This wedding seemingly has all the hallmarks of a traditional wedding – married at a church, reception with yummy food, father/daughter and mother/son dance, cutting the cake, the works. But almost every step of this Oakland wedding had a special twist to it.

Proposal in Reno

We always like to start at the beginning, so here is Susan and Vincent’s fairytale proposal story, as told by Vincent:

“After dating for about two years, we realized we were an excellent match. It was time to plan a surprise proposal! Since our friends were planning to go to the Lantern Fest near Reno, Nevada I realized this was the perfect opportunity to propose. It was challenging, but I had plenty of help from our friends in keeping the proposal a total surprise. On the evening of the Lantern Fest, I waited until the thousands of lanterns  launched into the sky creating a sight of wonder and awe. I had intentionally waited to launch our lantern later so that all our friends would just happen to gather to see ours go up into the sky. I had designated one of our friends to video record this as well.

“When Susan and I launched our lantern, I was looking at her watching our lantern floating upwards and knew this was the time. I told her a few heartfelt words, “Remember how I said that I’m not letting go of you? It’s true! You are my hope, my light, and laughter. And I am yours truly and always. I promise to love, honor, and respect you. And I trust my heart and future with you. I love you. Susan, will you marry me?” Overjoyed with happiness and a smile on her face, Susan said, “Yes, of course!” We got married two years later.”

Proposed to while launching a lantern into the sky alongside thousands of others and your closest friends?? That is absolutely amazing!! Well, done, Vincent!

Mills College Chapel

We photographed this gorgeous wedding in Oakland just two years after that epic proposal. Susan and Vincent are so in love and so happy together, it was obvious throughout the whole day.

Now back to our promise for twists at the beginning of this post. At first glance, the ceremony seems like a traditional church wedding, but it wasn’t.

Mills College, a notoriously liberal college, has a nondenominational chapel available to its students. It is regarded as a sanctuary, a place to meditate and reflect. The chapel’s director is on hand to guide those seeking assistance in their spirituality. There’s even an outdoor labyrinth for walking and restoring mental balance.

And, of course, this peaceful place is available for weddings. When Susan and Vincent first visited, they knew it would be perfect. It was close to their family and friends in the East Bay and within their budget. They loved the warm cedar and natural light that gives the entire building a peaceful and airy feel.

The chapel at Mills College has its seating arranged in a semi-circle around a central raised altar. This feels so much more intimate than a traditional chapel with the typical lines of seats facing the backs or sides of the couple. We loved experiencing this difference!

Corelli Strings at Mills College wedding
Corelli Strings playing during the ceremony

Before the ceremony, we did our always-recommended first look and then it was time for the ceremony. Often the couple and the wedding party opt for the majority of their photos before the ceremony, but in this case, we took the pictures after the ceremony and before the reception. You’ll see why the guests didn’t mind waiting in just a moment!

Mills College is filled with unique photo opportunities and we took advantage of as many as we could in the timeframe we had. Susan and Vincent had a blast walking around the campus and snapping as many amazing photos as we could.

We love the break from tradition with the female “groomsmen”… (groomspeople?)

Pacific Lighthouse

When planning their wedding, Susan and Vincent felt that a Chinese banquet was an absolute must. They chose Pacific Lighthouse because it checked all the boxes: perfect location, easily accessible, a delicious seafood menu, and a dance floor. Since it is situated on Alameda’s north waterfront, it has a gorgeous view of downtown Oakland just across the harbor.

While the guests eagerly anticipated the arrival of the bride and groom, they were able to enjoy everything this location had to offer. They wandered around the area, enjoying the views and the beautiful weather we had that day. The “guest book” was a globe for the guests to sign, which is such a genius idea! We actually have an example of this at another wedding we photographed in 2017: Maya and Kevin’s SF City Hall & La Costanera wedding. We love when traditional things change into new, interesting, and useful ways!

Then came the feast: a 10-course family style meal. Vincent told us that ” we devoured the smoked sea bass and stir-fried lobster with ginger and scallion.”

They felt it was important to have their friends and family feel like they were a vital part of the day. First with the chapel seating and concern for location, then with the considerate meal, and finally with the seating arrangement at Pacific Lighthouse. The guests were seated similar to how they were at the chapel, with the dance floor in the center and tables surrounding it. Everyone crowded the dance floor during the last half of the reception and had a blast.

Thank you, Susan and Vincent, for sharing these details and your incredible day with us!


Videographer – Peek Media
String Trio – Corelli Strings
DJ – DJ Patrix
MC – Julian Nieh
Photobooth – Non-Stop Boogie Productions
Make Up – Thuy Mai
Hairstylist/Day-of Ceremony Coordinator – Susana Lau
Tuxedos – The Black Tux
Officiant – Raj Patel
Flower arrangements – Zoe Chen and bridesmaids


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