Five San Francisco Weddings

Cyndi Hicks + Adam Ramirez

The Fairmont, San Francisco, May 6, 2017

IT ALL STARTED off right for Cyndi and Adam — as in right swipe. Like so many present-day relationships, the San Francisco–based couple first connected on the popular dating app Tinder. “We had 45 friends in common and had no idea how we hadn’t known each other already,” Cyndi says. Shortly after their mobile match, they both realized they had met “the one.” While they were strolling along the water by the Ritz-Carlton in Half Moon Bay, Adam caught Cyndi off guard: he dropped to one knee and proposed. When it came time to select the wedding venue, neither had their heart set on a specific place until they saw the Fairmont. “The Fairmont is quintessential old San Francisco; when we walked into the Gold Room — modeled after Versailles — it took our breath away,” Cyndi says.The couple enlisted planner Duncan Reyes to help create the event, but also had other assistance. “We had an extreme amount of help from Cyndi’s mom and would have been so lost without that amazing woman,” says the groom. For the theme, they went classic but not stuffy. “While we wanted glamorous and traditional, we tried to incorporate fun aspects of ourselves like full champagne bottles in place of seating cards, an ice sculpture to pour drinks through and latenight It’s-It ice cream,” the bride says. The fete went off without a hitch, including the ceremony itself. “The most special moment for both of us was meeting at the altar,” Cyndi says.

In keeping with tradition, Cyndi and Adam opted against a “first look”: “The moment the church doors opened and we made eye contact was so emotional for both of us,” she says. Seeing her fairy-tale wedding come to life was a high point in itself: “We peeked into the ballroom before the reception started and it was amazing — the Gold Room looked even more magical than we imagined it would.”

Anything they would have done differently? Says the groom: “We are happy to say there isn’t anything we would have changed! It was truly the best day of our lives.”

VENUE The Fairmont San Francisco

EVENT PLANNING AND DESIGN F. Duncan Reyes Events by Design

PHOTOGRAPHY Clane Gessel Photography

FLORAL Jeeryn Dang at Tanjeeryn Designs

RENTALS Pleasanton Event Rentals


DRESS Allure Bridals

GROOM’S SUIT Black Tie Tuxedos


HAIR AND MAKEUP Hair by Le Reve Salon; makeup by My Beauty Innovations

MUSIC Pure Ecstasy Band



Ashley Roebken + Joe Leoncavallo

Westin St. Francis, San Francisco, June 25, 2016

THERE ARE FIVE-YEAR plans, 10-year plans and plans that exist unbeknownst to us. Ashley and Joe had a common bond for decades, but they didn’t learn that until they met. “Joseph was born and raised in Noe Valley and had frequently visited my great grandfather’s pharmacy down the road on 24th Street,” says Ashley, a Kentfield native. Several years later, when Joe proposed, another neighborhood landmark came into play: every Christmas, one Noe Valley resident decorates the tree on the sidewalk in front of her house with lights, placing a mason jar below; people passing by write down a wish on a piece of paper and place it in the jar. The homeowner laminates these wish-notes and hangs them from the tree. Joe wrote, “I hope she says yes,” then searched for his wish among the hundreds of tags in ensuing days. He found it, cut it down and the following year proposed to Ashley next to the tree with the laminated wish. Their wedding was equally inspired. They chose the Westin in San Francisco, with its 360-degree views of the city lights. Meaningful, loving speeches from both fathers as well as the reverend were among the standout moments. “The first dance and the father-daughter dance were highlights for me,” the bride adds. “Having those two dances with the best men in my life that I love so much will forever be cherished and kept in my heart.” Discreet photography and filming made a very public occasion with 180 guests feel very private. Fantastic food abounded, and a friendly, responsive staff ensured the event went off without a snag. But the real beauty was in the details. The wedding menu featured an image of the couple’s boxer, Bella, and Ashley carried a bouquet with a photo of her grandparents on their wedding day affixed to the back. Touches like this along with three musical acts (string quartet, live band, and a DJ) made for an unforgettable night, confirming that wishes aren’t reserved for wells and stars — given how this couple’s roots were intertwined, of course they’d wish upon a tree.

VENUE Westin St. Francis, San Francisco,

PHOTOGRAPHY Clane Gessel Photography,



FLORAL Stanlee R Gatti Designs,

MUSIC Gatsby Entertainment’s Live Band and Green Light Band,

RENTALS Stanlee R Gatti Designs,

DRESS Zuhair Murad,



HAIR AND MAKEUP Elizabeth Chang,

INVITATIONS Linda Wanczyk at Bay Area Graphics,

Joel Riddell + Robert Moon

Swedenborgian Church, San Francisco, May 25, 2014

JOEL AND ROBERT’S love is not exactly young — the two have been together for 18 years. They met at the Pacific Heights Health Club, where the very social Robert finally struck up a conversation with Joel, who had been eyeing him for three months. The two met for lunch the next day and developed a friendship that, over the course of several months, turned to love. On Christmas Day of the couple’s fifth year together, Robert presented Joel with a ring — and a proposal. The wedding plans were put on hold while they waited for the marriage equality law to pass, but last year, Joel and Robert were finally able to have the wedding of their dreams. “We went for cocktails one evening with friends, and we noticed the Top of the Mark,” says Joel of the initial planning. “We walked over for a drink and once we entered the space — with the sweeping views — we immediately decided that this was where our party should be: iconic and overlooking the world.” The reception matched the space’s awesomeness, with a slew of musicians and vintners in attendance and copious eating and dancing. For the preceding ceremony, the couple chose the lovely Swedenborgian Church. Joel, whose late grandfather was a minister, reached out to the congregation with a request to borrow the space, which was quickly granted; his father, Steve Elson, officiated. Guests traveled from New Zealand, the U.K. and Canada and were kept busy with weekend festivities — including a henna party hosted by one friend. “The fantastic food and great fun set the stage for the rest of the weekend,” Joel says. The string of celebrations surpassed all expectations: “It was more special than I had anticipated,” Robert says. “I always knew our wedding would be a fun event, but the overwhelming sense of love throughout the entire weekend of events, and the amazing locations were an added touch of magic.”

CEREMONY Swedenborgian Church,

PHOTOGRAPHER Mike Rosati, Mike Rosati Photography,

RECEPTION Top of the Mark, InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel, intercontinental

CAKE Noe Valley Bakery,

MUSIC DJ Christopher B; Harry Likas,

SOLO PERFORMANCE Bobby Jo Valentine,

INVITATIONS Invitations by Dawn,

Laika Huang & Colin Chow

St. Regis, San Francisco

CORTE MADERA RESIDENTS Laika Huang and Colin Chow envisioned a destination wedding that was modern and sophisticated—but definitely not stuffy. After getting engaged on Maui, they thought the Four Seasons on Maui would be the perfect place—but rethought that plan when the hotel began some construction. They wound up in the Bay Area, at San Francisco’s St. Regis—and they still got their vacation wedding: “Both of our families don’t live in this area, so it turns out that the Bay Area is a destination for most of our family,” says Laika, a merchandise manager at Restoration Hardware.

So friends and family from Asia, Los Angeles and New York gathered at the grand hotel, where the couple achieved their modern minimalist dream in a dramatic setting with ballroom and outdoor terrace. The atmosphere, which they describe as “Zen,” included details like invitations that came inside a box (made by the bride’s best friend and maid of honor) and an aisle flanked by rectangular metal structures alternating with horsetail reeds, river rocks and wheatgrass.

The couple incorporated customs to honor their Asian heritage. During the ceremony, they bowed to their parents in gratitude. “It’s a very Asian traditional thing,” says Laika. “It symbolizes thanks for all they’ve done for us and says now we will start our new life.” Later, she changed into a vintage orange and green kimono passed down from her grandmother. They wrote their own vows, and Laika’s brother sang at both the ceremony and the reception. A rumba-inspired first dance kicked off the celebration, followed by a father-daughter dance to “Twist and Shout,” a conga line and five hours of dancing. “Everyone had a blast. That’s what we wanted the wedding to be about,” Laika says.

LOCATION: St. Regis San Francisco


CATERER: St. Regis

CAKE: St. Regis (design by the bride)

FLOWERS: Wiggy Flowers

MUSIC: Chris Debol

INVITATIONS: Mimi Yoo and Laika Huang

DRESS: Monique Lhuillier, from Bridal Galleria

HAIR / MAKEUP: Taylor Pham,

VIDEO: Slava Basovich

Emily Morris & Javier Soltero

St. Patrick’s Catholic Church/Lodge at the Regency Center

EMILY MORRIS AND Javier Soltero’s romance has always been rich with surprises. When they met in San Francisco, they were shocked to discover they had attended the same college—but had never met. Eleven years later, they wanted a wedding with the same sense of  drama.

The couple—she is a director of product marketing, he is CEO of a technology software company—are both Catholic, so a church wedding was important. They chose San Francisco’s St. Patrick’s church, a historical landmark downtown. In the ceremony, Javier’s brother accompanied the organist on the violin as the couple walked down the aisle. “As in any good wedding, there were some tearjerker moments,” says Javier.

After the traditional Catholic ceremony, the 85 guests were shuttled to the Lodge at the Regency Center on Sutter near Van Ness Avenue, a relatively obscure venue that few of their guests had ever seen, for a reception in an ornate room replete with dark wood. During cocktails the guests were kept sequestered outside the ballroom; then, at the appointed hour, they were ushered into the majestic space filled with dramatic greens, reds and purples. “We wanted to blow people’s minds and have them very captivated by the venue,” says Javier.

Another centerpiece of the celebration was the music—a closely guarded secret. As guests dined, an 11-piece salsa band quietly set up behind a curtain. Suddenly, the bandleader introduced himself and the curtain rose. “Everybody fell off their chair when they saw it!” says Javier. Next came “comedic attempts by people who have never done it to salsa-dance.”

They surprised guests by forgoing the traditional wedding cake for a huge array of handpicked desserts. The couple’s mission to dazzle guests with the unexpected was clearly a success. Does that foretell a big surprise for, say, the first anniversary? “We don’t like surprises for each other—we like giving them to other people,” Javier says.

CEREMONY: St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, San Francisco, 415.421.3730

RECEPTION: The Lodge at the Regency Center, San Francisco, 415.673.5716

PHOTOGRAPHER: Tu Photography, 415.455.9219

CATERER: Paula LeDuc, 888.443.4498

FLOWERS: Asiel Design, 888.506.7673

MUSIC: Orquesta Borinquen, 510.508.8210

INVITATIONS: Kris Nations, 415.505.3866

WEDDING PLANNER: MB Wedding Designs, 415.706.1677

DRESS: Vera Wang

BRIDAL ACCESSORIES (jewelry, hair adornment): Kris Nations, 415.505.3866

HAIR: Lizzy McNeill from Louie Hair Salon, 415.864.3012

MAKEUP: Stacy McClure from Makeup by Stacy, 415.377.0855