Questions To Ask Your Wedding Photographer by Sonya Yruel

You’re engaged! You’ve set a date, booked your venue, and now you’re hunting for the perfect wedding photographer.

What should you be looking for, and when you find a few wedding photographer contenders, what should you ask them to help narrow down your quest to find and hire the right one for you?

 Gardener Ranch wedding with bride and groom in Carmel Valley California

Hey there! I'm Sonya, a Bay Area native and wedding photographer. I love to play with my goldendoodle pup, Sequoia, travel the world with my fun-loving and surfer husband, and my favorite comfort food is a steaming hot bowl of pho!

 Sonya Yruel with her goldendoodle puppy, Sequoia.

Photo by Bojana Korach Photography

I've been photographing weddings for over a decade and with all those years of experience, I always like to make sure my couples get the information they need from me to feel comfortable and confident before their wedding day. That way they can just relax and be married when the day comes. The photos come out better that way too!

If you can trust in your wedding photographer, then you can just enjoy your wedding day and know that you hired an awesome vendor!

Since this might be your first time hiring a professional photographer, it can be hard to know what you don't know. It’s not always obvious what to ask them or what to look for in a wedding photographer and their services.

With that in mind, I put together a list of questions to help get into the specifics with any photographer you choose. I included some answers about my business so you know what details to look for when you meet a new photographer.

You should feel confident in your decision of who you hire because your photographer is one of the most important vendors at your wedding.

Check out my guide below.

QUESTIONS TO ASK YOUR WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER

BASICS

“Are you available on my wedding date?”

The first question to always ask, since your photographer might already be booked!

 Vintage gold and white telephone

“How do we book you?”

Once you have had a conversation over email, video chat, or in person, your photographer should find the best wedding package for you. I send my clients a contract to sign, and I also collect a retainer. Once the contract is signed and the retainer is received, I lock your wedding date to my calendar!

“Would you be willing to provide references?”

To feel more comfortable in understanding your photographer’s experience, chatting with a past client or two can give you some great insights and confidence in your booking decision. I’m happy to provide references, however, to respect my past clients’ privacy, I will ask them first before sharing their contact information with you.

“Do you have insurance?”

A truly professional photographer should carry insurance! I carry policies for both my equipment and liability. It’s possible, though not common, that your wedding venue will request proof of liability insurance from me, in advance of your wedding date.

“What kind of equipment do you use?”

Professional grade Canon cameras, lenses, and flashes. I also have some film cameras, including a medium format Hasselblad camera.

 Professional wedding photography cameras, lenses, flashes, and film cameras.

BACKGROUND & PERSONALITY

“How long have you been photographing weddings?”

Hiring an experienced professional on your wedding day is key! Is your photographer a full-time wedding photographer, and for how many years?
After receiving my bachelor’s degree in Communication at UC Santa Barbara, I came to San Francisco to attend the Academy of Art University in 2004. While in my first semester studying photography, I was super honored when one of my professor’s asked me to photograph her intimate backyard wedding on Mt. Tamalpais. I haven’t stopped shooting weddings since!

“How would you describe your style?”

If you are not a photographer, it can be tricky to know what kind of photography style you want for your wedding. It can help to look around on a few wedding blogs or Pinterest, to understand what look appeals to you. Styles can range from classic and traditional, to a more candid and documentary look.
After photographing weddings for over a decade, I have found my style to be a blend of documentary, classic, and fine art. The majority of photos I take are candid, in-the-moment, natural and un-posed. Some of my photos that day will be classic portraits with beautiful light. As an artist, I like to look for the unexpected and unique moments, so when you receive your photos there might be a few surprises in there!

 A beautiful bride at sunset smiling while wind blows her hair.

“How would you describe your demeanor on the day of the wedding?”

Wedding days are dynamic and can be fast-paced in their timelines. It’s important to find a photographer that understands this flow and is able to adapt and work with flexibility, while still having a smile on their face!

I’ve had some past clients describe me as a photo ninja! I do my best to be discreet and unobtrusive, and it’s truly the best way to capture all those great candid moments! The only time you’ll notice me is when I direct your portraits. But otherwise it’s your day and I do my best to keep a low-profile, while still fluidly capturing your wedding day.

“Will you take special requests for photos? (ex. I really want a picture of us hanging off a cliff, would you do that?)”

Definitely be open with your photographer if you have a certain vision in mind, and if you have some “must-have” photos.

And while that particular request of hanging off a cliff hasn’t happened yet, yes! I definitely will take special requests! I love to hear how you envision your wedding day.

VENUE & PLANNING

“Have you been to our venue or photographed a wedding at a similar venue?”

Your chosen venue will play a large role in the look and feel of your wedding photos. If you have your venue already booked, check with your photographer if they have been there or photographed a wedding there.
So definitely share with me your wedding venue, and I’ll share with you images from weddings I’ve photographed at your venue, or images from a similar style venue.

 Wedding reception in a barn in Petaluma California

“How do you manage different kind of lighting?”

One of the great skills an experienced wedding photographer should posses is the ability to photograph in almost any kind of lighting situation!

Knowing my equipment as if it was an extension of me is part of being a seasoned professional.

My years of photographing hundreds of weddings has given me the skills to work in all kinds of lighting scenarios. I do my best to photograph using the existing natural light in your venue, and only use flash when necessary.

“Will you travel to my venue?”

Some photographers stay within their local region, others are happy to travel near and far!

While I love the beauty of the San Francisco Bay Area and our nearby Wine Country, I also love to travel and I photograph destination weddings outside of the San Francisco Bay Area! I have photographed weddings in LA, Las Vegas, New York, Hawaii, and Mexico.

“Will you get in touch with our planner?”

The most successful weddings are those in which your vendors work as a cohesive team!

Once we have completed your booking, please share your planners contact info and I would love to get in contact with them.

“What do you need from me before the wedding day?”

In other words, what happens after you book your wedding photographer? Be sure to ask them what the next steps are.

After your wedding booking, I’ll be in touch with you and/or your wedding planner with a couple of resources to help you with your wedding day planning. I’ll send a sample wedding day timeline as it pertains to the key photographic moments, and I will also ask you to fill out a family portrait guide.

PACKAGES & SERVICES

“What services do you offer?”

Packages and services will differ with every photographer. I like to connect with a client first, discuss their vision and then find the best package that will fit their needs. Weddings are not one-size-fits-all — this approach allows me to ensure our expectations are aligned and each couple is getting the experience they are looking for.

These are some standard questions that’ll help you get aligned with the photographer you choose:

  • What are your packages and what do they include?  For example:
    - engagement session
    - rehearsal dinner
    - second shooter
    - photo rights
    - album
    - prints

  • How long will you be at our wedding?

  • How long will it take to get my photos after our wedding?

  • What will we receive after our wedding?

The best question to ask yourself before hiring your wedding photographer is do you feel connected and comfortable with them, and also excited to have them document one of the most special days in your life?

 Outdoor wedding ceremony at Cavallo Point Lodge in Sausalito California.

Contact me here for questions or how to book your wedding day! And once you’ve booked your Vendor A-Team and your day is just around the corner, check out my tips for how to truly enjoy your wedding day!




Sutro Baths and Lovers Lane Engagement Session | Alex & Mel by Sonya Yruel

Sutro Baths and Lands End in San Francisco is one of my favorite spots in the city. I love traversing through the crumbling ruins (but be careful not to fall into the water). There you will find amazing views of the Bay and Seal Rocks. The outlines of different bath ruins tell a story of the history there, once a magnificent bath house and beach Playland. A cave and hiking trails into Lands End are on one side, and the historic Cliff House on the other. Sutro Baths is usually draped in fog; good ole Karl likes to stick around for a moody, misty engagement session. It was the perfect place for Alex and Mel for us to document a bit their own journey together.

 Engagement session at Sutro Baths in San Francisco
 San Francisco Engagement Session at the Cliff House and view of Seal Rocks.

The two met in San Francisco through a dating app. Alex had a special request on his Tinder profile: he was looking for a lady of a certain height and above, because he is quite a tall fellow himself!

From Alex:

“Despite living 5 blocks apart, we still met on Tinder and we like to use the hashtag #swiperightfortheheight.

 Alex and Mel in front of the ruins of Sutro Baths.
 Sutro Baths engagement session at ruins.
 The engaged couples’ reflection in the water at Sutro Baths, with Seal Rocks in the background.
 Walking along the borders of the Sutro Baths ruins in San Francisco.
 Sharing space with a sea bird at this Sutro Baths engagement session.
 A stroll along the beach at Land End with fisherman fishing below the cliffs.
 A piggy back ride at Sutro Baths!

From Alex:

What I love about Mel!

Not even a year after we started dating I thought to myself "yep, this is the one".   Madeleine's heart is beautiful and she's passionate about our families and interests. She's constantly plotting out her travel goals and restaurants we need to try.  We complement one another, and I've grown as a result of being in her life. My focus has shifted from short term accomplishments to what we'll do in the next 10 years and I can't wait to marry her!

10_SutroBathsPresidio_EngagementSession_SonyaYruel.jpg
 Goof off and have fun at your engagement session!
 Sutro Baths engagement session in San Francisco.
 Love amongst the ruins of Sutro Baths.
 Alex being a ham for the camera. A San Francisco engagement session.
 San Francisco Lands End engagement session.
 In the tall grasses at Sutro Baths.
 After Lands End we headed to the romantic Wood Line at Lovers Lane in San Francisco’s Presidio.

After Lands End we headed to the romantic Wood Line at Lovers Lane in San Francisco’s Presidio.

 Engaged couple walking the Wood Line in the Presidio of San Francisco.
 A happy engaged couple in the Presidio of San Francisco.
 The engaged couple embrace and are reflected in the still water of Sutro Baths in San Francisco.

I can’t wait to see Mel and Alex get married next year!

Sonya Yruel is a San Francisco wedding and portrait photographer. Contact her here to book your engagement session!

Some images are film and were shot on my squishy Holga and were processed and scanned at Photoworks.

Vasona Park ~ Fall Family Photos by Sonya Yruel

The Bay Area doesn’t always display the rich colors of fall in the same way that some other parts of the U.S. do, but Vasona Park in Los Gatos has some autumn colors to show off this time of year! This family session was right before sunset, and the pink hues from the light complimented Maya’s rosy cheeks. I loved her little tulle skirt matched her momma’s. And check out her fall leaf crown that a friend made!

 Baby Maya at Vasona Park in the Fall.
 Young family photo session at Vasona Park in Los Gatos.
 Baby Maya wears a fall floral crown at Vasona Park in Los Gatos.
 Baby Maya and her mom walk in Vasona Park.
 Maya on her dad’s shoulders with fall leaves of Vasona Park.
 Baby Maya looks at a fall leaf with her parents, and sits on her dad’s shoulders at Vasona Park.
 Laying on a picnic blanket and snuggling as a family at Vasona Park.
 Young family walking in the fall leaves at Vasona Park.
 Sunset over Vasona Lake in Los Gatos, while a young family sits on the dam.

Sonya Yruel is a professional portrait and wedding photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area. Contact her here to book your family photo session!

A Fall Pennsylvania Wedding at the Historic Washington Crossing Inn ~ Jayvee and Jonathan by Sonya Yruel

It was such a gift to travel from California to the east coast to photograph Jayvee and Jonathan’s destination wedding! The two were wed at a Catholic church in their home state of New Jersey. And their reception was at the historic Washington Crossing Inn, right next to the Delaware river in Pennsylvania. This is the famous historical location where Washington crossed the icy river on Christmas night to surprise British troops and help win the Revolutionary War. The charming colonial buildings perched alongside the river were complimented by the rich tones of autumn.
Jayvee and Jonathan made their own personal history about a year ago this October, gathering their friends and family who traveled from as far as the Philippines, France, and Switzerland. I can see why everyone wanted to be there for their wedding; these two are the perfect compliment to each other! As a wedding photographer, one of the joys of my work is to witness a couple that is truly in love and supportive of each other.

 The bride’s custom-made dress on a hanger as she gets ready, and her portrait once she put her dress on.
 The dress: “My cousin Stefanie “ Tipay” is a fashion designer in the Philippines. She sketched and made the wedding dress for me. The custom-designed wedding dress captured the modern yet classic silhouette with lace and beading details that I had envisioned. The look was completed with a Spanish-inspired mantilla veil with scalloped edges, which I really loved.” – Jayvee

The dress: “My cousin Stefanie “ Tipay” is a fashion designer in the Philippines. She sketched and made the wedding dress for me. The custom-designed wedding dress captured the modern yet classic silhouette with lace and beading details that I had envisioned. The look was completed with a Spanish-inspired mantilla veil with scalloped edges, which I really loved.” – Jayvee

 Jonathan’s sister  Cat  custom made this beautiful wedding invitation suite for us with beautiful calligraphy and vine details.

Jonathan’s sister Cat custom made this beautiful wedding invitation suite for us with beautiful calligraphy and vine details.

 The bride with her bridesmaids in fall colors.
 The groom puts on his burgundy tuxedo and boutonniere.
 Some fall rain as the groom gazes out his hotel window.
 Jonathan looked quite dapper in his burgundy tuxedo, and his groomsmen in navy blue.

Jonathan looked quite dapper in his burgundy tuxedo, and his groomsmen in navy blue.

 A smiling flower girl hold the glass ring box, while wearing a flower crown.
 Jayvee looked stunning in Spanish mantilla veil as she walked down the aisle!

Jayvee looked stunning in Spanish mantilla veil as she walked down the aisle!

 The florals: “I wanted the wedding flowers to be modern, organic and moody to fit the beautiful fall foliage.  Flora  has captured it so well and I was in love with the bouquet!” - Jayvee

The florals: “I wanted the wedding flowers to be modern, organic and moody to fit the beautiful fall foliage. Flora has captured it so well and I was in love with the bouquet!” - Jayvee

 The bride and groom hold hands during the Catholic ceremony.
 “For the wedding ceremony, we incorporated the Filipino wedding rites and symbols: rings and arrhae, candles, veil and lazo. The groom gives the arrhae (made up of 13 gold coins) to the bride, which symbolizes prosperity that the new couple will share. The candles placed on each side of the bride and groom are lighted to embody the presence of God in the union. The veil is pinned on the couple to symbolize clothing of the two as one. Lastly, the lasso or "lazo" is a rope placed around the couple’s shoulders in the form of an "8" (the infinity symbol) to symbolize everlasting union.” - Jayvee

“For the wedding ceremony, we incorporated the Filipino wedding rites and symbols: rings and arrhae, candles, veil and lazo. The groom gives the arrhae (made up of 13 gold coins) to the bride, which symbolizes prosperity that the new couple will share. The candles placed on each side of the bride and groom are lighted to embody the presence of God in the union. The veil is pinned on the couple to symbolize clothing of the two as one. Lastly, the lasso or "lazo" is a rope placed around the couple’s shoulders in the form of an "8" (the infinity symbol) to symbolize everlasting union.” - Jayvee

 The bride embraces her mother-in-law during the Catholic ceremony.
 Advice about planning your wedding from Jayvee: “Involve your family in the process. We had family members who were happy to share their talents to help make our wedding special. The wedding dress, makeup, invitations and coordination were all by family. And we couldn’t imagine our wedding without everyone’s contribution.”

Advice about planning your wedding from Jayvee: “Involve your family in the process. We had family members who were happy to share their talents to help make our wedding special. The wedding dress, makeup, invitations and coordination were all by family. And we couldn’t imagine our wedding without everyone’s contribution.”

 The wedding party takes a stroll in front of the historic stone buildings that sit along the Delaware river at Washington Crossing Park.
 The bridesmaids and bride show off their fall bouquets at Washington Crossing Park.
 The groom and his groomsmen at Washington Crossing Park.
 The bride and groom stroll through the fall leaves by the Delaware river at Washington Crossing Park.
 Jonathan planned to propose to Jayvee on a trip to Spain. He was a bit nervous about her engagement ring setting off the metal detector when going through airport security. Luckily it went through and he proposed to her on a balcony in Mallorca.

Jonathan planned to propose to Jayvee on a trip to Spain. He was a bit nervous about her engagement ring setting off the metal detector when going through airport security. Luckily it went through and he proposed to her on a balcony in Mallorca.

 The bride and groom on the bridge at Washington Crossing Park.
 The bride and groom walk across the bridge over the Delaware river at Washington Crossing Park.
 The groom and bride cross the street through the historic buildings at Washington Crossing Park.
 The bride and groom stop for a portrait and a kiss amongst the fall foliage at Washington Crossing Park.
 The bride and groom in front of their wedding venue the Washington Crossing Inn.
 A portrait of General Washington inside the historic Washington Crossing Inn.
 All the bridal bouquets on the mantle during the wedding reception at Washington Crossing Inn.
 The bride and groom’s wedding reception welcome table with family photos at Washington Crossing Inn.
 The favors: We are such foodies and we wanted our favors to reflect that. So we had  homemade jams  as our favors and we picked Banana Nut Bread and Blackberry Bourbon Vanilla for the adventurous.”

The favors: We are such foodies and we wanted our favors to reflect that. So we had homemade jams as our favors and we picked Banana Nut Bread and Blackberry Bourbon Vanilla for the adventurous.”

 Wedding cocktail hour on the patio in October at Washington Crossing Inn.
 The bride and groom’s entrance to their wedding reception at Washington Crossing Inn.
 The bride and groom’s wedding dinner at the Washington Crossing Inn.
 The bride takes to the dance floor with guests during the wedding reception at Washington Crossing Inn.
 The wedding cake and cake cutlery at the wedding reception at Washington Crossing Inn.
 “I surprised Jonathan with a sushi groom’s cake since we both love Japanese food.  The Gingered Peach Bakery  did such an amazing job with the details, they even had ginger and wasabi on the side!” - Jayvee

“I surprised Jonathan with a sushi groom’s cake since we both love Japanese food. The Gingered Peach Bakery did such an amazing job with the details, they even had ginger and wasabi on the side!” - Jayvee

 Bride and groom cut the cake at their wedding at the Washington Crossing Inn.
 “Our hearts were full and it was one of the happiest and emotional weekends ever! We truly felt the love and warmth of our closest family and friends who traveled from many corners of the world to celebrate with us. It was a time for reconnecting and making memories with our new extended family.” - Jayvee

“Our hearts were full and it was one of the happiest and emotional weekends ever! We truly felt the love and warmth of our closest family and friends who traveled from many corners of the world to celebrate with us. It was a time for reconnecting and making memories with our new extended family.” - Jayvee

Happy Anniversary Jayvee and Jonathan!!

Vendor Love

Planning by the extraordinary Diane of Bustled Events
Venue and catering, Washington Crossing Inn
Wedding invitations designed by the groom’s sister, who is a professional photographer in Raleigh, but also has a background in design: Catherine Nguyen and you can see her madly chic Russian River wedding here.
Florals by Flora
Bride’s custom designed dress, TIPAY
Bride’s shoes, Betsey Johnson
Make-up, Zsa Zsa St. James
Bridesmaid Dresses, RenzBridal
Wedding Cake, Cramer’s Bakery
Groom’s Cake, Gingered Peach Bakery
DJ, DJ Sanchez of M3 Crew
Videography, Solo Koo

Sonya Yruel is a professional wedding photographer, photographing couples in love and families for over 14 years. She’s based in the San Francisco Bay Area, and also travels to destination weddings. Contact Sonya here.

5 Ways to Truly Enjoy Your Wedding Day! by Sonya Yruel

 Bride punches her fist in the air in celebration while groom holds her dress at Auberge du Soleil.

So you’ve been planning your wedding for months, maybe more than a year, and the big day has arrived. All that excitement, anticipation, and let’s be honest, stress, has culminated in this particular calendar day or weekend.

As a photographer, it’s my job to be observational. And I see that jittery excitement when I arrive for the getting ready photos, and I love that energy! And all the while your tables are being set, the alter is being flowered, and the DJ is doing their sound check. However, on a wedding day, some things might not go as planned, sometimes small things, sometimes bigger things. You’ve spent all that time planning and you want it to go perfect! Well as the main observer and documenter of your wedding day (and having been a bride myself), I will say that the most important thing a couple can do on their wedding day, is ENJOY it! Sometimes easier said than done when the worries get in the way, yes? So here are some tips:

1. Eat, drink, and then be married.

Given the morning jitters, some couples forget to eat breakfast or drink water when they are getting ready. You will need that energy to sustain you for a full day, so eat something nutritious and drink plenty of water (ok, now I sound like your mom). Sure, have a toast of champagne, or whiskey, with your bridal party, but some food and hydration go a long way!
Also, I want you to enjoy all the delicious food your caterer is making. After the ceremony we will most likely be taking family photos. So have your caterer put together a sampler plate of the cocktail hour appetizers to bring over to you for some quick bites. This is the time of day when I sometimes see my couples’ energy start to wane, so grab a bruschetta and then let’s go take the couple portraits (the most important photos of the day!).

 Wedding cocktail hour appetizers and signature drinks.

2. Comfortable shoes.

You are wearing your finest on your wedding day. But don’t buy new shoes to go with your stunning dress or suit and never wear them around a bit. Standing in them at a fitting doesn’t count! I love photographing an awesome pair of Louboutins anytime. But if your dogs are barking, chances are, you won’t be having the best time at your wedding! So bring a secondary pair of shoes that are stylish but also comfy, and switch into them after the ceremony. And ladies, I’ll be honest most wedding dresses don’t show your shoes anyways! Also, if your shoes restrict your ability to move and walk, it will limit those amazing photos I am excited to take!

 The bride gets dressed and puts on her shoes while her dog visits. Bride and groom on beach in Cabo at sunset.

3. Rely on your wedding party.

I hope they are not just there to look good! These are some of your best friends, cousins, siblings, etc. These are your people, your entourage. And while they may also look good, don’t hesitate to ask them for help, both before your wedding day and during! The best bridal parties are the ones making sure you have had something to eat and drink, will hold your bouquet, dress train, lip gloss, etc. for you. They will run back to the room to get the forgotten hanky that was your grandma’s, be the first on the dance floor to rally the party, they'll make you laugh when you’re feeling nervous, and grab you a tissue when you need it. Dress needs bustling? They are on it—and don’t forget to practice this with your bridesmaid before the wedding day!

 Bridesmaids apply finishing touches of lipstick to the bride in Cabo San Lucas.
 Bride and groom walk with their wedding party in Walnut Creek, California.

4. Trust your vendors.

You have spent months researching vendors, requesting references, reviewing samples of their work, and meeting with them. And you chose vendors whose work you like, communicate well with you, and who also have personalities that jive with yours. Congratulations, you have now put together your own super wedding team! And the coordinator will be there to oversee them all, so relax and know you’re in good hands with seasoned professionals.

 Wedding vendors and florists prepare the ceremony and reception of the wedding.

5. In the words of Frozen, “let it go!”

This might be the hardest, but most important one of all. There are a lot of moving parts to a wedding, and some things may happen that are unpredictable. But if you roll with it and remember why you are there, who you are getting married to, and that all your favorite people in the world are there to celebrate with you, then this will be one of the BEST days of your life. And as a photographer, I really love capturing my couples when they are having a phenomenal time. Your happiness shines through in the photos, and that is when those magical moments happen!

 Bride and groom run through a sparkler exit at Pueblo Bonito Sunset Beach resort.

Sonya Yruel has been documenting weddings for over a decade and she loves seeing her couples having the best day of their lives!
To find out more information about wedding photography services, please contact her here.

Catherine & Jeremy's Russian River Wedding by Sonya Yruel

In honor of their five year anniversary that's just a few days away, I wanted to share a special wedding, with words from the beautiful bride!

 Bride and groom on bridge in Monte Rio, over the Russian River.

How did you pick your venue?

"Nestled in the Russian River Valley’s tiny town of Monte Rio is the Highland Dell Lodge. As most of our friends and family were going to have to travel to the wedding from either the East Coast or elsewhere, we decided to make our wedding a bit of a destination. It’s quiet in Monte Rio. There’s spotty cell service and everyone seems to know everyone else. It’s exactly the sort of place we felt comfortable hosting an intimate wedding (around 90 people). Of course, Herb Loose’s food at the tasting blew us away, so there was that. We were able to rent the entire lodge for the entire weekend for the event. Herb and Ingrid were even kind enough to let us have an Easter egg hunt for the kids the morning after the wedding. It felt like having a wedding at your family’s house."

 Welcome to Monte Rio sign and the Highland Dell Lodge, wedding venue on the Russian River.

How would you describe the style of your wedding?

"Our wedding was truly a unique mix of vintage and modern:  my dress was from a Rivini trunk show and never actually manufactured. My husband's suit was from Decades, the vintage store in the Haight in San Francisco. It's this beautiful sharkskin material from the 1960's, trimmed in black. It caught my eye on a mannequin and by some strange miracle fit him like a glove. He wore it with this tiny ladybug pin his grandmother gave him, and vintage cufflinks from the 1960's"

 Bride’s wedding dress hanging on the historic Rio theater in Monte Rio. Flower girl holding lily bouquet.
 Vintage cufflinks and a vintage sharkskin tuxedo for the groom. At the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio.
 Groom tying bow tie in mirror and wearing vintage sharkskin tuxedo at the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio.

"Jeremy and I are huge fans of costuming from the early years of Mad Men, and thought it would be fun to have a Mad Men inspired wedding."

 Custom screen-printed wedding invitations and the bride’s shoes at the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio.

"Tiny photos of my family and ancestors were printed out and put into little frames that adorned my bouquet. I felt like everyone walked me down the aisle that day."

 The bride carried photos of her family in little picture frames tied to her bouquet. Bride adjusts her veil in the mirror at the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio.
 The bride’s scalloped silk hat and vintage Dior pearl earrings. At the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio, California.

"My mother gave me a beautiful set of double pearls that have been hers for some time. It's a tradition in the family to give pearls to the bride when she gets married. My sister lent me her vintage Dior earrings (she wore them to her wedding over 20 years ago.)"

 Pearls given to the bride by her mother, and a portrait of the bride at the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio.
 The bride and groom’s First Look while the bridal party watches at the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio.

"We couldn't find a wedding band (for me) that fit the idea I had in my head. On a trip to North Carolina we visited Ron at Stonehaven Jewelers and described what I wanted. He created my ring from a sketch at his gallery. I didn't see it until the wedding day. It was perfect!"

 Wedding ceremony programs and wedding rings at the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio.

"We had set up a small table with photos of my ancestors and family where we lit some candles in their honor. Our ceremony was neither strictly Western nor strictly Vietnamese. We took a bit from each and blended them together to make our own unique ceremony."

 During the ceremony the bride and groom visited a table with photos from their family, past and present. At the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio, California.
 You may now kiss the bride. Wedding ceremony at the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio.
 The bride’s lily bouquet with framed family photos tied to it. The bride with the flower girl and ring bearer.

"The bridesmaid dresses were from designer Alfred Sung and all different, but in silhouettes that were true to the era while flattering each woman. I spent months prior to the wedding finding 1960's jewelry for the bridesmaids."

 The bride with her bridesmaids in Monte Rio, California.

"The groomsmen wore Vera Wang black label tuxedos with Goorin Brother hats gifted from the groom."

 The groom and groomsmen take a stroll in front of the Village Inn in Monte Rio.
 The wedding party strikes a pose in front of the historic Rio theater. Portrait of the bride in Monte Rio, California. Shot on film with a Hasselblad 503cw.
 The bride and groom in front of the historic Rio theater and the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio, California.
 The wedding party on the bridge in Monte Rio, over the Russian River. The bride and groom at the Highland Dell Lodge.
 The reception at the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio.
 The appetizers from the Highland Dell Lodge, including beef wellington and asparagus wrapped in prosciutto.

"We had two Mad Men inspired drinks concocted for cocktail hour -- the "Cat-a-tonic" which is a drink with St. Germain that I love. The second was the "Madison Ave:" A Manhattan with gin instead of bourbon, Jeremy's pick."

 Signature cocktail signs and the wedding table settings at the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio.

"The gifts were petit fours from Swiss Colony, the traditional Christmas cakes that Jeremy's family orders yearly."

 Calla Lilly center pieces on vintage plates and petit fours for the wedding guests at the Highland Dell Lodge.

"We brought the cake we had at our City Hall civil wedding, from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco (passion fruit lime Bavarian covered in coconut). It was topped with our custom wedding cake topper made by my Maid of Honor."

 Wedding cake from Tartine Bakery. Wedding reception toasts at the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio.

"I was really nervous before surprising Jeremy with my own rendition of “The Way I Am” by Ingrid Michaelson at the reception. But all went well and I only missed one musical cue when guests were clapping."

 The bride and groom give toast at their wedding at the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio.
 A vintage photo lounge for a wedding at the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio.
 The bride and groom cut their wedding cake and cupcakes for the guests at the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio.

"My maid of honor is devilishly good at baking and decorating chocolate cupcakes. She relented and made beautiful rose cupcakes for our dessert table, which was filled with nostalgic sweets:  carrot cake as the groom's cake (Jeremy's favorite), a jar full of Ghiradelli chocolates from San Francisco where we met, and another jar full of my mother's favorite chocolates, Ferrero Rocher."

 Sweet treats for the guests. A wedding dessert table at the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio.
 The bride and groom’s first dance in the smoke of a fog machine at the Highland Dell Lodge in Monte Rio.
 The groom twirls the bride in Monte Rio, underneath the famous, “Monte Rio Awaits Your Return” sign.

How would you describe your wedding?

"People must say this all the time, but it was the happiest day of my life. It felt amazing to know that I was going to be surrounded by (most of) the people I love. It was an intimate and elegant, but cozy affair, filled with old and new traditions."

Vendor Love (not yet mentioned):

Coordinator:   Diane Wolk of Bustled Events
Hair & Make-Up Stylist:  Melisa Hall
Second Photographer:  Elizabeth Tichenor
Stationary:  Custom designed and silk screened by the bride and groom
Flowers:  From Pro Flower's Bridal division, assembled by bridal party
Officiant:  Bridesmaid Bich-Nga Nguyen
DJ & Lighting:  DJ Quantum of blueEDGE Productions
The Bride's engagement ring:  Cresalia Jewelers
Film Processing:  Photoworks San Francisco

The sketch of the bride's custom ring, by Ron from Stonehaven Jewelery:

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Lauren & Nate's Elopement at San Francisco City Hall and the Proper Hotel by Sonya Yruel

Having flown in from Denver, I asked Lauren and Nate why they picked San Francisco to get married. Aside from Lauren having once lived here, they picked San Francisco because it was one of their first trips together as a couple. And let's face it, the magnificent architecture of City Hall makes for a pretty amazing wedding backdrop!

I asked them about hitting it off, and they said "it was their strange sense of humor and ability to make each other laugh at absurd things." Truly as we went all over City Hall taking photos, these two were equally romantic as they were silly. The synchronized jump-and-heel-click, that you see below, was all them! They are both easygoing, love hiking, biking, skiing, and good food, so their love connection in the Mile High city with quick access to the Rocky Mountains is a perfect place for them to call home.

And can I please mention how amazing these two looked? I love when couples bring their personal style to shine on their wedding day. Lauren in her colorful floral print dress, red lips, classy updo, and yellow (ahem, Prada) shoes was a knockout. And Nate looked quite dapper in his suit. Both were complimented by bright pops of yellow florals from one of my favorites, Ampersand.

After their ceremony, we walked back to their hotel, the new Proper, which has quite an eclectic and bohemian style, for drinks at their rooftop bar. Later, dinner with some local friends and a luscious tres leches cake from Tartine was the perfect last touch to their amazing day.

 The bride and groom’s first look at the Proper Hotel and walking to the County Clerk’s office in San Francisco’s City Hall.
 The bride and groom on the 4th floor of San Francisco City Hall.

Kathryn & Kyle's San Francisco City Hall Wedding and Intimate Dinner Reception at Trou Normand by Sonya Yruel

The sun was shining in San Francisco for Kathryn & Kyle civil wedding at San Francisco's City Hall this past fall. Their closest friends and family gathered under the rotunda to witness their nuptials. And then later they celebrated at Trou Normand's private patio, an intimate European-style oasis in the midst of the tall buildings of the financial district. The evening sparkled and was a lovely intimate affair. And a big congratulations to Kyle and Kathryn, who recently welcomed their new baby into the world!

City Hall florals by Rae and Rose Floral Co
Reception Venue:  Trou Normand

 The bride and groom arrive at San Francisco City Hall and check into the County Clerk’s Office.
 The bride and groom greet their arriving family and then begin the ceremony at San Francisco City Hall.
 The wedding rings and the civil ceremony at San Francisco City Hall.
 The bride and groom share a kiss and take a group family photo at San Francisco City Hall.
 The groom twirls the bride underneath the rotunda. Bride and groom on the grand staircase.
 The bride’s classic white flower bouquet and a kiss on the 3rd floor balcony of San Francisco City Hall.
 Separate portraits of the groom and the bride at San Francisco City Hall.
 The bride and groom exit San Francisco City Hall.
 The bride and groom walk across the street from San Francisco City Hall and share a kiss.
 The custom menu, napkins, and intimate french-style table settings for the bride and groom’s dinner reception at Trou Normand.
 A wedding cake with a golden gate bridge design. Caligraphy place cards. Candle-lit intimate wedding reception at Trou Normand.
 White and green floral center pieces. The kitchen at Trou Normand. The bride and groom before their wedding dinner reception begins.
 The expecting bride and groom share a moment under a eucalyptus tree at Trou Normand.
 A cozy and elegant intimate wedding reception at Trou Normand.
 Hors d’oeuvres and cocktails as guests arrive at Trou Normand.
 The guests dine at long tables and enjoy charcuterie at Trou Normand.
 The bride toasts her guests at Trou Normand in San Francisco.

Sam & Ray's San Francisco Engagement Session! by Sonya Yruel

Sam and Ray first met and started dating in San Francisco, when Sam was going to school at USF. They now live in Texas, so they were excited to come back (we all leave our hearts in San Francisco) and spent a fun-filled day running around and visiting a bunch of their favorite and most memorable spots!

Alamo Square & the Painted Ladies was the perfect place to start Sam and Ray’s San Francisco engagement session.

Sam studied at the University of San Francisco...it’s such a beautiful campus for engagement photos!

Battery East with stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the classic Palace of Fine Arts was our next location for photos.

 Engagement photos in front of the lagoon at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco.

No trip to San Francisco is complete with a ride on the classic cable car!

A walk along the Embarcadero at the Ferry building, Cupid’s Arrow, and the Bay Bridge is so beautiful at sunset.

Cupid's Arrow

A romantic stroll along Pier 7 at twilight, with views of the Transamerica.

"Will you be my best man?" Drinks at the Dirty Habit!

We concluded the day at Dirty Habit, where Sam and Ray had their first date!

Laura and Nick's Elopement at the Marin Civic Center by Sonya Yruel

Laura told me that her love story with Nick crossed an ocean. The spark between them began with a mutual love of music and grew when the two met for the first time in London. Laura had flown there to attend the Tattoo Convention. Over time the two have become each others best friends. She says that their love is that kind of fulfilling love that makes each other the best version of themselves.

It was such a joy to spend the afternoon with these two for their elopement! We headed off to the Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael, for their civil ceremony on the terrace. The building is a stunning work of mid-century architecture by Frank Lloyd Wright. As you glide up the escalator, the building seemingly expands before you. The scalloped repeating balconies were beautiful lines to frame the happy couple!

After their wedding, we headed off the beautiful Marin Headlands, for amazing views of San Francisco and the Golden Gate. Then we headed into San Francisco to Fort Point, for views under the bridge. Then the classic Palace of Fine Arts, and last but certainly not least, a favorite neighborhood, North Beach!

 The escalator ride up to the Marin County Clerk’s office, and filling out the marriage license!
 The engaged couple walks the hallways, meets with the Marin county clerk, and a twirl in front of the circular pool.
 The civil ceremony on the lawn at the Marin County Courthouse.
 Just married! Enjoying the fun Frank Lloyd Wright architecture of the Marin Civic Center.
 The super 60’s style of the Marin Civic Center looks like something from the Jetsons!
 We fell into an episode of Mad Men!

We fell into an episode of Mad Men!

 The skylights and greenery around the Marin Civic Center are such a beautiful backdrop for the newly married couple!
 Absolutely stunning Frank Lloyd Wright architecture! Laura and Nick enjoy a kiss on the balcony.
 The rounded arch was the perfect frame for Laura and Nick as they were exiting the Marin Civic Center.
 The bride’s tattoo from an artist in London, where she met Nick.

The bride’s tattoo from an artist in London, where she met Nick.

 A quick stop in the Marin Headlands for jaw-dropping views of the Bay, the Golden Gate, and San Francisco’s skyline!

A quick stop in the Marin Headlands for jaw-dropping views of the Bay, the Golden Gate, and San Francisco’s skyline!

 The historic Fort Point has beautiful old brick and a fun view of the underbelly of the Golden Gate Bridge. I love how Nick makes Laura laugh!

The historic Fort Point has beautiful old brick and a fun view of the underbelly of the Golden Gate Bridge. I love how Nick makes Laura laugh!

 A stop at one of San Francisco’s historic architectural gems, the Palace of Fine Arts!

A stop at one of San Francisco’s historic architectural gems, the Palace of Fine Arts!

 North Beach has a special place in my heart and in Laura’s too, so this was our last, but not least, scenic stop!

North Beach has a special place in my heart and in Laura’s too, so this was our last, but not least, scenic stop!

Contact Sonya for your elopement in the San Francisco Bay Area!

Welcome Baby Evelyn! ~ An Oakland Newborn Session by Sonya Yruel

Beautiful baby Evelyn was about two weeks old when I got to meet her at her. I loved the textures and window light that came together for this session, and soft neutral tones against her brand new skin. My style is less about posing the baby and more about capturing how the family interacts together. She was all snuggles with her parents, who naturally, absolutely adore her. It is always special to me to be able to document these new and fleeting moments for young families!

Lauren & Will's Wedding at the Marin Art & Garden Center by Sonya Yruel

Lauren and Will started out as friends, and despite a first hangout that ended with a piggy back ride gone wrong (hello gash to the forehead and emergency room!), their friendship grew as they worked through three challenging years in their pediatric residencies in Philadelphia. It was Philly where Will proposed to Lauren, on a blustery snowy January day. Both are now pediatricians in San Francisco and are happy to be in the Bay Area where they have a lot of friends and family. But they did bring a little bit of Philly to their wedding; check out the LOVE sign at their reception!

This past spring they were married at St. Anselm Catholic Church in Marin County, California, and celebrated their marriage at the lush greenery and rose garden of the Marin Art and Garden Center. They also incorporated some of Will's family's Jewish faith with the breaking of the glass at the end of their ceremony, and then later dancing a lively hora. These two had so much joy and laughter at their wedding, which I loved photographing!

Marci & Kyle's Radonich Ranch Wedding, Los Gatos, California by Sonya Yruel

Nestled below the Santa Cruz mountains, sits Radonich Ranch, a 100 year old fruit-packing ranch. It's rustic and romantic vibe was the perfect choice for Marci & Kyle's wedding. Kyle had grown up in the mountains of Los Gatos, and had also proposed to Marci there, outside on the deck of their new home. Her engagement ring is a beautiful black diamond, something I rarely see!

Textures of lace, rough ranch wood, with a pop of peachy florals were in perfect harmony on their wedding day. Married under an archway, depicted in a drawing by Marci's grandpa, the Catholic priest agreed to marry them outside, saying that "nature is God's chapel." The couple and their guests dined under eucalyptus trees that swayed in the breeze, while the flower girls loved watching the mallard ducks swim by in the pond.

The Ranch feels like a place with a lot of history, and Marci remembered and carried her own history by wearing her maternal grandmother's necklace, and carrying her paternal great grandmother's beautiful handkerchief.

Later after, working the dance floor inside the barn, guests headed to the after party, complete with an Airstream and teepee for late night hanging out and celebrating.

Venue, Catering, & Rentals:  Radonich Ranch
Planner:  Vignette Events
Bride's Dress:  Wtoo by Watters
Hair Stylists:  Friends Faten & Erica from Mona Lisa Salon
Make-up Artist:  Friend Alexis from A Smooth Start
Classic Cars:  From Groom's family business, Springer Auto Restoration
Stationary:  Designed by bride's sister Nicole Pittman & drawing from Grandpa Vascone
Florist:  Wild Child Flower
Cake:  Gayles in Soquel, on the bride's great grandma's cake plate

An Indie Golden Gate Park Wedding in San Francisco by Sonya Yruel

Adrienne and Shannon wanted to have an intimate wedding with their closest family and friends, without all the fuss. Being nature lovers, Golden Gate Park felt like the right place within their city of San Francisco. Summer in San Francisco is not always so warm, but the sun was shining warmly that day! They asked their guests to wear bright colors, and the bride did as well! She created her own wedding dress by upcycling two other dresses into one! She included pockets and a ribbon inside to tie her husband-to-be's wedding band. The result was a beautiful pink ombré design like none other!

Their officiant, Cynthia Gregory, was non-denominational, but they included some older wedding rituals with nod to Paganism, such as a handfasting. The ceremony was held in the Aids Memorial Grove within the park, and was followed by a picnic lunch.

Not only did Adrienne make her dress, but she also made their wedding cake! To date it is one of the best I have tasted! This chocolate stout cake had fresh strawberry buttercream filling and a chocolate buttercream frosting. The couple had collected an assortment of vintage plates to serve up their scrumptious cake.

Thanks to Rock N Roll Bride and Huffington Post Weddings for the features!

Melisa & Laif's Winter Wedding at Old St Hilary's in Tiburon! by Sonya Yruel

When you meet Melisa and Laif, you know that these two have a passion for life that just radiates all around them! They were wed in Old St Hilary's, a little white chapel that sits on a grassy windswept hill overlooking the waters of the Bay and the cityscape of San Francisco. And in that chapel, everyone felt their excitement and love radiating as the two read their vows to each other, and sealed the deal!

The two had met thanks to a vintage cherry red Honda motorcycle named Betty. At the time, Laif was working on bikes at Piston and Chain, a community motorcycle club in San Francisco. A friend who knew Melisa, mentioned her to Laif. The very next day, Laif was helping a friend fix his bike on Divisadero street. He heard the sound of a motorcycle, looked up and saw Melisa riding by on Betty! He found her on Facebook and sent her a message. Not knowing who he was, Melisa almost deleted it....but took another look at his blue eyes in his photo, and decided to respond. They set up a date to go ride their motorcycles together, and soon became inseparable. So of course, some bike riding was necessary activity for their engagement session! And 2 years later after Melisa rode past Laif, the two wed in front of their closest family, friends, and of course Bella, their doggie ring bearer.

Their wedding was filled with all kinds of beautiful moments and super stars that made the day an amazing success! Some say rain on your wedding day is lucky, but truly it is the positive attitudes of the bride, groom, and everyone involved that makes it an amazing:

Despite the rain causing some changes in the plans, Mandy Scott pulled the details of the day together flawlessly. Before the ceremony started, Josh Gronner riffed jolly tunes on the piano, bringing smiles to the guests' faces as they patiently waited. Then Laif broke into an impromptu dance with his mom. One of the bridesmaids, the talented Lena Hall, sang beautifully as Melisa walked down the aisle with her dad. Bella, Melisa and Laif's pooch, obediently padded down the aisle carrying their wedding rings tied to her back. At the reception, Melisa's Uncle Rouben performed a surprise Armenian traditional dance that got everyone on their feet cheering! And later in the evening when the dancing was in full swing, the bride's sister, Cristina Hall, treated everyone to some of her incredible dance moves as a professional flamenco dancer. Guests told Melisa later that it was the most beautiful wedding they'd attended.

Vendor credits:
Coordination:  Mandy Scott Events
Florist:  Green Petal Designs
Getting Ready Hotels:  The Waters Edge & The Lodge at Tiburon
Ceremony:  Old St. Hilary's Chapel
Reception:  Corinthian Yacht Club
Rentals:  La Tavola
Bride's Dress:  Martina Liana
Bride's Necklace:  The famous Jewelia!
Bride's Shoes:  The Seller
Make-up Artist:  Melisa Hall
Hair Stylist:  Kelly Dale as directed by Melisa Hall
Bridesmaid Robes:  Sandy Waters
Groom's Suit:  Jos A Banks
Groom's Shoes:  Allen Edmonds
Groom's Pocket Watch:  An antique Waltham, a gift from the bride.
Stationary & Table Cards:  Designed and printed by the bride
Cake:  Branching Out Cakes
Custom Cake Topper:  Toppers Delight
Officiant:  Bride's Godfather, Tim Hornbecker
Ceremony Piano & Reception DJ & MC:  Josh Gronner
Reception Band:  Jaz Sawyer Group
Ceremony Singer:  Lena Hall
Maid of Honor, Bride's Sister, & Flamenco Dancer Extraordinaire:  Cristina Hall

I asked the bride if she had any advice for couples planning a wedding:

Follow your intuition. Listen to the inner voice that tells you what your truly wanting to do. Also be prepared to see who your true support and friends are. When you least expect it people will show up to love you through the important moments. Those that don't will gradually fade away. Stay close with your partner and listen to each other. Plan slowly and deliberately. Choose Sonya and Mandy as your wedding ninjas! Haha.
It's so important to hire the right people to take care of you on your wedding day. I always strive to do this for my brides. It's not just about the job... it's about loving them through what we do. Mandy did that for me every step of the way. I got to relax and let go because of her. She was truly the biggest gift!
 

It was SUCH an honor to photograph their wedding! These two are creative spirits. Melisa is one of the best hair and make-up artists, in the Bay Area, and also a photographer! Laif is a talented actor (check out his reel), and if your motorcycle breaks down, Laif is your man.

A big thank you to Melissa Campos for your photography assistance and umbrella holding that day!

Welcome Baby Gibson! A San Francisco Newborn Session by Sonya Yruel

About three years ago I had the pleasure of getting to know Ryan and Jackie when I photographed their beautiful, fun, and love-filled wedding in Guerneville. Last month I was so honored to come and meet the newest member of their family, Gibson, who was just 16 days old. Their dog Louie seemed to also be very welcoming to Gibson, though he made sure to get the limelight for a few of the photos. I just received Gibson's newborn announcement in the mail and so I'm excited to share some favorites from their home session!

An Engagement Session at San Francisco Sutro Baths: Jessica & Scott by Sonya Yruel

Jessica and Scott just so happened to be neighbors, and met one day at BBQ. They hit it off, so one day Jessica took Scott to a HOT yoga class, which Scott endured! It seems that maybe Scott prefers colder temperatures, because then he took Jessica on a boat in Lake Tahoe (doesn't sound too bad!) and she watched as he swam the Trans Tahoe Relay Swim! Scott also swims in the San Francisco Bay.

Scott's proposal to Jessica took place on a ski trip at Breckenridge, Colorado. While on top of the mountain, Scott stopped to "fix his ski boot" and came up with a ring! These two adventured all over Sutro Baths with me on a beautifully sunny San Francisco Day.

I'm really excited to photograph their beautiful winter wedding at the top of Squaw Valley next year!

Jessica is an incredible entrepreneur! She believes in a balanced life and offers health coaching and wellness classes, as well as yoga at Beaming With Health. She also is the founder of Beam Financial Group, offering book keeping services and Quickbooks consulting.

Flower Bar Pop-Up for Fall! by Sonya Yruel

I'm always sad to see summer go-- who isn't? But I'm excited for fall temperatures, fall vegetables (spaghetti squash!), and most of all, fall colors! A recent little project with the talented Christina Vo of Conscious Style has gotten me feeling ready for fall. A few of these arrangements include one of my favorite flowers, the protea. Check out her Flower Bar at Viola on Castro street in San Francisco.

Juliana & Clement's San Francisco City Hall Wedding by Sonya Yruel

San Francisco's City Hall is one of the most beautiful places to have a sweet and simple civil ceremony. I am of course biased, because it's where I got married, but its stunning beaux-arts architecture and soft balcony window-light make it a true gem. Along with the romance, it's still a government building so there's the funny experience of being given a ticketed number to wait in line to check in to the County Clerk's office with any number of other brides and grooms. And most of the open areas are public space, so while taking your wedding photos you might happen to have a tourist rocking an Alcatraz sweatshirt in the background, but that's all part of the experience.

Juliana and Clement happened to meet at an airport, both catching different legs of their international flights. It was an absolute joy meeting them in person and seeing how much in love they are. Their small group of friends and family in attendance showed them so much love and support. Some of Clement's family took an incredibly long journey from Tanzania to come and witness their civil union.

Florals by

Ampersand