4 Romantic Northern California Weddings

From first dates to vows to dancing the night away: four couples share the details.

Christine Wilson + Neil Caynan



MIDDLE SCHOOL ISN’T often an incubator for lasting romance, but for Marin natives Christine and Neil, attending neighboring campuses laid the groundwork. “I can’t remember the exact moment” they first met, says Christine, “but know it was at St. Isabella School through some friends I played CYO basketball with.” Neil confirms the memory. “I went to the local private school, St. Isabella, and she the local public school, Miller Creek,” he adds. “After years at Terra Linda High School (her) and Marin Catholic (me), we met again as adults and realized we shared many of the same childhood memories. Our courtship was so comfortable and happened so fast because of that.” Neil knew he wanted to pop the question outdoors, so a hike on Mount Tam doubled as a proposal opening. And they decided to seal the deal with not one but two weddings. “Neil had always dreamed of a church ceremony and I had always dreamed of an outdoor ceremony,” says Christine. “We wanted to make each other’s dreams come true.” First came an intimate affair in Sausalito, where they took their vows in a church with only immediate family attending. A few days later, an onslaught of loved ones went to Fairview Napa for a second, much bigger bash. Both bride and groom say standing at the altar was the best part of each event, but the party in Napa came a close second. “The ladies in my bridal party were all TL alums and Neil’s groomsmen were all from MC, so we planned out a basketball-themed entrance for the reception, TL vs. MC,” Christine recalls. “Everyone was decked out in Nike shoes, we played vintage Chicago Bulls intro music — it was perfect. Very us.”

VENUE Fairview Napa, Napa
PHOTOGRAPHY Kendal Marie Photography
FLORAL Garaventa’s Florist
HAIR AND MAKEUP Marisa Perel Makeup and Hair
MUSIC Perfect Day Events



Adrienne Coenen + Ben Balesteri



SOMETIMES A DINNER out with friends can be a route to romance — particularly when the chef himself is inadvertently on the menu. An evening at Poggio with her investment firm co-workers was a normal occurrence for Adrienne, but encountering Ben, the executive chef, was serendipitous. “We met outside of Poggio, as I was leaving,” Ben says. “She saw my car (a 1970 Pontiac GTO classic bullet, silver) and was on foot, so I offered her and a friend a ride.” Several months later, when Ben spotted Adrienne at the restaurant, he made sure their next encounter was more than a drive, by asking her out. “I fell fast and hard,” Adrienne says of their first date. “He took me to La Folie, and we had popcorn and champagne (two of my favorite things). It’s like they say — when you know, you know.” Two years later, an anniversary bike ride led to the Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, where Ben proposed. And Adrienne knew just where she wanted to tie the knot. “When I was growing up, my parents used to take me to Empire Mine any time a relative would visit. Getting married there had been my dream since I was little. It’s just stunning.” But it’s also extremely popular, so she made it a point to call right after the proposal and chose an auspicious date from the three available: Friday the 13th. The day unfolded without a hitch: the ceremony began with Adrienne’s stepfather and her brother — an Air Force pilot who eight years ago suffered a helicopter accident in Afghanistan — walking her down the aisle in the stead of her late father. “We did not think he would make it, let alone walk again,” she says of her brother. “So to have him walk me down the aisle was a pretty special moment.” For both Ben and Adrienne, the mid-ceremony butterfly release was particularly memorable. And because love tends to be a full-circle affair, another highlight came in the form of a classic car: “I got to drive her uncle’s beautiful vintage Porsche,” Ben says of the couple’s stylish ride to the reception.

VENUE Empire Mine State Historic Park, Grass Valley
EVENT PLANNING Donna Nice Hoekstr, Joy of Life Events
FLORAL Rachel Eakins, Art in Bloom Flowers
HAIR Shay Mandeville, Magnolia Avenue Salon
MAKEUP Kori DeJean, Kolor by Kori
MUSIC DJ Rick Jenkins, Vision Entertainment and Events
REHEARSAL DINNER VENUE Stonehouse, Nevada City



Caitlin Johnson + Jason Fuesrt



CALL IT PUPPY love. Sparks flew when Caitlin and Jason met at UC Davis’ School of Veterinary Medicine, resulting in a long-term relationship strong enough to survive schooling, multiple internships and moves. But when the couple both snagged spots in a residency in Columbus, Ohio, and bought a home together, it was time to take things to the next level. “I was brainstorming silly ways to propose, but he beat me to it,” Caitlin says. On a trip home to Marin, he got down on one knee on the bow of a Richardson Bay–bound sailboat, a surprise replete with a cameo by Caitlin’s sister and a subsequent dinner at Jardinière. Then came a two-and-a-half-year engagement — plenty of time to plan a dream wedding in Marin, even from a distance. The Marin Art and Garden Center offered a mix of outdoor and accessible, with special touches from the couple’s loved ones. “From the seating escort piece to the plant favors and display piece, the signs, the lighting — all of it was a family effort,” says Caitlin. “That’s all stuff that goes on behind the scenes, and people don’t necessarily think about it, but nearly everything was made and arranged by loving family members. And that says a lot about us and our family.” For Jason, though, it began and ended with Caitlin. “I loved the ceremony,” he says. “I got to stare into her eyes while everyone celebrated our love, and I was the happiest I have ever felt knowing that I was actually, officially marrying the most incredible woman in my life.” The euphoria continued at the after-party, at a local bar. “It wasn’t exactly the cleanest venue, but there was my beautiful new wife traipsing around in her pristine wedding dress, having a blast and not caring about keeping everything perfect,” he says.

VENUE Marin Art and Garden Center
PHOTOGRAPHY George Street Photo and Video
FLORAL Vanda Floral Designs
DRESS Madison James
HAIR AND MAKEUP Bloom and Blush
MUSIC San Francisco Amethyst Trio, Bluedge Productions
CATERING Carrie Dove Catering 



Reny Preussker + Paul Huelskamp



AS A PROFESSIONAL photographer, Reny Preussker is expert at worthwhile captures. But while she was photographing a friend’s wedding, it was Paul who spotted her. “She was trying her best to blend into the background, and she was certainly not trying to solicit advances from the guests in attendance,” says Paul. “But on this particular night, she failed miserably at going unnoticed.” A post-event Facebook message (to Reny, from Paul) resulted in a first date. “We agreed on Monk’s Kettle, and as I nervously walked in, I found him sitting center at the bar with a big smile on his face,” Reny says. “I wish I had my camera then.” Though the couple resides in Pacific Heights, a very Marin proposal — think Bolinas Ridge on Christmas morning, after a lengthy hike — led to a wedding that was something of an ode to Mill Valley, Reny’s hometown. “I wrote a college thesis on the Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre at UC Berkeley and thought it could be the perfect location for a unique, memorable and surprisingly intimate ceremony,” says Reny, who, to be sure, also had the would-be fantastical photographs in mind. “I had my doubts,” says Paul of the venue. But the first time they hiked down the path together, he knew “that if we were lucky enough for decent weather, it would be nothing short of magical.” Because they wanted to have the reception at Mill Valley’s Outdoor Art Club, dates were limited, which meant the wedding fell on a Friday, allowing visiting guests ample time to take in the town, an undertaking aided by a rehearsal dinner at the since-closed El Paseo. “The candlelit ambience was spectacular, and the outdoor patio was the perfect way to introduce the guests to Mill Valley’s charm,” Reny says. After the peak-side ceremony, the newlyweds wound down the mountain in the back of a 1947 Packard convertible limousine, and when they arrived at the reception, Reny took to the stage to sing Shania Twain’s “From This Moment On” — one of Paul’s favorite moments of the night. “Reny caught my attention the first day I met her, and she has held it ever since.”

VENUES Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre; the Outdoor Art Club, outdoorartclub.org
PHOTOGRAPHY Alyssa Hagan, Feather and North, featherandnorth.com
VIDEOGRAPHY Tim Williams, timwphotovideo.com
FLORAL Annabella Eriksson, Mill Valley Flowers, millvalleyflowers.com
DRESS Anomalie, dressanomalie.com
BRIDESMAID DRESSES Adrianna Papell, adriannapapell.com; Monique Lhuillier, moniquelhuillier.com
HAIR AND MAKEUP Milvali Salon, milvali.com
MUSIC The Lucky Devils, luckydevilsband.com
INVITATIONS Paperless Post, paperlesspost.com


This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine's print edition with the headline: "Wedding Bliss".


Categories: Feature Story, People, People+Places, Weddings