Kenwood's Chateau St. Jean hosts Southern California couple's crowdsourced 'Dream Wedding'

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The groom sniffled and the bride had to borrow a tissue from a bridesmaid as they tearfully said “I do” on Thursday before an audience of 100 invited guests and an estimated 200,000 online observers tuned in to TheKnot.com.

The grassy “aisle” on the lawn at Chateau St. Jean Winery was lined in rose petals and the altar was an antique sideboard covered in bouquets of pink and coral roses, befitting the country chic of a typical outdoor wedding in Wine Country.

But it was no typical wedding. Sponsored by the wedding website, TheKnot.com, the “Dream Wedding” of Samantha Carisch and Taylor Sinclair — who were picked in an online vote — was orchestrated for live streaming cameras and tricked out with high-tech toys and gadgetry.

A GoPro camera was concealed in the bridal bouquet so viewers could see the altar approach, complete with vineyard views, through the bride’s eyes. A drone bearing a camera buzzed overhead. Guests arrived in Uber Cars, checked in on an iPad guestbook and drank mocktails from a robotic bartending machine. The groomsmen’s cuff links and a cake topper in the likeness of the lovers were made from a 3-D printer.

Despite the hype, the technology didn’t upstage the sweetness of the moment for the 6-foot 3-inch groom, a former minor league baseball player for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and his petite 5-foot 1-inch bride, an interior designer. Carisch, in despair after twice having to postpone her wedding because of her mother’s illness — first a worsening of her multiple sclerosis and then the devastating diagnosis that she was suffering from late stage colon cancer — started Googling for quick and easy wedding ideas and came across a listing for The Knot’s contest.

Friends and family rallied with a social network campaign.

“Originally when we went about finding couples we asked people to nominate their friends or someone they knew who has a great story. We got over 100 nominations for this couple right out of the gate,” said Anja Winikka, site director for TheKnot.com.

They were the crowd favorite from among the six couples chosen as finalists.

Carisch, who stepped away from her job to be a full-time caregiver for her mother, said she really didn’t care where or how she got married, “as long as Taylor was at the end of the aisle.”

“They’re incredible people and they were meant to be together. Even if it was just a backyard barbecue wedding, it would still be the same,” bridesmaid Carmel Rodriguez said.

The average cost of a wedding in the San Francisco Area was $39,690 in 2014, ranking as the ninth most expensive place to get married in the U.S., according to TheKnot.com, which declined to estimate the value of Thursday’s wedding. Multiple vendors donated their services, including the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, which catered the lunch and hosted the wedding party, and Vista Broadband Network, which set up satellites backhauled into fiber-optic networks to ensure high-speed wireless streaming without a hitch.

Carisch wore her hair long and a form-fitting “mermaid-style” gown by Pnina Tornai, which was crowdsourced from Knot followers, like almost every major detail of the day, from the rings to the wedding cake with layers that represented the times of their lives, like a baseball and a suitcase for the years they spent apart while he was on the road playing ball.

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In an age when some brides act as hard-nosed directors of their own production, Carisch was a refreshing anti-Bridezilla, observers said, grateful to have others take over the planning at a difficult time in her life.

“We all got the winning lottery ticket on that one,” Sinclair’s mother, Carol Sinclair of Iowa, said of her new daughter-in-law. She said the whole production left her “speechless and beyond thrilled.”

Wedding planner Jeannie Savage, who has worked with celebrities like Jessica Alba, interviewed the couple to determine their tastes before coming up with the handful of selections on which site followers, commonly called “Knotties,” would vote.

“We’re blending relevant wedding trends with the couple and their own story,” said Winikka, who also acted as a video hostess for followers who tuned in via livestreaming.

Most of it played out online with voting beginning in late April, including video postings of events like Carisch’s trip to New York where she and her bridesmaids tried on wedding gowns at Kleinfelds, an exclusive Manhattan bridal emporium.

But there were still a few surprises. When the couple took to the outdoor stage for their first dance to their chosen song, “Love You Like That,” the band abruptly stopped and country star Canaan Smith, who made the ballad a top 10 hit on the country charts, emerged from the St. Jean Hospitality Center. A few female guests shrieked and gasped as Smith took the mike to finish the song and then offered best wishes to Carisch’s mother, Kathy Carisch, who was watching the nuptials live online from a hospital in Simi Valley.

Because of Kathy Carisch’s condition, the new Mr. and Mrs. Sinclair plan to delay the honeymoon in Tahiti that Knotties selected for them. But they plan to spend the weekend in the Sonoma before taking the long coastal route back to their real lives in Redondo Beach.

You can reach Staff Writer Meg McConahey at meg.mcconahey@pressdemocrat.com or 521-5204. On Twitter @megmcconahey.

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