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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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