The Offbeat Bride: Lily, editor/photographer/writer
Her offbeat partner: Chris, photographer/photo technician
Date and location of wedding: First wedding: Chinese Pavilion, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA — September 14, 2012 . Second wedding and reception: Rickshaw Stop, San Francisco, CA — September 15, 2012
Our offbeat wedding at a glance: Neither of us like being in the spotlight, and originally wanted to elope or have a small wedding in Asia. We liked either Taiwan (it was our first trip to Asia together and also where my family’s from) or Hong Kong (where Chris proposed). Ironically, we ended up having two stateside weddings back to back, one with 47 guests and another with roughly 150. We managed to incorporate our love of Asian culture, rock ‘n’ roll, and photography into both. We held them in San Francisco (just across the bay from where we live) to make it feel more like a destination wedding for ourselves and our out-of-town guests.
The first wedding (September 14) was our “official” wedding, held in Golden Gate Park’s Chinese Pavilion (a gift from Taiwan, no less!) with a maximum capacity of 50 people. Since we couldn’t photograph our own wedding (well, not the entire thing! Chris managed to take some shots), we hired one who shared our aesthetic for bright colors. A bonus was that she captured most of our wedding on film, which Chris then processed and developed.
I gave a nod to the Asian tradition of wearing red, but mine was a ’50s-style swing dress that I accessorized with a voluminous black petticoat, black brocade sash (that I made), and birdcage veil. I also carried a turquoise paper parasol instead of a bouquet. Chris wore a vintage ’70s tuxedo jacket with a turquoise dress shirt and red gingham tie.
I DIYed a lot of the decor, including the reception signs, card box, program, and pinwheels, assembled the ring containers (made of film canisters), and stuffed the silk cushions. Two musician friends performed the processional (Mickey and Sylvia’s “Love Is Strange”) and the recessional (The Ronettes’ “Baby, I Love You”) on acoustic guitars.
We treated everyone to dinner at our favorite tapas restaurant. Those of us who weren’t tired or jet-lagged then went to a punk show that was conveniently in the neighborhood. A number of our out-of-town friends who were invited to our second wedding were there, too, so it served as both a pre- and post-wedding shindig. When we got home that night, we were ecstatic but exhausted, and wondered how we were going to survive the next night.
The second wedding was the next day, and was held in a live music venue that was decorated with red velvet drapes, rickshaws, and party lights, which were perfect for our quasi-Asian theme. This event was initially intended to be just a rock’n’roll reception (aka big thank-you party) for our different circles of friends from across the country. However, since our officiant was attending as a guest anyway, we decided that we’d deal with all the eyes and do an amended version of the ceremony on stage, including a board break (more on that later!). We replaced the tea ceremony in the first ceremony with Chinese lion dancers.
For the rock’n’roll portion of the evening, three bands played. Two were our friends’ bands: Gravy’s Drop and City Deluxe, and the headliner was Roy Loney & the Phantom Movers. Roy was in the Flamin’ Groovies, one of our favorite bands. We were completely shocked that he agreed to play and still can’t believe it happened.
Among other things, I’m also a college radio DJ and couldn’t help but compile four CD mixes (here’s the main one) to be played at the beginning of the event and in between bands. They were full of our favorite songs: oldies, girl groups, Asian versions of American classics, garage punk, rock’n’roll, and ’70s glam rock.
We affixed photos of ourselves in our guestbook and asked our guests to draw self-portraits of themselves. The guestbook table included earplugs for our guests. We also set up a photo booth using one of the venue’s many rickshaws and Chris’ photo of a Taiwanese temple as a backdrop.
We fed our guests heavy hors d’oeuvres and dessert from our favorite eateries, making sure to accommodate vegan and gluten-free diets. There was a table of standard savory items (assorted cured meats, big hunks of fancy cheese, pretzel sliders, bread and crackers, mini heirloom tomatoes and peppers, and dips), a table of desserts (four kinds of mini cupcakes, fruit, chocolate, cookies, and two kinds of mochi cakes), and a table of Asian-inspired fare (fish and vegan sushi rolls, vegan Vietnamese spring rolls, vegan Asian noodle salad; baked BBQ pork buns, and steamed vegetable buns).
Tell us about the ceremony: Chris’s cousin stood at the altar with him, while my oldest friend stood on my side. My martial arts instructor of 17 years, friend, and co-author served as our officiant. After our ring exchange and kiss, we did our version of the traditional breaking of glass/plates: I broke a one-inch pine board with an elbow strike while Chris photographed it. Chris then performed a tea ceremony to honor our parents, grandparents, and each other.
My favorite moment: Chris, who’s not a public speaker, surprised me when he jumped on stage as City Deluxe was gearing up to play. He began sharing one of his earliest memories about us. We had been dating long-distance in the beginning, and he recalled telling me that someone had stolen his copy of Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers’ L.A.M.F. I was a huge Heartbreakers’ fan who just happened to have an extra first pressing of the record, so I sent it to him. The next thing I knew, the band started playing but Chris didn’t get off the stage. Instead, he belted out the Heartbreakers’ “I Wanna Be Loved,” punctuated with split jumps and more energy than Johnny Thunders himself ever had. Apparently, he had been secretly practicing with the band behind my back!
Reggie Destin, one of Chris’s longtime friends, was one of our friends who flew in from Chicago. He was hit by a drunk driver in Chicago a month later and died from his injuries shortly after. We feel very fortunate to have shared that wonderful weekend with him.
Was there anything you were sure was going to be a total disaster that unexpectedly turned out great? Wedding number two was our biggest challenge since we’d be decorating it and setting up the food ourselves with the help of a few friends. It was held at a live music venue, so our rental agreement included the beverages, bar staff, stage, sound guy, and even a coat check, but we still needed to rent and transport a few long tables. Plus we were ordering food from five different places so we had to coordinate their pick-up and delivery.
I made lists, timelines, and table diagrams to make sure we didn’t miss anything. When the day came, the tables fit in our rented minivan, our friends came through with the deliveries as planned, the bands showed up on time. Even so, I misjudged how long it’d take to assemble the dozens of paper lanterns and set up the food. At some point I had to stop directing and turn over my diagrams so I could get ready (in the bathroom, no less, where another friend would be doing my hair). But it all worked out well in the end.
My advice for Offbeat Brides: If you self-cater, consider having take-out boxes on hand for your guests because you’ll likely have tons of food left over. Additionally, if you have more than 100 people attending your reception, be kind to your well-meaning friends and hire at least one food professional to take care of food service.
If your photographer offers engagement sessions, take advantage of this, especially if one of you is camera-shy. This will give both of you a feel for working with your photographer and allow your photographer to get a better sense of your personalities.
What was the most important lesson you learned from your wedding? You can’t do everything and be everywhere at once. Not everything will be exactly how you wanted, but in the end it won’t matter as much. Also, our friends did a wonderful job replenishing the food throughout the night, but for their sakes we really should’ve hired two non-friend food professionals to handle the refreshments.
Care to share a few vendor/shopping links?
- Dress: Unique Vintage
- Petticoat and birdcage veil: Charlotte’s Web
- Bride’s shoes: Hush Puppies
- Parasol: Paper Lantern Store
- Hair and makeup (wedding one): Kelly Tschantz, Peter Thomas Hair
- Groom’s jacket: Held Over Vintage Shop, San Francisco, CA
- Barber: Temescal Alley Barber Shop
- Photographers: Ken Nagahara, Bryan Spencer (for the photo booth), and Don Barros
Enough talk — show me the wedding porn!
dresses: Unique Vintage