We met in January 2013 during a happenstance encounter at a professional function that turned into a lunch date and then a hike in the Redwoods. However, Jin had plans to fulfill a lifelong dream of traveling around the world the following year, so we didn’t anticipate that our love story would ultimately lead us to marriage. After a year of adventures together, Jin left to trek the globe–though we never stopped communicating through emails and sporadic phone calls with poor reception. After about 10 months away and without expectation, I joined Jin in Cambodia and Laos. And after being gone for over a year, Jin finally returned.
Jin planned a two-day trip up the Lost Coast and as we were driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, the sun began to set and we pulled over to a quiet remote cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Jin walked up to me with the guise of taking a photo together. As I started to pose for the photo, Jin got down on one knee and to my complete surprise, he asked me to “spend the rest of our lives together.”
Jin proposed with his grandmother’s antique platinum wedding band. Engraved inside are the names of Jin’s grandparents, written in Korean. While he was traveling, Jin planned to visit his grandmother in Korea since it had been several years since he had last seen her. But while he was in Sudan, he learned his grandmother was not well, so he traveled 40 hours from Africa to Korea to be at her bedside where they finally saw each other. She passed away later that night having seen her first grandson one last time. So my wedding band is very, very special.
Jin and I wanted to have a relaxed, intimate and personal wedding, and I hoped to have it set among the Redwoods since it was Jin who introduced me to hikes in the Redwoods. I had envisioned a rustic and romantic wedding, highlighting the natural beauty of the Bay Area. When we saw the Brazilian Room, we just knew it was the perfect venue for us — an outdoor ceremony set among the Redwoods, and an indoor reception with dark wood beams adorning the vaulted ceiling inside. Our colors were soft so we could highlight the natural beauty. Jin and I are fans of nature, but we are also aesthetically drawn to simple and clean lines, so some of the geo elements carried throughout — in our invitations, programs, and copper terrariums used with the florals — were a simple, modern contrast to the organic and rustic look. Jin also has a green thumb, we especially love succulents, and we wanted our guests to take one home to grow and remember our day.
I naturally assumed I would choose a dress that would feel rustic and romantic–so I anticipated wearing lace. But when I first laid eyes on my dress hanging at BHLDN, I literally hugged it. It was not at all what I expected–champagne colored, beaded throughout with a train, and a bit glamorous–I thought it too formal for our wedding. But when I tried it on, after trying on several lace and tulle gowns, it just felt right and I adored it. My beaded gown is vintage and art deco, which unintentionally fit with our wedding’s decor. I decided to soften the look by foregoing a veil and instead having flowers put into my hair–which are actually called “Blushing Bride,” which I thought was lovely. I wore blush colored, vintage looking satin peeptoe heels to match the colors my bridemaids wore. Jin wore a custom gray suit and navy tie from Indochino with brown shoes.
In going with our intention of a relaxed wedding, we invited our wedding party to choose whatever they wanted to wear–the groomsmen wore gray suits and brown suits of their own choosing with matching navy ties, and the bridesmaids each chose dresses in nude to blush tones from Marchesa Notte, Aidan Mattox, Joanna August, Adrianna Papell, and Donna Morgan.
Flowers are something that I love, so I worked with our florist, Katharina Stuart, to pick flowers and greenery that were in season and that I already loved, and to ensure that they had an organic look to them. Katharina had all of the flowers I asked for and even more, both in my bouquet and throughout the decor–peonies and dahlias are my favorite, ranunculas, lisianthus, garden roses, Veronica, maidenhair fern, seeded eucalyptus, Queen Anne’s Lace. Katharina incorporated the “Blushing Bride” flowers into my bouquet and hair, and she added a little Dusty Miller into my bouquet to draw in the gray tones. She made the bridemaids’ bouquets identical to mine to draw in one line since their dresses were all different.
The groomsmen wore understated succulent boutonnieres to go along with our wedding favors, and Katharina incorporated large succulents in the floral decor inside the reception. All of the florals were stunning and breathtaking–truly far more beautiful than what I had envisioned.
Jin and I wanted to honor both of our parents, so he decided to walk his mother and father down the aisle and to their seats, and I had both of my parents walk me down the aisle. Jin is Korean and I am Chinese, and both of our beautiful mothers wore traditional gowns from our respective cultures.
I chose “Marry Me” by Train for my bridesmaids and my nephew and niece to walk down to. My 4-year-old nephew adorably pushed his 1-year-old sister in a wagon down the aisle, a highlight of the processional! I asked Jin to pick the song I would walk down to — and he lovingly chose the Haley Reinhart version of “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You.” We exited in jubilation to Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky.” We wrote our own vows to each other, and we kept the ceremony brief but very personal.
We kept the decor simple because we didn’t want to distract from or obstruct the panoramic view of the Redwoods, which is already dramatic and beautiful. We went with two gorgeous arrangements, mostly with dahlias and greenery, sitting atop wooden pillars at the altar. We kept the aisle decoration simple with beautiful arrangements in wooden boxes placed on the floor. To keep with the rustic look, we stained wooden crates dark to match the wood beams inside the Brazilian Room, and the crates were used throughout.
Our reception was inside the Brazilian Room. We loved the vaulted ceilings, dark wooden beams, and all of the windows which made the room feel warm and open. We had a daytime wedding and lunch reception, so the sunlight beaming in through the windows was beautiful. We went with picnic style tables in gray instead of round tables for a less formal, and more open and family-like feel. We had Katharina decorate the tables with garlands of seeded eucalyptus, she strewn in bud vases of different heights with several types of flowers along the tables, and geo terrariums held a large succulent or dahlia blossom. Katharina created a stunning floral art piece that framed our sweetheart’s table–she used a copper frame with a wooden branch that hung glass bulb terrariums with buds and succulents.
Our reception felt intimate and filled with love and celebration. My sister and matron-of-honor, Christina, began the toasts and speeches; followed by Jin’s two best men, Justin and Thien, who gave a hilarious and personal speech; and finally, my best guy friend, Justin, said a heartfelt and emotional speech. We concluded the reception with a heartfelt slideshow that my graphic designer childhood friend, Celia, created for us. The show included a video of Jin’s proposal, which surprised our guests and had me in tears.
Because we had a daytime wedding, we decided to host a happy hour / after party at Lake Chalet, so our guest could continue to celebrate and enjoy. Lake Chalet sits directly on Lake Merritt in Oakland, a favorite spot for Jin and me, and we wanted to showcase it for our guests. The love and laughter continued to overflow at the happy hour, and our celebration went well into the night.
Our advice is – Create adventures together, love vulnerably, laugh boisterously, and communicate openly. Always remember that in times of joy and in times of adversity, you’re on the same team.