Brian and Ashley

My husband, Brian, and I were married on September 18 at an art gallery in San Francisco called Terra Venue:  Terra.  The whole day was such an emotional whirlwind for me.  I cried, we laughed, everyone clapped.  I don’t even think there are words to describe the roller coaster of emotions and adrenaline I felt that day – all I wanted to do when it was over was hug every single one of our guests (and I think I might have by the end of the night!)  But I think my favourite part of the night was watching all of our guests rock out at our reception while wearing the neon pink “visions of love” holographic glasses we had given them as favors – priceless!

I planned on spending the morning of my wedding day with my bridesmaids, having brunch, drinking champagne, and making our bouquets with the flowers I had bought at the SF Flower Mart the day before. However, when I woke up that morning I found that none of the flowers I had bought had opened over night as I had been told they would! Luckily, we had taken home a bunch of the centre pieces from the rehearsal dinner, and after a minor freak out, and some major improvisation, we had 6 ad hoc bridesmaid bouquets! Not quite the relaxing morning I had planned, but once we climbed into the limo and popped some champagne, we were back on track! We stopped at the Lyon Street Stairs to snap some pics before heading to the venue.

My dress was designed by Atelier Aimee and purchased at Glamour Closet in San Francisco. Bridesmaids’ dresses were from Lulus.

All of the decor was hand made by my mom, my bridesmaids, and myself. We tried to keep it simple and modern, and budget-friendly. For the ceremony, my mom and I arranged birch branches and orchid stems in large vases to flank the “altar” and we created a chandelier out of CB2 hanging glass balls.

Brian and I chose not to see each other before the ceremony, and my heart was beating so fast when the curtains parted and I saw Brian.  What I felt then was completely overwhelming, indescribable, and a feeling that I will cherish forever. Brian wore a suit from Theory.

I walked down the aisle to a Ryan Wiles’ piano version of Death Cab for Cutie’s “I Will Follow You Into the Dark,” a song with special meaning for Brian and I.

Our ceremony was performed by one of our closest friends, and two of our other friends did readings for us.  One of the readings was from a book of love letters between John and Abigail Adams called “My Dearest Friend” which Brian had given me years before, and the other was a passage that our friend chose himself.

We wrote our vows to each other in the form of alternating promises, but as a nod to tradition, each promise centered around one of the traditional vows.

We struggled a lot with trying to structure a ceremony that reflected our love for each other and our personal vision of marriage, while still respecting our families’ traditions, and in the end, our ceremony was intensely personal and absolutely perfect.

After the ceremony, I felt like I was so filled with love for everyone around me that I wasn’t sure if I was crying or laughing! Our rings (with each other’s fingerprints in them) were from Fabuluster via Etsy.

Besides designing our ceremony, another of our priorities in planning the wedding was the food!  We chose (the fabulous) Back to Earth Catering.  Since Brian and I met while at school in the South, we served up a Southern meal of fried chicken, hush puppies, cheddar biscuits, mac n’ cheese with smoked ham and veggies with bourbon BBQ sauce, with a Bay Area organic twist.   Our menu choices may not have been traditional or expected for an art gallery venue, but really, is there ever a bad time for fried chicken?

We also really wanted to keep our reception fun, light-hearted, and goofy.  To this end, on each person’s plate setting, we placed a customized crossword puzzle that I made with questions about me and Brian for our guests to fill out, and a pair of “visions of love” glasses, which are holographic glasses that turn lights into hearts!

For the reception decor, my mom, my bridesmaids and I bought and arranged flowers for the centre pieces, and I spray painted wine bottles in metallic colours to use as vases. I interspersed moss balls and white ceramic bird vases to add a little interest. On our welcome table, we displayed pictures from our parents’ and grandparents’ weddings, and had a book of our engagement photos as the guest book.


Our first dance was to ‘Beyond the Sea’ by Frank Sinatra, and my father and I danced to the Viennese Waltz.  I thought I would feel self-conscious and awkward dancing in front of all those people, but in the moment, I felt like I was floating.

We had a small cake brought by one of our family friends, and a variety of mini desserts and a candy bar for our guests.  And Brian really did smear cake all over my face! A surprise for sure, but also hilarious (in hindsight at least)!

Our photographs were taken by Leonel Medrano and Iris Bai, family friends and photography students. We could not have been happier with their work!

As a word of advice to those still planning, I would say to focus on designing a day that is truly a reflection of your relationship and your values, rather than one that fits into a certain “color” or “theme.”  If your wedding rings true to who you are as a couple, it will not only be special to you, but also to all of your guests.  And try to look past all the technicalities in the planning process and embrace your wedding for what it really is – the one day you have a license to be openly, shamelessly in love for everyone to see, as cheesy as that may be.

Ms Polka Dot says: Wow – Ashley’s wedding dress, the bright pop of rich yellow of her bridesmaids’ dresses and the gallery venue that says this wedding is contemporary and so much a reflection of the bride and groom! Congratulations on your wedding Ashley and Brian and thank you for sharing your day with us.

Ashley says: I am a law student and newlywed living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I met my husband, Brian, while in college at Duke University in North Carolina, and after graduation, we moved back to our home state of California. In my free time, I am an amateur photographer, painter, decorator, and a lover of all things pretty.

Photography:  Leonel Medrano and Iris Bai


This post features the following wedding vendors. If you've been featured below, we'd love to get to know you. Click here to join Polka Dot Bride.

Kelly & Rangi 001

My sister Kelly and brother-in-law Rangi are a rare and very special couple.  They have been together 22 years, high school sweethearts who have managed to navigate the speed bumps and potholes of life’s relationship road quite nicely – they just took the scenic route, that’s all!

They got married in a beautifully low-key affair at Kamay Botany Bay National Park (NSW) in front of their loving families, loyal friends and gorgeous 14-year-old son Keanan who is just the apple of his mum and dad’s eye.  As you can imagine everyone was absolutely stoked this day had finally come around.

Ceremony images by friend & photographer Kelly Senior ([email protected]) who has done an amazing job capturing the soul of Kelly & Rangi’s wedding.  Reception photos are bride’s own.

Kelly & Rangi 002Kelly & Rangi 003

Kelly & Rangi 004

Kelly and Rangi wanted a warm & intimate get together where family and friends could just relax and have fun, so a beach ceremony and garden reception at home suited their laid back style perfectly. They also wanted to incorporate their Maori (NZ) heritage which is one of the reasons they chose their ceremony site, it looks directly out over the ocean to New Zealand.

Kelly & Rangi were a very budget conscious couple so they decided to do everything themselves.  This real “home made” affair was quite an undertaking but with those closest to them each contributing in their own small but very important way, made it a uniquely amazing day.  Kelly sourced Ebay, garage sales or made things herself, she is very creative and sure knows what she wants which was reflected in her wedding, it was truly her.

Kelly & Rangi 005

Photographer Wedding pics 021

Kelly & Rangi 007Kelly & Rangi 008

Kelly & Rangi 009

Kelly’s beach inspired dress was by Lisa Brown from LaLuna Boutique Cronulla.  I remember the day she came home with it, so excited then proceeded to unveil a completely different dress from the one she’d originally chosen!  I couldn’t believe it but that’s my sis and she looked perfect in it, again truly her.  Jen Worger did a gorgeous job of Kelly’s hair and makeup and her shoes were her “something borrowed” from our niece, they both have tiny feet!  Kelly’s wishing well was hired from Devine Eventions (0449551754).

Kelly & Rangi 010
Kelly & Rangi 011

Kelly & Rangi 012

Kelly & Rangi 013

Kelly & Rangi 014

The bridesmaid’s dresses were an absolute steal from Tree of Life and our boys were casually attired in Country Road.

Kelly & Rangi 016

Kelly & Rangi 015

For the reception Kelly wanted to create a casual but stylish atmosphere so she sprinkled the garden with fairy lights, hung festoon lights from the big willow and draped beautiful heart shaped ornaments from the branches of trees.  It all came together with the help of family and friends who worked tirelessly the eve of the wedding, adding the finishing touches on the day.  Kelly hand made the hanging driftwood & beach shell ornaments and the amazing table centre pieces herself.  We spent hours leading up to the wedding scouring the beach for shells, driftwood and collecting sand.  Kelly ended up giving most of these away to her guests, they loved them so much!  Their Maori heritage was an important feature here with the mihi mihi (speeches) waiata (songs) & karakia (blessings & prayers), honestly there wasn’t a dry eye in the place at times.

Kelly & Rangi 017

Kelly & Rangi 019

Kelly & Rangi 020

Kelly & Rangi 021

Kelly & Rangi 022

Not sticklers for tradition, Kelly and Rangi filled their day with their own special touches.  Their son Keanan and our mum Lynne walked Kelly down the aisle to “So In Love With You” by UNV sung by a cousin & accompanied on the guitar by a family friend.  Keanan’s role was particularly significant as he stood in for his poppy (our dad) whom we sadly lost to cancer last year.

Kelly & Rangi 025

Kelly & Rangi 026

Kelly & Rangi 027

The flowers Kelly chose were also poignant as they represented our Dad Wiki, wild daisies grow on the mountainside where he is buried.  We missed him so much that day but felt surrounded by him in the simplest of ways – the glorious weather, the simple bouquets made by the groom’s sister and the reception flowers arranged by our mum and aunty in rustic tin buckets and jam jars decorated with raffia.  Big UPS also to my mum, youngest sister and her fiancé who were up at the crack of dawn buying flowers at the Sydney Flower Markets!

Kelly & Rangi 028

Kelly & Rangi 029

Kelly & Rangi 031

Friend & marriage celebrant Keryn McWhinney (0411157494) who was just amazing , married them under a beautiful bamboo canopy made by the groom.  The bamboo, raffia and aisle runner were supplied by Beautiful Beach Weddings.

Kelly & Rangi 032

Kelly & Rangi 033

Kelly & Rangi 034

Rangi’s mum then blessed the marriage with a karakia (prayer) and the bridesmaids serenaded the signing of the registrar with “Angel of Mine” by Monica.

Kelly & Rangi 035

Kelly & Rangi 036

Kelly & Rangi 030

Kelly & Rangi 037

Kelly & Rangi had photos taken with each and every guest immediately after the ceremony, it was important to them to have a memento of everyone who shared in their day.

Kelly & Rangi 038

Kelly & Rangi 039

Kelly & Rangi 040

Kelly & Rangi 041

Kelly & Rangi 042

Kelly & Rangi 043

Kelly & Rangi 044

The groom’s family cooked our delicious buffet, the fresh NZ seafood and home made fried bread were scrumptious!  Kelly says the two wait staff she hired from All Complete Cater & Hire Services were worth the splurge as they did a fantastic job keeping family & friends out of the kitchen.  The wedding cake was made up of their favourite chocolate brownies from Muffin Break Miranda and went down an absolute treat with guests taking them home to enjoy later. A close friend made the yummy wedding cake topper.

Kelly & Rangi 045

Kelly & Rangi 046

Kelly & Rangi 023

Kelly & Rangi 024

Kelly & Rangi 018

Kelly & Rangi 047

I think the only curve ball Kelly & Rangi were thrown was the weather. The week leading up to the wedding it absolutely bucketed down and was described as the “wettest December in 50 years!” Take note ladies, ALWAYS have a plan B. Again, family and friends and my unwavering brother-in-law came to the rescue erecting a tarpaulin so Kelly’s vision for her garden party could become a reality. Something my sister says she will never forget is Rangi taking her aside amongst all the chaos and his kind words of reassurance “Don’t worry babe, all the rain is just your dad watering the garden so everything will be nice and green. He’ll look after us, have faith”. And to our delight the next morning, the sun was shining and the day couldn’t have been better, in fact it was PERFECT!

Kelly & Rangi 048

Kelly & Rangi 049

Kelly & Rangi 050

Kelly & Rangi 051

Kelly & Rangi 052

Kelly & Rangi 053

Kelly & Rangi 054

Kelly & Rangi 055

I hope Kelly and Rangi’s photos capture the feelings of pure joy that exuded from the whole day because as corny as it sounds, I truly can’t put it into words.  Everyone was “feelin the love” as they say and many of Kelly and Rangi’s guests have commented on how it was just an “amazing” day. I too hope to aspire to the real and enduring love that my sister has found.  Even as my “little” sister I think she’s taught me a lesson or two on how two people, through hard work and real love can create a happy and loving life together.  Kudos to you my little sis!

Kelly & Rangi 056
Kelly & Rangi 057

Kelly & Rangi 058

Kelly & Rangi 059

Kelly & Rangi 060

Kelly & Rangi 061

Kelly & Rangi 062

Kelly & Rangi 063

Kelly & Rangi 064

Kelly & Rangi 065

Kelly & Rangi 066

Kelly & Rangi 067

Kelly & Rangi 068

Kelly & Rangi 069

Kelly & Rangi 070

Ms Polka Dot says: Their love for each other, and family and friends shines out from the photos of Kelly and Rangi’s wedding. Thank you Tracy for sharing so beautifully, your sister’s wedding with us. Congratulations Kelly and Rangi on your wedding!

Tracy says: I am a busy mum of two small boys who have certainly kept me out of trouble these past few years! And as my two main men tottle off to school I look forward to this new year as a journey of self rediscovery both personally and professionally – bring it on 2011!

Photography by Kelly Senior ([email protected])


This post features the following wedding vendors. If you've been featured below, we'd love to get to know you. Click here to join Polka Dot Bride.

Today we have the Brisbane wedding of Caitlin and Anthony captured perfectly by Michelle Stewart from Spinning Still Photography. Caitlin says, “Michelle was absolutely amazing! She was so fun and lovely to be around, and I instantly felt comfortable with her. Anthony’s not a big smiler when there is a camera around, so to have so many shots of him smiling is definitely a plus!

Anthony and I met when I started working with him in mid 2008. We always say that it was fate, and that we were supposed to meet- we’re actually pretty sure we’ve seen each other before! When we were younger, we holidayed at the same resort on the Gold Coast. Then, a few years later, Anthony was working in the grocery store my family and I used to go to on a regular basis with my grandmother, and then FINALLY we started working together.”

“One of the most special details to me was when my sister, and also my maid of honour, was painting my nails. I’d had them done the day before, but had smudged almost every one of them, so she redid them when I was getting my hair done.”

Caitlin’s dress was by Henri Josef

“My pearl earrings were from Wallace Bishop, and my gold chain was from my mother with my grandmother’s wedding ring and dress ring on it.”

“Each bridesmaid chose her own dress in black, to show her own personality and so it could be worn again in the future.”

“As part of their bridesmaids’ gift I gave them teacup rings.”

“All the girls, including myself, wore different coloured shoes. My shoes were by Wittner. It was so quirky and fun, and everyone thought it was cute.”

Caitlin recalls, “As the bridesmaids and I piled into the limo and set off, I had a little panic attack. I’d forgotten my throw away bouquet! Luckily, we had an amazing driver, who did a U-turn (which isn’t easy to do in a stretch limo) and went back to the house so my sister-in-law could run in and grab it!”

The boys wore suits from Spurling Formal Wear

“The wedding was September 11th, 2010  at The Greek Orthodox Church in West End, Brisbane. The  Church was absolutely beautiful. It was so special to us to be married in the Greek Orthodox Church. My husband was christened there, as well as his sister, and his parents were married there too.”

“I walked down the aisle to a chanter, as in the Greek Orthodox tradition.”

“It was just magical in the Church – all of the colours and murals on the walls are stunning, and with the beautiful chandeliers it came up so beautifully in the photographs. We got so many compliments on how beautiful it was.”

“The boys wore Lego cufflinks in colours to match the bridesmaids shoes. All of the shoe colours were worked into the bouquets, and the buttonholes (apart from hubby’s, which was ivory) were in the colour to match his partner’s shoes.” Flowers by Antionette of Antionette Flowers By Design

“The reception at The Greek Club took my breath away. Even though I picked everything myself, seeing it all put together was so wonderful. It looked like a dream!”

“Another thrill was all the carnations used as part of the day. Carnations were one of my grandmother’s favourite flowers, so they were worked into the bouquets, the flowers for the church, and the centrepieces at the reception. Seeing the beautiful flowers reminded me of my nanna – everywhere I looked, she was there.”

“My mum and I put all the boxes together for the bonbonniere, as well as the favours inside, which were rock candies and white sugared almonds wrapped in tulle. It took us a total of about 10 hours to simply put the bonbonniere together! Our stationery was designed by Spot On Graphic Design

“Our first dance was to “Brighter Than Sunshine” by Aqualung. Anthony and I spent months trying to figure out a suitable first dance song, since we have such different taste (me good, him bad, although he’d say otherwise), but when I played this song for him, we had it. I laughed most of the way through because Anthony sang all the words he could remember to me as we danced.” Music throughout the night was provided by George Kassos.

“The most special detail of all was the photo we had next to our wedding cake made by Classic Cakes. It was a photo of my grandparents on their wedding day, 56 years ago. As both of my grandparents passed away within the last two years, it meant a lot to me to see their faces there, even if it was only in a photograph.”

“We wanted our reception to have a fun twist, so we booked the Photobooth pretty early on in the planning. The photobooth printed out two lots of photos, so we ordered an album so our guests could stick one of the photos in the book with a little message for us, and keep the other as a momento! The Photobooth People brought along a box of props, masks and wigs for everyone to experiment with, and we all had a blast with it.”

Caitlin’s short dress by City Chic

Ms Polka Dot says: Don’t you just love the gorgeous bright shoes worn by Caitlin and her bridesmaids? And the flowers to match! Congratulations Caitlin and Anthony on your marriage and thank you for sharing your wedding day with us.

Thank you to Michelle Stewart of Spinning Still Photography for today’s images.

Videographer – Emanuel at Mini Luv Weddings (may be contacted through this site).



This post features the following wedding vendors. If you've been featured below, we'd love to get to know you. Click here to join Polka Dot Bride.