak out at their wedding.


Down with rom-com; up with weird weddings

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The North Bay has long been a center of counterculture.

Towns like Guerneville, Point Reyes and Santa Rosa have a history of supporting gay communities. But in 2022, is a gay wedding actually that queer?

Many a wedding has been ruined in the minds and hearts of the otherwise happy couple on what is supposed to be the best day of their lives. Firstly, if your wedding is the best day of your life, that means everything is downhill from there. Sounds like a losing plan. Instead, how about your wedding be an awesome day that is fun for you and your loved ones?

Of course, wine country is a dream location to hold a classically romantic wedding. Wineries and glam barns throughout the region make a mint off of the dreams of lovers of all ages, and in recent years many of those weddings have been of same-sex or otherly unstraight couples.

Some queer couples, however, bristle at the idea of a dream wedding being a mimic of the perfect church weddings generations have grown up watching on the silver screen. After all, many churches are still actively working against the right to marriage. Gay couples may not have forgotten that the very institutions that for centuries have actively negated their right to exist, let alone marry, should provide the model for such an important and meaningful act as marriage.

“Why would we emulate the structure of a traditional wedding?” says Johnny Nolen, married gay resident of Santa Rosa and good friend of the writer, as we Zoom on the topic.

“Religion has rejected us; society has only recently stopped branding us abominations,” says Nolen. “We fought for the hard won right to even be legally recognized in marriage. [So] why would we?”

Instead, Nolen advocates for a truly queer wedding, “in the original sense of the word.”

Rather than simply a cool destination for the same old ceremonies, queer weddings can take inspiration from the well-established weirdness of Northern California.

This could be as simple as a destination yoga wedding where attendees camp in order to share in sunrise yoga before the wedding, or a Lovecraft steampunk horror theme affair. More on that later.

In Nolen’s circle, there was a cluster of queer weddings, as happens in a circle of friends, just before the pandemic, and each was original and intentionally divergent from the traditions which had for so long attempted to suppress gay love.

“Each ceremony was custom written either by the couple or a close friend, with different approaches to attire and decoration, [to] the order of operations of the ceremony and who's present, you know found-family versus ‘this is the bridal party and this is the groom’s party,’” says Nolen.

This outside-the-box thinking about the Big Day has an additional benefit, according to Nolen. There is less of “that panic pressure of, like, this wedding is supposed to be the

most wonderful day of my life; why isn't anything going correctly?” he says. “That kind of stress and freak out [isn’t there] because there is freedom in [doing it your own way]. There is no chance of failure when you are making it up.”

Nolen and his partner, Roberto Faller, made it up bigtime.

“We did a Lovecraft-Cthulhu themed social deduction murder mystery event that lasted seven hours, where everybody was required to attend in costumes,” he says. The couple, who are game designers in addition to their day jobs, created an activity where attendees “had to figure out who was the secret infiltrating cultist trying to sabotage the wedding,” says Nolen as I listen through my own tears of delight.

There was a downside, however. “If they didn't figure it out before the cultist sabotaged the ceremony, then we would suffer 100 years of apocalypse, which, unfortunately, was immediately before the pandemic,” says Nolen.

“So, sorry about that,” he adds.

Some queer couples, however, bristle at the idea of a dream wedding being a mimic of the perfect church weddings generations have grown up watching on the silver screen.
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Tiburon taste with a view

Dining” is a mere verb; “fine dining,” however, is an entire concept.

It encompasses everything from gustatory artistry, design, ambience, and, dare I say, romance. This is what Tiburon’s landmark restaurant, The Caprice, offers in abundance.

In its sixth decade, The Caprice continues to be a Marin County institution, now under the stewardship of Jerry and Jennifer Dal Bozzo. A restauranteur with a number of iconic dining experiences to his credit

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(Salito’s, Stinking Rose, The Franciscan), Jerry Dal Bozzo was keen on preserving what made The Caprice so special in the first place.

“I have always had an attraction to The Caprice because of its unique location and all it has to offer—romantic, views, location, etc. We began spending more time in Marin, The Caprice became available, it was serendipity,” he said. “Considering The Caprice is an institution with which so many people have history, it was important for us to maintain the name and the intimate nature of the restaurant, yet better capture the views.”

An extensive remodel was overseen by Jennifer Dal Bozzo, who designed the interior and exterior buildout, leaning into a mid-century design based on the location’s architecture. The new color palette and coastal design underscore the location’s signature feature—“its incomparable panoramic views,” Jerry Dal Bozzo explained. Simply put, it's an elegant, refined medley of both past and present that boasts

a sun-kissed dining room and not a bad seat in the house.

The building is not all that was redesigned. The menu also received an overhaul.

“The menu was designed for locals to enjoy simple but unique signature dishes like Abalone Dore, ribeye steak using the best ingredients for maximum flavor,” said Jerry Dal Bozzo. “J.C. Becerra is the executive chef and Federico Carrillo is the operating chef, both long time staff members and excellent at their craft. They focus on consistency and perfection of simply prepared dishes that are memorable and have you wanting to come back for more.”

Entrées include a delectable branzino with lemon herb oil; the gnocchi with Dungeness crab and spinach fondue cheese sauce; or their signature abalone dore. On the meatier side, the Colorado lamb chops, Kurobuta tomahawk pork chop and the bone-in filet mignon are each spectacular choices. The Caprice also offers a prix fixe menu featuring a fresh mixed green salad,

prime ribeye steak and Yukon gold potatoes mashed with zucchini. This is a personal fave and a go-to, should analysis paralysis strike while perusing the estimable menu.

The full bar also showcases a variety of classic and original cocktails, and the wine list brims with astute French and domestic selections—the result of a collaboration with industry veteran Thomas Koehorst. There is a wine for every palate, at reasonable price points.

“Tiburon has so much going on these days,” said Jerry Dal Bozzo. “Stroll the charming town of Tiburon’s Main Street and (take) a short walk up the shoreline promenade to The Caprice for a romantic evening and who knows…?”

The Caprice is located at 2000 Paradise Dr. in Tiburon. The restaurant is open for dinner and cocktails Monday-Sunday (5-9pm), and lunch/ brunch/cocktails Friday-Sunday (12-4pm). Evening valet parking is available. For more information, visit The Caprice on the web at www.thecaprice.com or call 415-435-3400.

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Advice on working with event staff on that special day


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Strawberry pea shoot crostini gets the party started.

My very first day as a server for a wedding catering company, I learned an important lesson: Weddings are not for the faint of heart. Whether you’re a guest, a worker or an expectant fiancé(e), the day dawns bright with the promise of high emotions, festivity and very little time to sit down and relax.

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California’s wild abundance of ingredients is celebrated with a spring lamb and pistachio dukkah.

I remember pouring wine to a table of well-dressed men and women, praying to any deity that would listen that I wouldn’t spill a drop of red on the pristine white tablecloth. And, when I thought I’d finished and turned to fill more glasses, a man grabbed me by the wrist and said, “Leave the bottle—I’m the father of the bride.” This, perhaps, was the best advice I was lucky enough to receive on my first day of work.

Since then, I have been to hundreds of weddings, watched just as many ceremonies, and have heard about every existing variation of wedding toasts and speeches (including a particularly moving Star Wars-themed soliloquy from an everso-slightly tipsy best man).

My role in these weddings? To hand out tasty bites of decadent appetizers on silver plates and to do my best to blend into the wedding venue walls while simultaneously performing clandestine acts of chaos mitigation. After all, preventing mishaps before they have a chance to happen is the

unspoken job of wedding catering staff. On the surface, it may appear that the servers are simply handing out food and pouring out red, white and bubbly like candy on Halloween, but that’s not all there is to the job.

A local Bay catering company, Area Fork Full of Earth Organic Catering, and I have joined forces to share our experiences in the industry and, hopefully, give future brides and grooms-to-be some valuable first-hand insight and advice on working with (not against) their caterers.

“During the early years of Fork Full, we were hired to cater a wedding in a beautiful home in Sonoma,” said Jasmine Uyer, sales manager at Fork Full of Earth. “The home was a work in progress, and the groom-to-be was an employee of the homeowners, who were both architects. I conducted a site visit about six months before the wedding, so I thought we had all of the information that we needed about the venue's location and layout.

“But when we arrived to set up, we found that they had renovated the space, and there was a pool in the place where the ceremony was planned to be. The groom figured we could ‘make it work,’ and we did. But lesson learned, always ask if there is a pool in the plan!”

I myself experienced an unexpected pool in the plan when I catered a wedding at a venue that boasted a stunning fountain with turquoise blue waters splashing temptingly in the hot summer afternoon. Even on the clock, the urge to take a quick dip for just a moment was hard to resist. But the venue had a strict $1,000 fine for anyone who dared escape the heat in their purely decorative water feature.

This would have been okay, except for the multitude of (frankly unsupervised, rambunctious) children attending the wedding who were eyeing the fountain as though it were a shining Shangri-La. And so, this pool that was certainly not in the plans became the reason that our company

«« »»
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was suddenly short-staffed, sacrificing our servers in shifts to stand watch like pseudo knights of the realm to guard the fountain from surprisingly perseverant children.

“Like any relationship, it’s really important to articulate your priorities and limitations to your caterer,” said Angela Ginsburg, executive chef and owner of A Fork Full of Earth. “We have brides come in and apologize for being wordy, demanding or crazy, but I would rather know someone’s deal-breaker before we start than after.

“Tell us how much you want to spend, how much is too much, if you want to separate your brother’s friends from your sister’s friends. Tell us if you absolutely can’t stand it when people put a cheese board out and it’s attacked by wasps and bees. It’s important to lead with your truth—the good, the bad and the ugly.”

These wise words of advice bring another story to mind: the day I catered an extravagant wedding located on the bride’s family’s ranch. No expense was spared in decking out the venue for the special day, and there were even air-conditioned porta-potties that, I’ll confess with no guilt, I used as an unofficial break room a few times, since they were impeccably clean

and cool. It seemed as though everything had been considered, except, of course, the combination of outdoor catering and ranch life.

Guests began arriving—one by one their cars careened past our flimsy tent, tires kicking up enough dirt to form opaque dust clouds. We tried our best to shield the food with our bodies, but didn’t achieve much except ensure we got dirty too. After the dust storms died down, we began setting up a cheese board next to, you guessed it, the barn. The flies began swarming before we’d even had a chance to set the plates on their designated tables, and roughly $350-worth of fine meats and cheeses were fed to the flies that day.

“In catering, the one thing you don’t ask is the one thing that will get you,” said Ginsburg. “If you want someone who is meticulous or if you’re the kind of person who flies by the seat of their pants, clearly know what you want and go with someone who aligns with that. There’s no one way to do it right, and every character is different. Being honest about everything is the best way to get the most out of us. Be willing to build trust—it’s hard because you have ideas about how you want things to go, but there’s a real give and take.”

TASTY SEASONS Fork Full of Earth Organic Catering creates flavorful memories with an autumnal soufflé, beluga lentils and hazelnuts.

‘Like any relationship, it’s really important to articulate your priorities and limitations to your caterer.’—Angela Ginsburg
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One particular soon-to-be motherin-law (who shall remain unnamed—you know who you are) showed a particular lack of trust in our staff during what was set to be a relatively easy workday. She was always one step ahead of us and, even though her heart was in the right place, her micromanaging created more problems than it resolved. The most notable, i.e., annoying, thing she did was arrive early and pre-set the head table to show the staff how a

“properly made table” should look.

The thing is, she had all the knives facing the wrong direction and switched the proper placement of wine vs. champagne glasses. We fixed it up and continued setting the other tables, only to realize we were two tablecloths short. She had used them to set the head table. So, we unmade the entire thing, remade it, and wished the mother-inlaw had trusted us enough to go and enjoy the big day with the rest of her family.

Serving delicious food to a wedding full of dashing dudes and dames may seem exciting, and it is. But it only takes a few of these events to realize that many nights will inevitably end with you filling in on unofficial duties, like politely explaining to a guest, in front of their date, that staff isn’t permitted to flirt with them. Or standing on a barstool in front of a riotous crowd, yelling over the din of their unified chant for “whisky!” that the bar is now closed.

LOVE BITES Dainty beef tenderloin tataki sets a romantic tone.
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“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the bride and her people and a not once-in-a-lifetime thing for the caterer,” said Ginsburg. “For the bride, it’s a totally organic, unique, bespoke experience, which is only possible because it is part of a system that works.”

There is a singular joy in being a part of someone’s most special day, and I always wanted to honor that. Most people who work in the wedding catering industry will bend over backward to ensure the bride and groom have everything their hearts desire. You want a carnival-themed wedding? We’ll grab our red suspenders and popcorn machine. You want only yellow food? We’ll sort the M&Ms! And if you want the

entire staff to break out mid-reception into a seemingly impromptu rendition of the “Macarena”? We’ll be practicing in the back, where no one can see us.

Ultimately, I loved every second I spent catering weddings. It is a privilege and an honor to work behind the scenes, ensuring that every little detail goes off without a hitch while you and your loved one get hitched. The chaos is part of the charm, and preventing it from reaching the wedding party almost becomes a game of sorts.

You cover for the bridesmaid and groomsman that you saw disappearing into the woods 15 minutes ago, push aside highheels discarded by dancing guests from the walkway so no one trips, and you do it all

with exuberance because, ultimately, this day isn’t about you at all. It’s about making sure everyone is enjoying the wedding and, of course, the food.

Fork Full of Earth Organic Catering strives to create flavorful memories with California’s wild abundance of ingredients. They bring the best the Earth has to offer to Bay Area tables by supporting local farms, preparing with thoughtfulness, and staying committed to preservation and sustainability. And, most importantly, they’ve been in business long enough to know to expect the unexpected pool.

To contact Fork Full of Earth Organic Catering, visit their website at forkfull.com, email info@forkfull.com or call 415.448.5178.

ROASTED ROOTS Fennel aioli accompanies local root vegetables in a feast for the eyes and mouth.

SEXY TALK Knowing your mate’s money mindset is crucial to a happy partnership.


Somehow, in a world of eight billion people, you found the one. Whether you got to this point after years of swiping right or a few months of exchanging come-hither glances at the dog park, it probably took a fair amount of work. »»

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Well, gear up for one important last step before you start two-stepping at the wedding reception. Invest time in acquainting yourself with the financial advantages and risks of marriage. From tax breaks to increased retirement savings to spousal death benefits, getting hitched and staying that way certainly has its rewards. Yet there is a flip side to that coin—the clash over cash with a spouse can lead to the downfall of a marriage.

Arguing about money, more than any other marital disagreement, is the strongest predictor of divorce, according to "Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce,” a Kansas State University study of 4,500 couples.

"It's not children, sex, in-laws or anything else,” said Sonya Britt, the researcher who conducted the study. “It's money—for both men and women."

While marriage could be a boon to your bank account, it could also leave you in temporary or permanent financial straits. But getting to know your mate’s mindset towards money and their financial situation will play a crucial role in reaching your happily-ever-after goal. Addressing financial topics isn’t romantic, and some

couples might find talking about them uncomfortable; it’s a must do before saying I do.

Having these conversations now will build a stronger foundation for your marriage. Both of you need to provide an honest accounting of your overall finances and obligations. This isn’t the time to hold back information, even if it’s negative. And it might alleviate some of those pre-wedding jitters.

Consider marriage as a type of merger. It’s unwise to enter a business partnership without the necessary due diligence, and the same goes for wedlock.

Understanding the balance sheet of your betrothed wasn’t much of an issue in past decades when people were getting married earlier in life. Couples were hardly old enough to be financially established. For instance, in the 1960s, the bride’s average age was 20, while the groom was 23, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Today, folks are getting married for the first time later in life, which means they may have already acquired substantial assets or racked up significant debt. Last year, the average age for a first marriage was 33 for women and 35 for men, as reported by The Knot 2021 Real Weddings Study.


To get a clearer picture of money and marriage matters, we turned to Jacqueline Amrikhas, who has more than 30 years of experience as a certified public accountant in Sausalito. Amrikhas recommends that couples planning on tying the knot sit down together and discuss how each person approaches their finances.

“If you’re going to get married, you really need to find out about the potential spouse’s personal spending, saving habits, overall responsibility when it comes to filing tax returns and their credit score,” she said.

Asking questions is an essential part of the process to determine the financial compatibility of a couple, says Amirkhas. Does the person I’m going to marry have a budget, or do they live paycheck to paycheck? Do they spend more than they make? Before making a purchase, do they consider whether they can afford it or just buy it now and plunk down a credit card? How much credit card debt do they have?

“One person says ‘you’re spending too much’ and the other says ‘you’re not making enough,’”Amirkhas said. “This is very common.”

Different approaches to money are

Understanding the balance sheet of your betrothed wasn’t much of an issue in past decades when people were getting married earlier in life. Couples were hardly old enough to be financially established.
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common, and you probably shouldn’t expect your partner’s spending behavior to change. You can blame your future in-laws.

“By the age of seven years, several basic concepts relating broadly to later ‘finance’ behaviours will typically have developed,” according to Habit Formation and Learning in Young Children, a University of Cambridge study.

Financial incompatibility leads to trouble. but there are ways for couples to work together on money management strategies— and ways to protect yourself if you can’t.


Amirkhas suggests that couples meet with a certified financial planner and a certified public accountant prior to the nuptials. Each person should consult separately with their own CPA to advise on their circumstances. Both partners should sit down together with the financial planner.

“It’s good to meet with a financial planner to see what you need to save every year for retirement and make a plan,” Amirkhas said. “Both of you want to get on board for that. If you each have an employer with a 401K program, anything you contribute is pretax.”

A financial planner can also advise on other long-term goals, such as the best way to pay down large amounts of existing debt or saving for a home.

A CPA can help determine whether it would be better for you to file taxes jointly with your spouse or file separately. The IRS offers tax incentives to married couples who file joint tax returns; however, there are cases where you might want to file separately.

When filing a joint return, both spouses are responsible for the taxes due, regardless of whether one spouse earned all the

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income or claimed improper deductions or credits, according to the IRS.

“If you’ve got a spouse who has a business and they’re not reporting all the income, you’re on the hook when you’re filing a joint return,” Amirkhas said. “The IRS says, ‘we can go after you.’ They treat it as if you both are liable. That’s an advantage of filing separately—the government can’t come to you to collect.”


Another important consideration is determining whether to combine your finances. Consolidating finances may simplify budgeting, bill paying, saving and investing. Yet if your partner has a great amount of debt or vastly different spending practices, you could opt to keep your accounts separate. In that case, each of you can contribute to a fund for shared expenses.

Sometimes a partner wants a prenuptial agreement, a written contract a couple signs before the marriage that specifies what will happen with assets and debts after a marriage ends. Sure, it’s not the cheeriest subject when you’re planning on growing old together. But a dissolution of the marriage is a possibility with the divorce rate in the United States at about 40%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/National Health Center for Statistics.

A prenup is beneficial if you’re coming into a marriage with more assets than your partner and want to ensure that you keep them in the event of a divorce. Even if neither partner is wealthy, a prenup is a tool to pass assets to children from a previous relationship. You might need a prenup if you plan to delay or forgo your career to stay at home with children because it will provide you financial security in the event of a divorce.

Basically, you want to plan for until death do us part and just in case you fall short by a few years, have provisions in place to protect yourself financially.

Now, let’s move on to the good stuff—the financial advantages of matrimony.


That old adage about two living as cheaply as one is true. And assuming you’re both working, your union upped your household income. You’re on your way to accumulating more wealth than when you were single.

Two cars. One insurance policy. Your premiums will go down with the multi-car discount most insurance companies offer. Get your homeowner’s insurance from the same insurance company and you should receive a discount for bundling the policies.

Each spouse should check their employer’s health insurance. It may be

less expensive for both spouses to be on the same policy.

Bay Area home prices may have kept you from becoming a homeowner when you were single, but you have increased buying power now. You may qualify for a mortgage for that charming cottage in your favorite neighborhood.

When you sell that home, you get a huge tax advantage. Homes in the Bay Area have been increasing in value substantially. A married couple can exclude $500,000 in capital gains on the home’s appreciation, versus $250,000 for a single person.

On the other hand, if you don’t own a home yet, then you’re not paying property taxes and most likely won’t have itemized deductions, according to Amirkhas. Still, being married will lower your tax bill in most cases.

“Tax brackets are more advantageous when you’re a married couple filing jointly,” Amirkhas said. “If you’re single, the standard deduction is $12,550. But when you’re married, it goes up to $25,100. You basically get double the amount to reduce your taxable income.”


Take time to assess your financial situation at least once a year. When you have a major life change, such as a job promotion, going back to school or a baby on the way, new priorities come into play. Adjust your plan and get back to enjoying your wedded bliss.

Consider marriage as a type of merger.
It’s unwise to enter a business partnership without the necessary due diligence, and the same goes for wedlock.
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