In the Woods, On the Beach: 4 Gorgeous Outdoor Weddings to Remember
The Marin couples share how they met and planned their big event.
Dian Pan and Brian Goodman
SOMETIMES, YOU JUST know. Brian Goodman knew Dian Pan was “the one” by the end of the night they met, at an event at Rickhouse in San Francisco. It took a little longer for Dian. The second leg of her flight was canceled during a trip and she intended to overnight at the airport, but her future husband wasn’t having it. “Brian was concerned and booked me a hotel room nearby,” she recalls. He proposed at Per Se in New York City.
They had some notion of their ideal wedding, but another travel experience brought it into focus. “We spent two weeks hanging out on a couple of the islands in Hawaii and fell in love with Maui,” Dian says. After picking the date, Brian and Dian worked with coordinator Kendall Oreta at White Orchid Beach House to hammer out details. “She was the absolute best,” Dian says.
About 60 guests flew out from California and the East Coast for the spring celebration, where a mishap wound up being a standout moment: “the champagne tower fail,” Brian recalls. “Nothing like getting a face full of champagne,” Dian agrees. “But in all seriousness, everyone had a good laugh, except maybe our bartenders.” Other special moments: Dian walking down the aisle to the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” — Brian didn’t know about her choice in advance — and writing their vows. Anything they’d have changed? Only the perennial wedding regret: “We wish we’d had more time to visit each table and get photos with everyone,” Dian says. “I’d had some ideas of what I wanted,” she adds, “like a small intimate wedding by the beach … but honestly, on the day of, we had no expectations and just ended up having the best day.”
Staci Lewis and Stephen Bissinger
IT’S TRUE THAT love isn’t possible without taking a risk, but some are bigger risk takers than others. In a chance meeting at a New Year’s dance in San Francisco, sparks flew between Staci and Stephen, and they went on their first date several weeks later. The connection was undeniable from the start, and within four months they’d moved in together. When it came time to plan a wedding there were two big nonnegotiables — given Staci’s job as a marine scientist, a location overlooking the ocean was a must.
The other was the date: “We wanted it to be on the day we met, New Year’s Eve,” Staci says. The couple spent several weekends touring different locations along the California coast and realized community centers were great canvases for creating a reception atmosphere. “When we walked into the Stinson Beach Community Center, we loved the huge fireplace, open rafter ceiling, industrial kitchen and the outdoor space,” Staci recalls. “Once we found Dipsea Gardens as the ceremony site, we booked both places immediately — nearly 16 months in advance.”
While planning a wedding and New Year’s party is a bold move, Mary from the community center and Elly from the Dipsea Gardens readily accommodated their requests and “allowed us various site visits and let us set up and break down over three days.” Winter in the Bay Area posed another risk: unpredictable weather. “An outdoor ceremony and a beach sunset walk at the end of December meant our plans would likely get thwarted,” Staci notes. “But the weather was sunny and 65 degrees all day.”
Special touches were everywhere, from the veggies and eggs the couple pickled beforehand to the dress, custom made, by Tevya Tufford Fetter, with fabric, buttons and loops from the same wedding dress Staci’s maternal grandmother wore in 1947. The couple agree that the post-ceremony walk down to the beach at sunset as guests rang bells they had brought was a highlight. Friends and family from all over the country and as far away as Macedonia participated in the bell ringing and celebrated with the newlyweds well beyond the midnight balloon drop.
Margie Butler and Jose Vega
HERE ARE TWO kinds of people in the world — those who have their entire wed- ding mapped out before they can even drive and those who consider the ceremony inconsequential. When Margie and Jose were dating, the topic of marriage came up many times, yet they weren’t sure tying the knot was really in the cards. All that changed with a surprise at-home proposal, when Jose brandished a small red box: “Clearly it was burning a hole in his pocket,” Margie says.
Fortunately, a lot of the wedding elements were no-brainers. “I’m not the type of person who had a vision of my wedding day,” she says, “but as soon as we started discussing the actual day, it quickly became obvious to me that Perry’s in Larkspur was the most natural location.” Not only did the two meet while working at the restaurant’s S.F. Embarcadero location, but the restaurant’s namesake is the bride’s father, Perry Butler: “Perry’s is my family business, and the idea of being able to celebrate there almost felt like celebrating at home.” It also had the benefit of built-in planners — the restaurant management team, led by Markana Jordan and Laura Schuchman, coordinated the event and spent many hours transforming the space.
Given the family aspect, the details felt authentic to the couple and represented them well. Not being the most traditional pair, they went for more of a big cocktail party vibe, renting a taco truck called Al Pastor Papi — Jose loves al pastor — and a co-worker made the wedding cake. Perry’s chef David Lugo also offered a carving station with prime rib and whole salmon, which, unsurprisingly, did not disappoint. Guest feedback had a common theme: “Food at weddings is never good, but this is amazing!” Moments that made the day: seeing Margie in her dress for the first time was number one for Jose, and for Margie it was the first dances, being roasted by her sisters and her dad’s speech. “Perry’s speech was perfect — no surprise because he is an excellent speaker, but still,” Margie says.
Karen Chen and Ryan Montag
CERTAIN MOMENTS IN life are packed with meaning, flashes of insight that show what we and other people are made of. For Ryan, one of those came at the end of a race. “I was finishing a Giants 10K run and seeing Karen at the finish line supporting me was it. I told myself, ‘I’m going to marry her one day.’ ” During Christmas vacation, in one of their favorite spots, Travaasa Resort on Maui, he proposed.
Wedding planning started right away. They had a few places in mind, but previous experiences at Timber Cove made the resort a front runner. Besides cherishing its rugged coast setting and unique architecture, “we stayed here several times and thought the service was impeccable,” Karen says. “The staff is super friendly and the food is excellent. It quickly became one of my favorite places to get away.” There was a one-year wait list, but the couple lucked out and got in sooner with one of the last summer slots. Their instincts about the resort proved correct — all special requests were met, including serving Pliny the Elder IPA. “Harry [Bryan], the food and beverage director, and chef Ronald [Andrade] made the process so easy,” Karen says.
Ryan particularly liked Karen’s expression when she first saw the surprise pampas-grass wall. “We live along the coast where pampas are a common sight; it was such a beautiful backdrop,” Karen says. Other favorite elements — an intuitive DJ who was able to read the room, spending time with family and friends — helped make it an unforgettable weekend. Was it the wedding they wanted? “Without our knowing what we always wanted, it became exactly what we wanted,” Ryan says. “We were really fortunate to create lifelong memories at such a wonderful place.”
Kasia Pawlowska loves words. A native of Poland, Kasia moved to the States when she was seven. The San Francisco State University creative writing graduate went on to write for publications like the San Francisco Bay Guardian and KQED Arts among others prior to joining the Marin Magazine staff. Topics Kasia has covered include travel, trends, mushroom hunting, an award-winning series on social media addiction, and loads of other random things. When she’s not busy blogging or researching and writing articles, she’s either at home writing postcards and reading or going to shows. Recently, Kasia has been trying to branch out and diversify, ie: use different emojis. Her quest for the perfect chip is a never-ending endeavor.