A Sunny California Soirée
How did you meet?
I met Jess after our mutual friend Cara convinced me to come out late on a Sunday night to meet her “cute coworker” from the hospital. I was cranky and had a cold and I don’t think anyone other than Cara could have gotten me out of the house that night! Jess and I sat and talked on the couch at her coworker Shawna’s house while everyone else talked shop about the hospital. I remember nerding out about concerts we’d been to, but the rest is a blur. Jess was so confident and at ease, I immediately felt at home with her. It was obvious that she was super smart, except when it came to getting my number (so I gave her mine).
Our first date was on the day after a big snowstorm. Jess picked me up in her Jeep Wrangler and we drove through the unplowed streets of DC. Lunch at a coffee shop turned into drinking tea in my kitchen, which turned into beers and terrible pizza at a bar around the corner. Eleven hours of non-stop conversation later, she offered me her arm as she walked me home. I’ve been in love with her ever since.
Anya and I were introduced in January 2014 by our mutual friend, Cara, who worked with me in the ER. Cara had told me about Anya and thought we might get along. She’d shown me her Facebook page and told me about her, but all I could see after that was her profile picture – which was mostly her golden retriever’s face (which was ok, too!). Cara wanted us to all hang out somehow, but we hadn’t really talked about when or how.
On Sunday January 19, after a long day of brunch and football, I was hanging out at a friend’s house in DC with a group of coworkers when Cara checked in and asked what I was up to. I invited her over to join us, and she managed to convince Anya to come along. I remember frantically tidying the living room (of someone else’s house) and getting anxious and excited to meet her. I nervously answered the door and thought Anya was gorgeous (I’d find out later that she’d been fighting a cold that night and didn’t feel very well!). Before long, we were both sitting at the end of the couch, lost in conversation and fairly oblivious to those around us. After some encouragement from our friends at the end of the night, we exchanged phone numbers and expressed interest.
Three days later, we met for a lunch date at Big Bear Café in DC, followed by an afternoon of tea and chatting at Anya’s place before realizing it was mealtime again and walking to dinner nearby. Eleven hours after it started, our first date came to an end and I was already looking forward to the next one. Four hundred and fifty eight days later, I got down on one knee in front of more than 50 of our friends and asked Anya to marry me…with the same butterflies I had on January 19, 2014!
What about the proposal?
I'd decided early on that I was going to marry Anya someday, and I'd started secretly looking at rings while I was at the hospital working 24 hour shifts. I found one that I just kept going back to, and the day I completed the purchase happened to be the one year anniversary of the day we met. I also knew that I wanted the ring and the proposal to be a total surprise. I decided to use my birthday as a cover to gather all of our friends (even Anya's I didn't know that well). My best friend lived in Mississippi at the time, so I put her in touch with Anya to "surprise me" by being there, which kept Anya totally distracted from the actual plan! I also called her dad to tell him my plan and ask for his blessing, which was met with happy tears all around. Then I reserved a beautiful rooftop bar in DC with a view of the Washington Monument, planned a champagne toast, and when the time came, gathered everyone around the two of us. Anya wanted to sing happy birthday, but someone had a present for me first. As she watched me dig through the gift bag, she was completely oblivious to what was happening (all of our friends had champagne in one hand and cameras in the other!). Once the ring box was out of the bag and I was down on one knee, the tears started and she said yes!
I thought Jess was being a total birthday diva, inviting 55+ people to her party, including some of my friends who she didn’t know well. I teased her about it, and borrowed a friend’s Kitchen Aid to make enough rainbow confetti cupcakes to feed everyone. I had no idea what was coming, even when all of our friends lined up with glasses of champagne for what I thought was a birthday toast. It was such a wonderful surprise!
Going into the wedding planning, what did you definitely know?
We planned our wedding to be a comfortable, warm, and inviting event. We wanted our guests to feel like they were joining us in our backyard, rather than in an impersonal or formal event venue. We were thrilled to find the Barlow, a modern and customizable venue near some of our favorite places - San Francisco and Sonoma Wine Country.
Each element of our wedding had personal significance. Our photographer was a close friend of Jess's family who flew in from Louisiana, and our florist was a close friend of Anya's family (and her former babysitter!). Anya's life-long best friend designed the invitations and hand-lettered all of the signage for the event, lending a personalized and unique touch that tied everything together. Jess’s grandmother made all of the table runners, and her childhood friend made a piñata for guests to fill with advice for us to read on our first anniversary.
We wanted every moment of the ceremony to be meaningful, to be true to our relationship, and to honor the core values that make us who we are as a couple. We chose to do an "unplugged ceremony," as it was important for those moments to feel intimate. When we looked out at our families and friends, we were so happy to their faces and not their cell phones.
Anya's college friend, now a Lutheran Pastor, officiated the wedding. Jess's close friend, who just finished law school, did a reading of the final lines of Justice Kennedy's majority opinion from the US Supreme Court decision on Obergefell v. Hodges, which made same sex marriage legal in every state in the US. We were at the steps of the Supreme Court on June 26, 2015 when the Court's decision was announced, so it was an emotional moment. We were truly honored to be able to celebrate our wedding, surrounded by our loving family and friends, with the knowledge that our union was upheld by law.
What surprised you during planning?
It was surprisingly easy for us to agree on all of the big components of the wedding. We had fun choosing the venue, colors, atmosphere, and most of the décor elements, and the process brought us closer together. At the same time, we were surprised by how many tiny little decisions there were to make. Our venue was not all-inclusive, which meant we got to choose all of our own décor, tables, chairs, etc. and make our event as personal and unique as we wanted. This also meant that we had to choose all of our rentals, down to the water glasses and napkins, which was much more time consuming than we thought. We figured out how to let go of the small stuff and we loved how everything turned out, but rental planning is not for the faint of heart!
Is there anything you wish you knew while you were planning your wedding that you know now?
How much alcohol (not) to order! Our wedding was on a Sunday, many of our guests were non-drinkers, and those who were had spent the previous days gallivanting around wine country.
Any advice for couples planning weddings now?
Plan lots of quality one-on one time with each other! It’s easy to get lost in all the busyness of the days leading up to the wedding and overtaken by family obligations. We got a long couple’s massage a few days before, and intentionally stayed in our own AirBnb near the venue so that we had space when we needed it.
Invest in a coordinator for the day of your event if this is not included in your venue. The last thing you want to do on your special day is worry about deliveries and timelines and setting up chairs. We did all of the planning leading up to the wedding and then passed the reigns to our wonderful coordinator so that we could enjoy our day.
Also, resist the urge to go overboard with the DIY wedding projects. One or two are plenty for a nice personal touch, but it’s important to think about whether guests will really remember that the invitation envelopes had liners (ours didn’t and it was totally fine!) or that the napkins were hand-dyed (Anya took on this project in our tiny washing machine and the final product was lovely but likely not worth the strife).
What was your favorite part of your wedding day?
Looking back, it's hard to pick one favorite part of the wedding day. Because we had family and friends flying in from all over the country, we knew we wanted more time with them than just the wedding day itself. We purposefully planned quality time with our families in the days leading up to the wedding, which included walks on the bay, wine tasting, dinners, and pampering. We also threw a pre-party at a local beer garden the night before, which was a great way to welcome our friends to town and introduce them all to each other. The morning after the wedding, we invited everyone to join us at a bakery next door to the venue for an informal breakfast and send-off. Seeing everyone still glowing from the night before and being able to thank them for their support wound up feeling really special.
- Photography By Kenneth Wilks Photography
- Venue By The Barlow
- Florals By Natalie Bowen Designs
- Graphic Design & Sign Art By Brigid Cowery Designs
- Suits By Kipper Clothiers
- Dress By Jenny Yoo
- DJ By Heart of Gold DJs
- Hair & Makeup By Sonoma County Wedding Makeup
- Catering By Broadway Catering & Events
- Pie By Petaluma Pie Company
- Rentals By Encore Events Rentals