An Eclectic Black-Tie Wedding in San Francisco, California

By day, he's a consultant and she's a fashion model. By night, they play in an indie-rock band. Naturally, their nuptials combined the classic with the super stylish

Updated 08/02/13

This content originally appeared as "Love is Grand" in Brides magazine.

Annie McElwain

On October 27, 2012, Ashley Yao and John Chao were married at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco—an art museum housed in a neoclassical palace.

Annie McElwain

"We wanted an outdoor ceremony. As soon as we found out we could do it on the Balustrade Lawn with the San Francisco Bay as our backdrop, we booked it," Ashley remembers.

Annie McElwain

Ashley wore diamond-and-emerald earrings "for a little color."

Annie McElwain

"John asked my bridesmaid Caroline Barton, a London-based jeweler, to help design my engagement ring. He didn't want to ship it, so he secretly flew from New York, where we live, to Heathrow on Christmas Eve, picked it up at the airport, and flew back to propose the next day."

The bride had her nails painted red, which symbolizes good luck in Chinese culture.

Annie McElwain

"I have skinny ankles, so I have a hard time finding pumps that fit properly," says Ashley. "That's why I chose my sling-back Jimmy Choos. They were so comfortable. They stayed on all night!"

Annie McElwain

"One of my bridesmaids, Ethel Park, is a stylist. I asked her to dress the girls in black gowns and fur cover-ups. Instead of bouquets, they carried clutches."

Annie McElwain

An orchid and feathery foliage from Ashley's bouquet embellished a bridesmaid's tousled chignon.

Annie McElwain

"I went dress shopping with my sister, who is a textile designer. She raved about how difficult it is to find a gown made entirely out of silk. That sold me on my Elie Saab!" says Ashley

The bride put equal thought into her bridesmaids' ensembles. "San Francisco can get chilly at night, so we wore furs [on loan from Adrienne Landau]."

Annie McElwain

Ashley's attendants carried chic minaudières, which were also on loan. (It helps to be in the biz!)

Annie McElwain

"I wanted our wedding to be unconventional. My approach was similar to that of a director making a film," says Ashley.

Annie McElwain

"I bought my dress before I knew where we were getting married," says the bride. "I showed it to my mom on Skype, and at first she didn't like it because it didn't look like a traditional bridal gown. But that's the reason I bought it. It's simpler and yet has so many intricate details if you look at it closely."

Annie McElwain

Ashley's family friend Huda Zoghbi officiated the ceremony.

Annie McElwain

"The pops of red were a nod to our Chinese culture—from my bouquet of red orchids, roses, dahlias, and fountain grass to my lipstick and nails, to our favors—red paper boxes filled with double-happiness soap, tea, candies, and charms," Ashley notes.

Annie McElwain

Green cucumber-and-St-Germain cocktails were served during the cocktail hour.

Annie McElwain

At cocktail hour, the couple served their favorite snack: pork belly in a sweet bun.

Annie McElwain

"John and I are big foodies," Ashley says. "The menu included quail-egg croque madames, duck sliders, glazed pork belly, vegetable flan, a made-to-order Taiwanese bao station, and, in addition to our wedding cake, seasonal petits fours."

Annie McElwain

Annie McElwain

Chandeliers and candles gave the tent a warm glow.

Annie McElwain

Half of the tables had floral centerpieces, and the other half had crystal candelabras.

Annie McElwain

Dahlias, mini calla lilies, and roses in silver bowls reflected the candlelight.

Annie McElwain

Elegant menu cards with black script were paired with gold flatware.

Annie McElwain

Ashley and John toasted guests' speeches with champagne.

Annie McElwain

Their cake had two creative flavors: Earl Grey tea with lemon buttercream and almond with caramelized pears and cream-cheese buttercream.

Annie McElwain

The couple handed out bags of popcorn as a savory wedding favor.

Annie McElwain

Their first dance was to "God Only Knows," by the Beach Boys. "It was in the movie Love Actually—one of our favorites," Ashley says.

Annie McElwain

"Our priorities were to have delicious food and a Motown band that would get my father on the dance floor," Ashley fondly recalls.

Related Stories