This Couple's San Francisco Wedding Paid Homage to the Past
Unlike most couples, Olivia Kanaley and Brett Inman don't remember when they met. That's because they had been friends and classmates before they began dating during their senior year of high school. "It feels so long ago now," remembers Olivia. "We've really grown up alongside each other and are the people we are today because of it."
After 12 years of dating, the couple was ready to tie the knot. Brett asked Olivia to pick out her engagement ring but was still determined to make the proposal a surprise. "Olivia has always loved [her parents'] home and the memories there. Since we'd been dating since high school, it was an important part of our relationship, too, and I wanted there to be one more memory there," he says. While Olivia's brother and sister-in-law kept her away from the house, Brett hung globe lights around the backyard and set up a camera to record the moment. When Olivia returned, she found him waiting for her on bended knee, ring in hand.
Although the engagement took place just after Christmas, the couple waited until April to begin the planning process. "I naively went into planning thinking mostly about the creative choices, but quickly came to realize it's just as much about logistics, organization, and communicating information," says Olivia, a photo stylist and designer at Minted. Thankfully, Brett, an engineering manager at a tech startup, is great at those types of tasks. "It was nice to be able to work together on something where we each brought different things to the table," she says.
The San Francisco-based couple wed close to home on March 24, 2018 at Old St. Hilary's across from the Golden Gate Bridge. "We chose a wedding date in late winter, early spring hoping the hillside would be green from winter rains," says Olivia. Following the ceremony, the newlyweds and their 40 guests celebrated in semi-formal fashion at China Cabin, the former first-class saloon of the PS China and a National Maritime Monument.
A Simple Save-the-Date
Olivia found an antique postcard online depicting the view of Tiburon and the bay from nearby Mount Tamalpais and used the illustration for the front of the save-the-date postcard. She designed the back with vintage letters in mind, as evidenced by the mixture san serif font and cursive.
"At my day job, I've been pretty steeped in wedding paper for the past several years," Olivia says, "so this was both an intimidating yet fun part of wedding planning." She combined a few of her favorite resources for a customized invite, foil-pressing a favorite Minted design onto handmade deckle-edge paper purchased separately from Idyll Paper. The bride printed an antique botanical illustration on vellum to use as the envelope liner, adding a soft wash of color to the pale gray and gold foil invitation suite. Ciarra Claire did the envelope calligraphy.
"I collected a combination of vintage and current stamps that tied into the color palette, and much more loosely, theme," explains Olivia. The mix included a seal for San Francisco's famous seal population, a ship for the nautical history of the reception venue, an assortment of paintings for Olivia's art history interest, and a Pony Express stamp for the couple's Californian background.
Going to the Chapel
Olivia was dazzled by photos of Old St. Hilary long before she was engaged. "A small white church perched on a grassy hill overlooking the water is the stuff of wedding dreams," she says. She and Brett loved the austerity of the historic church (it was built in 1888 as a church for railway workers) as well as the untamed land around it. "On a nice day, the view of San Francisco Bay up on that hill in Tiburon is amazing, and the weather that day was picture perfect," says Brett.
A Discontinued Dress
"Maybe it's the photo stylist in me," says Olivia, "but I have a weakness for certain fabrics, especially natural fibers like silk or cotton." When she couldn't find what she was looking for in a bridal shop, Olivia began searching online for wedding dresses from J. Crew's now-discontinued bridal line. There were two that had caught her eye a few years ago, and she found one of them, a (brand new!) cream-colored dupioni silk gown with a full skirt, on a clothing resale website. "I finally had 'the dress moment' people talk about when I saw everything pinned in place at the first fitting," she says.
When it came time to shop for a veil, Olivia had her heart set on a Spanish mantilla or Juliet cap veil: "Both styles really bring a historic quality to things." She chose a lace mantilla veil by La Belle and loved wearing it so much that she kept it on for the reception.
If the Shoe Fits
Olivia ordered vintage-style slingback heels in ivory silk to match her dress. She customized the heel shape and height so she could easily walk around the hillside by the church with Brett.
Inspired by the Past
Olivia's engagement ring is an Edwardian replica with a delicate, engraved band and an old European diamond. "Growing up, I always liked my mom's yellow gold engaged wedding ring, and this reminds me a bit of hers," she says. She paired it with an equally thin wedding band from Catbird. Brett chose a palladium band from Brilliant Earth for its simplicity and durability.
Quality Time Together
Initially on the fence about doing a first look, Olivia and Brett were both glad they were able to spend time together in private before the wedding officially began. "I think it made it easier to focus on the ceremony and enjoy it," says Brett.
A Nontraditional Bridal Party
While the couple decided to forgo the traditional bridal party, they included their parents, siblings, and Olivia's best friend in the processional. The women chose their own cocktail dresses from a range of complementary colors and carried matching leather clutches instead of bouquets down the aisle.
The bridal bouquet and floral arrangements created by Hello Flowers combined ivory and pale earthy tones with darker contrasting colors and included Olivia's favorite flowers: hellebores, pink jasmine vines, and sweet peas. "I spent an embarrassing amount of time searching for a ribbon to tie around my bouquet," admits Olivia. She unexpectedly found what she was looking for—three yards of antique French brocade ribbon in dusty blue—while she was shopping for place cards at Bell'occhio.
Officiated by Reverend Tim Mills, the ceremony was a mix of religious prayers and secular readings. Rather than traditional vows, Brett and Olivia were asked to write about a time early in their relationship. "I chose a particular day that I wasn't sure Brett would remember," says Olivia. "To my surprise, he wrote about the same memory."
A New Old Song
Olivia chose Boccherini's Passacalle, a classical piece written in the 18th century, for their recessional because of its relaxed, joyous melody. "Our musicians were really accommodating and encouraged requests outside of their repertoire, and I'm so glad they were able to arrange this for us," she says.
Portraits at Sunset
Despite feeling apprehensive about being in front of the camera, Olivia's favorite part of the day was the couple's portrait session after the ceremony. Having the hilltop around the church all to themselves felt "wonderfully surreal, windswept, and beautiful," she says.
A Dockside Celebration
Cocktail hour took place on the back deck of China Cabin, which offered a beautiful view of San Francisco across the water.
Another historic venue, China Cabin was once the social saloon of the PS China, a side-wheel steamer that sailed between San Francisco and the Far East in the late 1800s. When the ship was no longer fit to sail, the Victorian saloon was removed intact and barged on the Belvedere waterfront. "China Cabin is definitely an unexpected gem," says Olivia. "When you step inside, the gilded wall panels and ceiling kind of take you by surprise."
The crafty bride used a die-cutter and heat transfer vinyl to create a hanging signature cocktail menu on frayed-edge ivory linen. A printed menu with additional drink options sat on the bar.
Guests were treated to not one, but two signature cocktails: an old fashioned and a rhubarb mojito. Craft beer, brewed in San Deigo and San Francisco (the bride and groom's respective home towns), was also served as an homage to their roots.
An Intimate Arrangement
There was just enough room inside China Cabin for two long tables of 20 and a small dance floor.
Tables were covered in a soft blue-gray linens with ivory swiss-dot napkins. Gold flatware and glassware accents played off the gilded details inside the reception space. Olivia designed the dinner menu at each place setting, pairing a floral illustration from an 18th century botany book she found in the New York Public Library's online collection with a simple serif type.
The duo took their first married spin to "Teenage Sonata" by Sam Cook. "I love Sam Cooke songs, and this one fit the tempo and mood the best," explained the bride.
After their cake tasting at Branching Out Cakes, the bride and groom each had a different favorite flavor—so they decided to do both and offer their guests a choice. Brett's pick, the cutting cake, was a two-tiered almond confection with white chocolate mousse and vanilla buttercream. A vanilla cake with lemon curd and mascarpone was Olivia's preference.
Tea for Two
Olivia also created the small favor boxes, which were filled with the couple's favorite loose-leaf peach tea. The custom boxes were wrapped in canvas she printed with fine art landscape paintings from the public domain.
Floral Favor Display
Favors were displayed alongside an epic floral arrangement, complete with the wedding's go-to florals: roses and cherry blossoms.
Photography, Meghan Mehan
Location, Old St. Hilary's; China Cabin
Catering, Sage Catering
Flowers, Hello Flowers
Officiant, Tim Mills
Stationery, Idyll Paper; Minted; Bell'Occhio
Calligraphy, Ciarra Claire
Cake, Branching Out Cakes
Music, Avalanche Acoustic Duo
Rentals, La Tavola; Bright Event Rentals; Standard Party Rentals
Bride's gown, J.Crew
Bride's accessories, Shoes of Prey shoes; La Belle veil; BHLDN bolero jacket
Hair and makeup, Kelly Jo Makeup and Hair
Groom's suit, Knot Standard
Groom's accessories, Knot Standard shirt; Allen Edmonds shoes
Transportation, Hornblowers Classic Cable Cars
Day-of Coordinator, JL Events