It was a little classic, a little romantic, and even a little weird, with paper planes, dessert galore, and balloons making it a totally personalized event.
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Natalie Johnson had never heard of the group Passion Pit when her uncle suggested she go to one of their concerts with his business partner, Louis A. Harrison. Her uncle set it up as a potential platonic relationship—saying that they needed more friends. "Ironic, because Louis has too many and I didn't want that many," Natalie says. But they hit it off instantly. She ended up stalking him at his office the next day to hang out. And their friendship blossomed into something more.
A couple years into their relationship, Natalie was meeting Louis for dinner at their old stomping grounds at Mint Plaza in downtown San Francisco. They had recently moved to a different neighborhood, but the plaza was still a special spot for them. "It was where we started our lives together," Natalie explains. "Our first kiss, our 'I love you's,' our home, and some great memories."
She arrived late, hungry, and impatient, while he was calm and smiling kindly. He wanted to walk around and try to sneak up to their old apartment, but the gate code had been changed (rightfully so). Instead, the duo just stayed put and looked at their old home and reflected on things. As Natalie was wandering and wondering, Louis bent down on one knee and popped the question. When she said "Yes!" they called their parents and celebrated with dinner down the street.
Sixteen months later, on October 14, 2017, they tied the knot in front of 161 loved ones just a few hundred feet away from the proposal spot, at The San Francisco Mint. The venue had everything they wanted: The entire wedding could take place there, the multiple rooms had their own vibes, and they were able to infuse the event with elements of their personalities—a little classic, a little romantic, and a little weird. Inspired by the orange chairs in the plaza they hold so dear, they incorporated some pops of color that also fit their autumnal wedding date. Another tie in? The newlyweds walked up the aisle to a song by Passion Pit, whose concert they met at. Talk about full circle.
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The Gingers designed the invitations, which were letterpressed with black ink and foil-stamped in gold. The modern sans serif font kept things simple and classy. Response cards were folded into paper planes as a nod to the couple's love story. While dating, Louis would write letters to Natalie and mail them, but since mailboxes are often filled with bills, invoices, and the like, Natalie didn't like checking hers. He persisted without response until he finally decided to send one in the form of a paper plane.
Natalie finally checked to see what the post office might have delivered and found a handful of letters, the last of which felt a bit bulkier in its envelope. As she tore it open, she saw the folded aircraft. "It was within that moment that I felt that I may have found my person," Natalie says. "So naturally I ran straight to the store, bought some red lipstick, and when I felt like I mastered the smooch, I strategically placed my stained lips on the paper plane and kissed it with purpose. Pleased with my results and tickled with butterflies, I tucked it into my bag and headed to Louis's apartment, as we had dinner plans that evening." While he was distracted at the grill, she slipped the letter into his nightstand. He found it two days later. Love was in the air.
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"I loved our first look," Natalie says. "I felt like I have lived my entire life with Louis and there was this buildup of not being by his side all day. I was so happy I got to see him before the ceremony. He keeps me calm, lights me up, and makes me whole."
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After a few outings with her best gals, Natalie booked a flight down to Los Angeles to check out a Lihi Hod trunk show at LOHO bride. Natalie, who prefers to shop solo, had an idea of what she'd want to wear for the big day. She invited her aunt along at the last minute to join her. The two visited the boutique and picked out a beaded bodice by Lihi Hod with a scalloped neckline and tulle bows at the straps, plus a Houghton skirt. Afterward, the duo did a workout class, walked Abbot Kinney, ate their hearts out over brunch, and jumped on a plane back to San Francisco that afternoon. Instead of a veil, Natalie opted for a cape. Her tailor altered one from BHLDN to fasten to the bows on the straps. And she finished off her undone updo with a delicate headpiece by Twigs and Honey.
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The Bridal Bouquet
Lambert Floral Studio added pops of orange to Natalie's bouquet with vibrant marigolds in a color inspired by the chairs in the plaza where they got engaged. Roses, scabiosa, and foliage rounded it out.
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By Your Side
Natalie didn't want bridesmaids, she wanted "ladies in waiting" so that her best girlfriends could get ready with her on the big day, sipping Champagne together. But to keep everyone coordinating, they wore the same dress from BHLDN and accessorized to make it their own—from adding a bedazzled cape to a gold belt to velvet shoes and glam earrings. "Each exemplified their individual style, which is exactly what I wanted," Natalie says.
The month prior to the wedding, Natalie and her gals went on a bachelorette road trip dubbed "Nat's Journey of Love" where they took a 1960s VW van down the California coast to the Madonna Inn, Ojai Valley Inn, and Santa Barbara Autocamp.
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All Together Now
To maximize their time at cocktail hour, the couple took most of their photos, including family portraits, before the ceremony.
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The very man that introduced the couple—Natalie's uncle and Louis's business partner—officiated their ceremony, which incorporated advice for a happy marriage from many of the bride's and groom's family members.
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Happily Ever After
The bride and groom (who wore a classic, shawl-collar tuxedo for the big day) paused at the top of the aisle for another kiss.
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Set up in the old vault was Fêtefone, which captured audio messages from loved ones instead of a traditional guest book. Planner Calvin Michael West had met a bride who used FêteFone and suggested it to Natalie and Louis. "That couple had a blast listening to the messages the next day with the guests getting progressively harder and harder to understand (#drunkvoice). We thought this would be a great fit for Natalie and Louis given his aversion to clutter, her desire for something sentimental from the guests, and our drive to always find an alternative to the traditional guest book." Natalie and Louis recorded the prompt that guests would hear when they picked up the phone.
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Foil-stamped cocktail napkins served double duty, acting as a map to show guests where the various parts of the celebration were taking place. The "mapkins" led guests to the photo booth, the bar, and the dessert room, just to name a few areas labeled.
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"We did not want guests to wait a long time for a drink and we knew we wanted oysters," Natalie says of the cocktail hour setup, which included a martini bar. A signature drink called Bourbon for Breakfast (it was made with maple syrup and had a piece of bacon to stir with) was a fun nod to the meal being served next. Other hits? The passed appetizers: deviled eggs, French toast bites with rum-maple syrup, foie gras on stroopwafels with black pepper stone fruit jam, and avocado toast topped with pine nuts, carrots, yogurt, sprouts, and sukkah spice.
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Long tables were set for dinner in the courtyard, complete with views of the night sky above. Colorful pashminas were rolled and placed on the clear chairs so that guests would stay warm—though the weather ended up being nearly perfect without wind or a chill in the air.
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Butterfly-print napkins were an homage to Louis's late stepfather and could be seen through the glass chargers at each seat. Gold-accented plates provided a classic element to the tables. Guests found their seats courtesy of calligraphed small paper airplanes which also unfolded to reveal a handwritten note from the bride or groom.
In addition to a communal pastry and bread basket with whipped butter and jam, a savory parfait was placed on each plate to start the meal.
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What's for Dinner?
The couple wanted to serve a meal that was different and memorable, so they opted for an upscale breakfast for dinner. The crowd chose between cauliflower steak with polenta or eggs benedict. Sides of veggie hash and candied bacon were served family style, and everyone enjoyed mini donuts with a trio of dips (jam, chocolate sauce, and crème anglaise) at the conclusion of the meal. The menus let guests know that dancing, coffee, and more desserts would follow.
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A Surprise Toast
As dinner finished up and after the planned speeches came to an end, five of the bride's nieces, nephews, and cousins asked the wedding planners if they could speak. "This was my heart moment," Natalie says of the surprise. "They gave us a delightful and funny speech about how they observe us."
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Several neon signs were hung throughout the venue to help guide guests from room to room.
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As everyone entered the room for dancing, "Like Me Better" by Lauv played. "It was more us, but I had in my head that we needed a slow song," Natalie says of their first dance to Van Morrison's "Crazy Love." "This was my one regret of the night. We should have officially danced to this song."
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Balloons for Days
One of the rooms guests passed through to get to the dessert bar needed a bit of sprucing up, so Balloon Specialties filled it with colorful inflatables that made it a destination instead of just an empty room.
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Ready for Their Close-Up
The balloons served a second purpose, too—as the backdrop for the mirmir photo booth. "We wanted to capture the night and had seen this company at a party we went to," Natalie says of the photo booth. "We all looked amazing in the photos. They were one of the first vendors we booked." Adds Louis, "Who wouldn't want to look like movie stars in every photo?"
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Sweets are Natalie's weakness. To go with the breakfast theme, a display of treats in the style of a Parisian bakery (and candy shop) offered up tons of options.
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Each of the various desserts also showed the couple's appreciation of their loved ones. They asked friends and family what candies and sweets they loved to eat and shared the reasons on the labels.
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Louis always needs to have coffee with his dessert and his wedding day was no exception. Hedge Coffee's cart served made-to-order espresso drinks. And since Natalie is a crêpe fanatic, a station serving the French pancakes was also on hand.
The paper plane theme continued thanks to some decals on the front of the cart.
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Photography, Birds of a Feather Photography
Location, The San Francisco Mint
Event planning and design and Stationery, The Gingers
Flowers, Lambert Floral Studio
Candy and desserts, Miette
Coffee Cart, Hedge Coffee
Crepe station, Crêpe Queen
Hair, Di Pietro Todd
Makeup, Camille Monique Beauty of Skyla Arts
Bridesmaids' dresses, Bhldn
Lighting, Gatsby Entertainment
Transportation, Cabrio Pedicabs
Chuppah, Chuppah Studio
Balloons, Balloon Specialities
Photo booth, mirmir
Audio guest book, FêteFone