If you follow San Francisco–based @nantuck3t on Instagram (with 50,000 followers, it's likely you do), you would expect that the wedding of the photographer and social media maven, aka Nanette Wong, would be all flowers and pastel hues with DIY romance. And you'd be right.
When Wong married her sweetheart, Alex Lai, in November of last year, her celebration, held at Deer Park Villa in Fairfax, was worthy of a wood nymph.
The couple, who had met in college and were thrown together serendipitously on a camping trip (neither one is really into camping), knew the locale was it from the moment they walked in. She had settled on a "modern rustic" style, and Deer Park, just 30 minutes north of the city, fit the bill. "We had three other places scheduled to view on that same day," she recalls. "And we went, but we knew exactly what we wanted...Since the venue is so beautiful, it didn't need much but some candles and fairy lights!"
With a limited budget but limitless ideas, the bride—also the social media manager for Rihanna's beauty line Fenty—handled much of the big day herself along with the help of her creative friends. For the "Instagram tent," she scoured everything herself, scouring everywhere from Target to online boutiques to achieve her perfect look. Her maid of honor scripted all the signage, and her now sister-in-law helped with flowers for the entrance, tent, cake stands, and place settings. "I gave her my inspo board and she made magic." In keeping with the close-knit, DIY feels, a friend emceed the wedding, and Wong's brother officiated.
When the big day came, Wong did her hair herself, having learned her lesson when she'd hired someone, and been disappointed, for her engagement photos. She also wore a headpiece ("very unique and not too prom queen") that she found through Instagram from Spanish designer Martina Dorta. The bridesmaids wore $14 velvet wrap dresses—"I didn't want to make my bridesmaids spend a lot of money because I'd done that before and it wasn't my favorite," she says.
Her favorite element, though, was Lai's surprise of a custom-brewed beer: He and a friend created a peanut butter stout, complete with a special label, named after their dogs, Peanut and Buttah. The two fur babies, both in suits, also walked down the aisle—this was a dog-friendly wedding, and guests brought their pups for an ultimate play date.
For the pieces Wong didn't design herself, SF-based Fog Cutter stepped in for the catering and florals. Their use of wood platters over metal fit in with her theme, the food was delicious, and they brought her floral inspiration boards to life—wild but not too rustic, a protea, and arrangements that didn't scream wedding. "They came with the perfect bouquet! It's kind of scary to never see your bouquet until day of, so my advice to brides is to really make sure you trust your florist and love their portfolio."
The takeaway? "Play to your strengths," Wong says. She leaves us with three Instagram-worthy tips:
- Candles and string lights/fairy lights are a really good way to make everything look super magical and pretty. It's easy, affordable, and you don't need to style it much.
- Focus on one thing and really blow it out, which is what I did with the tent. I spent a lot of time making sure that place looked exactly how I wanted it to look, put it in a high traffic area, and that made people photograph it more.
- Pick a photographer with a strong point of view— I knew Arnau had a strong sense of style when it comes to how he wants his photos to look and storytelling. Because of that, I felt confident he would be able to capture the wedding and make it look beautiful, no matter how it actually was IRL!
Venue: Deer Park Villa
Dress: The Patty Dress by Rita Vinieris, from Kinsley James Couture Bridal
Shoes: Joe's Jeans from Nordstrom Rack
Headpiece: Martina Dorta
Makeup: Dina Nikocevic
Month of wedding planner: Jennifer Hagan from The Poppy Group.
Photographer: Arnau Dubois
Catering and florals for the arch and table centerpieces: Fog Cutter SF
Other florals: Margaret Tseng
Bridesmaid Dresses: Shein
DJ: Runaway DJ