Prairie and Andris chose Shakespeare Garden in San Francisco as the stunning site for their intimate wedding. (I love how the couple used tissue paper pom poms to add whimsical pops of color to the already gorgeous setting!)

“The whole ceremony felt like a family experience, which is what we wanted,” says Andris, who adds that the couple wrote their own vows and had Prairie’s uncle officiate.

Instead of opting for a photo booth for the reception, the couple hired a poet.

“We had talked about having a photo booth, which is very fun, but at an art walk in the city we met The Poetry Store‘s Silvi, a freelance poet. She sets up her antique typewriter on a small table and will write you a custom poem about anything you want. She’s a gifted writer and what fun, unique keepsakes for our friends and family,” says Andris.

Another highlight of the reception was the 300 mini-cupcakes in assorted flavors (raspberry, chocolate, vanilla with cream cheese, chocolate and vanilla frostings) made by Prairie’s dad.

“They were a huge hit … he’s an amazing chef,” says Prairie.

Golden Gate Park wedding

Prairie, 32 & Andris, 33

San Francisco, CA

Wedding Date: April 23, 2011

Number of Guests: 72

Wedding Cost: $18,000

Wedding Ceremony Location: Shakespeare Garden, Golden Gate Park

Wedding Reception Location: Gallery 16, SOMA

Shakespeare Garden wedding

custom wedding rings

multi-colored tissue pom poms in garden wedding

blue wedding invitation

Golden Gate Park wedding ceremony

Why did you have an intimate wedding?

For us, it was about being able to share and celebrate the moment with our friends and family. Certainly cost was a consideration, but when it came down to it and we spoke with lots of our friends about their weddings and experiences, we realized that it gets pretty hard to visit with everyone – and anything over 100 people make that almost impossible. We realized people would be traveling far for our wedding and we wanted to be sure we got to appreciate and enjoy them as much as possible. That’s the same reason we chose to have it in SF instead of out in the mountains. There were only 3 people from the Bay Area invited and everyone else was from out of town (several even overseas)!

boutonniere being pinned on groom

guests hugging at wedding

groom reading his vows

What are some of the challenges that you faced planning an intimate wedding?

It was really about the guests. I would have loved to invite more of my extended family and relatives, but recognized it would have just made the whole event too large and unaffordable for us. It was hard for us to limit the guest list, but definitely the right decision. Realizing that making it bigger meant we probably couldn’t do it in the city or even be able to spend time with everyone who would attend helped make those decisions easier. I just hope they know how much we love them and appreciate their understanding and support. We both have amazing families and are very thankful for all of them.

hand fasting ceremony at wedding

wedding guests at park ceremony

guests at wedding ceremony

Was it difficult to pare down the guest list?

Paring down the guest list was probably the hardest thing about choosing to have an “intimate wedding.” There were so many friends and family we wanted to include! Especially for Prairie because her family is quite large (4+ parents makes it complicated). When we planned the wedding, we had only lived in California a short time, and overseas before that, so our wedding was a unique opportunity to bring people out to our new home and see people we hadn’t seen in a long time.

groom kissing bride on cheek

bride and groom showing off custom wedding rings

guest writing in guest book

guitarist at wedding ceremony

Did you have any ‘issues’ with the small guest list from friends and family? If so, how did you address them?

Lucky for us we have wonderful and supportive parents that were very accepting of everything we wanted to do, including the guest list. There were some suggestions and bargaining, but overall they were respectful of our choices and helpful in making some of them easier.

bride hugging wedding guests

groom with mother

What were the highlights of the ceremony?

(Prairie): Walking down the aisle with my dads and seeing Andris there was an indescribable experience. Looking at him, everything else faded and the moment he took my hands I was excited and calm at the same time. We wrote our own vows (and the ceremony too) and to share such powerful thoughts and emotions in front of so many people we care about was intense and moving. When my uncle, our officiant, said we could kiss, Andris lifted me right off my feet – literally!

(Andris): Our vows were definitely my favorite part. I think one of the things I most wanted the wedding to do was to help our friends and family see first hand what Prairie and I experience every day: how much in love we are. I had several people tell me after the ceremony that they would remember it as one of the most moving, heartfelt weddings they’d been to…and that meant a lot to me. Also, some of my high school friends secretly made a sign with an old nickname. Seeing them hold that up as we walked away at the end of the ceremony made us both laugh. Andris’ father passed away when he was young, and we asked his brother, Allen (Andris’ uncle), to participate in the ceremony as a way of remembering him. Allen found a wonderful African blessing that perfectly conveyed the remembrance of Andris’ dad in a way that was appropriate to the celebration of a wedding. The whole ceremony felt like a family experience, which is what we wanted.

bride with bleu flower fascinator

bride with father

wedding ceremony in Golden Gate park with tissue paper pom poms

wedding ceremony in Shakespeare garden

bride and groom at outdoor wedding ceremony

groom smiling at bride during ceremony

Golden Gate Park wedding ceremony

What were the highlights of the reception?

Very heartfelt speeches and lots of fun dancing and conversations. Dancing is always a good time, but seeing our parents get down and watching my cousins mix with his friends from high school is a memory that will bring a smile to our faces for the rest of our lives. It’s just overwhelming to have so many people you want to spend time with in the same room!

Poetry Store! We had talked about having a photo booth, which is very fun, but at an art walk in the city we met Silvi, a freelance poet. She sets up her antique typewriter on a small table and will write you a custom poem about anything you want. She’s a gifted writer and what fun, unique keepsakes for our friends and family.

Cupcakes! Prairie’s dad made more than 300 mini-cupcakes in assorted flavors (raspberry, chocolate, vanilla with cream cheese, chocolate and vanilla frostings). They were a huge hit … he’s an amazing chef.

Never having planned a big event like this, we spent a fair bit of time worrying that all the people, food, music, and dancing wouldn’t fit into the urban art gallery that we’d chosen as a venue. I think the moment we walked in as husband and wife and saw so many smiling faces against the beautiful backdrop of fairy lights, simple rustic flowers, and floor to ceiling glass windows was maybe the first time we realized that all the details had in fact come together.

hand tying ceremony

groom reading his vows

teary bride at wedding ceremony

first kiss at wedding ceremony

bride with orange bouquet and blue flower in her hair

wedding guests holding up sign

wedding shot

groom taking a shot

What was the best thing about having an intimate wedding?

I wish the wedding could have been a week long so there would have been more time to spend with everyone, but that said, having an intimate wedding made it possible to really feel like we connected with each and every guest. Just not for as long as we would have liked! Keeping it smaller also allowed us to do other things we were excited about like a cable car to drive us to the reception and having an open bar.


groom hugging bridesmaid

bride and groom and kissing on trolley

What advice do you have for couples who are considering an intimate wedding?

Be sure to weigh the things that are most important to you and think carefully about who you want with you to share this moment. It will really help when you’re deciding where to splurge and where to save. Try to be really honest with yourself and with each other about this, but don’t get too stuck on the numbers, if you want to invite a few more people then make that happen. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. Remember no matter how many people you invite or how close you are with them, some people will not be able to make it – accepting that was harder than we expected. Make a lot of lists and trust your own judgement. Everyone has opinions, but only you know what you want! There’s so much you can do with an intimate wedding … it opens up really unique options for wedding venues, creative ceremonies and interactive activities. Brainstorm a lot of ideas and see which ones fit together. We had so many more ideas than we could use in the end, but it was fun re-imagining and inventing options.

wedding guests at outdoor wedding ceremony

bride under umbrella

wedding guests walking through park


We did our best to find local vendors and discovered some amazing people in the process. We can’t thank them enough for helping make our wedding such a special, beautiful, delicious and fun event!

Wedding Venue: Shakespeare Garden, Golden Gate Park 

Reception Venue: Gallery 16, SOMA

Ring Designer and Creator: Liz Oppenheim

Photographer: Alison Yin

Poetry Store: Silvi

Dress Designer and Creator: Karleen Eberle

Caterer: Jersey Tomatoes

Onsite Poet: The Poetry Store