A Modern San Francisco Wedding Packed with German Traditions
Melanie and Chris
Photographer Melanie Duerkopp encountered financial advisor Chris Johnson at a mutual friend's housewarming party in San Francisco. The first official date was just ten days later. And when they were planning their big day five years after that initial meeting, they knew they wanted to stay local and have a city wedding. The bride's favorite piece of architecture there happens to be San Francisco City Hall, and so the scene was set. The March 21, 2015, wedding kicked off in the stunning building, with an intimate celebration (just 64 guests) that celebrated love and wove in old-time German wedding traditions to honor where Melanie grew up. A soft color combination dubbed "Scandinavian Rustic Chic" was inspired by the ceremony venue, and a simple, modern aesthetic guided the décor.
After being proclaimed husband and wife, the happy couple and their loved ones celebrated with a toast, before hopping on cable cars to tour the duo's beloved city. The festivities continued, with a cocktail hour and dinner at Stable Café—a restaurant built in an old carriage space that was the one and only spot Melanie and Chris looked at for their reception. The gathering ended with a sawing of a log instead of a cake cutting. In German tradition, a long saw is used to cut a log in half, symbolizing the newlyweds' first task and triumph. Halfway through, Chris's handle broke, and he spontaneously, picked up the log, slammed it on the ground twice, and eventually broke it in half. It was a triumph indeed, and with their first undertaking as a couple complete, it was all about celebrating and looking toward the future.
The Dress & Suit
Melanie tried on quite a few dresses at a handful of stores, not knowing what she wanted at all. But then she tried on this silk-organza Theia dress with an embellished bodice and belt. She accessorized the airy gown with Margaret Elizabeth drop earrings.
The Bridal Bouquet
"I love Natalie's approach to flowers and how free her flowers feel," Melanie says of her floral designer, Natalie Bowen. "I knew I wanted to work with her before we ever got engaged!" The resulting bouquet fell right in to the "Scandinavian Rustic Chic" color scheme of cream, muted blush, pale lavender, soft blue, vine green, and accents of bolder gray. Natalie combined sweet peas, fringe tulips, parrot tulips, ranunculus, daffodils, clematis, lilacs, and checkerboard fritilaria.
Spring is in Bloom
Melanie confesses to having one bridezilla moment over the color of the chairs at City Hall. So she asked Natalie Bowen Designs to try to hide them as much as possible. The solution? Overlapping blossoming crab apple branches.
Chris entered the ceremony as Elliott Smith's "Say Yes" was played by Corelli Strings. Family and the wedding party followed to the sounds of "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles. Finally, Melanie headed down the aisle to Sam Smith's "Stay With Me." The bride and groom wed at the base of a grand staircase in the rotunda, with their friend officiating. They exchanged personalized vows during the unplugged ceremony. "We asked our guests to put away their devices at the ceremony," Melanie explains. "We wanted everyone to enjoy the day as we had planned and let the photographer capture the ceremony." Plus, with the bride's experience documenting weddings behind her own camera, she didn't want any phones or tablets ruining great photo ops.
A Group Photo with Everyone
"I wanted a photo that captured every single one of our guests that was there to celebrate with us," Melanie says of the group shot taken after the ceremony.
Following the ceremony, everyone enjoyed a 30-minute bubbly and bear toast at City Hall. Macarons were set out for a little sweet snack, along with napkins foil-stamped with the couple's hashtag.
Quite the Trio
Chris's nephews helped in keeping the party going—handing out snacks and ribbon wands as guests excited the ceremony location. A "Just Married" sign written in German was added to the back of the cable car guests would take to the reception.
All Around Town
Revelers boarded trolleys and enjoyed an hour-long drive through San Francisco before the cocktail hour and reception. A playlist curated by the couple and their DJ provided the soundtrack.
Popcorn for the Road
Bags of truffle popcorn were given to guests to nosh on as they ventured around the City by the Bay.
Changing It Up
"I kept going back and forth on wearing glasses versus contacts, because I wear glasses 99% of the time," Melanie says of her post-ceremony accessory add-on. "Looking back at the photos, I am glad I did both." She also added a soft pink sweater to her look (it can get chilly in San Francisco in March, after all) and a Perry Street necklace.
Long tables were set at Stable Café, and dressed with blue linen runners and soft gray linen napkins (a color combo chosen to play off the colors at City Hall). The pastel hues and fresh blooms created a warm atmosphere in the industrial space.
A sign outlining the various German elements of the day was on view during the cocktail hour.
An abundance of spring blooms, like tulips and lilacs and daffodils, were used in the centerpieces, and Natalie Bowen also incorporated poppies, sweet peas, jasmine, ranunculus, fritilaria, muscari, and spirea. "We wanted the arrangements to use a new combination of blooms so that it felt as if guests were walking through a lush garden," Natalie says. "Soft colors and sweet scents filled the air."
Sweet Place "Cards"
Inspired by the German tradition of Lebkuchen, iced cookies with each guests' names were set atop each place setting instead of traditional paper place cards. The traditional cookie, baked as a Christmas treat and often available at holiday markets and festivals, is somewhat like gingerbread, and usually cut into hearts and inscribed with icing.
A modern hochzeitssuppe (a.k.a. wedding soup) kicked off the meal, which continued with family-style service of salad, house-made pappardelle with sweet peas, mint, and slow-poached farm egg; red-wine braised short ribs with slow-roasted tomatoes, fava beans, spring peas, baby carrots, and Cipollini onions; creamy polenta; and seared local halibut with baby spring vegetables, sweet pea risotto, and tarragon beurre blanc. Jessica Lasky Catering customized the menu with the couple to be an updated California take on the traditional German fare.
"My favorite memory of the day was when we finally sat down and broke bread with our friends and family," Melanie says. "We soaked in the reception space, connected with our guests, and truly appreciated the love and support around us."
The First Dance
The newlyweds chose van Morrison's "Crazy Love" for their first dance song. Traditional German music (like polka) played during the cutting of the log celebration during the reception—an old Bavarian tradition in which the newlyweds cut a log in half to symbolize their first tough task to accomplish as a couple.
Another fun part of the celebration? For Chris, it was his best man's toast—or more aptly, his roast. "Not only did he get a few good cracks at my expense, but he really went after the other guests as well, and believe it or not, it actually went over well," Chris recalls.
Let Them Eat Strudel
The duo opted for a small apple strudel instead of a traditional wedding cake. Made by Pretty Please Bakery, it was set on a dessert table amidst macaroons and cookies.
Photography, Lacie Hansen Photography
Event Coordination, Kayla Vie Events
Catering and Bar, Jessica Lasky
Flowers, Natalie Bowen Designs
Stationery, Aerialist Press
Cake, macaroons, and cookies, Pretty Please Bakeshop
Bride's gown, Theia
Hair and Makeup, The Glamourist
Groom's suit, Couture European Designer Clothing
Lighting, Creative Lighting
Transportation, Classic Cable Car Charters
Alcohol, The Jug Shop
Wine, Ceàgo Wine