Erika & Levi’s San Francisco Forest & Sand Engagement Excursion

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We love meeting our couples’ pets so you can imagine how loudly we squealed when Erika and Levi told us that their poodle/bichon mix Chloe would be joining us for their multi-location engagement session. Like her mommy and daddy, Chloe was sweet as can be and an absolute treat to have around as we zipped through AIDS Memorial Grove and Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park before catching the sunset at Baker Beach. She also showed incredible patience, wearing Levi’s meticulously lettered save-the-date chalkboard signs around her neck without a peep. She’ll no doubt do a great job at Erika and Levi’s wedding next spring!

Did we mention that she’s ridiculously soft and it was hard not to pet her the entire time? Well, it’s true! We could also go on about how Erika was a knockout in her magenta dress and how cute she and Levi are together, but that’s fairly evident in the photos below. We can’t wait to photograph all of them again next year! (Thanks to Erika’s sister for tagging along as a dog wrangler, which was really handy even though Chloe was quite the lady!)

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James & Santhi’s Vibrant Indian-Greek Wedding in Berkeley

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When Santhi and James told us there’d be fire wrangling and spirited dancing at their Indian/Greek wedding, we couldn’t be more excited. We had a blast with them during their Stanford engagement session and had no doubt their wedding day would be even more spectacular.

Indian weddings can span multiple days, and Santhi and James held their celebration over two, starting with a henna (mendhi) party at the David Brower Center in Berkeley. The multihued saris donned by many of the guests were dazzling, as was the intricate handiwork of the henna artists. Toward the end of the evening, Santhi’s sister and friend performed a smile-inducing Bollywood-inspired dance.

The next day, everyone converged on the lawn of UC Berkeley’s Lawrence Hall of Science, which was outfitted with a mandap for our couple’s ceremony. Santhi was stunning in an orange and gold sari, with flowers woven into her long, braided hair. James looked regal in white traditional garb with gold accents. Also dressed in traditional Indian outfits, his groomsmen wore boutonnieres featuring pohutukawa flowers and billy buttons, which are native to New Zealand (James spent a good part of his childhood there).

The ceremony involved not only Santhi and James but their families and guests. The blur of non-stop action included the throwing of lime-and-turmeric solution to ward off evil, the washing of limbs and fruit, the wielding of fire, the feeding of ghee to said fire, and the crossing of pinkies (really!). In addition to exchanging garlands and wedding bands, Santhi and James took seven steps around the fire to represent their seven wedding vows. Their parents then sprinkled them with flowers and yellow rice to bless them.

After the ceremony, guests inhaled delicious grub from Udupi Palace while we whisked our newlyweds to the other side of the LHS for portraits and sweeping views of the bay. We loved that Santhi insisted on taking photos with the giant animatronic insect displays inside the interactive museum.

Before we knew it, it was time to make our way down the hill to their reception at the UC Botanical Gardens, which boasts more than 13,000 different kinds of plants from around the world on 34 acres. Santhi and her ladies changed into yet more colorful saris, while James wore a navy blue suit.

The festivities continued with music by the Klipptones, hilarious toasts, warm words, and more eating and drinking (we bet many of the guests were still stuffed from lunch but couldn’t turn down the amazing spread of Greek specialties nor the California and New Zealand wines). We knew that Santhi’s a mechanical engineer, but we were still impressed that she designed and laser-cut all the plastic charms (robot with heart, beaker with heart, octahedrals) for the Greek almond favors and assorted decorations. The honeycomb pattern in particular was actually the iridate structure of a family of materials that James (an experimental physicist) works on. Somehow, she also had time to paint their whimsical cake topper!

Alexis, a childhood friend who grew up with James in Athens, gave a rousing performance of traditional Greek wedding songs that compelled James to enthusiastically pull guests into a dance circle. In return, Alexis’s wife Marianna attempted to teach them how to dance Greek-style. (Alexis’s mom, by the way, was James’s kindergarten teacher. She attended the wedding and brought a framed painting that James had made when he was six years old as a gift. How incredible that she kept it after all these years!)

James and his groomsmen later surprised everyone with a Greek dance number. This kicked off a lively dance party, not to mention several serious dance-offs between James, Santhi, and her brother (happily, everyone walked away unscathed, although we wonder if James was able to walk the next day…). At one point, Jimmy, one of the caterers, picked up the bouzouki and started jamming with Alexis! Wow! Here are some of our favorite moments from an unforgettable day.

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Wedding sari (tailored blouse): Nalli Silks (Chennai)
Wedding jewelry (gold): GRT Jewellers (G.R. Thanga Maligai, Chennai)
Head jewelry & waist belt: Chaahat Jewellery
Reception sari (tailored semi-stitched lehenga choli): Nalli Silks (Chennai)
Bridesmaids outfits: Designed by Santhi with material from Nalli; tailored in Chennai
Henna party outfit: KAY (designer Helina; Chennai)
Make-up: Maria Landoni-King
Hair: Violeta Obrera
Groom’s wedding outfit: Nalli Silks (Chennai)
Groom’s reception outfit: Kenneth Cole suit, Van Heusen shirt
Rings: Jewelry Exchange Co. (San Francisco)
Priest: Naga Venkata Sastri Marepalli
Favors: Mantoles (sugar coated almonds) from Lixouri, Kefalonia; organza favor bags custom-sewn in India.
Henna party food: Vik’s Chaat Corner (Berkeley)
Ceremony lunch: Udupi Palace (Berkeley)
Reception caterer: Mezes Kitchen and Wine Bar (San Francisco)
Cake & cupcakes: Angel Cakes
Boutonnieres & garlands: SoMa Flowers
Other flowers: San Francisco Wholesale Flower Mart, assembled by James’s mom and aunt
Band: The Klipptones
Videography: Motion8Films
Equipment rentals: Hartmann Studios

Andrea & BC’s Japan-Inspired SF Winery Wedding

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Known for its spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline, Treasure Island is probably the last place you’d think to look for a winery. Surprisingly, it harbors several, including The Winery SF, a 20,000-square-f00t wine-making facility that also hosts special events. Remember Andrea and BC and their engagement session at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park earlier this year? They tied the knot at The Winery SF over the summer, and we were privileged to capture it.

The Winery SF’s vast space is lined with wine barrels, and we loved that Andrea and BC complemented it with Japanese touches. The escort cards were actually ema (wooden plaques onto which Shintoists write wishes and/or prayers) featuring Japanese icons such as Hello Kitty, geishas, beer vending machines, sushi, and sumo wrestlers (Andrea made the round image stickers from photos that she and BC took during their time in Japan). The cutoff wine bottle centerpieces incorporated the ema as well. We were impressed to learn that Andrea’s dad skillfully crafted the ema and centerpieces, as well as the wooden shrine from which the ema hung. Her mom also lent some craftiness by making the ceremony programs and table tents for the reception, and folding 300+(!) paper cranes. Orchids, which are indigenous to Japan, were incorporated into the bouquets, boutonnieres, and centerpieces. Andrea and her bridesmaids flitted around in colorful kimonos before it was time to step into their wedding finery.

In her strapless 1950s-style A-line dress with petticoat, Andrea reminded us of a fair-haired Audrey Hepburn, while her leading man rocked a snazzy gray three-piece suit with green bowtie. All his groomsmen, in fact, sported spiffy bowties. Such a good-looking bunch!

Andrea and BC have had a pretty tough 2014, so we were happy to hear profuse laughter throughout the day. Their touching but hilarious vows had their guests nearly falling out of their seats (Andrea even broke out in hives), and the toasts caused some folks to laugh so hard that they cried. The rest of the night was a blur of bodies exuberantly shaking up the dancefloor, crowing at the tops of their lungs, and tearing up our wildbooth, which was augmented with whimsical Daiso goods such as a katana, nunchaku, masks, and a rising sun bandana. How fun! Here are some of our favorite moments from their memorable day.

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Dress: Oleg Cassini
Bride’s shoes: Vaneli
Suit: Ermenegildo Zegna (bespoke)
Tie: Ben Sherman
Groom’s shoes: Johnson & Murphy
Rings: ValuExchange Diamond Importers (San Francisc0)
Hair and make-up: Hair of the Gods (San Francisc0)
Flowers for centerpieces and decorations: Orchidholic (San Francisc0)
Flowers for bouquets, boutonnieres, and corsages: Laurel Designs (San Francisc0)
Event Coordination: Kara Marshall
Catering: The Winery SF