Danielle and Jeff Olson of Willow Glen.

Danielle and Jeff Olson of Willow Glen. (Celeste Duran / April 16, 2014)

Autumn has arrived, and while California’s foliage may not be as colorful as the leaves on the East Coast, our bounty of fresh local produce makes up for it.

“There is something very special about fall,” said Mindy Weiss, Beverly Hills wedding planner and author of “The Wedding Book: The Big Book for Your Big Day” (Workman Publishing Co., 2008) and her latest wedding planner kit, The Ultimate Wedding Organizer.

“As the leaves change, people’s moods change, too.”

Thus, late September through November is the perfect time to infuse the fruits of the season into the menu and décor for a harvest wedding.

DÉCOR
A rustic barn, vineyard or a backyard strewn with lanterns all make gorgeous backdrops for an autumn wedding. But in the décor, it’s all about color. Weiss, who is planning her son’s November wedding, advises against pastels in the fall, encouraging couples instead to embrace the season.

“Eggplant, burnt orange, rust, deep jewel tones, rich reds are gorgeous this time of year,” she said.  

Fabric textures play a role in creating a sense of the season, as well, Weiss said. She suggests velvet or tweed rather than linen. And elements like candles and twinkle-light-strewn branches on wooden tables can add a magical ambiance to a night wedding.

FLOWERS
Fall leaves, pine cones and twigs are popular in seasonal arrangements, but it doesn’t end there.
“Pumpkins and squashes make great vessels for flowers,” Weiss said. She has filled crystal bowls with baby pumpkins in white, orange and deep burgundy for centerpieces; wrapped votive candles in wheat; and used trees with dark burgundy leaves.

“Anything that has to do with harvesting will help set the mood,” she said.

A harvest-themed bridal bouquet might mix floral elements with maple leaves, wild grasses, grapes, persimmons, wheat or winter berries.  “One of my brides recently carried a bouquet of wheat down the aisle,” Weiss said.    

Richard Lauter, chef and co-owner of Beverly Hills’ Savore Cuisine and Events, uses large branches and stem-on produce in wedding décor to create the feeling “that everything is still alive and fresh out of the ground.”

FOOD
A harvest wedding menu should be filled with treasures of the season: quince, persimmons, rhubarb, pomegranate and butternut squash are just some of the choices.

Chef Michael Reardon of Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica has been busy putting together his autumn menus for the restaurant and special events. “Fall is one of the best times of year because there is so much produce,” he said. “Everything is bursting with flavor.”

His seasonal creations include chanterelle risotto, Cinderella red curry squash, venison with huckleberries, date brown butter tart with candied tangerines and pumpkin pot de crème with brown sugar and maple pecans.

“Californians are lucky,” said Lauter, pointing out that summer runs long, and that produce such as tomatoes and figs remain plentiful into October. To him, serving food in its most natural state is a beautiful way to reflect the harvest theme, such as fresh radishes with the roots still on.

“You don’t want the vegetables to look processed,” he said. Lauter is also a fan of doing twists on traditional dishes, such as butternut squash panzanella with heirloom beets and roasted bell peppers, or a grilled persimmon “caprese” with burrata.

Couples can take a cue from savvy local chefs like the James Beard award-winning Suzanne Goin, chef-owner of Lucques, A.O.C. and Tavern. Goin calls local farmers weekly to find out what is ripe and then orders accordingly, said her sister Jessica Goin, director of catering for the restaurants.

“Suzanne finds the balance between the great bright summer produce that is still in season while making it feel like fall,” she said. Along with the last of the ripe summer tomatoes, Goin will highlight dishes made with Fuyu persimmons, pomegranate, figs, apples and pears. 

Autumn also means creative wedding cocktails like pomegranate champagne cocktails and pomelo margaritas, while seasonal spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, ginger and cardamom can inspire hot spiced apple- and even pear-cider.

A WARM OCCASION
“As it gets chillier out, it’s important to keep people warm at your wedding,” Weiss said, so heaters should be part of the budget. “A harvest wedding is about bringing the warmth of the season into your celebration.”

— Jennifer Evans Gardner
Custom Publishing Writer