(Finally) the Details of Our San Francisco Wedding

I’ve been meaning to write a wedding post for, well, about a year now. Our first anniversary is on Sunday, and it seems like as good a time as any to finally narrate this sucker.

A wedding is a huge, personal, family-and-feelings-infused event, and I’d rather keep all of those mushy details to myself.  But I do want to share some of the ways that Jon and I found to keep our wedding comfortable, local, affordable and, as they say, "us."

Our mutual friend Beth led the ceremony, and did a bang-up job indeed (this is the kind of girl who quotes Tom Robbins while officiating a wedding). Jon and I wrote our own vows, and our mothers both contributed with traditions from our respective heritages: a series of Jewish prayers and signing of the ketubah from Jon's side, and an Irish blessing from mine. It was sweet and wonderful. And there might have been a tear or two.

After partying our faces off, dancing to Toto's "Africa," drinking too many shots of whiskey, and seeing our friends and family off at the end of the night, Jon and I actually found ourselves wandering the streets of the Mission hunting for a cab. Much like the cake, arranging transportation to our hotel was a wedding detail we'd managed to overlook.

There’s nothing quite like strolling down Valencia at 2am while your drunken groomsman tries to hijack a cab by shouting, “IT'S THEIR WEDDING NIGHT! YOU HAVE TO LET THEM IN!” Turns out cabbies and drunk college kids do not care.

And so we drifted anonymously through the night, jaywalking and dredging the hems of our clothes through the gutters until we eventually found our way.

Seemed just right -- just dirty and absurd enough -- for the city.

All the details in a minute, but first here’s the good stuff, by photographer Annie Scharf

The details: attire

The dress: Oh, how I wanted to find a fair trade, vintage, or otherwise ethical wedding dress that just screamed “me.” Unfortunately, those options were either far too expensive or far too small-waisted. And, if you’ve ever planned a wedding, you know that there’s a point at which you finally say “fuck it, let’s just get this done.”

So that’s pretty much how my dress decision was made. I found it at Novella Bridal and did have it custom tailored, although I still wasn’t very happy with the fit. It wasn’t perfect. It didn’t scream “me.” But I was happy, and that was all that really mattered.

The bridesmaids dresses: I actually agonized over these far more than my own dress. Not only did I have a rather large bridal party (eight bridesmaids total), their heights range from 5’5 to 6’3. It was important to find a dress style that would look great on each of these beautiful women, and that was also affordable. I finally decided on a navy blue silk number from J. Crew bridal. This simple, elegant silhouette looked stunning on everyone.

The groom and groomsman: Jon had his suit custom made at Seymour’s Fashions, a bespoke tailor in San Francisco. His only requirement of the groomsman was that their suits were a shade of charcoal and had a classic, tailored look. Those gentlemen all looked quite dapper if I do say so myself.

Accessories: Alycia Tumlin, my dear friend of 18+ years, also happens to be a talented designer of feather accessories. She created a custom piece for each bridesmaid using white, navy, and canary yellow feathers, all hand-dyed and naturally molted.

Jewelry and shoes: I found my gold vintage necklace and earring set at an antique store in Hayes Valley. The starburst design and Swarovski crystals were perfect for this sparkly, evening affair. The gold flats are Kate Spade.

Hair: Rain DeCastro of Zip Zap Hair is the gal behind my soft, romantic half-updo. Rain has been cutting my hair for years, but I had no idea she had such mad styling skills. Plus, when she sensed that the pre-wedding stress in our dressing room was reaching a peak, she hopped down to the corner store to buy a bottle of champagne for my mom and me. Talent and good instincts – I love this girl.

The details: venue, décor, and music

The colors: Our dear friend Jessica walked past a deep navy blue tiled wall wearing a canary yellow shirt. I loved it and took a picture. And thus our color palette was born.

The motif: Notice that I use the word “motif” instead of “theme.” Because “urban vintage” is not a theme, while “the commodification of urban decay” is. The latter would not be a very good theme for a wedding.

Anyway, our vintage, urban, paper moon motif sort of emerged from the three elements we knew we wanted: a San Francisco venue, 1930’s gypsy jazz, and classically tailored suits (that last one was all Jon).

The venue: We were married at the Verdi Club, an Italian American social club that’s been jumpin’ and jivin’ away in San Francisco’s Mission District since 1935. Hardwood floors, art deco chandeliers, and a dimly-lit bar give the whole place a vintage feel, and the sparse décor made it a perfect canvas for our personalized details. We did decide to rent dark brown chiavari chairs from to add an extra touch of elegance.

Flowers and decorations: We went fairly minimal on decorations, and this is where the real DIY work came in.  With the help of a few friends, I created white paper flower garlands to hang above the stage, along with blue and yellow lanterns. I also crafted a art deco sunburst from a bunch of cardboard boxes to place on the favors/ place cards table (see the tutorial here). Along with candles and vintage picture frames filled with pictures of our parents and grandparents on their wedding days, these touches helped make the entry hall warm and festive.

Alycia and my mother graciously created all of the floral arrangements after a visit to the San Francisco Flower Mart to by the flowers wholesale the day before the wedding. The table centerpieces, bridal bouquet, and additional accents contained white lilies, gardenias, and palm fronds, complementing our color scheme gorgeously.

The favors: After trying to get overly creative with the favors (miniature candles and custom matchboxes for all!), I finally decided that chocolate was the way to go. I wanted to use a local vendor and remembered Poco Dolce, a San Francisco chocolatier with impeccable package design and a to-die-for sea salt caramels. Their gift boxes—simple white with a navy ribbon their signature label—did not disappoint, and a certain guest later confessed that she’d gone around stuffing unclaimed favors into her purse at the end of the night, they were that good.

The band: Gaucho is a local gypsy jazz sextet that can be found Wednesday nights Amnesia. And because this is where J and I often found ourselves on Wednesday nights as well, we decided to ask them to play our wedding. It turned out to be the perfect choice – the music was upbeat and timeless, and inspired more than a few guests to get their Charleston on on the dance floor.  

During the ceremony, Dave (the front man), played “Moon River” on acoustic guitar. Dreamy.

The moon: To top it off, my crazy talented father agreed to construct a 12-foot crescent moon with a built-in bench so that guests could take old-timey “look, we’re sitting on the moon!” pictures. He sought the help of a friend who often builds things for Burning Man and found that epoxy, when applied to a plywood base provides durability and a lovely, glossy texture.  The guests loved it, and it served as a great backdrop for candid photos throughout the night. 

Thanks a million to the creative, loving, and energetic friends and family who made our wedding special!