The art of the party
Marshal Bauer can throw a party for 30,000 of your closest friends
From their warehouse to your house or mansion (or castle or country estate). Leslie and Marshall Bauer are surrounded by the tools of the rental trade.
To call it a rental company would be remiss.
Better you should call Marshall and Leslie Bauer the Mr. and Mrs. Claus of Sonoma weddings.
Like their Christmas counterparts, they're in the business of making people happy. Unlike the Claus couple, they don't care if you've been naughty or nice, and they often know what you want better than you know what you want. They work behind the scenes, along with 100 employees (none with pointy ears), and together they perform Herculean feats of organization and timing. Then, on the big day-just like Santa-Wine Country Party & Events disappears, leaving wishes fulfilled and one glittery, glorious miracle in their wake.
"No one should know that we were there," Marshall says. "Our job is to drive you nuts Monday through Friday so that on Saturday you don't know we even existed."
Walk through their warehouse-easily the size of an airplane hangar-and you won't find any grazing reindeer, but you'll find an enterprise as preposterous and all-encompassing as Santa's workshop. We're talking towers upon towers of every style of table and chair receding into the distance. There are dance floors and chaise lounges and water features and fire pits and candelabras. There are 40,000 linens and 12,000 Riedel wineglasses and crates of sparkling cutlery and china up to the ceiling. "Yeah," grins Marshall off-handedly-"a lot of fancy stuff."
There are entire mobile kitchens and racks of lighting fixtures and sound equipment and portable stages and topiaries and sconces and enough tents to throw a party for 30,000 "easily."
But don't be fooled by the sheer scale. Wine Country Party & Events can accommodate the most intimately sized weddings. There's no minimum, "unless, of course, you just wanted to rent a wineglass, then we might not go for it."
Up in front, a sleek showroom allows a bride to experiment with place settings, play with lighting ("We have blackout screens to re-create an evening setting"), and explore how a Moulin Rouge cocktail plate might look against a tablecloth of Damask swirl.
While the selections are astonishingly broad and the products originate from around the globe, you won't find much edgy urban minimalist or eighteenth-century ornate in their catalog. Elegant and relaxed Wine Country style comprises the bulk of their rentals.
Most brides never actually set foot in this wedding wonderland. That's usually the job of a local event planner or caterer. But if you're working with anyone who's anyone in the wedding biz, they likely know-and use-Wine Country Party & Events, the undisputed gold standard in the local rental industry.
Marshall, a tech industry veteran, experienced a personal sea change after Sept. 11 that led him and Leslie in search of a business that was "happy" and had "lots of levers" to keep it interesting-"an infrastructure business."
Six years ago, they found it in the 23-year-old company with solid footing and room for growth. What followed was a steep but speedy learning curve: The first thing Marshall and Leslie & Co. had to master was the most important-getting everything out the door and set up on time. Once timing was perfected, they methodically moved on to the next item-inventory. At first Marshall bought it all, and that was a mistake.
"We just bought guy stuff, really practical products," he said. Not ideal in an aesthetically driven events market. Leslie has since stepped in to apply a more polished, refined touch, and today their stuff oozes verve. It feels good. It looks good, and it makes you want to eat and laugh and party.
In fact, orchestrating the Good Party is no small feat. It's more than just pretty linens and champagne flutes. It's how the event flows.
"That's what it's about. How do you design an event to make people feel good?" says Marshall. It requires a little wizardry, some magic, a little Santa juju. You could call it the art of the party and for Marshall and company it's starting to become a trademark.
"It's a highly discerning market," says Marshall. "Sonoma in particular is a sophisticated market with high expectations. Still, it's not a mean market. It's a nice market."
Sounds like Santa's wedding sleigh is parked here for good.
Wine Country Party & Events is located at 22674 Broadway, Suite A, in Sonoma. 707.940.6060. www.winecountryparty.com.
It makes you want to eat and laugh and party.
From the Summer 2009 issue of SONOMA