Spotlight Member of the Month: Cherry Levin, Vows and Promises
Cherry Levin of Vows and Promises has been a wedding planner since 2000. “I’m probably the only wedding planner in the Bay Area with a PhD,” she says. “I understand the ritual from an anthropological viewpoint, as a deep rite of passage.” She manages the planning with an eye on helping the family create a meaningful event, protect their investment, negotiate sensitive family dynamics and ensure the vendors are truly on the bride’s team.
Are you from this area?
I grew up in the South—Tennessee, Mississippi, Texas and Mexico, then Boston and California. I got an MA in folklore from Berkeley and one in English from Texas A&M. My doctorate is from LSU (Baton Rouge) in English and folklore.
How did you end up in wedding planning?
I got my doctorate when I was 60 and couldn’t find a job. My dissertation documented 10 plantation weddings and I learned a lot by observing them. I accidentally found this career when my daughter was invited to work with a wedding planner and didn’t want to do it. So I tried it. I love it and if I don’t learn something from every wedding then I’m not listening.
Did you come from a large family?
Just me, I’m an only child. But I have five children.
Would you try bungee jumping?
Probably not. I have a fear of heights.
What makes you laugh?
For one thing, my dogs. They are funny. I have a yellow Lab mix, a flat-coated retriever and a dachshund. Two are rescues and someone gave me the third.
What is the first thing you notice when you meet someone?
How they present themselves and their ability to engage in conversation.
What is your least favorite thing about yourself?
I think I sometimes tackle too much. I like to be busy, but I just don’t want to be overwhelmed. I’m learning to say no and have turned down a couple of projects recently.
How about your best attribute?
Kindness, I’d say. I’m a kind human being. I’d love to be involved in Make a Wish weddings. That’s on the horizon. I want to support people who are making commitments. I’m poised and ready to learn how to rewrite wedding rituals for same-sex weddings.
What is your special talent?
Attention to detail, probably from childhood. I ‘ve always been a writer and reader, and academically you have to pay attention to detail. It’s the same with weddings—so many details.
What are your favorite scents? And what memories do they evoke?
I love to smell my American Beauty roses and jasmine in the back yard. And when I was a child we visited the Texas coast where they grow citrus and I went out in the morning when the trees were blooming. I was in an orchard of ruby red grapefruit and it smelled amazing.
Do you have a pet peeve?
injustice, on so many levels. People behaving poorly and unjustly to one another. I’m rather staggered by the amount of hate we’re seeing now.
What’s the last book you read?
I read all the time. I’m reading about Paris in the 1920s now. Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein’s The Biography of Alice B. Toklas. I just finished Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and I’m reading his second biography. Reading is my passion.
If you could choose anyone, living or not, to answer these same questions, who would it be?
My friend Carolyn Kinnard who trained me in wedding planning. She’s a wonderful human being who taught by example. She would have 10 weddings going but each bride could feel her total attention. She’s retired now, but she did it so well and I always loved working with her.