One of San Francisco’s most unique venues is the Fairmont’s Penthouse Suite, with its dramatic decor and sweeping views of the city. Sarah and Jason happened upon it just a month before their wedding, after their first venue fell through, and it was the perfect setting for an intimate celebration. Gladys Jem shared these lovely photos of the day…
The bride wore a lace dress by Sarah Seven, paired with nude patent leather pumps.
“Dating all throughout high school and college in Arizona, we felt beyond blessed when career opportunities allowed us to move together to San Francisco, California. Seven months later, our blessings multiplied when Jason proposed to me on New Year’s Eve in the Napa Valley,” shares the bride. “From the very beginning, we knew we wanted an intimate wedding, where mutual friends we’ve known since the age of 14 could reconnect and immediate family and relatives could finally meet each other. While the guest list was simple, determining the location was more difficult. As anyone familiar with northern California knows, beauty is just about everywhere and when it comes to finding a dazzling locale to say ‘I do,’ one has plenty of options. Ultimately, we decided it would be ideal to get married in the city we now call home.”
“The city of San Francisco was what influenced most of our decisions. We wanted our wedding day to be a reflection of the iconic and vibrant city that we live in without a San Francisco theme per say. Our end goal was to have a wedding (and marriage) that could stand the test of time.”
The best advice Sarah received as a bride? “To include your fiancé on every decision. Not only was his standpoint honest and refreshing (he was right, no one noticed the napkins) but ultimately, it is a day that he will remember for the rest of his life and the day should be a reflection of us as a couple rather than the bride as an individual.”
“Thinking back to that day still gives me goose bumps,” says Sarah. “There is not one thing I would change or do differently. The moment that replays in my mind most often is the ceremony itself and how natural it felt. We had written down every word of the entire ceremony with the help of Jason’s stepdad, who officiated our wedding. But during the actual ceremony, it felt as if our words, thoughts and hopes came to life. The same effortless but dreamlike essence carried over into the cocktail hour and set the tone for the rest of this very special evening.”
“We chose to let the beauty of the Penthouse Suite speak for itself and only add subtle touches of natural greenery and white floral arrangements to enhance the space. The architectural details and the views of downtown made the terrace, where the ceremony took place, a breeze to accentuate; just gold Chiavari chairs and floating gardenias in the fountain. At the reception, the centerpieces were accompanied by gold mercury glass and candlelight and the textured linen really made the simplistic arrangements pop. We collected gold trays dating back to the era of which the Penthouse was built and used them to display escort cards as well as our dessert spread. We also displayed family wedding photos in vintage frames alongside the guestbook. Every item we added looked like it belonged in the space, creating a refined but comfortable setting for our guests.”
“We nixed most common wedding traditions. The thought of first dances, slicing cakes and tossing garters and bouquets just didn’t seem natural to us, so we opted out (and not one guest seemed to mind!). Forgoing the father/daughter dance made walking down the aisle with my dad that much more special. And by cutting the first dance, my husband and I were able mingle with guests that much longer. No need to cause a spectacle!”
Why did you choose this location for your wedding? When it came to choosing our venue, we were looking for several things. It was important to have both an indoor and outdoor space as our wedding would take place during October, San Francisco’s warmest month of the year. We wanted our out-of-town guests to know that there is more to this city than just fog and clouds. San Francisco is rich in history and architectural beauty and we wanted our venue to be an iconic spot, somewhere that we could return to in 50 years and relish in the memories. Lastly, we needed a smaller space that wouldn’t make our group of 60 feel like ants. Ballrooms and the like were out of the question. When our initial venue fell through just one month before the wedding date, we scrambled to find another space that met our specific needs. We not only found one that met them, but we were fortunate enough to find one that rivaled them! The Penthouse Suite at the Fairmont San Francisco was an absolute dream come true. The view overlooking the entire city was magical. Plus, the design of the suite had recently been restored to its original 1920’s glory and the dining room sat exactly 60 guests. We felt like we had won the ‘wedding-venue lottery.’ We didn’t need much to enhance the beauty of the space; just romantic floral arrangements.
What advice do you have for other brides? In all honesty, do not give yourself too much time to plan your wedding. While engaged, the details of your wedding will be the first thing you think about when you wake up and the last thing you think about before you go to sleep; leaving you plenty of time to question your decisions. We gave ourselves 10 months to plan a wedding in San Francisco but due to circumstances out of our control, we reworked our entire wedding with a month to go. Not only is planning a wedding within a year possible, it also lessens the sting of “post-wedding blues.”
Do you have any budget tips for other brides? One of the best decisions we made was to hire a talented vocalist and acoustic guitarist to play live music during cocktail hour and dinner who could also DJ our reception. Find local talent on websites such as GigMasters.com and negotiate two services for less than the price of hiring two separate vendors.
Is there anything else that helps tell the story of the day? Because the majority of the guests flew in from around the country, we turned our wedding day into a wedding weekend. All of our guests stayed at a historical hotel near the wedding venue and upon arrival, they were provided locally made, San Francisco treats, trolley tickets and restaurant suggestions to make everyone feel welcome. We opted out of a formal rehearsal dinner and my husband’s family instead hosted a lively cocktail hour at one of our favorite bars. It was a great way for all of our guests to meet each other beforehand and kick off the wedding festivities. By the time our ceremony rolled around, everyone felt like old family-friends.
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Fairmont Penthouse Wedding from Gladys Jem3 June 2014
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