The day after moving to San Francisco in October of 2012, Cristina Sainati headed to her local climbing gym, which is where she met Justin Smith. “I always knew I’d meet my husband in San Francisco, but I didn’t think it would happen so quickly,” she says, with a laugh. Justin didn’t make a move at first—“He thought it was tacky to hit on girls at the gym,” says Cristina—but the pair became friends, and a month later, Justin asked her out.
The couple dated for three years, talking about marriage for months before Justin proposed. “I was getting antsy, and wondered if every weekend or date night could be ‘it,’” Cristina recalls. That said, she was not expecting a thing when they set out on one of their favorite bike rides. “All of a sudden, Justin sprinted ahead of me, and I noticed a sign on the side of the road that said ‘Cristina, today is going to be a special day,’” she says. It was followed by more signs detailing sweet moments in their relationship, and as she got to the top of the hill, Cristina saw Justin waiting for her—on one knee!
Seeking a non-traditional venue for their June 11, 2016 wedding, Cristina and Justin selected The Pearl, an industrial space filled with gorgeous custom art that hadn’t quite been completed. “There were a few months when our venue was still a working factory and the renovations weren’t quite done," explains the bride. "It took a lot of faith to get married in a space we’d only ever seen as a construction site, but it felt unique and personal enough that it was worth the risk.” The couple let the venue inform their minimalist industrial vision, opting to use textures over color. Instead of lush blooms, flowers were a modern take on Ikebana style, and the paper goods also incorporated Japanese aesthetic to enhance the natural, simple style. “Justin, our planner (Elise Johnson of Shannon Leahy Events), and my dad were our unlikely planning team, with a strong vision and attention to detail,” Cristina says. “I knew what I didn’t want, but left the rest to them!”
Together, along with photographer Ari Simphukham, the incredible vendor team brought their vision to life in a brand new venue. The result: an industrial-meets-Japanese wedding that’s filled with inspiration. Keep reading to see every creative detail—from the floral arrangements to the escort card display!
The couple's invitation suite featured brushstrokes inspired by Japanese calligraphy and ink wash painting techniques.
The ceremony took place on the roof, with the cityscape in the background. Leafy greenery in concrete urns created an organic altar.
“It was really important to us to fill our ceremony with things that reflect us as a couple,” says Cristina, so she and Justin wrote their own vows and selected non-traditional readings, including one from George Mallory about his inspiration to climb Mount Everest.
A Japanese zen garden served as the escort card display, with stones painted with guests’ table assignments tucked into the sand.
When guests entered the indoor reception space, they immediately saw a taste of the event's design: arrangements of florals in the Ikebana style.
The massive space (with industrial tall ceilings!) was filled with long wooden tables and clusters of lounge furniture. Each table was flanked by chairs draped in white linens and a dark runner and topped with Ikebana floral arrangements and votive candles.
“I’m a vegetarian, so our menu was as vegetarian as possible,” says Cristina. “And being in California, we wanted the meal to be incredibly fresh and local.” Hors d’oeuvre ranged from charred shoyu eggplant with spicy peanuts to aged cheddar-and-brie mac and cheese, while dinner included a family-style cast iron chicken with stone fruit mostarda and grilled asparagus and raddichio with fermented honey.
“As a kid, I always saw the moment of cutting the wedding cake as symbolic of being married, but when we started to plan, we realized a dessert bar would be more practical, so we skipped the cake,” says Cristina. “Our planner surprised us with a marbled cake with chocolate truffle filling because she knew how much I wanted to cut it!”
For Cristina and Justin, planning their wedding was about focusing on the things that really mattered to them. “It doesn’t have to be flowers or the venue, but maybe it’s the kind of composure and energy you bring to the process,” says Cristina. “Think about what will make your wedding the best experience for the people around you.”
Wedding Planner: Shannon Leahy Events
Venue: The Pearl
Bride's Dress: Jin Wang
Hair & Makeup: Katie Nash
Groom's Attire: Paul Smith
Groomsmen's Attire: Bonobos
Engagement Ring: One Stone Shop
Wedding Bands: Love and Luxe
Floral Design: Studio Mondine
Paper Products: Yonder Design
Catering: Componere Fine Catering
Cake: Branching Out Cakes
Officiant: Brian Bajari
Music: DJ Press
Videography: Reel Eyes Media
Photography: Ari Simphukham