Just 40 guests attended this couple's classic destination nuptials, which took place at a historic city landmark.
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In 2008, a world before dating apps and "swiping right" were part of the cultural lexicon, Johnny and Chris connected through one of the earliest online dating services—the kind that "you still had to be at a computer" to use, Johnny jokes today. A few weeks later, the Toronto-based duo was officially a couple. Eight years after they first matched, Chris, an interior designer, decided that a trip to Cuba would be the perfect time to pop the question to his boyfriend (who works in communications).
Chris thought a sunrise proposal on the beach would be perfect, so he convinced Johnny to take a 5 a.m. walk on the shoreline—though he says it was a bit tricky to convince his partner to wear an all-white outfit for the excursion without a clear explanation. "I'm sure he thought it was weird, but I had just proposed it as an 'Instagram photo shoot' and he was 100% on board," Chris says of his ploy.
The trip down to the sandy beach wasn't as romantic as Chris hoped; the couple was "eaten alive by sand mites and insects," Chris says, and "the idea of running back indoors seemed very tempting." They persevered, though, and quickly met their friend, Elton, who was in on the plan and secretly carrying the ring. "We had orchestrated key words and camera angles beforehand, because we are crazy like that," Chris says. After they found the perfect spot, Elton slyly passed along the ring box and Chris got down on one knee. "Johnny being Johnny, he didn't say yes at first, though. He answered my proposal with another question," Chris reveals. "He looked at me with the biggest grin and tears in his eyes and asked, 'What credit card did you use?!' I looked back at him and screamed, 'Just say yes!'"
Two-and-a-half years later, Johnny and Chris tied the knot in a destination wedding at the historic San Francisco City Hall. The stylish grooms welcomed 40 guests to their classic event, which Chris summarizes as a "perfect mix of tradition, high style, and a whole lot of love." Johnny says that it was the "happiest day of their lives" and that it was particularly memorable for their attendees: "It was many of our family and friends first gay wedding and both of us were so happy to be able to celebrate our gay wedding with them."
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When it came time to select a venue for the big day, the couple knew it had to be San Francisco City Hall. "I told my husband I wanted to get married in a city hall. He was like, 'Well if that's where we are getting married it's going to be in San Francisco City Hall—because it's absolutely stunning,'" Johnny says. "He was right—it was."
"I remember seeing the venue about three years ago scrolling through Facebook," Chris adds. "Being an interior designer, the [wedding] venue had to be elegant and out of this world. The architecture of San Francisco City Hall checked both boxes!"
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On the big day, the grooms opted to get ready together. Both Johnny and Chris looked sharp in black-and-white suits. Chris' ensemble was from The Kooples; he also sported a tie, tie bar, and pocket square from the brand and wore Gucci shoes. Johnny looked dapper in a black cigarette pantsuit by Ralph Lauren. He sported a Gucci belt and Tom Ford kicks.
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The couple's four groomswomen looked beautiful in white dresses, each custom-designed by Christopher Paunil. Flora Flora Events created the women's bouquets, in addition to the rest of the event's flower décor. She used a dazzling array of blossoms, including white peonies, white roses, white ranunculus, and lush green foliage, throughout the wedding day.
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Men in Black
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The non-religious morning ceremony was officiated by a City Hall official. Johnny and Chris chose to not write their own vows, since they knew it would "make them sob." Harpist Krista Strader played the music for the sweet service; the couple walked down the aisle together, hand-in-hand. After Johnny and Chris officially said "I do," the newlyweds exited the small gathering to a rendition of "Ordinary People" by John Legend.
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The newlyweds were jubilant as they walked down the steps of City Hall to the applause of their family and friends.
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Time for Portraits
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The Dinner Menu
As for the celebration's vibe? Design-pro Chris wanted a timeless, classic ambience. "We didn't force any color story or theme, but wanted to let the architecture and our love story do all the talking," he says of the party's overall aesthetic and tabletop décor, which involved simple white-and-green centerpieces, tall taper candles, and gold dinnerware. "We wanted it to be something that our guests would never forget—and truly represent both my and my husband's style and taste," Johnny says, adding that he loved their "classic, editorial" joint vision.
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The Minted menu was printed on white card stock and featured a statement gold brush stroke and sans serif font.
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The First Dance
For their first dance as a married couple, the newlyweds swayed to "Remedy" by Adele—a song that Chris describes as particularly sentimental. "We actually heard it two years prior on a lazy weekend morning. We both looked at each other and realized how much the words resonated with us growing up as gay men and living, loving, and embracing our authentic selves," he says.
Music for the evening party was coordinated by DJ Snick at Night.
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A Meaningful Wedding Day
Married at last, Johnny and Chris are now planning their Greece honeymoon—but still enjoy reminiscing about their wedding day, especially since it marked a major milestone for them and their families. "40 of our closest friends and family took the time off and traveled down to San Francisco, California, from Toronto, Canada, to being able to watch us marry in the city that started the whole gay rights movement during the Harvey Milk days," Chris says. "I think the message was profound and full circle."
"It was so nice to have so many people celebrating a gay wedding—and having our love recognized by our families and the most dear friends in our lives," Johnny agrees.
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Photography, Barb Simkova for Tara McMullen Photography
Ceremony location, San Francisco City Hall
Reception location and catering, Wayfare Tavern
Flowers, Flora Flora Events
Videography, Wishtwice Productions
Cake, Cake Coquette
Harpist, Krista Strader
Music, DJ Snick at Night
Johnny's attire, Ralph Lauren suit; Gucci belt; Tom Ford Shoes
Chris' attire, The Kooples suit, tie, pocket square and tie bar; Gucci shoes
Wedding bands, Cartier
Hair, Sebastien Jandreux
Makeup, Danielle Walsh
Groomsmaids' dresses, Christopher Paunil
Groomsmens' suits, Zara
Favors, Moët & Chandon