Kelly & Oliver

Today’s wedding graduate post kills me a little. Not just because it’s so beautiful, but it’s because it’s the wedding we wanted to have… and couldn’t quite manage. And while our wedding was exactly what it should be, well, old dreams die hard. So, I have to say nothing but wonderful words about the Marin Headlands Hostel, where I’ve been staying since I was 14 (book the small house if you can); and the Headlands Center for the Arts. And, you know, Kate Harrison, who shot this wedding. So here are Kelly’s wise words:

My name is Kelly, my husband is Oliver, and we live in San Francisco.  We were married May 29, 2010 in the Marin Headlands, CA. There are so many amazing stories and gorgeous weddings shared on your blog.  I want to share our story with you, not because I think we did anything so crazy or unique, but because we started as “not wedding people” and ended up planning the most memorable, joyous, FANTASTIC weekend of our lives.  The only trick was to make it everything we wanted, instead of the expected, the “norm”.  I hope our story might inspire others out there feeling lost when it comes to wedding planning.

When Oliver and I first started discussing getting married, we both agreed we were the type of people to elope.  It would be inexpensive and best of all, stress free! I never wanted to plan a wedding.  But, once we got engaged, our tunes changed.  We were so excited to get married and knew for sure that we wanted to share that excitement with our family and friends.  Oliver is from Germany and I am from Michigan where, for the most part, weddings are very traditional.  All we knew from the get go was that we would NOT be taking that route.

People often tell you that the wedding starts with the dress; once you find the dress, it sets the tone (or maybe I just heard that on Say Yes to the Dress…either way).  Ours started with a hostel.  We knew if we were going to get all our loved ones to come into San Francisco, we wanted them all in one place for the entire weekend, so it was Oliver who suggested renting a hostel.  The Marin Headlands Hostel is a charming building with 80 beds, nestled into a beautiful national park, just minutes from San Francisco. From there we found the Headlands Center for the Arts, right next door to the hostel. This place has such a unique and romantic ambiance, I think you could get away with no decorations at all…my kind of place.

I prefer to not look at it as a wedding day, but more a wedding weekend.  A lot of Oliver’s family and friends came from Germany (our wedding was 25% German) and my family and closest friends came from all over the states.  Most of our guests stayed in the hostel all weekend.  (Sidenote: We thought the hostel idea was the bomb! This is not to say we didn’t get a bit of “we’re staying in a hostel?!”.  But to all our peoples’ credit, everyone had an amazing time, even grandma shared a bunk!)

We spent Friday afternoon/evening settling in, making introductions, grilling out, and enjoying our company.  By Friday night, everyone seemed like old friends.  That Friday was so memorable and special to us because not only were we surrounded by our loved ones, but they were really getting to know each other and form their own relationships. I remember seeing my Grandmother sit and talk with Oliver’s mother for at least an hour.  My grandma speaks no German, and Oliver’s mom is very shy with her English. it was a really cool thing to see, and exactly what we hoped would happen by bringing all these people together. These were our nearest and dearest, from all over the world and they were truly getting to know each other…so special.

Our wedding day was Saturday, May 29.  To be honest, I wasn’t the least bit stressed or nervous, just joyously happy.  I will admit I was freaking out a bit Friday, worried about various things, as brides tend to do.  But after a quiet 20 minute chat with my bridal party (aka my twin sister), I was able to just relax and enjoy myself.  Oliver will say the same thing, Saturday was oddly stress free. We spent the morning having breakfast with our guests, and my girls and I put together the bouquets.  From there, everyone just got to work helping to set up the venue.

I had heard that having my hair and makeup done would take most of the stress out of my wedding day, but honestly, doing my own hair and makeup with my sister, cousins, and closest friends meant the world to me.  It was such a happy time, sharing stories, makeup, laughter, and a bottle of champagne.  The only hiccup was that I had only brought a bright purple hair-tie…but we figured it out.

We were married by our friend, Noel, who had a few things he was required to say, and then wrote the rest.  He did an amazing job keeping it special, emotional, and of course a bit funny.  We even took time out during our ceremony to take a swig of German schnapps from a flask for “bravery”, which I think we got away with because the Americans assumed it was a German tradition and the Germans assumed it was an American tradition.  The ceremony was eight minutes long and everything we wanted.

We had a band play at our reception, an 80’s/90’s rock cover band called the Godz of Rock.  Oli’s been a musician for years, so a lame DJ just wouldn’t do.  Best decision EVER.  They turned our reception into a concert and everyone was into it!  We chose not to do a first dance, so I think technically our first dance/fist pump was to White Wedding.  Oliver even played a few songs with the band.  After the reception was over, everyone again pitched in to take everything back to the hostel, where a few guests tried their hardest to finish our last keg.

The music was very important to Oliver, and he did a fantastic job planning that part.  The photography was very important to me, and I knew I had to get Kate Harrison.  We actually picked a date based on when the hostel, Arts Center, and Kate were all available.  I could sing her praises for hours.  I fell in love with her before I even met her, just by looking at her blog.  When we finally met in person, it was like I’d known her for years.

She has such a calming presence but at the same time makes you want to be silly and have fun.  Oliver hates having his photo taken, but said later that he had such a great time going out into the Headlands with Kate.  She is such a talent and her lovely, light hearted spirit is infectious.  We were so blessed to be able to work with her and will treasure her photos forever.

Our planning process seemed very easy, things just seemed to come together for us.  I wouldn’t say I was overly stressed throughout the planning, but I was worried about a few things.  What would people say about our non religious ceremony, about our rock cover band, about my big hair piece (eye roll)?

Looking back, the things I was worried about seem so trivial, not because they weren’t important, but because no one judged us at all.  People just applauded us for doing something unique to our personalities.  So I think the one piece of advice I can give is, just be yourselves.  Do what makes both of you happy and remember what it’s all about.  Also, as has been said by many happy brides, learn to let go! That’s the only way to get out alive.

Everyone says that the day is a blur, you won’t remember a thing.  If that’s true for most brides, then I consider myself very lucky.  I remember EVERYTHING.  Every moment from start to finish was so filled with emotion, beauty, laughter, and happiness.  It is all so vivid in my mind and I hope it always will be.

Photos by: Kate Harrison Photography

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  • A beautiful wedding. :) My husband’s grandparents share your wedding date and were married for just shy of 74 years, may you have as many wonderful and happy years together!

  • sarah

    Gorgeous. Congratulations – wish I were you! :)

  • now why didn’t we get married in a hostel..?? what a perfect idea, executed beautifully. I love your big hair piece! congrats on the gorgeous and joyful wedding.

    and happy anniversary!

    • The hostel is such a brilliant idea!

  • AWESOME wedding!!! I loved this post, and the pictures! Sometimes this site makes me wish I had a wedding re-do. Ours was fantastic, but I love to see all the different ways it can be done. At the very least, I would have loved to be a guest at this wedding! Well done, and congrats!!!

  • clampers

    The cover band sounds so awesome! What a great idea.


    The Hostel idea is so, so good. I just can’t get over it.

  • Anna

    OMGosh! I’m engaged to another handsome german man named Oliver! I think you just had our dream wedding.

    Congratulations- you both look stunning.

  • Love, love, love the location. And great to see an international wedding done – the idea to rent a hostel is awesome, and must’ve helped many people with the cost .

    I like to see how you both are smiling in the pictures, too :)

  • Moz

    This is one of those weddings where I really wish I knew the bride and groom! It just looks like sheer joy. Congrats on your marriage :)

  • While I l-o-v-e-d my wedding, this is exactly what I wish I had (but didn’t know until after the fact). My wedding was over so quickly, all the family and friends gone so fast – I woke up the next morning feeling sublimely happy and bittersweet all the same.

    If I had to do it all over again (for hindsight is always 20/20) this set up would be exactly what I would have wanted. It looks gorgeous, and I am in total awe of how calm you were. So amazing.

  • What a beautiful ceremony. It made me cry a little because this is the kind of wedding I wanted, but couldn’t find the mental toughness to plan. Maybe a big part of becoming an adult (i.e. married person) is finding a way to pick one option (one wedding, one man) and make peace with all the other unknowns and coulda beens.

  • marbella

    Years ago I organised a massive company party/retreat in a Scottish castle turned youth hostel. In the off-season, it was SO cheap. I always said when we got married we would do something similar. Sadly there weren’t any cool hostels when we had to get married in Northern VA. But we did find a bunch of cottages in a park and had all our family and friends stay out there with me. Having everyone together was so great and really made the wedding week! There was a sense of camaraderie I don’t think would have happened in a hotel. (For instance, the morning of the wedding, a storm knocked had out the water and no one could shower or wash their hair, and the boys were going down to the river with buckets so we could flush the toilets….. Yet I never even heard a complaint!)
    Your wedding looks like you had amazing fun and you both look really happy and radiant!

  • That looks so wonderful to have a whole weekend with friends! I wish so badly I could bring all my Dominican friends to Minnesota for our wedding. Unfortunately, they definitely can’t get travel visas – my best friend just got denied – and it would be super expensive. We’ve been talking about Skyping it. Lol. :)

  • Sara

    I love this…the happiness that shows through in every picture, the beautiful but simple details, and sneaking in swigs of schnapps. My fiance and I are hoping to capture the “wedding weekend” feel as much as we can, and it makes my heart glad to see how others were able to make it work. And renting a hostel? BRILLIANT. I may shamelessly try to steal that idea, if I can find anyplace good in the chicago area…

    • Apparently the youth hostel downtown (the HI one) is really nice. I have friends that have stayed there and really liked it. Not sure about how it would work for a wedding, as I have never been there myself….

  • Kate Harrison

    Kelly, it was such a treat to be taken back to your awesome wedding weekend. I loved being with you and your guests. I’m sending you both a huge squeeze! :)

    • Kelly S.

      right back at ya :)

  • Lori

    Happy Anniversary!! :)

  • FawMo

    Gorgeous wedding! But I’m going to take a moment to obsess about your nails (dying!) and necklace (want!).

    A wonderful sense of community shines through in these photos. Congrats!

    • Manya

      I know… Those pearls are killing me…where are they from?

      I’m inspired by your calmness…

      • Kelly Stone

        Thanks! The pearls are from J.Crew, they’re my sister’s. I think she bought them a few years ago though.

  • A beautiful post with gorgeous photos! I adore the detail that you each took a swig from a flask for bravery- so fun. And I love the bunk bed photo. I’m so glad you had your perfect wedding & enjoyed every moment! Congratulations & best wishes~

  • Kelly Stone

    Thanks everyone for your comments!! Oliver came up with the hostel idea after his best friend in New Zealand did something similar. It was SO fantastic to be surrounded by everyone all weekend, I can’t say enough about how wonderful it turned out!!
    Thank you for all your kind words, I’m so happy to share our story. It definitely does NOT feel like a whole year has gone by.

    • Kathleen Stone

      As “mother-of-the-bride”, all I can say is how proud I was/am of Kelly and Oliver and their beautiful wedding weekend. She may not even know this, but my almost favorite part…picking out flowers at the SF flower market with my wonderful daughter and awesome son-in-law. And then watching as her friends and cousins turned those cut flowers into gorgeous bouquets and arrangements for the venue!

  • We too had an ’80s cover band and no ‘real’ first dance, so I think ours was to ‘Sweet Child ‘o Mine’. So much fun! Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures and story!

  • Anon in Canada

    I loved your flower head band!!!
    Where did you get it?

    • Kelly Stone

      Thank you! I got it from an etsy shop called “sweetpeaandfawn”. The owner, Huide, is opening a new shop though, here is the link:
      She was great to work with, really helped me to find exactly what I wanted!

  • I love taking a swig for bravery. Crucial for marriage in my book. Gorgeous wedding, stem to stern.

  • Megan

    I love the Marin Headlands hostel! And I love what you said, “Everyone says that the day is a blur, you won’t remember a thing. If that’s true for most brides, then I consider myself very lucky. I remember EVERYTHING. Every moment from start to finish was so filled with emotion, beauty, laughter, and happiness. It is all so vivid in my mind and I hope it always will be.” Exactly as it should be. So lovely.

  • yes and yes! i also fretted about people *judging* us for not having the same kind of wedding they did. and then, in real life, they came and did what good friends and family do best, and that is love and embrace you and your choices. beautiful wedding! hope your first year was just as beautiful!

  • What a clever idea!!!

  • Amanda

    My twin sister and I have the same crazy wrapped-up-in-each-other embrace photograph from my wedding day! I love how happy the two of you look! And also how happy you and your hubby look – congrats!

  • Phewwww, okay, tears. Your happiness is just too much! This was amazing. That picture of you guys in the hostel beds is GENIUS. And an 80s and 90s cover band? Yes please. And I love the warm tones of the photography. All of it is so, so good. Thanks for sharing, and happy anniversary!

  • april

    Gorgeous, just gorgeous…. the photos are sublime and reading about your lovely weekend brought tears to my eyes. Many years of happiness to you and your beloved! xoxo

  • Kelly S.

    My mom reminded me, I forgot to mention one of my favorite things we did. We got all our flowers the day before from the SF flower market (both our moms went with to help). We did order the sunflowers and daisies beforehand from one of the vendors and when we went to pick them up, we just grabbed up anything else that was bright and colorful. Then, saturday morning (wedding day) everyone who was interested jumped in and helped make the bouquets and flower arrangements for the venue. It was another great way to get everyone together/involved and it was so fun!!