Chinyere & Jesse’s Quirky Oakland Cemetery Wedding

When our longtime friend Jesse asked us to photograph his intimate, mid-December wedding, we couldn’t be more excited. Jesse and his bride Chinyere are dyed-in-the-wool punk rockers so we expected the unexpected. Their venue? Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery.

“We decided on the cemetery because we wanted to do something that represents the East Bay and represents us,” says Chinyere. “It was an early date spot so I put a lot of significance on the location.”

Founded in 1863 and designed by architect Frederick Law Olmsted (the same guy behind NYC’s Central Park, UC Berkeley, and Stanford University), Mountain View Cemetery sprawls across 226 lush, rolling acres and boasts panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay. It’s the resting place for numerous Bay Area and California luminaries.

Due to the possibility of rain, Jesse chose an atrium in the main mausoleum in which to tie the knot. The mausoleum itself is a study of marble and travertine hallways and gorgeous art deco and neoclassical details. It was in one of these hallways that he saw Chinyere for the first time that day.

“My favorite part was how beautiful Chi Chi looked,” says Jesse.

Indeed, she was a knockout in a vintage-inspired ivory dress with lace appointments and a tulle skirt. Her ex-sister-in-law Leah Williams, a stylist in Sacramento, did a fantastic job with her hair. Jesse himself was as dashing as ever in a charcoal suit paired with a navy vest and bowtie.

Before we knew it, it was time for the ceremony. The atrium, with its skylight-topped vaulted ceiling, soaring banana trees, and poinsettia-encircled fountain, provided a breathtaking backdrop for their nuptials. Seminal punk figure Jello Biafra, who made waves with his band the Dead Kennedys, donned a pair of Elvis sunglasses and presided over the proceedings from between the banana trees.

“Jello heard we were getting hitched and offered to officiate,” says Jesse, who has known and worked with Jello for ages. “He even arrived early thanks to our friend DJ Sid Presley.”

“I loved seeing all the people we invited smiling at us. It felt very loving and supportive, which was overwhelming,” says Chinyere.

Our couple had given Jello a script to follow, which he did, allowing them to deliver their hilarious, heartfelt vows and exchange rings without incident. But just when we all thought the ceremony was over and Chinyere and Jesse would be able to share their first kiss, Jello instructed that they place their hands on each other’s head to carefully headbutt each other in a manner acceptable to the late underground musician Wesley Willis.

“We suspected there would be some Jello touch to the ceremony, but did not expect Wesley Willis headbutts! That was kinda perfect!” says Jesse.

Afterward, the newlyweds invited their guests to stay for lunch and celebrate with them. Their good friend Alise O’Leary, a former pastry chef, baked the killer cake and cupcakes.

“It was cool seeing everyone in that incredible setting and watching how people from our different sets of friends and families hit it off,” says Jesse.

We’re honored to have been a part of their special day and are proud to share some photos from their unforgettable wedding. Enjoy!

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Bride’s dress: Amazon
Bride’s shoes: David’s Bridal
Bride’s fascinator: BABEYOND Bridal Wedding
Groom’s suit & tie: Uni Eleganza (Berkeley)
Make-up: Sephora
Bouquet: Ashby Flowers (Berkeley)
Caterer: Montperi Catering

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