Ok guys. Sit down, buckle up, pop a bottle of champs and get ready… because this is a wedding I’ve been DYING to share with you. This San Francisco City Hall wedding and rooftop dinner party was full of surprises for guests AND the couple, coupled with some of my favorite people in the universe. But let me go off on a tangent real quick: It’s never an easy thing when a friend asks you to photograph their wedding. TRUTH. I’ve been lucky enough to have the opportunity to photograph a few friends’ weddings. It’s amazing and an honor to be trusted with such an important job… AND it’s emotionally challenging because…:
- …as a friend of the couple, I am amongst a group of dear friends celebrating the marriage of two of our nearest and dearest… my heart wants to celebrate all the love, drink all the wine, eat all the foods, catch up with friends visiting from out of town, and dance my heart out all night long.
- …as a hired wedding photographer by the couple, I have the honor of still celebrating with friends – eating, chatting, crying all the happy tears… but there’s an added bonus. I get to tag along for some of the most intimate parts of the day: the getting ready moments with their closest friends, the nervous Uber rides between locations, the intimate first look at a park that has a piece of my friends’ hearts, and so much more.
It’s the highest honor to be asked to be the person to document this season in anyone’s life. The highest of high. I still can’t believe I get to witness LOVE week in and week out. A new season of life beginning, together, as a married couple. It’s an even higher honor to be asked by friends to be their person – to be alone with them in an Uber en route to a first look, to see them nervously fiddling through their handbag, the checking of the cell phone, to witness them looking out the Uber window to see THEIR PERSON standing in a huge open field with a smile bright enough to light the entire city as they share their first look on their wedding day. Being asked to be a part of so many intimate moments of a couple’s wedding day is a compliment I hold near and dear to my heart. Being asked by friends to be this person is an elevated experience because I’m all of a sudden bestowed the responsibility of witnessing and documenting some of the most intimate moments in their relationship thus far. I am thankful for the trust placed in me by strangers and friends alike.
This wedding was a slight departure from my normal. Mary and Marc had lots of big plans or their wedding day, dubbed “The Dinner Party.” But let’s rewind a little and chat about how Mary and Marc met…
Ten years ago, my husband and I made the trip out to Breckenridge, Colorado to celebrate the marriage of two of our closest friends. The bride and groom were friends of my husband’s from high school, and we immediately clicked when we met. Instant family. My people. Life happened and they landed and laid roots in Denver. So… we fly out to Breckenridge for their wedding and upon landing we’re connected with their friends to help with final wedding prep and packing before heading up into the mountains. We arrive in Breckenridge and a bunch of us hooligans shared a giant vacation rental home and that’s where Mary and Marc’s story begins. They were strangers to each other, just like we were to them. The boys went out for their bachelor party while us ladies celebrated our sweet friend with a bachelorette. At one point, our parties crossed paths, and so did Mary and Marc. I can distinctly remember landing at some weird bar in Breckenridge (I’ll never forget it because it had a farting smoke blowing taxidermy deer proudly installed on its wall) and seeing Mary and Marc interact. Their smiles. Their laughs. Their EVERYTHING. It was happening. The beginning. Right in front of all of us.
A lot of life happened between then and now (ten FULL years of life). Lots of weddings amongst friends in the very friend group that was in Breckenridge that weekend. At some point, Mary moved from her beloved costal San Francisco to landlocked Denver to be with Marc. Then, last year on Mary’s 30th birthday trip to the city that has her heart, Marc asked her to marry him.
The last year has been a whirlwind of planning. Mary and Marc had lots of big plans or their wedding day, dubbed “The Dinner Party.” Lots of logistical emails swirling around. Reception location issues and wins. Details needing to be ironed out only to be wrinkled and ironed out again.
Mary and Marc asked that I document their wedding day exactly as it unfolded. We had a loose timeline (with a few firm times to adhere to), but otherwise they wanted a photojournalistic approach to their day. No structured details or getting ready, but more of a focus on being a “fly on the wall” capturing things as they unfolded. It was uncharted territory for me in the front half of the day (typically the getting ready and portrait portion is highly structured, while the ceremony through reception is more photojournalistic in style) but I was ready for this approach to the day as a whole. It was refreshing to just BE THERE with the sole job of making sure Marc and Mary had photos that helped them recall all the small moments of their big day as a couple.
Favorites from Mary and Marc’s San Francisco City Hall Wedding and Rooftop Dinner Party:
- Guests received gorgeous acrylic invitations inviting them to celebrate the marriage of Mary and Marc at “The Dinner Party” with instructions to meet at San Francisco’s City Hall for the wedding ceremony and that transportation would be provided after that. No other details. Marc has a history of loving the element of surprise at any opportunity, and it was no surprise that his and Mary’s wedding celebration would be chock full of them.
- Mary and Marc wanted to honor ALL of their friends throughout their wedding day, so instead of having a formal wedding party, they invited all of their friends to spend the morning with each of them to get ready.
- Marc hung out at a house in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco the morning of his wedding with all of his friends. They sat around, drinking beer, watching SciFi movies and bullshitting. Making stupid jokes and laughing and just being boys. At one point, when Marc was laying out his tux for the day, he looked at me and said, “I want my friends to help me get dressed like bridesmaids help a bride get dressed on a wedding day.” And I WAS THERE FOR IT. The guys held up Marc’s shirt and he gracefully flew into it… and then each friend took a turn helping him button his shirt, one button at a time. Truly in Marc fashion and so good.
- Mary did not look at herself throughout the getting ready process. She entrusted her bridal look to a beauty team (vendors listed and tagged below!) stepped into her gown, and instead of focusing on her look, soaked in the love from all of her girlfriends getting ready around her. She stepped into her amazing Claire Pettibone gown with blue silk underlay with her closest Californian girlfriend, and then opened the white pocket doors of the Victorian Haight-Ashbury home to unveil her bridal look to all of her girlfriends at the same time. (She hadn’t even seen herself yet!!!) It was magic. Pure magic. Happy tears, big smiles, so many cell phones, and lots of love. So much love for Mary. After Mary relished in the love from her friends, she ran to the master bedroom to see herself for the first time. I cannot put into words the smiles, the laughter, and overwhelming positive vibe beaming from Mary as she glanced in the mirror and happily danced – seeing herself as a bride, about to marry the guy she met at mutual friends’ wedding weekend ten years prior.
- After getting ready, Mary and I hopped into an Uber to meet Marc at Crissy Field for their first look. It was the sweetest Uber ride. Mary forgot her flowers, so we had to make a u-turn to pick them up from the house. Then we made the drive through San Francisco, past the college where she met her girlfriend (Lucy!) who would ultimately get married in Breckenridge and lead to Mary meeting Marc, and down through the winding roads of the wooded Presidio where she spent her college years running, eventually landing at Crissy Field… where Marc was waiting alone for his bride in the middle of a meadow.
- When Mary got out of the car to see Marc, her path was almost immediately interrupted by a person on a bright turquoise bike. The color. The moment. It was truly like a moment out of a movie. Mary went to approach Marc, but the heavy fog that had settled into the bay left a dew on the grass and her pink satin heeled shoes were sure to sink into the ground. So, Mary took off her shoes and ran towards Marc. Once she reached him, he helped her clean her feet and put on her tiny shoes as he took in all that was Mary. A vision. So perfect.
- After portraits at Crissy Field, we hailed another Uber and made our way to San Francisco’s City Hall for family portraits and the ceremony. Marc and Mary commissioned a harpist to play in the Mayor’s Balcony, where the ceremony would take place. The sounds of the harpist playing filled every nook and cranny of City Hall as friends arrived in their formal attire to witness the ceremony.
- After signing the marriage license at City Hall, Marc and Mary made their way up the grand staircase in full view of all their guests, and eventually walked down the aisle together hand in hand. No formal processional. No show. No fluff. No extra STUFF. Just them, in love, ready to proclaim their vows in front of their family and friends. When they reached the edge of the balcony, they realized they hadn’t arranged for an officiant.
- SURPRISE #1: Their officiant. Greg (aka Will), one of the two that got married in Breckenridge ten years ago, had been asked by Marc and Mary to officiate their wedding and prepared the most perfect entrance to announce his duty. He stood up and pulled a scroll from his suit pocket, saying that he hadn’t prepared much for the occasion, as the scroll unrolled and hit the floor. So good.
- The ceremony was short and sweet, with vows written in secret that basically mirrored each other.
- After the ceremony friends celebrated, sharing hugs and tears and just soaking in all the happy happening around them. We went downstairs to be greeted by…
- SURPRISE #2: Mary and Marc hired two historic San Francisco trolley street cars to take their guests on a tour of the city that played such a big role in their love story. We drove through all their favorite spots and neighborhoods, taking a break at The Palace of Fine Arts for photos…
- SURPRISE #3: This time, Marc and Mary were the recipients of the surprise! Greg and Lucy, hired San Francisco’s own Gianna Biagi to serenade the couple and guests, singing Tony Bennet’s “I Left my Heart in San Francisco” followed by Bruce Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind.” It was perfect; successfully surprising the couple that had planned a wedding day full of surprises for their guests.
- SURPRISE #4: After taking a tour around the city, we landed in the Financial District at the Newhall Nest. Guests got off the trolleys and got into old elevators taking them to the rooftop of a historic building for The Dinner Party. Guests got off the elevator and walked up a short flight of stairs to be greeted by champagne and quite possibly the fanciest and coolest party situation I’ve ever witnessed. The Newhall Nest is GORGEOUS – stunning interior design in the main penthouse indoor quarters with a door that opened up to a rooftop deck with a dance floor, cafe lights, and a long table set for 80 of their closest friends and family.
- SURPRISE #5: Marc’s mother Barbara (assisted by Marc, Mary, and family) prepared, assembled, packed and shipped a multi course Swiss meal that was finished, plated, and served by an amazing team throughout the evening. It was truly a relaxed European dining experience – no rushing through courses, lots of toasts, and plenty of good conversation and laughter.
- SURPRISE #6: Dessert. Marc and Mary were involved in the dessert plans but were surprised near the end of the dance party to have the staff walk out and present dessert, complete with birthday candles, on the dance floor. Mary invited one of her girlfriends, who happened to be celebrating her birthday, to join in blowing out the candles and cutting the cake.
- The dance party. This group, my sweet friends, know how to fill a dance floor. No shame, no holding back. This group loves to dance and have a good time. The dance floor was never empty, spilling into the interior of the Newhall Nest penthouse. Pretty sure we could’ve stayed and danced all night…
Mary and Marc: THANK YOU. Thank you for entrusting me with this job. Thank you for having me, and my trusty assistant husband, along with you on this journey. Your wedding ceremony and The Dinner Party was out of this world amazing, truly a weekend we will all be relishing in for years to come. I hope that my images from your day help you remember all those small moments – the nervous Uber rides, the foot cleaning, the sounds inside City Hall, the element of surprise again and again for both YOU and your guests… I hope I served you well and that you’ll look back at these images fondly. We love you both SO much and are so thankful we get to call you some of our closest friends. What a privilege.
Mary and Marc’s vendor team for “The Dinner Party”:
- Venue: The Mayor’s Balcony at San Francisco City Hall
- Reception Venue: The Newhall Nest – San Francisco
- Coordinator: Alex Barranco of Mandy Scott Events
- Officiant: Greg Smith, also known as Will (but I still can’t bring myself to call him that)
- Catering: “Barbara’s Bistro” – Barbara, mother of the groom
- Gown and Veil: Claire Pettibone
- Shoes: GEDEBE
- Reception Hair Pieces: oliviabrun on Etsy
- Suit: The Black Tux
- Florals: Flower Girl Em
- Trolley Service: Hornblower Classic Cable Cars
- Acoustic Entertainment: Gianna Biagi a gift from dear friends Greg and Lucy
- Harpist: Amelia Romano
- Hair: Shea
- Makeup: Marlyn Villanueva on Insta and see her website HERE!
- Photography: Eva Rieb Photography
- Linens: Abbey Party Rentals