Casa Real, Pleasanton, California

I asked Julia and Joel to tell me some of their favorite memories from their wedding day. They described their favorite moments and interactions, and the roles their friends and family played in their day. What struck me most was how these two turned what could have been typical items to check off a list – “hire officiant, pick ceremony music, make seating chart” – into something deeply personal and meaningful.

The bridesmaids and bride walked down the aisle to a piano recording of Bach’s Ave Maria. But did the guests even know that Julia was the musician playing that piano? Julia’s pre-recorded piano served as the accompaniment for the live performance of Julia’s cousin John Bruce Yeh on clarinet, who happens to be the multi-Grammy-winning principal clarinetist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

The officiant wasn’t just a person they found online. It was Julia’s friend Brint, whom she’s known since she was 14 years old. In fact, she said, she and Joel have known most of the wedding party for more than 20 years. With all of that setting up the ceremony, and Julia and Joel writing their own vows, there was no way anyone was getting out of that room without a few tears to dab. “Apparently there weren’t many dry eyes in the room,” Julia said.

For the reception, guests were seated at tables named with Chinese characters “that represented values we want to live by in our life together,” Julia said – values such as Love, Family, Laughter, Optimism and Strength. It would have been easy enough to order these seating cards online. But they were hand-calligraphed by Julia and Joel’s fathers, working as a team. Julia’s father wrote the Chinese characters, and Joel’s father wrote each guest’s name.

Most couples work hard to create a beautiful setting in which to get married and celebrate. But how utterly special to create an environment comprising pieces of the people you love. Something like that requires effort, attention, selflessness, love, and caring enough to turn a common thing into something magnificent. Sounds a lot like marriage itself.

Authored by: Photographed by: MauricioCategory:  WeddingsDestination:  Pleasanton, CaliforniaSetting:  Low-Light WeddingVenue:  Casa Real