OK, there are some weddings where I just instantly want to be friends with the bride, and this is definitely one of them. Actually, I kind of wish I was her maid of honor because she just seemed so relaxed during the planning process – I mean, she picked out her stunning dress during a thirty minute lunch break! That is remarkable! She also just happens to be one of the design mavens at Branch Out Floral & Event Design, and can you even believe she managed to create her own magnificent floral design the week of her very own wedding?! She is like a wedding super hero in my book, and you’ll want to see all the beautiful images of her and her darling husband by Kim Lind Photography in the gallery.

click here for the full wedding gallery!

Although my husband and I live in San Francisco, California we held our wedding in the Oakland hills.  Our event was held at the Sequoia Lodge; a rustic woodsy venue owned and operated by Oakland’s Department of Parks and Recreation.  As soon as I completed a walk through of the venue I knew it would be the perfect spot. Not only was it both intimate and casual but I’m working on my second teaching credential in Special Education and the Sequoia Lodge moonlights as a nursery school during the week!

The ceremony was meaningful, short and sweet.  As we didn’t have any specific familial or religious traditions to which we needed to adhere, we borrowed liberally from other cultural and religious wedding customs.  The ceremony was about celebrating the new family that we were creating while acknowledging the two families that we come from.  With that in mind, I walked down the aisle to Horace Silver’s “Song for my Father”, a jazz tune that my late father enjoyed.  Our wedding party consisted of our siblings – with John’s twin brother and two sisters standing on the “groom’s side” and my own two sisters standing on the “bride’s side”.   We incorporated a Hawaiian lei exchange with each other’s families.  I accepted a lei from his mother and John accepted a lei from my mother as a representation of the families welcoming a new member into their lives, homes, and hearts.  In Catholic weddings a lasso is often placed around the couple so we created our own lasso by tying the two leis together and then recited our vows bound to one another. The multiple bangles I wore that day pulled from an Indian tradition that ensures good luck on your wedding day – one was actually a gift from my father to my mother.  Following with African American tradition we jumped a broom that my husband crafted for the day. The ceremony was performed by a friend and was completley non-denominational but exceptionally meaningful for us, our family, and friends.

The look and the feel I attempted to create for the day was simple, natural, and relaxed.  Everything from the dress, that I found and bought off the rack on a thirty minute lunch break, to the cake, the meal, and the rings tried to follow that aesthetic.  I work in the wedding industry as a florist and have the luxury of seeing so many amazing big budget weddings.  While they are beautiful they were definitely not a reality with our budget so we worked with what we had to create a party that we thought our friends and family would enjoy.

My favorite element of the wedding was easily the floral designs.  I did them myself the week of the wedding with help from my good friend (and boss) Leighsa Montrose of Branch Out Floral and Event Design!  The color palette was shades of green in a nod to my late father whose favorite color was green (it just happens to be mine and John’s too!), orange and plum.  Two friends let me pillage their yards for the beautiful succulents used in the wedding – and many are now happily repurposed in some of our guests gardens. My advice to other brides is to breathe, smile, and look at the big picture.  No one will remember a dent in the side of your cake or a stain on the bottom of you dress.  They WILL remember the joy and spirit of the day and the love you shared with them and each other.

Dress: Carmen Marc Valvo / Photography: Kim Lind Photography / Venue: Sequoia Lodge, Oakland / Flowers: Asija Chappel Wuorenmaa (bride) and Leighsa Montrose of Branch Out Floral &  Event Design / Cake: Dianda’s Bakery (flowers by Branch Out) / Catering: Asqew Grill, San Francisco / Fixtures: Hartmann Rentals, Richmond / Linens: AGS, South San Francisco