7 Inspirational Beach Weddings

Karen Chen and Ryan Montag wedding

Kim Ford Kitz + Mark Wiegers

Dipsea Gardens, Stinson Beach, May 20, 2017

SOME PEOPLE GO looking for love in all the wrong places; others find it by coincidence. Another route is to simply pursue what you love. The latter path is how Kim found her future husband. A working artist and past Marin Magazine cover art contest finalist, she was the set designer for the San Anselmo Town Players’ production of Fiddler on the Roof in 2001 when she met Mark, who was acting in the play. But both were in other relationships at the time and remained off each other’s radar for years, until one night they serendipitously ran into each other in Fairfax — both single this time around. Sparks flew. A long courtship followed, and Mark finally popped the question unexpectedly after a day spent walking around Jack London State Park in Sonoma.

“We were sitting on a bench in the lovely cottage garden by the koi fishpond,” Kim says. “He said he was going to wait to propose on my birthday but the mood took him over.” At first the couple considered eloping, but reconsidered so friends and family could be involved. Being beach lovers, they returned to a familiar place filled with fond memories. “I hosted a small surprise birthday party for Mark at Dipsea Gardens [at Stinson] two years ago — we had such a great experience there, and we go to Stinson so often, that this spot was a perfect choice for us.” Fortunately, the weather obliged and they had a sun-drenched wedding. At the reception, the bride and groom’s talents were front and center: Kim came up with the “beachy bohemian” theme and made seven dream catchers that hung from the trees. She also created an oyster shell garland for the wedding venue tables and painted the artwork for the invitations and signage. Mark booked the musicians and even played his guitar and sang a couple songs. With emotions running high, the day passed quickly, but the couple agrees on the highlights: the love, the meaningful ceremony uniting their families, the sunshine, beautiful decor, smiling friends and family, great music and delicious tacos.

VENUE Dipsea Gardens, dipseagardens.com; Stinson Beach Community Center, stinsonbeachcommunitycenter.org

EVENT PLANNING AND DESIGN Stacey & Company, staceyandcompany.com

PHOTOGRAPHY Susan Adler, susanadler.com

FLORAL Susan Barton Fantasy Florals, susansflowers.com

RENTALS La Tavola, latavolalinen.com; Standard PartyRentals, standardpartyrentals.com

SIGNAGE Stacey & Company

DRESS Jen’s Pirate Booty, jenspiratebooty.com

GROOM’S SUIT Tommy Bahama, tommybahama.com

BRIDESMAID DRESSES Free People, freepeople.com

MUSIC Todos Santos, todossantostheband.com

INVITATIONS Stacey & Company with Kim Ford Kitz artwork

REHEARSAL DINNER VENUE Siren Canteen, thesirencanteen.com

CATERING Tacolicious, tacolicious.com

OFFICIANT Katherine Revoir, richerliving.org

Karen Stradford + Devin Boyce

Audubon Canyon Ranch, Stinson Beach, April 26, 2014

KAREN AND DEVIN were first introduced as rivals on a Brooklyn bocce ball court. “We had old friends in common, but had never met until we faced off on the court,” says Karen. “We got to talking — with some trash talking thrown in — and instantly hit it off.” Devin knew pretty quickly that he wanted to keep Karen around. “I realized I just wanted to keep talking to her,” he says. “Her smile captivated me, her laugh made me smile and I knew I was done looking if only I didn’t mess it all up.” Karen, an Oakland native, had long enjoyed weekend trips to Marin to visit her family’s Stinson Beach vacation home, and it was Stinson where the couple’s relationship evolved into permanence. During a visit to Sea Drift, Devin surprised Karen with a proposal. “We were just sitting at the lagoon taking in the view and chatting when he pulled out the ring,” says Karen. “When I stopped sobbing I said yes.” Devin, originally from Rhinebeck, New York, had always considered tying the knot in his hometown, but found a similar vibe in Stinson. “From the first time I traveled to Stinson Beach, I knew there was something significant about the area and that I wanted something special to take place there,” he says. When the Brooklyn-based couple found Audubon Canyon Ranch, the hunt for a locale was over. “It looked so much like Rhinebeck, I knew I wanted to get married there,” says Devin. There was no waiting list, as the ranch was not yet known as a wedding destination — Karen and Devin were the second couple to ever wed on the property. They opted for a three-day event so their visiting guests could enjoy the area; many ended up staying for a few more days to explore Marin. The ceremony was Northern California to a T — rustic and close to the beach, with rain subsiding at the perfect moments and of course, great eats. “The food was the best wedding food I’ve ever had, highlighting the California way of eating: fresh produce and beautiful grilling,” says Karen. “All the guests raved about it.”

CEREMONY Audubon Canyon Ranch,

COORDINATOR/CATERING Rachel Cecchi, The Lunch Box,

PHOTOGRAPHER Lynn Bagley, Lynn Bagley Photography,

FLORIST Allan Merryman, Meristem, Stinson Beach Flowers, 415.868.0666

DRESS Adele Wechsler,


SIGNAGE Janis Yerington, bolinasfolkart.com

HAIR/MAKEUP Rebecca Beardsley

Caitlin Bechelli + Michael McSunas

Deer Park Villa, Fairfax, August 31, 2013

CAITLIN HAD ONLY been attending UCLA for one week before she found Michael. The couple met at a mutual friend’s apartment, and events were immediately set in motion. A few months later, they shared their first kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and went on their first date — to Tennessee Valley Beach — on New Year’s Day. “We started dating in January of 2008. I was in love with her by February,” says Michael. “I fell pretty hard and fast.” When they returned to Tennessee Valley Beach four-and-a-half years later, Michael proposed (spoiler: she said yes). A Marin native, Caitlin knew she wanted to get married locally. She and her mother, who work together at their family-owned business, Happy Feet Dance School, planned the wedding, which took place at Deer Park Villa last August. “I really appreciated the family feel of Deer Park Villa; there was absolutely no pretention,” says Caitlin. “They have been a local business for so many years, just like my family’s business, and I could tell that they care a lot about each of their clients.” The wedding was very intimate, with toasts from Caitlin’s father, brother and twin sister, and from Michael’s best man. The setting also made for a memorable experience. “It truly feels like my wedding took place in an amazing enchanted forest,” says Caitlin. “The twinkly lights that are strung from the trees add such elegance to the natural beauty of the redwoods.” And as Caitlin’s (and now Michael’s) life is all about dance, it makes sense that a favorite moment took place on the floor. “Our DJs played “Hit The Road Jack” and my family and coworkers, many of whom are tap dancers, broke into an impromptu Shim Sham, the national anthem of tap dance,” says Caitlin. “From there, my brother and I improvised a swing-tap dance. We didn’t want the night to end!”

CEREMONY Deer Park Villa, deerparkvilla.com

PHOTOGRAPHER Jocelyn Knight, jocelynknight.com

DRESS Allure Bridals, allurebridals.com

BRIDESMAID DRESSES Bill Levkoff, billlevkoff.com

INVITATIONS Fantastico, fantasticosf.com

HAIR Kara Humphreys, ElementsSalon, elementssalonmillvalley.com

CAKE Sweet Things, sweetthings.com

Kristi Ziegler + Travis Miller

White Orchid Beach House, Maui, October 11, 2012

KRISTI AND TRAVIS, now living in Mill Valley, became acquainted during nursing school in Pennsylvania, but their mothers were a step ahead of them, in more ways than one. For years, both moms worked as registered nurses in the same cardiac catheterization lab. Despite their parents’ coworker status, Kristi and Travis formed a relationship on their own accord, first as study partners, then as best friends and finally as husband and wife. “It’s the ongoing joke in our family that my mom used to say to Trav’s, ‘I wish my Kristi would meet someone like your Travis’ — and it happened,” says Kristi. “I like to think of it as our little fairy tale come true.” Travis had planned on popping the question on a trip to New York City, but could not find a spot that felt just right. Soon after, the couple flew to San Francisco to visit the groom’s mother and stumbled upon Rodeo Beach. Travis and Kristi returned to their newfound treasure the next day, with Travis’ mother (and a video camera) in tow. “I feel so silly looking back, but even as he asked me to sit down on the rock and got down on one knee, I didn’t have a clue that he was about to propose,” says Kristi. The couple knew immediately where they wanted to tie the knot: Maui. With the help of Patty Heath Flax from White Orchid Wedding, the two planned their nuptials from afar, settling on the coveted date of October 11, 2012. They also knew they wanted an intimate event. “I never wanted a large wedding where I felt obligated to invite everyone I know,” says Travis. “On our wedding day, I found myself very thankful to be surrounded by our core group of family and friends. It was truly a celebration of our marriage.” For Kristi, the location brought the experience full circle. “Just being at my favorite place since I was a little girl, the beach, with my toes in the sand and hearing the waves kiss the shore, all while standing next to my best friend and now husband was breathtaking,” says Kristi. “This was very much my dream wedding.”

CEREMONY White Orchid Beach House

COORDINATOR Patty Flax, White Orchid Wedding

PHOTOGRAPHER J. Anthony Martinez

DRESS Maggie Sottero

MUSIC Kawika Regidor, Kristine Snyder, mauiharps.com


HAIR AND MAKEUP Heather Ellison


Chantelle Knapp + Tim Roche

White Orchid Beach House, Maui, 2011

Ever since taking their first vacation on Maui, Chantelle Knapp and Tim Roche dreamed of getting married there. So after deciding to tie the knot, “we flew there for an extended weekend to check out all the different wedding options and venues Maui had to offer,” Chantelle says. “We both fell in love with the White Orchid Beach House as soon as we saw it. We knew we wanted something intimate and private; the beach house was exactly that, with a beautiful island garden and beach.” Mill Valley’s Barbara Gerraty has been planning romantic nuptials large and small for Bay Area couples via White Orchid Weddings (her sister’s Maui-based company) for over five years. She was especially impressed with the Roches’ Friday morning (10:00 a.m.) ceremony last May. “The daytime ceremonies are a great option for couples because it gives them more flexibility with the dates and it’s much less expensive,” she says. The Roches agree. “We had 30 family and friends fly out and join us,” Chantelle says. “We wanted to keep everything fun and relaxed — everyone was on vacation, after all!” To keep with the laid back theme, they traded in the traditional rehearsal dinner for a beach barbecue with island-style takeout. After the ceremony, guests enjoyed a beach luau, resulting in a few souvenir photos of some of the more “manly” men in their group getting hula lessons onstage. “We wanted our wedding day to be about celebrating, with the least amount of stress possible,” Chantelle recounts. “As expected, we got a beautiful wedding that was less expensive than anything we had looked at planning at home and a week to vacation with all our closest family and friends. It was the easiest wedding I’ve ever heard of anyone planning.”

BRIDE’S DRESS Maggie Sottero

GROOM’S SUIT Calvin Klein

COORDINATOR Bernie Frietas/White Orchid Weddings


CATERER Cafe O Lei Catering

VENUE The White Orchid Beach House in Makena, Maui

Erica Gomez & Tim Lane

Poipu Beach, Kauai

Back in 1998, Erica Gomez landed her first job, in the gourmet coffee department at Cost Plus in Greenbrae. It didn’t take long before she spotted Tim, the cute guy in wine and furniture. “I totally pursued him,” she remembers, laughing. The attraction was mutual for the two Redwood High graduates. Nine years later Tim invited Erica to his favorite tropical destination, Poipu Beach, fronting Kiahuna Plantation on the island of Kauai, his family’s go-to vacation spot for since he was a young boy. There, on the western edge of this country, he asked Erica to become his wife. And it was there they relaxed in the warm sand and planned their wedding. “We wanted everyone to experience the beauty of this place,” Erica says, “but we thought it would be too costly.” After they crunched the numbers at various destination spots including the wine country and Tahoe, Kiahuna was not only at the top of their list, but surprisngly the most affordable.

A self-described control freak, Erica did have to adapt to the Hawaiian style of event planning. “I called to reserve the big green lawn; the person on the phone said, ‘Oh sure, no problem, we’ll pencil you in’ and I said, ‘No, Sharpie us in.’” When it came to ordering the cake, the pastry chef at the nearby Hyatt was a friend of a friend. Erica gave her some specific instructions over the phone—no deposit, no tastings—and hoped for the best.

She got it. Her centerpieces were simple: Mona Gonzaludo, on-site special events manager, suggested some cost cutting tips, such as whole pineapples ($2.35 each) from Costco. They looked great and doubled as breakfast the next day. “It worked out better than we could have ever expected,” Erica says. The couple has already booked their vacation for their one-year anniversary—at Kiahuna, of course, dinner with Mona included.

LOCATION: Kiahuna Plantation


CATERER: Plantation Gardens (Mona Gonzaludo), 808.742.1908

CAKE: Sandi Hulst, 808.742.9844

INVITATIONS: Passion Paper

DRESS: Melissa Sweet from Alexandra Bridal Salon in San Francisco

MAKEUP: Laola Lake from the Hyatt, 808.639.6696

HAIR: Owen at Elements in Kauai

MUSIC: Guitar/ukulele, Kenny Rapozo, 808.822.3335

FLOWERS: Casey Sparks, Martin Roberts Design

Julie Hoffman & Billy Bremer

Olowalu Plantation House, Maui, Hawaii

Julie Hoffman and Billy Bremer wanted a destination wedding that reflected their relaxed approach to life. So they decided to go straight to the epicenter of all things mellow: the Hawaiian island of Maui, where the slower pace of life is perfectly in sync with their laid-back outlook. The fact that they had never been there—nor would they even visit their wedding spot until the weekend of the event—didn’t faze this couple, who trusted not only fate but also the judgment of their wedding planner. The Mill Valley couple—she’s a schoolteacher originally from Texas; he’s a commercial real estate banker who grew up in Marin—left the job of finding the venue to Marin-based Barbara Gerraty of A White Orchid Wedding, who led them to Olowalu Plantation House, a private estate overlooking a rocky beach with island views.

The whole celebration took on the feeling of “island style.” Traveling guests arriving on Maui were welcomed with a luau-style dinner and spent the next day hanging around the pool. “It was just fun,” says Julie. “We got to see everybody and it took the pressure off the wedding.”

On the wedding day, 65 guests gathered on a grassy area near the estate to watch the couple walk down the aisle—Julie in bare feet and Billy in khakis—to a guitar-plucking Hawaiian version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. “We love the beach. We’re hikers and swimmers, and it was really important for us to get married outside,” says Julie. After the ceremony, guests lounged on outdoor couches as the sun set. A few traditional rituals found their way into the reception: a cake-cutting ceremony and a bridal father-daughter dance.

Even though they had never been to Maui, says the bride, it turned out to be the setting for a dream come true. “I remember looking out at my friends and family and thinking that everybody I loved and wanted to be here came.”

LOCATION: Olowalu Plantation House in Olowalu, Maui, Hawaii

PHOTOGRAPHER: Tad Craig Photography, 808.579.9571

CATERER: Cafe O’Lei Catering Company, 808.877.0073

BEVERAGE SERVICE: Maui Bars R Us, 808.874.7083

CAKE: Maui Wedding Cakes

FLOWERS: Teresa Sena Designs, 888.240.9336

MUSIC: Ernest Puaa

WEDDING PLANNER: Barbara Gerraty,

A White Orchid Wedding, 888.240.9336