It's a familiar, maybe universal, sensation. Walking down a hallway, through an alley, up the stairs, the sudden desire strikes to trail a hand across the wall, over the stubbly bricks, up and down the rise and fall of wrought iron railing.
I was at the Scarlet Huntington, negotiating my way through another unique sensation--walking over carpet in stilettos--when the urge to brush a hand over the smooth, painted hallway overcame me. I was teetering a few steps behind William, the hotel's PR manager and our tour-guide for the day. I think it was the color. The walls were a handsome grey--"Dior grey," William told me later--and lined above with beautiful, old light fixtures. It had the feel of a glamorous, old San Francisco apartment building. It was a glamorous, old San Francisco aparment building. William also told me this, after I mentioned our cavernous room. "Are we still in San Francisco?" Olivia had asked, dropping her bags into the living room...of our room. We were there to explore and photograph the city's best wedding venues and accommodations. We had fallen in love with several hotels, pizza joints, and cocktails, but we had yet to stay in a room the size of a Hawaiian grocery market.
The suites at the Scarlet Huntington are particularly spacious due to its original purpose as the Huntington Apartments, built by Collis P. Huntington, one of San Francisco's "Big Four" (the influential railroad tycoons who built the western portion of the United States' first transcontinental railroad). The tycoons and their respective mansions and real estate developments (The Huntington itself was the first high-rise erected West of the Mississippi) helped craft the luxurious feel of Nob Hill that lingers still. It is this permeating sense of glamour and "Old San Francisco" spirit that left us smitten, feverishly sketching dream weddings from cocktails to cathedrals. We've refined these plans for our "How To Do Old World San Francisco Glamour" wedding guide.
Before the ceremonies begin in earnest, bring your bridesmaids to the sanctuary in the city that is Nob Hill Spa. Super spacious for San Francisco (again), the spa features the full range of pre-wedding services and an incredible sauna. In fact, between the steam room and Nob Hill's notoriously steep inclines, this was the warmest chapter of our entire trip. We should note also that the spa struck us as an equally appealing honeymoon location. If you're not at SFO awaiting an exotic getaway the morning after your wedding, book a couples massage and start your day-drinking at the edge of the heavenly, aquamarine pool.
Book a suite at the Scarlet Huntington. Trust us, there's room for your makeup artist and a full-service bar. And the Passion Suite is out of your 1920s daydreams. Gold leaf ceilings, wrought iron everywhere, etc. etc.
One of the Huntington's loveliest details is its proximity to Grace Cathedral. A beautiful French Gothic structure with sprawling stone steps, the cathedral is directly accross the street from the hotel. Apart from a painting of a Saint bearing uncanny resemblance to Ryan Gosling, we were taken especially with the Chapel of Grace: a small chapel off the end of the church with soft lights, beautiful white stone, and stained glass stretched to the ceiling. In our ultimate classic San Francisco wedding, our tenacious wedding planner swaps the little chapel's church pews for bistro chairs, and we go all out on a floor-length, lace-trimmed veil.
If you're from San Francisco, or you've been there for more than an hour, you know about the drinks. If there's anything they know how to do in this city, it's drink. And by drink I mean imbibe craft cocktails of the highest quality and aesthetic appeal in impossibly chic, quirky, rustic, etc. establishments. Therefore, at the heart of your elegant, Old San Francisco wedding is your cocktail hour. Host a smashing one at The Big 4--it's the Scarlet Huntington's famed restaurant and the stuff of old-world-elegance dreams. It recaptures the glamorous age of the Nob Hill reign of its namesakes. "We didn't touch it," laughs William, referencing a recent hotel renovation that spurred a local uproar in defense of the restaurant. The rich green leather and dark, polished, gentleman's club vibe remain. (We heard rumors of a yearly restaurant buy-out for dapper gentlemen dressed and driving cars from the era. When you're there, corroborate this with Ron, Big 4 waiter and local historian). Our advice: slink in for cocktails and jazz piano post-wedding.
Clearly, I'm a sucker for light fixtures and wall colors. Imagine my attachment to this small green room tucked in the depths of The Big 4. It's a chartreuse enclave paneled in prohibition-era posters and old documents. One of the oldest panoramic photos of the city rests against the innermost wall. A butler's pantry is lined with stemware and champagne. It's the epitome of intimate. Like the hotel and surrounding restaurant, its name is rooted in the railroad; they call it the Central Pacific Room. Host up to 36 of your wedding party for a rehearsal dinner or post-wedding celebration, and please, invite me.