A Romantic Valentine's Day Party Inspired by Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet"
"Two households, both alike in dignity
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross'd lovers take their life
Whose misadventured piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents' strife."
Not only are those the opening lines from William Shakespeare's classic tale of "Romeo and Juliet"—they served as inspiration for a memorable Valentine's Day soiree. Royale Ziegler of But First, Party! recalls watching Baz Luhrmann's film adaptation of the play, and that it was love at first sight. "I remember having just turned thirteen when the film came out, and deciding then and there that love must most certainly look like that," she says. "Two of my favorite scenes, of course, are the costume ball and the final scene, both of which I hoped to capture in the design details." As a modern take on this timeless tale, it spurred some poetic imagery: nights of dancing, candlelit tables, bountiful feasts and cheerful toasts, and angelic wings. All together, it became the vision for an enchanted evening.
Wherefore Art Thou?
"Star-crossed lovers are cordially invited for cocktails in celebration of St. Valentine's Day," was delicately calligraphed on dreamy, deckle-edged stationery by Julie Ha. The evening was set not in fair Verona, but an elegant setting just the same: The Andra Dwelling, home to Alexis Andra and her husband Allen. This 1979 Tudor style home in Southern California was a passion project for the couple—they installed giant beams to the ceiling, white-on-white details, and warm-hued wooden floors.
"But soft! what light through yonder window breaks?
It is the east, and Juliet is the sun!"
It's an iconic lover's phrase inspired from an equally iconic balcony. Look closely, and you'll notice the hand-drawn rendition of Juliet's world-famous balcony at the Casa di Giulietta in Verona, Italy.
Signature cocktails need not be fancy—they simply have to represent your individual tastes. Take this party for instance, where they served a Capulet Collins (for her) and a Montague Mule (for him) by Bottles and Blooms. The two drink options were displayed on respective cards calligraphed by Julie Ha. As sweet touches to the drinking and dining throughout, meringues were shaped into angel wings by Josephine Los Angeles.
A pair of his and her cocktails: Montague Mule and a Capulet Collins for the Romeos and Juliets of the party, respectively. For the gentlemen, a Montague Mule was made from bourbon ginger liquor, lime juice, fresh mint, and soda water, then topped with candied ginger garnish. For the ladies, a Capulet Collins was shaken with gin elderflower liquer, rose water lemonade, champagne, sprinkled with rose petals and pink Himalayan salt on the rim.
A Decadent Feast
A banquet table was filled with all sorts of delicious foods, perfect for feasting in the Elizabethan Era. Think: an antipasto platter of mortadella, salami, prosciutto, bocconcini, and aged provolone. Plus pistachios, marcona almonds, walnuts, dried apricots, pomegranates, peppers, grilled zucchini, purple onions, and marinated olives.
Blushing Red Bites
Everything prepared by Colette's Catering was brought fresh for an aphrodisiac appetite: artichoke hearts, blood oranges, and oozing pots of local honey.
"You are a lover. Borrow Cupid's wings and soar with them above a common bound."
The banquet table is a sight that would leave Shakespeare himself speechless. Suspended aloft to the ceiling is a decorative display of earthy elements—baby's breath, skeleton leaves, and ornamental pampas grass—that are meant to evoke a pair of angel's wings and could be described as, in a word, otherworldly. "Claire Danes' Juliet angel costume, most memorably her wings, served as the inspiration for the floral installation over the table, as well as the dainty meringue treats," Ziegler explains.
The table itself was set with gold candlesticks and white tapers, and crystal goblets, provided by Archive Rentals. Wispy lengths of linens and ribbon in pretty pink and lavender hues made for lovely table runner and napkins, courtesy of Silk & Willow. "The end scene, featuring a sea of white candlelight and the young lover's tulle-draped deathbed, was interpreted in the tablescape decor," she continues, "where I layered brass candlesticks and candelabras with delicate cream and blush textiles."
A Shakespearean afficionado would appreciate the hidden references in the details. Upon closer look, the goblets of burgundy red drink were tied with inscribed tags proclaiming, "Give me my sin again." and "Here's to my love!"
O Happy Dagger
Love is a rapturous, indulgent, overpowering passion that (at times) supersedes all other values. You might say that dessert has a similar effect. Hence why, a savory goat cheesecake—garnished with sunny citrus slices, honeycomb, and bright pomegranate seeds—stole hearts (and appetites) at the banquet table. Gilded sword-like picks, encouraging guests to cut a slice, were courtesy of Creative Amme.
Where Torches Burn
Enter the showstoppers: In a stroke of genius (or, more fittingly, a slice of sweetness) a set of cakes by Sweetlee Made were decorated to look strikingly like pillar candles melted down to the wick—guaranteed to elicit gasping "oohs" and "ahhs" from the crowd.
Cut a slice, and the secret is revealed: pumpkin spice cake with vanilla bean buttercream. To create the drip effect, the baker combined 12 ounces of chocolate melt and 1/3 cup of fresh heavy whipping cream over a double boiler, smoothed the mixture with a spatula, and used a small spoon to add drips on the edge of cake.
No romantic setting is complete without blooms in abundance. As a decorative piece—and perhaps a metaphor for love blossoming—this bouquet of wax flowers, ginestra, carnations, rice flowers, and bleached amaranths was prepared courtesy of Felisa Funes from Of the Flowers.
Design and Planning: Royale Ziegler of But First, Party!
Photography: Billye Donya Photography
Styling: Alexis Andra of The Shift Creative
Florals: Of the Flowers
Rentals: Archive Rentals
Catering: Colette's Catering
Cocktails: Bottles and Blooms
Cake: Sweetlee Made
Meringues: Josephine Los Angeles
Stationery and Calligraphy: Julie Ha
Acrylic stirrers and Food picks: Creative Amme
Linens and Ribbon: Silk & Willow