Wedding planning can be a joyful, exciting, creative adventure, but we’d all be liars if we didn’t admit it also comes with its fair share of stressful moments and worries. So this Bride right here is my new hero, taking those anxieties and seeing the silver lining in every one, focusing on what really matters: her, her new husband, their family and friends. Ken Kienow and Swoon Films captured it all, and we all could learn a lesson in love by taking a look through this gallery and reading her fantastic story below.
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From The Bride… Dan and I love San Francisco. It’s where we met, where we dated, and where we call home. The easiest decision was that our wedding belonged in the city that we love. After getting engaged on a surprise trip to New Orleans, and instantly falling in love with the city’s music and culture, our second easiest decision was to bring some New Orleans flare to our San Francisco event. We knew we wanted the wedding to feel timeless and elegant, but still down to earth and incredibly fun. We also wanted our friends and family to feel loved and appreciated. Other than that, we had no idea what we wanted. Wedding planning is an interesting journey for those of us clueless about wedding planning and by “interesting” I mean “sometimes fun, sometimes rough, and mostly just confusing.”
For a down to earth feel, we held our ceremony in a secluded garden hidden within Golden Gate Park and asked my uncle to officiate. It sounds trite, but the garden just felt right from the beginning; it felt like the place we were supposed to get married. The garden was stunning on its own and required no flowers or additions. After walking through an old iron gate, guests were met with a flower-lined brick aisle that centered on an old sundial. The aisle was covered in a gorgeous canopy of trees. Walking down that aisle with my father was purely magical, and our processional song, “What a Wonderful World,” perfectly described the gratitude I felt in that moment.
The magic continued when upon celebration of the first kiss, we surprised our family and friends with an 8-piece New Orleans style brass band and the tradition of a second line. In New Orleans, newlyweds parade with guests and a brass band through the streets, waiving handkerchiefs to celebrate the new union. Strangers in the area will often join in the fun, and it leads to an instant dance party full of joy. We paraded through Golden Gate Park and ended on a huge stage where we all danced, laughed, hugged, and celebrated.
For the reception, we wanted “old-timey-San-Francisco.” We chose an old social club in Nob Hill with sweeping views of downtown San Francisco. We created an elegant and classic feel with voluptuous white and cream flowers, endless candles, and the music of Billie Holiday. Our gold cursive table signs were the names of our favorite comedians. This connected well to the speeches, which were entertaining enough to be in a comedy club while at the same time intensely heartfelt and touching. The speeches were our favorite part of the day, and I think many of our guests would say it was theirs as well. There is so much time and energy put into planning a wedding and making sure your guests have a wonderful time. You easily forget that those closest to you have prepared something special just for you. We were in awe of the beautiful words our family and friends created for us. It was an incredible gift.
After the classic atmosphere of dinner, we surprised guests with a completely different feel. Guests headed to the top floor of the club where they found fun jewel-toned uplighting, a photo booth full of silly props, dancing, a pool table, wedding cake, liquid nitrogen ice cream, and of course, more drinks.
There were far too many special moments to mention them all, but I’ll share of few of our favorites. My mom gave a hilarious start to the day by entering my suite in the morning cheerfully yelling “my daughter is getting married today!” Once I was finally ready in my dress, I had no way to see myself because there was no full length mirror. There was, however, an incredibly large square mirror hanging up on the wall above the bed for décor. Like champs, my bridesmaids climbed on the bed, pried the huge mirror off the wall, and carried it over so I could see myself. All in their dresses and heels. In addition to the first look with Dan, I also had a first look with my father. This was so special for me and my dad, and I’d recommend it for any bride. Dan and I wrote our own vows (and our own ceremony!) and I was worried I’d be too nervous to speak. I was so wrong. I will never forget the overwhelming happiness and calm I felt in the moment I married Dan. Finally, our first dance was a blast. After all the tender and emotional moments throughout the day, it was a thrill to dance to such an upbeat and energizing song and get the party started for a night we will never forget.
The wedding day was incredible. But as wonderful as it was, there were plenty of non-perfect and stressful moments leading up to it. I think that’s important to share because I often felt like the only bride in the world who hated wedding planning. For example, I had no wedding dress one month before the big day. The designer I hired to create a custom gown proved incredibly difficult, and I made the tough decision to walk away and somehow scramble up a wedding dress with only four weeks to go. Another example: a week before the wedding, every online weather report predicted rain. This meant we couldn’t use our adored outdoor ceremony location and even worse, we’d have to cancel our New Orleans second line parade. We were heartbroken.
At the time, these road bumps felt like the end of the world, but they also created beautiful moments. Jin Wang, a designer who owns a gorgeous wedding dress shop in San Francisco, showed me the kindness of strangers by bringing me in immediately and helping me find and alter not just one, but two beautiful wedding dresses in four short weeks. Her empathy touched my heart and I will forever be grateful to her. After hearing the weather report, my parents purchased 80 clear umbrellas, and made tent rental plans in case the reports proved correct. I was so lucky to feel that overwhelming love and support from them.
It turned out we wouldn’t use any of Plan B – we were blessed with a perfect 70 degree day, and it felt like I was always supposed to wear those wedding dresses that I got in such a rush. In the end, I was able to see the silver lining, and I promise all you future brides will too. And really, in the end, things like wedding dresses and weather reports just don’t matter. Can’t we all agree on that? I cry tears of joy every time I look at our wedding pictures or watch our wedding video and it’s not because I had the dress of my dreams or had the perfect weather. I cry tears of joy because I adore the way my husband was looking at me. Because I am overwhelmed by the love I see on my family’s faces, and because hearing their speeches fill me with intense gratitude. I cry tears of joy because it’s my uncle’s voice I hear as we are being married. Because my niece adorably hugged the stuffed animal we gave her, and because my sweet nephew courageously held his little sister’s hand and led her down the aisle. I cry tears of joy because we have footage of our 17 pound cat in a hilarious tuxedo collar that kind of makes him look like he works at Chippendales. If you’re like me, and wedding planning isn’t the thrill all the magazines promised you, I know you can’t see all that yet and that’s OK. I know things like wedding dresses and weather reports are really important right now. But I promise you, you have so many priceless moments coming your way. Prepare yourself for overwhelming joy and if you need 80 clear umbrellas, shoot me an email.
Photography: Ken Kienow Wedding Photography | Videography: Swoon Films | Coordinator: Dreams On A Dime | Ceremony: Shakespeare Garden In Golden Gate Park | Reception: University Club SF | Bridesmaid Dresses: Alvina Valenta | Hair And Makeup: Maria Chang | Lighting: JL Imagination | DJ: DJ Jeremy | Men's Attire: Men's Wearhouse | Bride's Dress: Romona Keveza | Bride's Dress: Jin Wang | Bride's Dress: Angel Sanchez | Cat's Tuxedo: Etsy | Florals: The Flower House | Music: Bay Area Strings | Second Line Band: St. Gabriel's Celestial Brass Band