Benjamin, the groom, shares his and Rachel’s love story:
How We Met
It was in San Francisco where we met on February 23, 2013. I was doing an internship at a startup company at that time and had to return to France in one month. That day, Rachel was with her friends and the first time I saw her I knew I had a good chance that I had found “the one” for my life. The next week we had our first date and I told her I was going to come back to California for her; she thought I was crazy! I came back a couple months later under a tourist visa and then we spent the next 5 years in a long-distance relationship traveling between San Francisco and Paris. A lot of people cannot believe that a long-distance relationship like that is possible, but if you truly love the person then you’ll always find a way to make it work.
I proposed in 2016. It was in San Francisco at Twin Peaks which is a famous hill that overlooks the entire city of San Francisco and the bay. Twin Peaks was also where we had our second date back in 2013 so it was a special location for my proposal.
We wanted to have a day that reflected who we are and what we like. As Christians, we wanted our ceremony to reflect the love of Jesus. Our marriage ceremony was performed by my pastor and his message was centered around loving each other the way Jesus loves the church: with humility, selflessness, and sacrifice. He spoke about how we needed to have a relationship with God, to also have Him in our relationship, and to pursue in ourselves a character of Christ. If our guests could enjoy our marriage and later maybe think back and reflect on Christ it would have been a success for us.
The whole day was magical from seeing Rachel for the first time in her dress, to the ceremony, the dance, our guests connecting with each other despite language barriers… And you doing an excellent job with the photos while helping us enjoy our day and being available when we needed. It was a truly magical day.
The venue was everything we could have hoped for. A place that was modern, but with an old traditional French style. The venue didn’t require a lot of additional decor because the quality in the interior design was already there. The cake was a traditional French “pièce montée en choux” with sparklers on the sides.
The outfits were classic and were chosen in California. The wedding dress came from Blossoms in Dublin, California, and my tuxedo came from Men’s Wearhouse with black suite pants from Hugo Boss.
Rachel did her own makeup and one of her sisters did her hair. She trialed different makeup artists and hairstylists, but she didn’t like any of their work. After encouragement from her friends and sisters, it was clear she should do it herself. The end result was fantastic!
We didn’t have a lot of vendors since the venue provided most of our needs and they had their own florist and DJ. They did a great job coordinating everything. We just added a few decorations for the ceremony arch.
Kitty Chen is the designer of Rachel’s dress. Many people thought Rachel found her dress in Paris, but she actually found it at a shop in the Bay Area. It was the second dress that she tried on. What helped her finalize her decision was how her sisters had very little criticisms about the dress & really loved how it fit on her. Rachel liked the style of her dress and that it wasn’t too heavy. She likes long sleeves and lace… so it was perfect for her.
Yes, I wore a traditional Samoan chief necklace called an “Ula Fala” to represent Rachel’s heritage. It is what chiefs wear in Samoa when there is an important event in the community from a birth, the completion of a house, or a marriage. Rachel also performed a hula dance for me that I had never seen before. It was a dance about two lovers. She also did a traditional Samoan dance called the “Taualuga”. I participated a little and so did our families.
Advice for Couples Planning Their Wedding
Well, first you should find a venue that is all-inclusive and already has the style and decoration that you like. The full package will ensure that everything will run smoothly because the venue will be experienced with having these kinds of events. The interior design of the venue will help you avoid having to decorate the place on your own. The venue we chose was a perfect match for what we wanted so there was little decoration that we needed to add. You should also ask the “maître d’hotel” if he or she has any ideas for you from past weddings they’ve held.
Another thing to remember is your guests’ needs. We had a lot of American guests so it was important that we picked a venue in Paris where it was easier for them to navigate around instead of a city outside of Paris where they may have difficulty getting to. Our advice is to always pay more for quality and convenience rather than trying to do something less expensive yet inconvenient (like having to purchase busses and shuttles for transporting guests).
We also recommend giving your guests an element of surprise. For example, we had our guests move into new different rooms throughout the evening. This kept them moving and intrigued, rather than stuck in one place too long.
We also didn’t sweat the small stuff and we broke some traditions. We didn’t have ring bearers, flower girls or even a real bridal party. We also didn’t have an official emcee during the dinner. We let things flow and if something wasn’t there or it didn’t work out, we moved on with the show!
Finally, surround yourself with people who genuinely care and want to do their best. From the venue and Pierre’s photography, we can say that everyone who participated in the wedding cared about the quality of their work and making the day a great experience for our guests. This is important.