While I've photographed multiple sessions at San Francisco City Hall that didn't have the actual wedding ceremony there, this particular one stood out to me. Rhianwen and Tres' story is beautiful and I'm so fortunate that they took the time to share these details with me. Plus, their photos are stunning and I am honored that they enjoyed them so much.
Let's start at the beginning with how they fell in love during the pandemic.
The Lockdown Brought Them Together
Rhianwen and Tres met in the East Bay at their church. Both of them are not from here originally - Rhianwen is from Pennsylvania and Tres is from Michigan. Since they were away from their families and hometowns, and lived in adjacent apartment buildings, it was an easy, organic friendship.
Since they lived so close to each other, they relied on each other for support during the lockdown in 2020. Rhianwen found herself calling him for help with random things. They also both enjoy hiking, which is fortunate as it's a safe outdoor activity. Along with a group of friends from church, they did 8+ mile hikes together on a regular basis. These long hikes led to hours of conversation and a love that really blossomed as fall started that year.
The Proposal and SF City Hall Wedding Plans
Fast forward to August 2022. While strolling through Filoli Gardens in Woodside, CA past a sundial that read "time began in a garden," Tres presented an upside-down ring box and a proposal. Rhianwen was taken aback by the abruptness of it, and now laughs fondly when looking back at the whole thing. She of course said yes, and their wedding planning began.
At the time of the proposal, Tres had unfortunately recently experienced the loss of several family members in a very short time period. These tragedies, coupled with the fact that he's an introvert, led to his desire for a very simple, small wedding with minimal planning and stress.
They briefly considered Filoli Gardens for a wedding, but then Rhianwen recalled an even better option. She had attended a work event at a gorgeous building that has simple weddings: San Francisco City Hall. Rhianwen and Tres had no idea how popular it is, but fortunately discovered its popularity when they did some online research. Maybe they even found our in-depth guide!
Their wedding date, October 27, was less than 90 days out, so they were able to book it on the city hall website. While they originally planned for dinner in the city, a big software conference on the same day made them shift their plan to Lake Chalet on Lake Merritt.
They had their photographer, hair, and makeup all arranged. But then, just a week before the wedding, their new church pastor extended an unexpected offer - to get married in the church. They were honored and decided to reshuffle their plans. Fortunately, all vendors (including me) were available at the new times. Even the invitations were sent out just four days before their Thursday wedding.
Then, the night before the wedding, a close friend ended up in the hospital and Rhianwen picked up their family members from the airport very late that night. She arrived back at their San Francisco hotel after midnight and was up until 1am, steaming her own wedding dress (with Tres' help!).
The Wedding Day
The previous night's events wore both of them out, but the excitement of the day ahead gave them the adrenaline they needed to enjoy every moment. After getting hair and makeup done at the hotel, I met Rhianwen and Tres at San Francisco City Hall for their wedding photo shoot. View the bottom of this post to see the whole gallery.
They really appreciated how intimate the session felt, and knew that it held a different tone than it would have had after a civil ceremony. Since they didn't have to worry about guests waiting for them, they didn't feel they had to cater to anyone else. The whole session was fun and romantic, with a solid sense of connection between the two of them. They also enjoyed seeing me at work in city hall - they pointed out my natural ability to negotiate for ideal space throughout the building, something they didn't see from any other photographers working that day.
Feeling more at peace after the session at city hall, Rhianwen and Tres left for the East Bay for their simple outdoor ceremony. They hired a second photographer for the ceremony, and were so grateful that they did as they captured multiple beloved family portraits.
At the end of the ceremony, Tres surprised Rhianwen with a heartfelt speech about starting a new life together, despite the losses he had faced. It was particularly important to him to speak about overcoming these tragedies, and joining together with the special few loved ones who dropped everything on a weekday afternoon to celebrate their love.
Following the ceremony, everyone enjoyed an excellent dinner at Lake Chalet. This Oakland restaurant is right on Lake Merritt and was a perfect end to a lovely, simple wedding day.
The Perfect End and a New Beginning
Rhianwen and Tres' wedding was not an extravagant affair, but the simplicity and love made it genuinely special. They flew off to Paris for their honeymoon a few days after the wedding, giving them some time to spend with their families.
Looking back, they couldn't help but marvel at how smoothly everything fell into place, without even a rehearsal. And I was privileged to capture a few of these moments for them.
As a wedding photographer, there's nothing more satisfying than when clients love the photos you've taken. But with Rhianwen and Tres, I was simply thrilled to have been a part of their love story - a story of resilience, simple joys, and profound love.
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