A Professional Wedding Planner's Heartfelt Nuptials in San Francisco
Amy Nichols knows a thing or two about weddings—she's been planning them for over a decade with her company Amy Nichols Special Events. In May 2014, Amy met Mark Richards (who works in tech), the man she would plan her own wedding with just a few years later.
Amy and Mark's relationship began as long-distance, after meeting on OKCupid. It only took six weeks for that to change, when Mark decided to move from Southern California to join Amy in San Francisco. The couple's storybook proposal began with Mark surprising Amy by taking her through a reenactment of their first date. After stopping at familiar bars and restaurants, the magical moment came. "I proposed in the spot where we first said, 'I love you' in the Marina district of San Francisco," Mark shares. It's no surprise, then, that the California pair decided to say "I do" on July 22, 2017, at the historic, idyllic Cavallo Point resort, just outside the city where their love story began.
The couple's refined, personal wedding was attended by 83 guests, including Mark's sons. The celebration included "things that resonated with us and embodied classic California style," Amy says. "We wrote our own vows which were very meaningful to both of us," Mark shares. "We got married literally in view of the city where we fell in love, with the Golden Gate Bridge before us."
A Sapphire Engagement
Mark proposed to Amy with a vintage sapphire and diamond ring. "Since blue is her favorite color, choosing a sapphire was an easy decision for us," the groom says. "It is pretty similar in style to Princess Diana's engagement ring (or so Amy tells me)," he adds.
The Stationery Suite
With a seven-month engagement, Amy and Mark knew they had to work quickly to ensure their summer wedding would be marked on the calendars of their nearest and dearest. Union Street Papery helped get save-the-dates and invitations ordered promptly. The classic letterpress suite, designed by Bella Figura in shades of ecru and pale lavender, was customized with gold matte foil. Invitations were delivered in an envelope with delicate gold calligraphy and vintage stamps, depicting images and motifs important to the couple.
Welcome to Sausalito!
"If I know anything as a wedding planner, it's that guests always are excited to receive a bag full of snacks after a long day of traveling," the bride says. So, that's exactly what out-of-towners got. Caramel corn, apricots, chocolate, chips, seltzer, and almonds filled the totes, which themselves were also a treat thanks to a simple, functional design and gray tags from Union Street Papery.
The couple chose to print the location of the wedding, rather than their own names or wedding date, "knowing that guests would likely use them again if they didn't seem too wedding-y," Amy says.
A Nostalgic Venue
On one of their early dates, Mark offered to help Amy while she worked a clients' wedding at Cavallo Point, a historic, lodge-style resort with stunning views of the San Francisco Bay. That very weekend, the groom decided to move from Southern California to San Francisco, so the couple no longer had to date long-distance.
"Since that first time we went to Cavallo Point, we've spent more time there—loving the relaxing vibe and peaceful views," Mark says. "The architecture and design of the hotel is something we've both always loved about the spot."
Amy was at Kleinfeld Bridal in New York City during a Tony Ward trunk show when she found the gown for her special day. She tried on the dress, which had an illusion neckline and intricate details in the lace. The designer himself declared it a good fit, and by that evening Amy decided this gown was "the one."
"The detail that I loved the most was the lace that went from floral on the body of the dress, to geometric shapes on the hemline," Amy says. Lynne Gallagher, of Wee Scotty in San Francisco, did alterations for the bride and incorporated extra geometric lace from the dress for the veil.
Shoes for Summer
Amy wore the white "Clarita" sandals, a harmony of fashion and functionality by Alexandre Birman. The strap at the toes had accents of blue (the bride's favorite color) while a tie at the ankle added a chic touch. The block heels, both stylish and practical, fared well during the ceremony on grass.
A Beautiful Bouquet
The bride enlisted industry colleague Natalie Bowen of Natalie B Designs to create what she describes as a "timeless, classic, and romantic" arrangement for her bouquet and the other wedding flowers. These were an important element of the entire day—Amy chose the color palette for the wedding based on which flowers would be in season. Mark's favorite color (purple) was also a factor in choosing light pink to light lavender as the base color for the arrangements.
With Natalie being a friend (and one of Amy's former brides), she trusted the floral designer to surprise her with the final product. Amy was thrilled with the soft, pastel-colored dahlias, clematis, garden roses, and peonies that were used. The bride's aunt, whose married name also begins with an "R", gave Amy a small gold "R" charm from her grandmother. Amy tied the charm to her bouquet, and it became her "something borrowed."
The Groom and His Boys
Mark sported a gray suit, rose boutonnière, and Allen Edmonds shoes. He and his sons, Matt and Jack, all wore light blue ties. "I chose gray Converse for all of the boys to wear," Amy says of Matt, Jack, and the ring bearers. "All of the boys are growing like weeds, so it seemed silly to have them buy suits and formal dress shoes that they'd grow out of in a month!"
The Bridal Party
Across the Golden Gate
Guests drove over the iconic Golden Gate bridge to Cavallo Point in typical San Francisco fashion—through fog. Just before the ceremony began at 4:30 p.m., the fog lifted, revealing a clear view of the bay and beautiful, blue skies.
The short, intimate ceremony took place on Mission Blue lawn at Cavallo Point, nestled between trees and overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Natalie Bowen designed special floral arrangements to be placed behind guests' white chairs.
Amy and Mark wrote letters to one another, which they read aloud before sharing the vows they had also written. "I am not always super emotional, but I found myself crying anytime I thought about our ceremony and our vows," the bride says.
A particularly memorable part of the day for Amy was watching how happy her dad was. He walked her down the aisle, as Starlite Strings played U2's "All I Want is You." The bride says it was the perfect choice, as she has loved the song since its release in 1988, and Mark was a huge U2 fan in high school.
The musicians played again at the ceremony's conclusion—this time it was "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles.
Adorable Flower Girls
People say Madeline, Amy's eleven-year-old niece, is her "spitting image." Madeline, one of eight kids at the wedding, helped pass out programs and keep the younger ones entertained.
The Escort Cards
Escort cards featured calligraphy by Union Street Papery's in-house calligrapher and small wax seals with an "R" for their new shared last initial. The difference in color indicated meal choices.
For the reception, guests gathered in the Verbena room, one of the historic main buildings at Cavallo Point. The couple opted for a mix of table shapes, and with such a small wedding party, were joined by their parents, siblings, and a few close friends at the rectangular head table. Smaller, round tables were also set up in the T-shaped room with a mantle dressed up with fresh blooms.
Gold chairs with black cushions lined the long head table, which was covered with soft gray La Tavola Fine Linen tablecloth. "I really wanted our flowers to be the highlight of the table, so I aimed for very complementary looks with interesting neutrals for the linens, chargers, and tabletop," the bride says.
"The look and feel of the dining room was very important to me as a wedding planner," Amy says. She and Mark aimed for a refined look, combined with details meaningful to them such as boysenberry accents in the centerpieces, as a tribute to Mark's favorite color. Simple, chic glasses shared the tables with neutral chargers and glassybaby votive holders.
The menu was wrapped in a mauve ribbon and outlined the meal, which started with a summer fruit salad with (local favorite) Humboldt Fog cheese. "I love creating a special touch when guests sit down," Amy says. "So, having a menu wrapped in hand-dyed silk ribbon I thought was a nice choice."
Cake Coquette created a trio of cakes, drawing inspiration from the lace on Amy's dress with white icing in delicate patterns. Inside, the confections were red velvet, vanilla with fresh strawberries and raspberry jam, and chocolate with coconut and ganache filling. The sweet treats were presented on a light-pink leather laser-cut tablecloth from La Tavola Fine Linen.
Dancing took place in a former chapel on the grounds. Mark twirled Amy as Cat Power's version of "Sea of Love" played during their first dance.
"The day after the wedding, my face hurt from smiling so much," the bride says. "I was literally that happy." Mark adds, "That was my most favorite day."
The newlyweds kept everyone smiling into the next day with help from another frequent wedding collaborator, Paula LeDuc Fine Catering. Since the bride and groom weren't hosting a formal brunch, guests were treated to "breakfast in bed," delivered in gray gable boxes. Each was filled with pastries from the caterer and a few final personal touches from Amy, including tangerines from her family's farm in Southern California, and homemade jam from her mother. A sweet end to a special celebration!
Photography, Carrie Patterson
Location and Catering, Cavallo Point
Event planning and event design, Amy Nichols Special Events
Flowers, Natalie Bowen Designs
Videography, Well Spun Weddings
Officiant, Weddings Just Your Way
Stationery, Bella Figura
Calligraphy, Union Street Papery
Cake, Cake Coquette
Bride's shoes, Alexandre Birman
Hair and makeup, Sherrie Long
Flower girl dresses, Pippa & Julie
Groom's shoes, Allen Edmonds
Lighting and lounge furniture, Alicia K Designs
Alterations, Wee Scotty
Day-of styling, Joy Proctor for Amy Nichols Special Events
Favors, Paula LeDuc Fine Catering
Wax seals, WaxSeals.com