Our $34K Queer San Francisco Wedding Had Fog, Sun, and a Dance Party


And a surprise pregnancy announcement!

Lorena, Environmental Scientist & Michele, Program Manager
Sum-up of the wedding vibe:
Ceremony—Warm, loving atmosphere with our family and closest friends, set in the woods with misty rain, making for a completely romantic day.
Reception—Crazy dance party and gleeful fun with our extended posse, in which we announced Michele was nineteen weeks pregnant.
Planned Budget: $30,000
Actual Budget: $34,000
Number of Guests: Ceremony 30; Reception 150

Where we allocated the most funds:

Most of the funds were allocated to food and drink. On Friday following the ceremony we had a lovely family dinner with amazing food (fresh oyster of several varieties, albacore tuna, steak, etc.) and wine at the Saltwater Oyster Depot in Inverness, California.

On Saturday night, we held a party at The Chapel in San Francisco. We had an open bar and heavy hors d’oeuvres that were all very delicious and filling. We wanted to make sure people had sustenance to keep up with drinking and dancing! We did a donut tower instead of a cake—more fun and less costly. These were house-made donuts and a really nice touch.

Where we allocated the least funds:

Minimal funds were allocated to hair and makeup. At our ceremony in the woods, on Friday, we decided we would be more natural and did our own makeup and wore our hair casually. On Saturday night, we glammed it up and had our hair and makeup done by a professional, for a very reasonable fee. It helps if you have two or more women receive the services; usually the provider will offer a discounted rate.

We used minimal decorations since the intimate family ceremony was outdoors and was naturally stunning. Being a concert venue, the Saturday party needed very little extra decoration. The venue had excellent lighting and part of the package was that we got to work with the lighting technician, which was a great bonus for using a live performance space. Our very good friends, Shawn and Kristin, made a sign spelling out “AMOR” with aluminum panels, wood, and large indoor/outdoor lights. We hung that from the mezzanine railing in The Chapel (this was done at no cost—lucky us for crafty and generous friends!).

With the stunning outdoor scenery for Friday, we did not have flowers except for a bouquet for each bride. We used Farmgirl Flowers, and we ordered medium sized bouquets with specific requests and colors. They used seasonal choices that were local—nothing imported or shipped in. Excellent quality flowers. The bouquets were only $130 total, but we splurged on the direct home delivery to avoid the hassle of a pickup. If we’d had someone available to do a pickup, we would have saved the $40 delivery fee.

What was totally worth it:

One fact was clear: we knew with a hundred percent certainty who we wanted for our photographer. We met Jonas Seaman and Mary Williamson at Michele’s youngest brother’s wedding in 2014. We hit it off with Jonas, and he fortuitously said, “Let me know when you get married. We would love to shoot your wedding!” Amazingly, we found a few good venue options, and after juggling dates, we decided on October 29, 2016 at The Chapel. Jonas and Mary were able to make the trip to San Francisco, and the plan was to have them cover both the Point Reyes family wedding Friday and the big party on Saturday. Everything came together so well and getting a park permit for Point Reyes was the easiest thing they did—although it didn’t come with a hand selection of weather!

Having two days of festivities was totally worth it. It was wonderful to share an intimate ceremony and dinner with our closest family and friends. And then, have a rocking party with 150 of our friends who let loose!

Finding a venue for a reception that has the food, tables, and lighting all included was KEY. We didn’t have the time or patience to deal with a more “raw” venue, where you must individually work with caterers, furniture rental companies, and lighting teams. This comprehensive approach saved so much time and headache. And in the end, we found it was even more cost effective!

For a sit-down meal at a restaurant, spending more money on a venue that had done weddings or special events. The Saltwater Oyster Depot had their shit together, and Luc was a pro. We had to change from another restaurant less than a month prior to the wedding, and he made us feel totally confident that things would go well. We still got to handcraft a menu with him and the chef that was delicious and that reflected the local bounty of Marin County, where we really fell in love hiking and visiting the coast.

WHAT WAS TOTALLY NOT WORTH IT:

I can’t think of anything!

A FEW THINGS THAT HELPED US ALONG THE WAY:

Our very close friend Sasha got ordained as a Minister by the Universal Life Church, so we were able to handpick the person we felt knew us best for our officiant and could speak about us with an intimacy like no one else.

Getting pregnant helped us hit the planning aspects quickly. We got engaged in October 2015, and while deeply in love and with Same Sex marriage legalized earlier that year, we were in no hurry to plan a wedding. However, as we got more serious about starting a family, plans started to come together in short order. Doing the “what if” scenarios in June 2016, when Michele was planning her first attempt at conceiving, it was clear that if we wanted to get hitched before a baby, and before Michele started growing a sizable belly, we needed to get moving. And our hunch was right, as we found out mid July that we were indeed going to have a new addition to the family! So with no further ado, I took charge of the helm and starting looking for wedding venues for late October to avoid the end of year holiday season.

Since we decided to get married and planned our wedding in three months, Michele and I both purchased our dresses new but off the rack. Each of our dress shops (The Wedding Party in Berkeley for Lorena and Nelly’s Bridal Boutique in South San Francisco for Michele) provided a discount to us for doing so. We did require alterations, and we were very pleased with the services of Cathy Marie of Alameda Sewing Cottage. As long as there aren’t herculean efforts required, Cathy Marie can work wonders in two to three weeks. I suggest you work with the shop where you purchase your dress for the inside scoop on best seamstresses. Yelp alone won’t cut it, here.

My best practical advice for my planning self:

Having trains on our dresses was a pain in the ass. We had to carry these through the mud on Friday and dance with them on Saturday. Word to future brides: trains are a lot of work! Best left to church weddings and ballrooms.

Favorite thing about the wedding:

One of Michele’s favorite things was saying our personally written vows to each other—twice! And we had the joy of doing so in two of our favorite environments: Point Reyes National Seashore and at a vibrant music venue in San Francisco.

In addition, we both agree that having a chance to spend intimate quality time with our family and closest friends at Point Reyes, our favorite outdoor space, was very special. Pierce Point Ranch is especially magical, with the ancient Monterey Pines towering above the grassy hillsides, giving no indication of the charming trail down to the California coastline or of the winding hike to the extreme tip of the peninsula on Tomales Point. The ranch itself is a throwback to yesteryear and is a bit of history frozen in time, which we both loved. Michele’s grandparents were sheep farmers back in Southeast Ohio from the 1930s to the late 1960s, and though they have long passed, she felt they were with us, in spirit.

Rocking out to our favorite tunes with 150 of our most fun and joyful friends on Saturday night was also a dream come true—another favorite activity of ours is to dance and let loose!

Other things we’d like to share:

Despite the challenge of planning and executing a wedding in three months, in such a busy city as San Francisco, we would not have done it any differently. Many betrothed will take years to plan a wedding and it will take over their lives. We enjoyed planning our big day(s), but we are so glad we didn’t let it get the better of us. Find a date that works for your immediate family (and your chosen photographer!) and let the rest fall into place.

Lorena and Michele were pretty confident it was going to rain on Friday up in Point Reyes, so after a few nervous emails to Jonas, our photographer, he guided us to get clear bubble umbrellas for each guest. This was truly ideal for lighting and picture taking, versus having each guest bring their own umbrella and having them be black or dark in color. We used good ole Amazon Prime and were prepared. Sure enough, it was misty and wet when we got to Pierce Point Ranch… perfect lighting for pictures, not so perfect for our vintage fur boleros. But the clear umbrellas saved our clothes and were an aesthetic touch to the day. Some of our fave photos include the umbrellas. Word to the wise, listen to your photographer: the pictures were EPIC. We had fun with the weather and had our guests wear fun rain boots (and bring nice shoes if the weather miraculously turned around). In sum, prepare for the worst case, and try to enjoy it, whatever the results.


The Info:

Photography: Jonas Seaman Photography | Location: Point Reyes National Seashore, California, and San Francisco, California | Ceremony Venue: Pierce Point Ranch | Party Venue: The Chapel | Lorena’s Dress: The Wedding Party | Michele’s Dress: Nelly’s Bridal Boutique | Dress Alterations: Alameda Sewing Cottage | Hair and Makeup: Beauty by Lia | Flowers: Farmgirl Flowers

 


APW Vendors Involved In This Wedding:
Jonas Seaman Photography

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  • Jane

    Love this whole wedding! I don’t think I could pull off the two piece wedding dress, but it looks amazing!
    One of my best friends did a two day wedding and reception schedule too, and it was great because we got the lovely and intimate part and then a giant huge party the next day. Congrats!

  • “I Don’t Knowww, Margo!”

    I love all of this. You both look so happy! Congratulations on your marriage and baby!

    • Jane

      I was so glad it was their surprise announcement, not someone else’s – unlike that officiant who proposed to his girlfriend during the ceremony and then announced that she was pregnant. (See comments to AAPW post about stealing wedding thunder).

      I would be soooo excited to find out news like that at a wedding. You’re already there, full of love and good wishes for the couple, and then you find out they’re going to be parents! Plus, in your case, you would be safe from speculation about whether someone had accidentally gotten knocked up and that’s why the wedding was happening. . .

  • Laura C

    True story: a few months back, my coworker posted on Facebook that they’d been dress shopping that day but her fiancee hadn’t found a dress. I said “oh, I’ve heard this store the Wedding Party is great,” and our other coworker responded “hey, that’s my wife’s shop!”

  • Katharine Parker

    You both look gorgeous, but that two piece wedding dress is spectacular!!

  • Alynae

    Love the combo of the foggy/umbrellas/rainboots/drippy hair pics with the glam/dance party/heels pics. What a fantastic party!

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  • HarrietVane

    The umbrellas are such a practical + beautiful touch!