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Master Planner

We check in with S.D.’s jet-setting party thrower who gives us a tutorial in how she masters the grandiose, with a sumptuous summertime picnic.

Models from the San Diego-based No Ties Management strike a pose. 

A cheese plate and an elegant mobile bar set the stage for the Fairbanks Ranch picnic.

Deviled eggs with caviar

Tables were topped with vintage barware from Hostess Haven and Beau Joie Champagne

Vanessa Van Wieren at the Fairbanks Ranch setting with furniture from Pow Wow.

A tomato water soup by Andrew Spurgin

Models delve into Dallmann chocolates

Lemon cream and meringue tarts with gold leaf by AR Valentien Pastry Chef Jennifer Costa

A chicken terrine by Spurgin

Vanessa Van Wieren of Alchemy Fine Events doesn’t just throw a party. That’s not how the petite Rancho Sante Fe native has become so in demand. She’s orchestrated lavish beachside weddings from Mexico to Ibiza, and she’s spoken in The Netherlands at a luxe wedding seminar.

“Everything is custom,” says the Otis Fine Arts alum, who is creating her own lifestyle brand of furniture, accessories and linens.

Custom is an understatement. At a recent $750,000 La Jolla wedding with an Under the Sea-meets-Asian Zen theme (it stretched over five days), she created a coral reef with florals and erected a custom tent at the Beach & Tennis Club. And for a recent Bollywood-meets-Hollywood birthday party at La Costa Resort & Spa, where Deepak Chopra gave the toast, there was indeed an elephant in the room.

When Van Wieren teamed up with her top coterie of vendors for this bespoke picnic it was glam-meets-whimsy—her signature. “I love to mix the unexpected and always have a little edge like California beach style with an ultraluxe makeover.”

The food came courtesy of Andrew Spurgin, the chef who has been reinventing the way S.D. entertains. “The Victorians were big on picnics and they were anything but humble,” says Spurgin of his lavish inspiration. He presented a delicate tomato water soup and tapped top Pastry Chef Jennifer Costa for the fanciful tarts and macarons. “Thoughtful picnics can be so romantic.”

Speaking of romance, Alchemy tapped the breakout stylists of Hall & Saks, who decked out models in Azzedine Alaïa, Armani and Jimmy Choo. “We wanted there to be this sort of young sophistication, adding unexpected elements of edge,” says co-owner Adrienne Baravetto Saks.

As Van Wieren creates a mega following in a trend-obsessed industry (she’s the new luxury wedding expert on eHow), her concepts are inevitably copied. A bougainvillea chuppah she made for a wedding was repinned 2,000 times on Pinterest. “I’ve seen so many bad rip-offs,” she laughs in stride. “My goal is not to do anything trendy, but be inspired by fine artists and architecture. I want to make designs that make people think.”

Van Wieren’s Top Five Picnic-Style Essentials
1. Go Gourmand The fun of a luxury picnic is the unexpected. Anyone can have tea sandwiches. But we tapped Andrew Spurgin to update picnic fare, from deviled eggs with caviar to decadent dessert. The contrast of luxury in the outdoors is what delivers
the whimsy.

2. Flower Power Being outdoors doesn’t mean forgoing a beautiful arrangement or even a few simple blooms to go from just good to glam! My go-to for the most stylish flowers in San Diego is Isari Flower Studio ( in Solana Beach.

3. Bubbles! Beau Joie Brut Rosé is in this gorgeous, copper-wrapped bottle that impresses even before letting the crisp, sweet bubbles hit your palate. After all, the only thing better than bubbles is pink bubbles (

4. Say Fromage! Venissimo ( is my favorite cheese shop in San Diego, stocked with truffle-laced Goudas, creamy Bries that I serve on nutty crackers with a dollop of goose liver pâté.

5. Picnic A Go-Go I am obsessed with vintage cocktail cases and trunks verses the traditional basket. And I love British gourmet cases (